Is The iPhone Like A Chipotle Burrito?
Slate writer Matthew Yglesias makes a somewhat convincing argument for the innovative genius of the Chipolte chain of burrito joints by comparing the company to tech luminaries Apple. But his article has inspired plenty of head scratching and objections.
In his article “Chipotle Is Apple,” Yglesias points out that the fast food chain has been booming despite the lagging economy, but has received none of the recognition of other market successes:
They opened 67 new stores in the fourth quarter of 2011, growing by just over 5 percent to 1,230 total outlets. They opened the first Chipotle in London… Chipotle stock is up 50 percent on the year and over 500 percent over five years, far outperforming the market as a whole or the restaurant sector in particular. They announced last week that revenue grew 23.7 percent in 2011, with an 11 percent increase in same-store revenues…
Yet the food service industry can’t seem to get any respect. Politicians don’t name-drop burrito innovators as examples of the kind of entrepreneurs they want to encourage, and despite food’s ubiquity in our lives, culinary progress is slighted as a source of human progress.
“Burrito innovators?” Yglesias sounds like he’s getting carried away. Chipotle is fine depending on what else is around, but I’d hardly say they reinvented meat, cheese, and tortilla. But once again, Yglesias makes a strong point: that Chipotle adopted a very high-end cooking technique called sous vide to increase simplicity and consistency in their kitchens, in a relatively cost efficient way.
So maybe from a business model standpoint, Chipotle (and other “fast casual” dining establishments that have thrived during the recession) deserves some of the recognition that generally goes to the tech sector. However, the other end of the equation– that the Chipotle burrito is like an iPhone– just doesn’t hold up.
Mat Honan at Gizmodo can barely contain his outrage on this matter, both as a burrito-loving Californian and an iPhone fan. The gist of his argument is this: iPhones are awesome, and Chipotle burritos are “disgusting.”
Subjective, sure, but I think he makes a strong argument that Chipotle hasn’t forever changed an industry, or even just a single product, like Apple has:
Before the iPhone, smart phones were universally terrible, with the possible exception of the Danger Sidekick. Sure, Blackberrys are still terrible, but by and large the iPhone was so great from the get-go that it became the proverbial rising tide raising all boats. Today, Android, Windows 7 and Web OS are all pretty amazing. Overall burrito quality has not been positively affected by the Chipotle burrito.
But could you argue that Chipotle is better than Apple in some ways? Chipotle doesn’t introduce a new burrito every six months that costs twice as much and makes your old burrito obsolete.
What do you think? Is Chipotle the Apple of the food service world? Is Apple the Chipotle of the tech world?