As a fast-casual chain, Chipotle is part of the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector. In the United States, consumer spending in the QSR sector amounted to 279 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. Fast-casual restaurants typically represent a blending of the fast food and casual dining experience. What distinguishes fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle from casual dining establishments is their limited table service, moderate price point, and quick meal preparation time. Compared with leading fast-food restaurant chains like McDonald’s fast-casual restaurants typically offer a more upscale and diverse menu selection with higher quality ingredients.
This focus on fresh ingredients is one of Chipotle’s key commitments. In the company’s ‘food with Integrity’ statement, the brand outlines its commitment to using responsibly sourced ingredients without artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. On the financial side of business, the higher quality of food is reflected in Chipotle’s operating costs: For the past decade, the highest share of the company’s operating costs has been held by food, beverages, and packing. Chipotle’s operating income, however, saw a sharp decline in 2016, when the company was faced with food safety issues in some of its U.S. locations. The burrito chain’s revenue figures also plummeted that year, before picking up and reaching almost 5.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 – Chipotle’s highest revenue to date.
Since launching almost two decades ago, the number of Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants has increased steadily. In 2019, the brand operated 2,622 eateries worldwide, serving international customers in Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., Chipotle also remains the second-largest fast-casual restaurant chain based on unit count. Unlike many of the brand’s competitors like Taco Bell, Chipotle does not franchise its restaurants. This business strategy, among other factors, earned the company an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) score of 80 in 2020, making it one of the top-ranked limited-service restaurant chains in the country. According to a nationwide survey, Chipotle also remains the favorite Mexican restaurant chain in the United States among 61 percent of consumers.