Chipotle Mexican Grill & Charter School

Chipotle GrillWe still hear from time to time that public schools could learn a few things from successful private businesses. If so, why not Chipotle Mexican Grill?

Chipotle is a rather brilliant concept. The food is fairly high-quality, and I’ve been 27th in line and still eating within ten minutes. The menu is somewhat limited, but with five or six choices at each of the four steps shaping your dining experience, it at least feels like great variety is in play. 

The staff undergoes substantial training before they’re allowed to actually make or serve food. The ingredients are organically grown and the meat naturally raised. (I’m not entirely sure what this means, but I believe it involves little chicken playgrounds and fun cow activities for the young.) 

There are higher quality restaurants with greater variety, of course. Usually these are local treasures, often unique and almost never part of the major chains. There are cheaper and faster places to eat, also – but they’re not usually as good. 

Creepy Plastic Fast Food MascotsBut what Steve Ells did is pretty amazing. He started small, tried different formats, swapped out a few ingredients, then reproduced the most successful combination on a large scale. All the benefits of sit-down dining and the economies of scale normally found in eating establishments represented by cartoon characters or creepy plastic-headed men. It’s a charter school movement dream come true!

For the analogy to work, of course, we’d need to make a few minor adjustments. First and foremost, diners heretofore will be required to eat at Chipotle almost exclusively. A special few may be allowed to go to Abuelo’s or Chuy’s, but there aren’t enough of those to go around – so maybe some sort of lottery would have to be involved. 

Everyone else MUST eat there, and every day – whether they want to or not. The staff will have to deal with these unwilling customers and be fully accountable for their dining happiness and success. There are vegetables in those pans for a reason, young lady!

Also, Chipotle will need to make some modifications for customers who may need gluten-free choices, or who can’t carry their own trays, or who eat more at breakfast than lunch, or who don’t like Mexican food. Some will want extra chips or different beans, some all rice all the time. Several need their food pre-chewed – all without changing the price, speed, or quality of service. You can’t reasonably expect everyone to eat the same way, can you? You can only expect them to all eat at the same place under the same format served by the same staff with the same resources. 


Getting a PhysicalEmployees at Chipotle will be held to higher standards than currently the norm. Customers will undergo regular physicals, including checks of their weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, stamina, heart-rate, and anything else we can think of – including whatever might be trending that year. Locations unable to demonstrate consistent weight-loss and fitness-gain will face staff reductions and reduced ingredients until they improve. 

Individual workers whose customers fail to grow taller, stronger, and healthier (whether eating during their shifts or not) will be publicly exposed and placed on plans of improvement. All servers are expected to bus tables, sweep floors, study cookbooks, and otherwise contribute during their off hours. They’ll be paid slightly below minimum wage and regularly berated by Gordon Ramsay look-alikes, most of whom have been speaking at restaurant conferences and writing cookbooks far longer than they spent asking whether customers preferred black beans or guacamole. 

Bureaucracy YellowA percentage of resources currently poured into running the various Chipotle Mexican Grills around the country will be redirected to a bureaucracy responsible for overseeing these things. These sundry minions’ expertise will be based largely on them having eaten at a Chipotle at some point, or if not, having eaten somewhere else at some point in their lives.

Other than those minor tweaks, I see absolutely no reason the model can't be replicated and mandated in every neighborhood of every state across this grand land, regardless of the wants, needs, or dietary requirements of this or that little region. All people, regardless of background, need picante. Period.

I’ve run this by a few people, and they refuse to share my dream. They argue I’ll ruin the restaurant altogether, or that my suggestions are completely unrealistic and can’t possibly be serious. To be honest, I’m shocked at the reaction. The manager at my local Chipotle heard only a fraction of it before laughing and walking off.

Clearly he’s terrified of a little accountability. Typical. 

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