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The Cost of a Free Chipotle Burrito

Posted by CMH Gourmand on March 12, 2009

Life is a series of questions.

Toe-May-Toe or Toe-MAT-Toe?

What would you do for a York Peppermint Pattie?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?

Do you want fries with that?

Today’s question: What would I do for a free Chipotle burrito? The answer: Stand in line on a cold day for 45 minutes.

It is standard practice for Chipotle to give away a burrito and a drink on opening day at any new location. This helps train staff, works out work flow kinks and generates good will. Also, since this is common knowledge for any Chipotle eater, word gets out fast. Philville Phil called me and asked if I wanted to make a run. Since this was a week where I have already been forced to turn down two free meals due to a very full schedule, I said yes.

Chipotle opens at 11:00 AM, we arrived at 11:05 AM. There looked to be about 150 people ahead of us. We pressed on. I checked in with Phil, he reported his spirits were high and his core body temperature was about 98 degrees so we opted to stick out the line.

End of the line, 11:05 AM

End of the line, 11:05 AM

The burrito queue reminded me of the soup lines during the Depression, but no one was depressed here because they were getting a free burrito and drink. At random intervals staff brought out small samples of chips and salsa. The hot salsa kept me warm.

While I caught up with Philville Phil, we crept up in the line and watched it grow from behind. As a woman walked out she reported she arrived at 10:36 AM and was number 7 in line. She left at 11:22 AM, however, it was clear she had dined in – so subtract at least 8 minutes there. We were near the door so we were staying and accepted we were going to be late getting back to work.

Near the door, 11:39 AM

Near the door, 11:39 AM

One can not stand in line for over thirty minutes in the cold without thinking of other lessons in courage – Valley Forge, skipping school to stand in line for Metallica tickets and such. The gentleman in front of us was a true American Hero. He had one young son in his arms the whole time and he had another child to pick up at 11:55 AM. His other child was at a daycare. Childcare facilities tend to be hardcore on pick up times and charge a late fee or keep your kid. The gentleman does not normally do the pick up so he called his wife. He discovered that the pick up window was 11:55 – Noon. It takes 5 minutes to get to the daycare, there were 15 people ahead in line and it was 11:49 – no worries!

American Hero, bottom left corner.

American Hero, bottom left corner.

We got our grub, got stuck in traffic and took way too long for lunch (don’t worry Governor Strickland, I reported it and made up the time). Philville Phil asked me if it was worth it. Is 1 1/2 hours of my life worth a free burrito…no. But the story and the companionship were worth the price.

2 Responses to “The Cost of a Free Chipotle Burrito”

  1. Kate B said

    I presume this was a wide promotion and not just our lucky coincidence, but we found a Chipotle bag in our Sunday paper last week that promised a free burrito anytime before March 21st, just show up with the bag. I think this is a great way for Chipotle to run a free burrito give-away, as it spreads the strain on the restaurant out and might entice some people unfamiliar with the chain to stop by. I’ve been to an Opening Day Chipotle event before, and if I did not already know I loved their food, I would certainly be deterred by the line.

  2. The heads at Chipotle are marketing geniuses. They spend very few dollars on advertisements, and instead spend that money on giving out free products. They know that word of mouth spreads quickly, and providing people with free food is a quick way to win fans.

    That being said, 45 minutes is about 35 minutes too long for me to stand in line. 😉

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