Chipotle is one of the best chain restaurants in the US that focuses on gourmet Mexican food, such as burritos. The company has taken the unusual step to distinguish themselves from the competition by adorning their disposable cups and takeout bags with short stories by Jonathan Safran Foer, Malcolm Gladwell, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, and Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Lewis.
Jonathan Safran Foer came up with the idea of having something interesting to read on his cup or bag when he was hanging out in a Chipotle restaurant and had nothing to read. He neglected to bring in a magazine and did not own a smartphone. He had met Steve Ells, the CEO of the foodchain a few years ago and pinged him on an email. He mentioned that “I bet a shitload of people go into your restaurants every day, and I bet some of them have very similar experiences, and even if they didn’t have that negative experience, they could have a positive experience if they had access to some kind of interesting text,’” Foer recalled. “And unlike McDonald’s, it’s not like they’re selling their surfaces to the highest bidder. They had nothing on their bags. So I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to just put some interesting stuff on it? Get really high-quality writers of different kinds, creating texts of different kinds that you just give to your customers as a service.”
Steve liked the idea and went all in, commissioning a series of short stories, accompanied by pictures. Everything on the cup was done by the author and took a few days to get the story out there and something visually arresting. Jon said in an interview with Vanity Fair that ” 800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds now have access to good writing. A lot of those people don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this.”