One of the pivotal moments for me was realizing that our 'food with integrity' approach at Chipotle was satisfying my passion. That's about bringing the best quality, sustainably-raised ingredients to everyone: chicken without antibiotics; beef without hormones. These ingredients were only available in high-end restaurants, not mainstream places.
My undergraduate degree was in art history! Raising money for Chipotle was really my MBA. The money for my first restaurant came from my dad, the second from mostly cash flow. The third was an SBA loan. After my dad invested $1.5 million to open a few more, he suggested I raise the money myself for the experience.
Certainly, in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do, I studied art history and had a great time, but I didn't have any sort of career aspirations.
The economic model was formed by the constraints that I had: a small space, relatively inexpensive building materials, relatively inexpensive investment, a very efficient service line or assembly line.
When I told my friends and family that I was leaving Stars to open a burrito shop in Denver, they thought I was crazy, but not long after the success of the first Chipotle, I knew I had to open just one more, so I opened a second one on Colorado Boulevard, which turned out to be even busier than the first.
I certainly could've made a lot more money buying cheap ingredients, and people might not have been able to tell the difference. That was never a part of the calculus. It was not part of my DNA.
If food is processed - like canned or frozen - you can reduce the risks of pathogens.
I'm very much looking forward to relentlessly focusing on ensuring an excellent guest experience, removing unnecessary complexity from our operations, championing innovation, and pursuing our mission of making better food accessible to more people.
I use a lot of citrus for seasoning. There's lemon or lime juice in just about everything, and that balances with salt very nicely. Things like toasted cumin seeds for the beans. The use of fresh herbs like oregano and cilantro.
Our economic model allows us to invest a disproportionate amount in our food costs. We have a very efficient system: customers go through a single line, the people who serve you are the ones who make the food, and our menu board is not cluttered.
Being in compliance with industry standards is less than 5 percent of what companies need to do to make food safe. Company after company finds that out after they have events.
We're not best in the world at burritos and tacos. What we're best in the world at is building a people culture, sourcing really great ingredients, cooking according to classic cooking techniques, understanding the corresponding economic model and how to tweak that and drive that and provide this really great, new fast food experience.
The bottom line - customers want delicious food served quickly in an interactive format, and they are increasingly unwilling to compromise.
When I graduated from cooking school, I went to work at Stars, which was one of my favorite restaurants in the country at the time, and that's where I really learned to cook and to taste food in a discerning way.
We keep the menu of burritos, tacos, and salads simple so we can make it using high quality fresh ingredients that are actually prepared and cooked on site rather than re-heated.
For too long, great food has really only been available in high-end restaurants and specialty food markets, but Chipotle is making the same gourmet quality food available and affordable so everyone can eat better.
It is impossible to insure that there is a zero percent chance of any kind of foodborne illness anytime anyone eats anywhere.
The gimmicks that have driven the fast food sector for years - dollar menus, limited time offers, and merchandising partnerships - are not producing results like they used to, as consumers simply want better tasting, nutritious food and a more compelling experience, not gimmicks.
To eat chicken that was raised with antibiotics is safe, right? But long-term, relying on antibiotics as part of our livestock production is probably not the right thing to do. To not serve chicken means that there's not an economic engine that's making it possible to build up a supply of antibiotic-free meat.
Think about the systems at McDonald's. It's a very mechanized world, where you take out a highly processed patty.