By Pete Williams
Steve Ells is the creator of Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has reinvented the concept of fast food by providing quality, healthy, (if salty) food from sustainable sources.
Not only has Chipotle blown up in recent years, it’s been one of Wall Street’s hottest stocks in the last 18 months. As someone who was introduced to Chipotle while writing the book Core Performance with Mark Verstegen in Phoenix in 2002, long before the IPO, I try not to think about that lost investment opportunity.
I’ve eaten there an average of twice a week since Chipotle came to the Tampa Bay area in 2005 and probably have hit at least two dozen different Chipotles around the country. I get a lot of grief for eating there on trips to the restaurant capital of the world, New York City, but where else can you find quick, healthy, quality food at a reasonable price in Gotham?
Nobody is more passionate about Chipotle than I am, though as I wrote last month it’s important to keep an eye on your salt intake at Chipotle – or at least your salt intake the rest of the day you eat there.
One of the brilliant things about Chipotle is that it spends little on advertising and marketing, though it’s been a longtime sponsor and supporter of cycling.
Now, if the trailer for NBC’s new show “American’s Next Great Restaurant” is any indication, Ells looks like he might be the breakout star of the program, a cross between Donald Trump and Simon Cowell. Ells is a fascinating entrepreneurial story, taking $85,000 to open his first Chipotle in Denver and parlaying it into a company 17 years later with a market cap of $8 billion.
To celebrate tonight’s debut, Chipotle is giving a buy-one-get-one-free coupon to anyone who watches the 90-second trailer for the show.