Chipotle and the Church

I love Chipotle. No no. I LOVE love Chipotle.  If I had the money, I could easily be one of those people who lives off of nothing but Chipotle for months (though I feel my stomach and body would not like me for it at times…).  I get a steak bowl at least once a week and it is DELICIOUS. But I (and I think most of America) love Chipotle for more than just the taste of it’s food.  I love EVERYTHING about Chipotle; I love  what it stand for, it’s BRAND, and I think that there is MUCH we can learn from Chipotle’s business model, especially within the Church!

According to Wikipedia, a brand is “a name, term, design, symbol or other feature that distinguishes one seller’s product from those of others.”, but truthfully that is the most simplest and technical of terms.  A brand is so much more! A brand can make or break a business.  A brand is a promise to consumers.  With certain brands come certain perceptions and expectations. A brand of a company can take on a sort of “persona”, appealing more to some groups of people than others.  Actually if you are bored, just start researching what a brand entails! It’s pretty fascinating to say the least!  But how you brand yourself in this day and age has a direct correlation to your success.  My top three favorite brands are Apple, IKEA, and Chipotle.  I could talk for hours on why I love each of these three, but for now I will focus on Chipotle.
The Chipotle Brand.
Where to even start! Well, first as I already stated, their food is just plain delicious! It is a tasty meal at a quality price.  It is cheaper than going to a sit down restaurant for a steak dinner, but tastes better and is more filling than the majority of fast food places.  It is beyond easy to customize ones food, yet still usually has a pretty short wait time!  The staff is always friendly, helpful, efficient, and though they are usually young (and pretty hipster at most of the ones I have been too) they are still professional and do their jobs well and with a smile on their face.  I have actually had nothing but great and funny interactions with the employees at Chipotle!
On top of that I love the modern and clean look of every chipotle.  They always have a simple yet fun feel to them, with the ornate metal accents and sometimes fun photos hanging on the wall.   The “vibe” of almost every Chipotle is young, fun and fresh, with just a touch of thoughtful.  It is the kind of place where you feel that you can laugh and be goofy with your friends over a burrito, or you can sit pondering on your own and blog… Or uhh, read a book!  And this is clearly not an accident!
Chipotle actually goes out of its way to inspire and provoke thought.  All of their bags and cups feature a groovy design, coupled with some kind of quote or story or essay with the purpose of making you stop and think and ponder.  Have you read any of these essays?  They are so good! One is about a girl who is grieving the loss of some Spanish words who’s feel and meaning get lost in the translation to English.  Another is a poem about a “two minuet” breakup which is so beautiful!  Honestly, everything that I have read on a Chipotle product has struck me and made me stop, if only for a few seconds, and ponder something deeper, something greater.  It has inspired me.
But the greatness of Chipotle does not stop there!!! It is clear that Chipotle is EXTREMELY conscious, careful, and proactive about positively building their brand (they must have the greatest focus groups in the world!).  Chipotle actually spends very little on advertising, mainly using billboards and focusing on bigger projects like their app game or filming a mini series.  In fact (and I did not realize this till I just started writing this post), Chipotle does NOT advertise on TV.  You heard me. Let that sink in for a second.  They believe that running adds on TV is actually bad for their business and appears disingenuous to consumers!  (Read more here!). However Chipotle does seem to be active on social media, and just last week I got a coupon because I did a small informative and interactive “quiz” comparing their ingredients to a fast food competitors.  In a world where it seems that every business and franchise is screaming frantically for you to buy it’s products, Chipotle seems to sit back and let it’s product speak for itself!
And this may be the greatest and most important thing about the Chipotle brand!  While it is tasty, affordable, fast, modern and appeals to generations young and old, the greatest thing about Chipotle is that it is transparent.  Chipotle has worked hard to provide a meal that is not only cheap and delicious, but is also healthy and has “integrity”.  In a world full of lies and deception, Chipotle has chosen to go against the grain and STAND for something more than simply making money.  When I walk into a Chipotle, I not only get food that is fresh, I also get food that is healthy and has no GMOs.  Not only that, but I get food that was grown in a responsible, healthy way from local vegetables to free range animals.  This is a restaurant that doesn’t simply care what the food tastes or looks like, but also cares about where it comes from and how it is grown!  In fact, when I eat Chipotle it makes not only my stomach happy, but also my mind knowing that I support an honest business that is supporting other small, honest businesses.  I am pretty much doing my part to help the environment, right!? (Just kidding… Kinda). But truthfully, the more that I learn about Chipotle, the more I WANT to support this business and everything it stand for and believes in; luckily for me, I actually enjoy their food too!
So now you know why I LOVE Chipotle! This is a franchise that KNOWS what it stands for: transparency, integrity, relevance, and a quality product.  As a millennial, I am SOLD!  This is 100% what I want as a consumer.  Finally a business that has researched and listened to what people are saying, and it is basically “cut the crap”! Stop the deception and the lies and the constant beratement of ads to try and sell me on what you are offering, and simply let your product speak for itself!
The Church
Guess what! That’s right, this 100% applies to Churches!   I recently wrote a post about why I, as a Millennial, left the Church for awhile. (You can read it here.)   Well, I think that the modern American Church needs to take a few cues from Chipotle and their “brand”.  The answer to getting Millenials (and other people) back to the church is not simply about remodeling your sanctuaries and singing modern worship songs with a full band. It is not about “advertising” the gospel and Bible in a cool, hip new way.  It is NOT rebranding Christianity as cool or hipster or trend-savey.
The answer, actually, is that the Church needs to refocus its brand and return to it’s roots, it’s foundation! Which is that we are imperfect followers of Christ, who meet together to practice vulnerable community as The Body, and to actively strive in unity to pursue growth as well as to daily be transformed more into the likeness of Christ as we develop our relationship with God and with others.  (Yes, I did just basically write a mission statement for the  Church, and if you have anything to add or can write a better one please message me or leave a comment!).  Yet I see so many churches that seem like they have lost sight of the core reasons for their existence, and instead get swept up with activities and programs and out-reaches!  Wonderful things in and of them selves, but not when it is at the expense of neglecting to “tend to the flock”!  We are focusing so many of our efforts outward, but if we instead focused our efforts INWARD towards deepening and growing our own community, maybe people would start coming to US!
Here is what I mean by that.  Chipotle knows what it stands for, and depends on word of mouth for it’s main source of advertisement because they believe that their product and what they stand for is enough to bring consumers to them and cause people to want to buy their product.  Do we, as the Church, believe that Jesus and the fellowship of believers is ENOUGH to make others want to buy into what we are selling?  Because guess what: when you try to sell us anymore than that we see right through that crap!  I have grown up my entire life seeing products such as burgers advertised on T.V., and then realizing as I bit into that burger that the real thing didn’t even RESEMBLE the add!  A lifetime of this sort of deception has made it easy to spot when something is being “dressed up” to be sold to me, and I HATE it.  It actually has the reverse affect on me and makes me want to run the other way!
So  in conclusion my message is this:
Stop selling; let the product speak for it’s self. Lose all the bells and whistles. Have integrity. Be honest. Be transparent.  Know your core principles and build your Brand to reflect those principles, and people will start coming to YOU for what you are offering. Start taking cues (and food) from Chipotle!
Now if you will excuse me, I just made myself really hungry…
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