Steve Ells, founder of Denver-based Chipotle, has been named “Food Innovator of the Year” by the Wall Street Journal.
In today’s WSJ Magazine, an article titled “The Fast Food Revolutionary,” described how Ells has brought sustainable agriculture to mainstream America. The 1,200 Chipotle stores, which boast $2 billion in annual revenues and a 25 percent profit margin, are the largest buyers of natural meat in the country. As Ells said in 2008 when he was a keynote speaker at a CU Real Estate forum, the WSJ article noted that all of the chicken Chipotle uses is sustainably raised, as about 85 percent of its beef.
What the article pointed out that many may not realize, is that at Chipotle, even many of the people on the line serving customers are cooks. And he has hired has hired big-name chefs. He points out that while Chipotle may never change its menu, it is always changing its food.
“If you know anything about fast-food rules you understand that you’re not allowed to have variability from day to day; you understand you are not allowed to taste the guacamole and adjust the flavors,” the article quoted Ells as saying. “The restaurant in Phoenix is supposed to taste exactly like the restaurant in St. Louis. At Chipotle, I can taste the difference from day to day. The limes are juicier at certain times of the year. No two real chickens are exactly the same. A lot of our regular customers tend to like one outlet better than another across town, and I think that’s fine.”
Ells joins other Innovators of the Year singled out by the WSJ, including:
- Art: Ai Weiwei
- Architecture: Bjarke Ingels
- Fashion: Katie Grand
- Technology: Elon Musk
- Design: Joris Laarman
- Philanthropy: The Giving Pledge