Learning From Your Enemies - Burrito Fridays

In grad school I created a mock marketing plan for Chipotle. Through researching the company, I learned about the unique business practices that Chipotle used to make the restaurant chain so successful. I'm going to go through them in a weekly series of posts called Burrito Fridays. I'm in no way an expert about Chipotle, I simply see ways we can learn from the company. Let’s go.

  Original photo by    Javier Armendariz .

Original photo by Javier Armendariz.

Think about someone in your life that is the antithesis of you. Or think of a business whose product and end-game completely oppose your business's. Then think about asking them if they'll teach you their ways. Ludicrous, right? That's essentially what Chipotle did.

Steve Ells is Chipotle’s founder and CEO. He is a trained chef and cares greatly about food quality. Steve has spoken openly about his dislike of frozen patties and the mechanized process of fast foodEarly on in Chipotle's life, Steve had opened several Chipotles locally with well-received success and he knew he wanted to expand by opening more restaurants throughout the U.S. Chipotle needed capital and expertise to expand. 

Chipotle went to the best and biggest guns for restaurant expansion - McDonald’s. However, McDonald’s propagated the very issue he was against in the food industry. Still, they decided to partner and McDonald’s investment in Chipotle expanded the restaurants greatly in a relatively short amount of time. 

McDonald’s divested from Chipotle in 2006, but there are now many restaurants throughout the U.S. and Chipotle’s stock has continued to soar. Though it could be viewed that Steve Ells compromised on his ideals, it was ingenious and humble of him to be able to put aside his issues with mechanized fast food long enough to partner with the best in the industry to expand Chipotle restaurants. Without McDonald’s investment, it's possible we may not even know of Chipotle. As it ironically turns out, Chipotle may have had to partner with McDonald’s to further its mission to raise quick-service food standards.

Is there a business in which you may not agree with all their methods, but they are doing something well that you’d like to do? Is your "enemy" serving customers well in a specific way that you'd like your business to? It may be helpful to put aside differences, be humble and ask for help, for the sake of bettering your business. It could pay off - it certainly did for Chipotle.


For further reading - a quality, concise piece on Chipotle and McDonald's relationship:

Chipotle: The One That Got Away From McDonald's by Roben Farzad (Business Week)