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The Chipotle Tragedy

June 3, 2019

Preparing a house to be sold is no fun at all. It is very cathartic though. We’re getting rid of so much clutter from our lives, it’s really remarkable.

But whenever you add a new activity into an already busy life, something has to go. My hunch is that we’ll be sacrificing a lot of home cooked meals for take out, delivery, and quick restaurant outings in the near future.

The hard part is finding a place that everyone will agree upon. Mrs. Fussy generally reserves her veto power for Five Guys, seeing it as the least healthful option. My son tends to dig his heels in at the suggestion of Blaze. So when it’s a full contingent of Bermans and we’re looking for something fast, often the answer is Chipotle.

That was the case last night. Sadly, there seems to be an entirely new kind of cruelty that’s putting more pressure on an already overtaxed system. It’s the scourge of online ordering.

I get the appeal of online ordering. And both burritos and burrito bowls are items that do reasonably well in transit. One could argue, that much like a great Italian sandwich, having a chance to meld actually results in a better end product. In the world of burritos though, you just have to be careful about those fillings.

If you’re getting a takeout burrito, definitely skip the lettuce.

Unfortunately, online ordering isn’t for us. Largely because the kids typically get something that’s a far departure from a standard menu item. After spending some time online, it would seem there’s no way to order my kids’ favorite custom burrito through the Chipotle website. This secret order isn’t anything too weird. It’s simply a black bean and cheese burrito. That’s it. Tortilla. Vegetarian black beans. Cheese. Three ingredients.

The price for this has varied a lot over the years. But the heart wants what the heart wants. Plus, I can vouch for the fact that this is a truly delicious and moderately sized mealtime treat.

Last night, it was rung up as a three-point something something, and weighed in at around five bucks. But when my son wanted to get fancy and add some rice to the mix, the price went up to that of a full sized vegetarian burrito. It’s a weird and upsetting pricing model where the addition of a scoop of rice will cost you two bucks. But for today, that’s merely a secondary issue.

The big complaint is about the effect of online ordering on the overall speed of service.

To be clear, this isn’t a condemnation of how quickly the service staff are doing their jobs, because the person at the head of the line who starts each food item along the way was moving at breakneck speed.

But they had to be. Because online orders kept on coming in. And some of them were of significant size. As each of these was started, the queue of people in the restaurant waiting to order, was put on hold. And the line grew. And grew. And grew until it snaked around the inside of the restaurant, effectively blocking the door.

It seemed too good to be true when we rolled up at prime dinner time and were greeted by a line only a few people deep. I chalked the good luck up to the college semester being over and the absence of our local student population. But it took us a staggeringly long time to get through, as the online orders needed to be filled.

Beyond the annoyance of effectively being “put on hold” in real life, there are other problems that come from overtaxing the system of production.

One is customer service, because my sweet and gentle son misheard the employee behind the line, and was almost accosted for failing to answer their question correctly. He forgot to say the word burrito, taking it as a given. And when asked “burrito or bowl?” He repeated his order or black beans, cheese, and brown rice, thinking the question was a result of him not being heard the first time around. The interaction left him flustered and a bit shaken, which was unfortunate for all concerned.

The other problem is a much bigger issue for Chipotle, and that’s food quality and safety.

Because when people are moving quickly, they are not working carefully. In just the few minutes I was there I saw vegetarian beans contaminated with the pork filled pinto beans; both beans which start out as soy free ingredients now contained soy thanks to bits of tofu that rained down into their containers; and the guacamole at the end of the line had at least two unsightly black clumps of either oxidized or overripe avocado.

Then, on top of it all, eating in that stress filled environment wasn’t a lot of fun either. So it makes sense why people might choose to order online instead and skip that whole miserable experience. Which, I suppose, is what helps create this downward vicious spiral.

I love Chipotle, and I want to see them succeed. But things are moving in the wrong direction.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Peggy permalink
    June 3, 2019 11:23 am

    I’ve definitely noticed the cross contamination at chipotle. One thing to be less concerned about is all their beans are vegan now, even the pintos …

  2. Benjamin M permalink
    June 3, 2019 1:05 pm

    I hate Chipotles as their food doesn’t sing to me, but love the online ordering and use it a bit when my friends insist on ordering from here. Why anyone would stand in line when you could order online is beyond me. Why anyone standing in line doesn’t suddenly “get smart” and place their order while standing there is also a mystery.

    Word of warning: when you pick up your online food, confirm your first and last name. We got the wrong “Tyler’s” food once (or else they messed up the bags they put the food in) and it was frustrating to get home and discover the error.

  3. June 3, 2019 8:42 pm

    First of all, thanks for working in the benefits of a soggy Italian Mix sub. I can’t imagine delivery for such an item though. The driver would be driven crazy by the smell and throw it out the window (or eat it).

    Take out ordering should be restricted to online, never called in, for the reasons you describe. You can actually put together an edible McDonald’s cheeseburger by plussing mustard and onions and pickles and misusing ketchup;

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