Chipotle Grows Through the Great Recession

June 2010
To the list of glass-is-half-full cases that have emerged during the recession, add Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill. The locally based chain has opened its 1,000th store---in Flower Mound, Texas (via the Denver Business Journal). It's a rather significant achievement, considering that 17 years ago, when founder, chairman, and co-CEO Steve Ells opened his first Chipotle, he didn't have any plans to expand. The University of Colorado alumnus opened his first restaurant near the University of Denver campus with an $85,000 loan from his father, a pharmaceutical exec. Customers loved his fast burritos, tacos, and bowls so much that he kept adding outposts. Eventually, McDonald's Corporation began investing in Ells' company and bought a majority stake in 2001, helping to fund expansion. The company went public in 2006 and now claims 24,000 employees who serve about 750,000 people a day. Chipotle, which prides itself on fresh ingredients, also grows its management in-house: More than 90 percent of company managers are promoted from within the ranks of its crew, FastCasual reports. "By developing our managers internally, we are not only getting the best managers, but we're creating extraordinary opportunities for our own people," says Monty Moran, co-CEO of Chipotle. "As we open our 1,000th restaurant, we have a deeper bench of potential managers than ever before, which keeps us well positioned for growth knowing that our future leaders are already within the ranks of our managers and crews."