Chipotle is a fast-casual restaurant. This is distinguished from quick service restaurants by the establishment’s commitment to serving higher quality food. The founder Steve Ells’ background as a classically trained chef is cited as a reason for the company’s commitment to using fresh, sustainable ingredients. This is outlined in the company’s ‘Food with Integrity’ statement, which stipulates, among other things, Chipotle’s anti-GMO crop stance and belief in pasture raised livestock.
The higher quality of food is reflected in the operating costs of Chipotle. For the last eight years, the highest share of the company's operating cost has been held by food, beverages and packaging. The revenue of Chipotle Mexican Grill increased annually between 2006 and 2014, more than quadrupling during this period. However, in 2016 the revenue dropped by around 600 million U.S. dollars to an annual total of 3.9 billion U.S. dollars. Despite this loss, Chipotle will remain one of the largest Mexican restaurant chains in the United States. In 2015, in terms of system wide sales, Chipotle was the second largest Mexican restaurant chain in the U.S. after Taco Bell. Chipotle was more than five times larger than Qdoba Mexican Eats, its next largest competitor.
In the same year, Chipotle was also the second largest Mexican restaurant chain in terms of number of locations. The restaurant chain was ranked once again behind Taco Bell, and followed by Qdoba. The number of Chipotle restaurants increased annually from 704 in 2007 to 2,250 in 2016. The Mexican restaurant chain now has outlets outside the U.S., in Canada, France, Germany and the U.K. However, the majority of Chipotle restaurants remain in the United States. California was the state with the highest share of Chipotle restaurants in 2016 with 384 outlets, followed by Texas with 181.