Can the so-called “Chipotle Boys” save Chipotle?

An ardent group of Chipotle customers may be the reason why the fast-casual chain continues to perform well

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published June 22, 2024 9:45AM (EDT)

The exterior of a Chipotle Mexican Grill (Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images)
The exterior of a Chipotle Mexican Grill (Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images)

Chipotle has been at the center of much backlash in recent months.

The fast-casual burrito chain was accused of “shrinkflation” — the practice of reducing a product’s amount while still offering it at its original price — by several customers, including prominent social media star and food critic Keith Lee. A sort of trend soon emerged, in which consumers began recording Chipotle workers making their orders and then promptly walking out mid-order if the portions seemed too small for their liking. Rumors claimed that customers who recorded would receive larger portions per company protocol. And while some customers claimed they did receive more food, Chipotle later spoke out against the “hack,” saying it’s misleading and flat-out false.

Mounting criticism over Chipotle’s menu offerings also made rounds across social media. On Reddit, several consumers complained that Chipotle’s food quality has gone downhill and placed much of the blame on management. One user detailed their experience, saying they were often given “frozen” corn, rice that is “stale to the point you can break a tooth on it,” meat that is “50% of the time inedible” and far fewer portion sizes.  

“I can honestly say Chipotle [used] to be my absolute favorite restaurant, and now I hate every single thing about it,” the user wrote. 

That sentiment is shared by an overwhelming majority of Chipotle consumers. So it comes as a surprise that there exists one group of ardent restaurant regulars who eat, breathe and sleep all things Chipotle. Dubbed the “Chipotle Boys,” this particular breed of customer is a young man, typically between the ages of 18 and 28, who consumes a copious amount of Chipotle. Whether it’s a quick work lunch, a midday snack or a post-gym sesh dinner, Chipotle is always the go-to meal option, seven days a week, for the average Chipotle Boy.

The term itself came about after New York-based writer Jackson McHenry wrote on X, “overheard two twenty-something women discussing the concept of a ‘chipotle boy,’ apparently a boy who eats chipotle 5-7 days a week, ‘the chipotle boys are everywhere.’” As described by Bustle, Chipotle Boys “opt for convenience over novelty, speed over style.”

A Chipotle Boy is usually a specific kind of “bro”: either a Finance Bro who spends their lunch break at a nearby Chipotle feasting on a bowl and a side of chips; or a Gym Bro who enjoys a protein-packed meal after an arduous workout sesh. There’s also the die-hard Chipotle Boy who is keen on setting records. Take for example the Ohio man (whose name is ironically Bruce Wayne) who has eaten Chipotle for 426 straight days as of December 2017. Or the Alabama man who has eaten Chipotle nearly 500 days in a row as of April 2023.

Chipotle Boys may be the reason why Chipotle continues to perform well financially compared to other fast-casual chains. Per Forbes, Chipotle’s share price, which was up 44% year-to-date, “hit an all-time high” last month, and the company had a market capitalization of $89 billion. The company’s stock value is currently up nearly 50% since last year. In 2023, Chipotle reported its total revenue increased 14.3% to $9.9 billion year-over-year, and comparable restaurant sales increased 7.9%. The chain also plans to open between 285 to 315 new restaurants this year, according to a report from Restaurant Dive. Over 80% of those restaurants will include Chipotlanes, which will help Chipotle reach its goal of opening more than 1,000 Chipotlanes in 2024.

Want more great food writing and recipes? Subscribe to Salon Food's newsletter, The Bite.

Chipotle recently hopped on the “Chipotle Boys” chatter with a new promo aimed at its young male fans. Called the Chipotle Boy Bowl, the limited-time offering is available on the Chipotle app and includes chicken, black beans, corn, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, white rice, lettuce, and mild salsa.

“[T]he polls are in the official Chipotle Boy Bowl is avail starting today in the app. [F]or all my double chicken white rice black beans mild salsa corn salsa sour cream cheese guac and lettuce mans out there,” Chipotle wrote on X alongside a photo of a Chipotle Boy Starter Pack complete with AirPods, aviator sunglasses, a Patagonia Vest and a handful of bunched up Chipotle napkins.

Chipotle’s highest-margin sales are currently from digital orders, as explained by Forbes. The chain’s drive-thru lanes and rewards program touts 40 million members, which exceeds the number of members in Starbucks’ internationally lauded rewards program. Considering how prominent Chipotle Boys are, it looks like Chipotle's future is in good hands.

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Burrito Chain Chains Chipotle Chipotle Boys Fast-casual Restaurants Food News