Almost three decades ago in In Denver, Colorado, a legend was born. A Tex-Mex legend, that is. Chipotle, the chain restaurant that now dominates the burrito scene, got its start in the middle of the country in 1993.
And while Chipotle undoubtedly dominates the grab-n-go burrito scene, the chain's trajectory has not been entirely unfettered. Even now, although the brand seems very outwardly public, there are a few things they're keeping on the DL.
The chain is prone to foodborne illness outbreaks
No fast-food brand is immune to occasional slips in food safety standards, especially when operating thousands of locations across the country. But when it comes to major cases of food poisoning, no other national fast-food chain has been in the spotlight quite as often as Chipotle.
The chain's wholesome, health-forward reputation took a major downturn when a series of foodborne illness outbreaks caused by Norovirus, Salmonella, and E. coli sickened more than 1,100 people between 2015 and 2018. The company's negligent attitude toward maintaining health standards was serious enough to warrant criminal charges—the Justice Department charged Chipotle with violating federal law by adulterating food.
Chipotle's portion sizes are shrinking
Chipotle's onto us, and our sneaky, at-the-counter pleas for "just a little more of that." With the uptick in digital orders that the pandemic has brought on, the brand realized that saving on their bottom line could be as simple as just making portion sizes strictly consistent—and smaller than what most of us might ask for when visiting the store.
It's easy to max out your fat intake for the day by ordering a common burrito
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you must know: that innocuous-seeming carnitas burrito, with brown rice and guac, contains 49 grams of fat (not to mention its 970 calories and 94 grams of carbohydrates). That is very much within the range of how much fat a person is recommended to consume for a whole day (44 to 77 grams) so proceed with caution.
The company is paying workers more at your expense
On the plus side: Chipotle is paying its workers more. For workers and the business, this shift is undoubtedly a great thing. However, instead of arriving at the new pay scale by shifting funds from the top, the brand simply raised its menu prices by 4%.
The chain has struggled with rats
In December 2020, a Chipotle location in New York City closed down after several workers were bitten by rats. The final breaking point didn't come, though, until the workers literally could not fulfill the orders anymore—the rats chewed through the computer wiring that was attached to the store's ordering system.
And labor laws
Less than six months after rat-gate, Chipotle found itself in hot water once again with the city of New York: this time, for violating labor laws. Allegedly, the chain was adjusting workers' schedules at the last minute, demanding they cover back-to-back shifts, and violating paid sick leave standards. According to the lawsuit brought forth by the city, between April 2014 and January 2020, the chain only granted 24 hours of sick time per year, instead of the mandated 40.
A previous version of this article was originally published on January 27, 2022.