By Chad Upton | Editor
Chipotle Mexican Grill is a popular fast food restaurant with more than 1000 locations in the United States, Canada and England.
For those who don’t know, they are well known for using fresh and healthy ingredients. For the most part, they use meat from animals that are free range, fed vegetarian diets and raised without antibiotics, hormones or arsenic, not to mention vegetables that are organic and locally produced.
If you’ve read or seen Fast Food Nation (2001/2006), you’ll know that most fast food chains do not operate like this. They source the cheapest meats possible, which often come from animals raised in the least healthy ways. If you’ve seen the documentary Food Inc (2008), Chipotle is painted as a very different kind of fast food chain.
That’s why it’s so surprising that McDonald’s once owned a majority share.
Chipotle was started in 1993 by a chef named Steve Ells. The first store was in Denver Colorado, followed by a few more Denver stores in 1995 and five more in 1996. The chain was growing quickly, so they accepted outside investors in 1998, including McDonald’s.
Because the chain was expanding so quickly, it made a lot of sense for McDonald’s to invest. The funding helped Chipotle expand even more quickly, going from 16 stores in 1998 to 500 in just 8 years.
In January of 2006, Chipotle went public on the New York Stock Exchange. It was the second most successful public offering for a restaurant, second to Boston Chicken (now Boston Market), which was another McDonald’s property. McDonald’s divested its interest in both companies in October 2006 to focus on the McDonald’s brand.
It should be noted that Chipotle chose to sponsor the documentary Food Inc. Although, it’s not know if it was the chicken or the egg, that is if Chipotle was painted in such a positive light because they were a sponsor or if they sponsored and promoted the film because it made them look good. The sponsorship was announced almost two months after the film was released, so it’s plausible the sponsorship was an effort to promote the film because it was so favorable to Chipotle.
Photo: Mr. T in DC (cc)