This week, analysts at global financial firm Deutsche Bank said the future looks bleak for Chipotle, in part because the company's become complacent with its menu; specifically that its "lack of interest in innovation over the last decade has resulted in what we consider to be menu fatigue," according to a report by Business Insider.
In other words, aside from the food-borne illness problem, people are getting tired of chicken burritos and mountainous burrito bowls. Chipotle skyrocketed to success on the backs of burritos and other simple offerings -- but what else could the company do without going through wholesale menu changes?
Well, one potential option that's actually simple and sane enough to land on the menu is nacho bowls. Imagine a traditional Chipotle burrito bowl with the same protein, salsa, and other toppings, but but swapping out the rice for those addictive lime-salted tortilla chips -- who wouldn't want to eat that? The so-called Chipotle nachos have long been a menu hack among Chipotle lunch pros, but maybe, with a few adjustments behind the sneeze guards, they could land on the official menu. We hit up our local Chipotle and ordered a burrito bowl made with chips (seen above), and tasted huge potential.
A few things are holding the nacho reality back, however. Per our request, the burrito assembly line workers loaded the bottom of the bowl with a bag of tortilla chips instead of rice, then piled on black beans, steak, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and cheese. They charged us for a steak burrito bowl plus a side of chips and guac, which, in Manhattan, added up to almost $13 (before tax) -- easily way too much for nachos. Additionally, the portion was almost too large to be contained in a to-go bowl, and weren't layered as you'd like nachos to be. Not to mention, seeing how Chipotle only offers cold, shredded cheese, and not the melted kind or the cheese-gun you'd see at Taco Bell, something would need to change on the cheese front.
They were, by all accounts, stupidly delicious. But they could be better.
We're not going to pretend we know the logistics required to change food assembly lines for 1,900 locations across the country, but Chipotle might be able to make a nachos bowl work as a legitimate offering -- and probably sell a zillion of them -- by making a few key adjustments.
- Having chips ready at the beginning of the assembly line with the tortillas
- Reducing the amount of chips used (instead of the full side order for an extra $1.50)
- Creating a cheese sauce (while still staying true to their natural ingredients standards), or
- Devising a way to melt the cheese before the nachos are served
The smaller portion of chips could help reduce the cost (and size!) and the addition of melty cheese will exponentially improve the overall flavor.
So, ultimately, if Chipotle really wants to combat this idea of so-called "menu fatigue," we're offering this idea for free. You're welcome, Chipotle.
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and hasn't had a crazy good plate of nachos in a long time. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.