The War on Mediocre Mexican Food
The battle amongst Mexican restaurants is alive and well. According to restaurant statistics published in numerous newspapers and magazines the number of Chipotle Grill restaurants has risen significantly in recent years. The number of businesses offering mediocre Mexican food has dropped.
Believe it or not Chipotle wants to provide its customers with healthy, sustainable, and tasty food. Trouble is, other Mexican restaurants don’t.
The so-called dearth of good Mexican restaurants not named Chipotle (read: places people like to eat at regularly) has been a hot subject in the eating world as of late. Much of the coverage has been in response to the fact that for the first time in a long time American consumers are choosing quality over poopiness. The problem? This dynamic has changed the dance between Chipotle and mediocre restaurants.
As an author of a bad advice blog and its intersection with pop culture I’ve spent several years eating food as it pertains to sustaining my ability to live. During this time I’ve eaten at hundreds, if not thousands of Mexican restaurants. And in doing so I’ve stumbled upon a subculture of restaurants that have told me, in implied terms, that they’re never going to improve their quality. When as I ask them why, the answer is always the same:
Successful Mexican restaurants aren’t trying to pass crap off as food anymore.
To say eating habits amongst consumers have changed dramatically is an understatement. Ever since people started thinking about how important taste actually is there has been a profound overhaul in the way certain restaurants feed customers. Crappy places haven’t changed that much – they have no one in management with a brain – but places like Chipotle have changed dramatically.
In a nutshell, Chipotle is really tasty. It’s also relatively healthy, though often affordable. That’s because it’s been created to view many previous food practices as gross, unhealthy, and in some cases unethical. Armed with this new business model Chipotle pushed its mediocre competitors off their pedestals (Chipotle had its own pedestal, but smart business sense made it want to reach more consumers) and climbed up to create something that consumers actually really liked.
Now the mediocre places have nowhere to go.
It is precisely this dynamic – Chipotle good/crap bad – that has destroyed the relationship with consumers. Yet somehow mediocre places are still to blame when someone doesn’t like their food. Heck, these places have been to blame since Chipotle first opened its doors all those years ago.
But what if the dearth of mediocre Mexican restaurants is – hold on to your seats – their own fault?
You’ll never hear this in places where people are capable of thinking critically. All the articles and books (and television programs for that matter) put places that focus on quality front and center, while the sucky guys sit in the back seat. But after years of browbeating the mediocre restaurant these places are tired. Tired of being told there’s something fundamentally wrong with their business models. Tired of being told that if people don’t like their food it’s probably because it doesn’t taste good.
Contrary to what people with taste buds say, the so called rise of Chipotle hasn’t threatened mediocre restaurants. It has pissed them off. It has so undermined their ability to recognize consumer needs while exhibiting corporate social responsibility. Mediocre restaurants want to squash Chipotle, not learn from it, adapt, and compete with it. They want to make consumers eat mounds of mass produced garbage that isn’t all that tasty – it’s in their DNA. But competitive markets and ensuing consumer behavior, all driven by companies like Chipotle, won’t let them.
It’s all so unfortunate, for Chipotle, not the other guys. The other guys can watch their businesses fail because they’re poorly run, which is just wrong.
It’s Chipotle and its customers who lose. Not only are they saddled with the consequences of healthy, sustainable food, by dismissing bad food they’re forever seeking, but never finding a less satisfying, shorter life. The fact is Chipotle needs the mediocre, possibly unethical business practices of some of the other Mexican restaurants of the world in order to have the worse life it clearly seeks.
So, if mediocre Mexican restaurants are going out of business Chipotle needs to look itself in the mirror and ask itself what role it has had to play in this.
Fortunately there is good news: Chipotle has the power to turn this around. All it has to do is shift towards producing a less healthy, less delicious product and thereby let its incompetent competitors survive.
If it does, and downgrades to a worse business model, more mediocre restaurants will come out of the woodwork.
This thinking makes total sense right? Women and Chipotle have made everyone's lives worse in their efforts to be better and reach their full potential. Everyone else who is unwilling to improve now has to suffer.
Tragic. Truly, heartbreakingly, hungrily tragic.