Last week, in New York, I ran into an interesting Chipotle-like restaurant called Chickpea, in Penn Station.
The “conveyor belt”-like ordering experience, the quality of the food and the presentation were all worthy of high marks.
It remains to be seen if its combination of mediterranean/middle-eastern food (3 types of falafel and 4 types of shwarma, in 4 or so wrappings, with 6 types of hummus and 8 or so fresh vegetable topping options) will appeal to customers outside New York (presumably New York-ers have gotten used to falafel and shwarma every other day at the numerous food carts that dot the city).
I remember walking out of there thinking how Chipotle-like the restaurant was. Later, when I ate my food on the Acela, I thought if the taste of food and price bring people back to restaurants, then Chickpea, like Chipotle, had hit a home run.
Next day, I read Matt Yglesias on Slate talking about Taco Bell’s Cantina Bell line of menu offerings and making the point that Chipotle’s influence on this brand-extension (and the American fast-food industry) is pretty significant:
This is more than the story of one company’s repositioning in response to an upstart’s success. It’s a microcosm of the ongoing transformation of the fast-food sector and its efforts to transcend its own lowly origins.
For Cantina Bell itself, its interesting that while, as Matt points out, it has a new face, no chihuahua and is being marketing differently from Taco Bell, it is still sold inside Taco Bell albeit at slightly higher prices compared to Taco Bell’s traditional offerings. It remains to be seen if those that visit Taco Bell will (a) visit Taco Bell more because of Cantina Bell and/or if (b) those that already visit Taco Bell will shell out more for tastier, healthier, fresher options.
As Chipotlization (Chipotlification?) gains steam, consumers should have more reasons to rejoice when they need a tasty, not too expensive meal in a hurry.