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Chipotle to expand menu with quesadillas and milkshakes

Illustration for article titled Chipotle to expand menu with quesadillas and milkshakes
Photo: marcnorman (iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus)

Chipotle fans tiring of their formerly beloved burrito bowls may have a new reason to return to the restaurant chain soon: The New York Times reports Chipotle announced yesterday “that it will add five new menu items—quesadillas, nachos, chocolate milkshakes, avocado tostadas and an updated salad—at its test kitchen in New York City, for eventual rollout nationwide.”

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Currently Chipotle’s widespread operation features a carefully limited menu, so these items, which require new equipment, add considerably to Chipotle’s food-prep process. The NYT points out that a quesadilla—which has to be grilled, instead of simply formed like a burrito—could take up to two minutes to prepare, a lifetime in Chipotle time (a cheese quesadilla already appears on the Chipotle kids’ menu). Milkshake machines, presumably, will have to be added to all the stores, as well as larger grills.

So why would Chipotle complicate their operation in this manner? After all, says the NYT, “while most fast food companies introduce new products routinely to get people in the door, such changes are antithetical to the deliberately limited menu that built Chipotle into a $13 billion company.” But a bout of E. coli scares (“A series of E. coli outbreaks at Chipotle in 2015 hurt the company’s healthier-than-thou appeal, and sent the stock plummeting” says the NYT) caused Chipotle to suffer in competition with the many new restaurants now flooding the market. The chain is hoping the expanded menu will pull lost fans back in, and help boost some sagging sales.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

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DISCUSSION

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This is very stupid, even for them. Chocolate milkshakes aren’t their brand, they don’t even have equipment for it, they’re investing in a thing people don’t want regularly. They already had nachos and quesadillas on the secret menu, they’re unnecessary. And a tostada is not rocket science since it’s just adding a shell to their existing food, especially when competitor Qdoba already did that.

They should take a page out of Qdoba’s parent company’s playbook. When Jack-in-the-Box got hit with E.Coli troubles in the ‘90s, they lowered their prices and got people back in by offering things like “the big deal”: a taco, a burger, and fries for a dollar.

That’s how you get people back, you hit them in the wallet. You don’t need new items unless they’re genuine extensions of your existing brand, their sofritas shredded tofu was a good example of that. You need people to regain interest in your brand, in the food you already have. The best way to do that is to get them back in the door, and gimmicky chocolate shakes aren’t as good as saving money.