Chipotle recently made an announcement that may have some people scratching their heads a little: they now offer quesadillas, but only if you order them online.  Previously, you could only get a quesadilla as either a kids meal (and, naturally, it would be kid’s meal sized) or if you were one of those people who harassed the employees about some “secret menu” bullshit. 

Some might say that this addition was simply a way to generate some excitement without actually adding anything new to the menu.  Some might say that, in a time where state and local governments are lifting all of their COVID safety procedures in the name of lubricating the cogs of the capitalist machine with the blood of the workers, Chipotle still would prefer customers to get in and get out as quickly as possible, so they wanted to find new ways to incentivize online ordering.  While I’m sure there are shades of truth to both of these, I have another theory that I think might hold a little more weight.

Imagine your typical (pre-COVID, standing in line) Chipotle visit.  You approach the counter.  You tell the employee the form of tortilla vessel (or lack thereof) you want your sustenance to be crammed into.  You pick your protein: chicken, chicken, pork, beef, beef, beef, or tofu.  You sheepishly point at the menagerie of salsas and toppings hiding behind their protective barrier.  You ask for guac. They tell you it costs extra.  You know it costs extra.  They ask if that’s alright.  You ponder if anything was ever “alright.”  They move on, because that didn’t really answer their question.  You watch them struggle to wrap the misshapen burrito as you struggle with your mental health.  You get one of those Mexican Cokes because the glass bottle makes you feel like a fancy boy.

Did you notice anything not mentioned there?  That’s right, it’s a trip to the flat-top.  

Chipotle’s core competency is supposed to be speed.  Everything is all set up and ready to be thrown together as quickly as you can poke at the glass like a child at an aquarium.  This expectation leaves no room for a trip to la plancha.  I used to work at a (now defunct) Chipotle knockoff, and I can tell you that the quesadillas we made took about 3 minutes on each side to cook.  That’s 6 minutes of the customer just kinda awkwardly standing there while you both wait for a facsimile of golden, brown and delicious.  Not to mention, almost every time I go to Chipotle there seems to be someone running up and down the line doing restocks, so for someone to also be swinging back and forth from the line to the grill would inevitably lead to a collision.  But when you limit the quesadilla to only online ordering, which typically requires about 10-15 minutes for an “ASAP” order, you take so much of that stress out of that situation, improving the workflow of the lunch rush.

I also want to point out one other ingenious element of the way they’ve gone about implementing this menu change.  The quesadillas themselves consist only of the protein and cheese on the inside, and come with 3 sides of salsa/guac/sour cream/etc, and by making them only available online they can ensure that it stays that way.  My biggest pet peeve at my aforementioned quesadilla job, even more so than the awkward wait, was the way that customers would insist on loading their quesadillas up with so much nonsense that they would have absolutely no structural integrity left to them.  Even worse, many would try to get salsa/guac/sour cream put in the quesadilla, which would turn into a sloppy wet disaster (which would be extra terrible if the sour cream curdled, which it did like half the time). Sure, many may complain that this will lead to a very plain quesadilla, but isn’t that the quesadilla’s appeal in the first place?  It’s an excuse to eat melted cheese for a meal, don’t overthink it.  

So here’s to you, Chipotle, for figuring out how to give the people what they want in a way that avoids all the problems they wouldn’t even know about.

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