The Origin Of Chipotle's Joke-Filled Napkins

When a Chipotle craving hits, nothing gets between you and your pursuit of a burrito bowl made with that legendary Cilantro Lime Rice. Not long lines, not outdated price hacks that no longer work. Nothing. So off you go. And after ordering a bowl with a side of chips, you grab a pile of napkins on your way out the door.

Upon devouring your meal, you grab for that napkin and that's when you see it. The signature brown paper seems to have more than just the logo. It also has ... a sense of humor?

Napkins Only reprinted what one typical Chipotle piece might read: "This napkin is made from 90% post-consumer recycled unbleached paper. It could have been an electricity bill or a parking ticket in its past life. Forgive & forget." But more than just a funny statement, turns out there was a purpose behind it.

The joke's on us

As it turns out, before Chipotle was a household name, the company struggled to get its marketing message across to consumers. "We didn't have any money but we had things to say," Dan Fogarty, the brand's early head of marketing, told Entrepreneur about how the company worked to get its name and brand out there with a little budget. He adds, "We really wanted to entertain people, make them laugh, and make them like the brand. We didn't want customers, we wanted fans."

The marketing pro thought about where the fledgling company could differentiate itself from other fast-food Mexican restaurants. Fogarty came up with the idea to put Chipotle's signature on everything the customer would see, which spanned from napkins to the delivery trucks that pulled up to the restaurant.

As they found out, customers appreciated the unexpected humor. "I didn't have money to advertise so I decided to use ... whatever I could to tell the stories I needed to tell: How to eat our burritos, where our food came from, or about the farmers who grew it," Fogarty told the magazine. "People loved the way we did it."

It's kind of a funny story, when you stop to think about it — and one with a happy ending.