No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is a cup lid. So simple, yet such a vital part of the Chipotle Diet. Over 6 months I have been a user, and I didn’t realize I had become so dependent on such a product. It is second nature for me, but every time I visit the restaurant I require one of these for my water cup. And luckily for me, there are several in existence at each and every Chipotle, stacked up one on top of another as shown above.
That is where the problem started. Since I am an avid lid user, I started to notice a trend. My fat fingers (although becoming skinnier) tended to be selfish and couldn’t grab just one. Out of respect for other patrons, I couldn’t put the extra lid back on the pile. I touched it for crying out loud. So what would I do? I would throw it away in the trash. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one. I observed several other customers doing the same thing day after day. So like any good engineer, I developed a solution and tested it.
One day as I was grabbing my refill of water, one Chipotle employee happened to be refilling the lids. I asked her (very nicely of course) if she could stack them upside down. Without hesitation (probably since I’m her favorite customer), she did just that. The results were amazing. No wasted lids during a 30-minute observation period. In fact, the stack of lids was the first to disappear as customers subconsciously preferred to grab lids out of this pile rather than the pile of lids right next to it stacked the old way. Burritoful!!
After this breakthrough, I decided to let Chipotle Corporate know of my findings. And I didn’t just shoot them an email. My MBA background knew that a PowerPoint presentation consisting of a cost savings analysis would be best :). The analysis was as follows (I would be more than happy to email you my presentation upon request):
Chipotle is on pace to open 687 stores by the end of fiscal year 2007
Per Store Estimates:
Customers per Day: 300
Customers that require lids: 2/3 or 200
% of customers that waste lids: 25% or 50 lids/day
Estimated cost/lid: $0.005 (half a cent)
# days open/year: 360 days
$90/store a year in wasted lids
$61,830 wasted in 2007
Assuming 100 new stores a year for the next 5 years
$444,150 wasted by 2012
Apparently these numbers turned some heads. Because as of two weeks ago, I walked into my local Chipotle, and for the first time ever, the lids were upside down. I asked the manager about it, and he said that my analysis had been forwarded to all stores in the greater Kansas City area. WOW!!
This just goes to show that big companies can listen to the little people, and that the little people can make a difference. Who would of thought that one fan can make a change. I would be curious if other stores outside the KC area noticed a change in their lids?
To CEO Steve Ells: If you are reading this, I’m available for that spot on the board of directors at anytime. I would also take some free burritos as a consolation.