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Chipotle lands in Richmond

By Matthew Cheung

Published 12:37 PDT, Fri May 26, 2023

America’s favourite fast-casual Mexican restaurant has finally arrived in Richmond. Chipotle Mexican Grill opened their first Richmond location on May 11th at 4720 McClelland Road, making it the eleventh location in the Vancouver-area. Canada has 33 locations in total. As of December 2022, the chain restaurant has blossomed to over 3,200 restaurants in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

Chipotle was founded in 1993 by a Steve Ells, a sous chef who served at Stars restaurant in San Francisco before opening the first Chipotle restaurant in Denver, Colorado near the University of Denver. Using the profits made from the first restaurant, Chipotle would expand opening a second location in 1995. By 2005, the franchise had grown immensely, drawing investors from all around, the most notable one being McDonald’s, who had made an initial minority investment in 1998. The investment by McDonalds allowed the company to grow from a mere 16 restaurants, to a whopping 500. 

The company attributes their success to two key qualities: fresh ingredients with no artificial colouring, flavours, or preservatives, and their staff. “Our people are our greatest asset, and last year Chipotle had 22,000 internal promotions,” said Erin Wolford, vice president, Chipotle External Communications. 

In order to ensure that the company is able to stay successful, investments need to be made in order to keep the two qualities. Food ingredients are ethically sourced by supporting local farmers, and employees are supported through competitive wages, fast internal growth, education assistance, and wellness programs. 

“Chipotle believes Cultivating a Better World also means hiring passionate people and investing in their future. In addition to robust benefits and a competitive hourly rate, Chipotle’s crew members can advance to a restaurateur, the highest general manager position, in as little as three and a half years. The full suite of benefits include access to healthcare, retirement savings, free mental health benefits for employees and family members, and more. Chipotle (also) recently introduced a $200 referral bonus for employees who refer a crew member and a $750 referral bonus for employees who refer an apprentice or general manager in Canada,” said Wolford.

Unlike most fast-food chains that have more than ten options on their menu, Chipotle’s menu is limited to five items which can be customized to a customer’s liking. From salads to burritos, the restaurant chain also provides convenient and accessible ways to obtain item menus. 

“Chipotle serves fresh and healthy salads, (burrito) bowls, tacos, quesadillas, and burritos, all made
with real ingredients and no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives. We offer convenient, seamless digital ordering through the Chipotle app and for guests to skip the line, order, and pay in advance or have Chipotle favourites delivered right to their door through local marketplace partners,” said Wolford. 

Despite their great success, Chipotle did not remain unaffected during the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant, like many other businesses around the world, had to limit store hours or close down the stores due to a lack of employees who were getting sick during the pandemic, shifting to a more technological approach was the only choice at the peak of the pandemic. 

“Amid the pandemic, Chipotle pivoted its focus to growing its digital channels and increasing access to its real food. In 2022, Chipotle’s digital business surpassed $3 billion in revenue and represented 39 per cent of food and beverage sales,” said Wolford.

Despite being in business for 30 years, the business has managed to stay afloat due to their fresh ingredients, returning food enjoyers, and their culinary and marketing teams who make sure the company is able to stay up to date on the latest trend. 

“Our culinary and marketing teams leverage focus groups, consumer surveys, social media, and field research to stay informed on the latest culinary trends. We are passionate about Chipotle’s and always strive to take the brand’s craveable culinary to new heights,” said Wolford.

In addition to taking care of their customers and employees, Chipotle is also involved in giving back to the community. Chipotle offers the opportunity to host a fundraiser online or in-restaurant, where a code will be given to each fundraiser and each time the code is used 33 per cent of the sales is given back to the cause. Some popular organizations include schools, university groups, youth sports teams, libraries and community centres, non-profits, and food groups. “Chipotle offers its guests the opportunity to round up their change to the nearest dollar amount to donate to local organizations like Egale Canada and AAPI Civic Engagement Fund,” said Wolford. 

Despite all the success that the restaurant has achieved, they are not finished yet. The fast-casual Mexican restaurant chain is looking to open a few more stores in Canada this year and continues to show no signs of stopping. 

“Chipotle is always looking to expand access and convenience to our real food, especially for our Canadian fans. The Richmond restaurant is part of ten new locations opening in the country in 2023, representing record growth for Chipotle in Canada. British Columbia and Ontario continue to be areas of focus, and we look forward to expanding into new provinces like Alberta later this year,” said Wolford. 

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