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Celebrate Taco Tuesday

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"A Place Called Home" Urban Garden Project

What do you do with all those unused strips of land along the side of the road? Do you use up resources and labor by landscaping? Do you let passersby gaze at neglected dirt and weeds?

Recently, the Los Angeles City Council started to tackle that problem by voting unanimously to reverse a ban on planting vegetable gardens in unused strips of city land. Then, they put this new opportunity to work. 

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They teamed up with A Place Called Home, a Youth Outreach Organization, to secure the first site. The LAPD allowed development on a 2,500 square-foot area on the premises of the Newton Police Station. The group had a 750 sq. ft. lot before the agreement, and this new opportunity more than quadrupled the amount of space the group has to work with. This story made national news and drew attention from the local community. 

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Chipotle had been working with A Place Called Home for about a year and a half when all this happened. Our goal was to help revitalize an on-site urban garden to spark kids’ interest in growing vegetables. We also wanted them to learn to cook meals they could take home to their families. The extra land was a great opportunity. We helped them form a multi-phase plan to create urban gardens beyond their current space and bring food access to the surrounding underserved community. We also provided seedlings and support for the project, with the objective to remain non-GMO friendly. The land will be worked by a group of about 300 kids from A Place Called Home, with the idea for members and youth, plus the police academy, to work together. image

The four-phase project is starting with three raised beds and three fruit trees, and will eventually include nine raised beds and an orchard of 22 fruit trees. There will also be a mobile classroom that will be used as a key teaching tool to influence food and culture within the community.

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Over the summer, the kids toured two our Financial District LA and USC restaurants. They made guacamole and salsa with our teams and learned how the herbs in their garden fit into our recipes. image

We are honored to be part of this partnership and we’re excited about the potential to help turn what was wasted space into an edible landscape, and generate an interest in real food along the way.  

-Skyllo

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"What’s the kindest thing you almost did?" - Jonathan Safran Foer

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Bunbury Music Festival – A Perfect Excuse to Escape Boredom

This past weekend, Chipotle helped sponsor the Bunbury Music Festival. In its third year, this three-day, six-stage music festival is held on the banks of the Ohio River at Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Why “Bunbury”?

To bunbury, or to go bunburying, is to have a made-up excuse to get out of doing something boring. The term came from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, where Jack creates a sick friend by the name of Bunbury to escape the boring countryside.

Luckily, this escape from boredom was real and had a great music line-up, featuring The Flaming Lips, Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Empire of the Sun and more.

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It was a great event with more than 60,000 people attending. Chipotle served tacos and gave Cincinnati a taste of our new braised tofu option, Sofritas, before it hits our restaurants.

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Aside from the food and music, the festival featured a Craft Beer Village and a Distillery Village, offering libations to enhance the levity. 

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It was a great event, filled with amazing music, drinks and food. We’re glad we had a good excuse to do something fun. 

-Skyllo

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21 Great Years—Cheers!

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More than two decades ago, Steve had the idea to start this little burrito place to fund a “real” restaurant.

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He converted an Old Dolly Madison Ice Cream Parlor on Evans Avenue in Denver, and opened the doors to our first location 21 years ago today!

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Then Chipotle got “real”. People liked the idea and loved the food. Steve opened another location. Then another. Now, we have more than 1,600 restaurants, including 17 restaurants in four other countries—all with the goal to change the way people think about and eat fast food.

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Despite our growth, we’ve never forgotten our roots. The Evans location is near and dear to our hearts. It’s small and eclectic—to get to the basement storage room, you go through a trapdoor in the floor. The basement ceiling is only six-feet high, but it’s become a tradition for employees to sign it.

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It’s small, for sure, but it started something big. We love our fans for helping us make all this happen. Thanks for rolling with us!

 -Skyllo

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"You don’t have to do what’s expected of you." -Sarah Silverman

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Hacking a Future for Dining

Members of Chipotle’s Architecture and Design and Marketing teams recently attended Hack//Dining, a hackathon designed to create a better future for food through technology. Organized by NYC-based media company Food+Tech Connect, the event attracted over 200 attendees including chefs, entrepreneurs, developers, food journalists and business people.

What is a hackathon? It’s an event that convenes software programmers, graphic designers, project managers and others to tackle specific challenges. The goal of a hackathon is usually to create a software or hardware prototype that addresses a given problem within a specific period of time.

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When Food+Tech Connect invited us to present a challenge, we jumped at the chance to ask bright thinkers for ways we could incorporate technology to help our restaurants become more sustainable. 

Chipotle’s Director of Architecture and Design, Mick McConnell, presented the Chipotle Challenge: “How might we use technology to help quick-service restaurants (QSRs) measure the environmental sustainability of how their stores are designed, built and operated?”

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Mick encouraged hackers to explore multiple dimensions in design (i.e. energy use, food and material waste, and operational throughput and efficiency) and to create technology that would measure these dimensions and analyze in a way that would encourage sustainability.

In addition to Chipotle, representatives from Applegate, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, and Google also presented challenges. Applegate raised concerns about communication of food preferences by consumers to foodservice providers, while B&B expressed frustration with variation in food-safety guidelines among different parts of the U.S. and with the lack of organization of food safety resources and materials. Google’s challenge asked hackers to address how corporate foodservice providers could use technology to empower individuals to achieve their personal and professional lifestyle goals. 

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Our team members engaged in a Q&A session with hackers who were interested in tackling our challenge. Topics ranged from food supply and distribution to consumer experience to internal communication of sustainability issues. One developer asked us, “What are three things that employees could do to improve sustainability?” Our idea is to create an environment that would eliminate the need for crew members to even think about behavioral improvements in sustainability. After hackers had an opportunity to form teams and begin hacking, feedback sessions with stakeholders were held. The session gave our team an opportunity to listen to the ideas and direct the intense hacking that would follow. image

On the final day, our team listened to hacker teams’ pitches for the elimination round and picked three teams to move on to the final round. The competition was tough, but the final award went to Team Just Right. Their prototype would allow customers to create their meal through the app and would reward individuals who ordered a “more sustainable” burrito (i.e. eating less of ingredients with a large carbon footprint). The reward would be distributed by “Pepper Points,” redeemable for a free meal. As customers selected meal ingredients, they would be able to see what portions of the ingredients would award them more “Pepper Points.” Service crew members would also be able to pull up the customer’s pre-selected order on their end.

Judging was done by several notable guests from the food and tech industry, including Dave Arnold of Booker & Dax fame. The judges brought up concerns on the potential of slowing the line and the economic impact of giving away free meals, but ultimately, the awarded them the prize. The team of four will receive a tour in NYC retail design trends with our own Mick McConnell. 

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We are more than honored to have been invited to participate and would like to give a huge shout out to Food+Tech Connect and Studio Industries for organizing such a successful event. We can’t wait to see where innovation in food and tech takes us, and we hope our participation inspired others to think about sustainability through the lens of restaurant operations and design.

-Monica

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A Reason to Keep Trying

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A Bit on Bay Leaves

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The bay, also knows as laurel, is a hardy evergreen shrub that grows wild or cultivated. According to Greek legend, the Delphi oracle chewed bay leaves, or sniffed the smoke of burning leaves, to promote her visionary trances. Bay was famous in ancient Greece and Rome. Apollo even made the tree sacred and it became a symbol of honor. Even today, the association continues. We have poet laureates—Apollo was the God of poets. “Bacca-laureate,” used to signify the completion of a bachelor’s degree, means “laurel berries.” Triumphant athletes of ancient Greece were awarded laurel garlands and they have been given to winners at Olympic games since 776 BC.

Bay leaves have a noble history, but they have a much simpler role in our restaurants—they help out other herbs and spices. Bay leaves are very aromatic with a woody, slightly minty smell. By themselves, bay leaves don’t lend a lot of flavor, but they play well with others and bring out the best in herbs like cilantro or oregano. They are a little unique because they are not cut up when added to the dish, due to their texture and bitter taste. Instead, bay leaves are used whole and work best in slow-cooked dishes or steamed foods since these cooking methods best release the flavor. The leaves are then removed before the dish is served.

We use bay leaves in our black beans, pinto beans, carnitas, white rice and brown rice. Next time you’re in, see if you notice the flavor of this modest little helper herb and remember its noble background. 

-Skyllo

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A Lesson in Problem Solving

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