This Chipotle Hack Won't Work Anymore

When Monday, October 19 rolled round, Chipotle announced a change to their menu that threatened every fan's experience of the restaurant. From now on, they would charge $0.25 for each side tortilla. Previously, people would get them for free. This "hack", as Delish describes it, worked by ordering a "a burrito bowl with all of the fixings of their choice and ask for a tortilla on the side that would come free of charge." The bowls come with more food than the burrito, but lack the tortilla. So the two combined gave the best bang-for-buck value.

The reason for the sudden change was reported by Markets Insider that Monday. Namely, the pandemic has caused more people to order their food digitally, making use of either Chipotle's website or their app. This also means that it became easier for Chipotle to track the ingredients that were depleted with each order. The difference between the pre-COVID serving logic and the post was given by Chipotle's Chief Financial Officer, Jack Hartung: "[Our] portion sizes are [now] much more consistent because there's not somebody pointing at every single pan ... the crew will see just the way that a customer is looking at them and think, 'Oh, I better put another scoop in.'" Without the social pressure, food is apportioned more consistently, and standardization has spread to include the fan favorite "hack."

The price is only a quarter. But still, fans may feel it as a slap.

Is Chipotle being reasonable?

As one may imagine, previous fans of Chipotle were not happy with the change. "Tortilla on the side at chipotle is no longer free.. corporations rly go out of their way to hurt us," tweeted one disappointed fan that People Magazine later quoted. Brobible found even more people seething over the change in policy. Comments like "Chipotle starting to charge 25 cents for a tortilla on the side now??? In a pandemic???! The disrespect" were about the average in tone. Of course, how serious the complaints are is difficult to judge on the internet.

While one may wonder how much Chipotle really needed to reap their tortilla money, we should also acknowledge that during the quarantine, Chipotle did reveal their guacamole recipe. As Delish noted at the time in August, Chipotle had, in fact, revealed their recipe in 2015. This time, Chef Chad uploaded a video of him preparing the dip on Instagram, making it even easier to make the guac on one's own. Delish reports similar recipe sharing from Chipotle for their chips, corn salsa, and rice.

Why Chipotle would do this has not been explained. The most likely reason is that by sharing their recipes, they instill a deeper loyalty among their fans who will see the company as altruistic, instead of disrespectful for charging more for an added tortilla with the burrito bowl. That said, the people upset by the new price probably just wanted to get one over on the company.