Chipotle's portion sizes can vary by up to 87%, analysis finds

Chipotle isn’t getting any help from Wall Street in trying to tamp down social media complaints about the the fast-casual restaurant chain’s serving sizes. TikTok users, including influential food reviewers, have been sharing images of skimpy looking helpings, claiming they get bigger meals when they film workers putting their orders together. 

Attempting to put the “weight debate” to rest, analysts at Wells Fargo recently ordered and weighed 75 identical burrito bowls from eight Chipotle locations in New York City, with half ordered online and half in-store.

Their findings: The consistency of Chipotle’s portions “varied widely,” with some locations selling bowls with identical orders that weighed roughly 33% more than other outlets, Wells Fargo analysts said in a research note. The heaviest bowls weighed as much as 87% more than the smallest ones, they found. 

“Order consistency remains an opportunity,” the Wells Fargo analysts stated of Chipotle, which opened in Denver in 1993 and now operates more than 3,400 fast-casual restaurants across North America. 

Chipotle dismissed the notion that it had changed its policy on serving sizes. 

“Similar to others in the fast casual industry, our completely customizable meals may have variability in their size or weight depending upon the number of ingredients a guest selects or if they choose to make an ingredient extra or light when ordering from our list of real ingredients in-person or digitally. There have been no changes in our portion sizes, and we aim to provide a great guest experience every time,” a Chipotle spokesperson said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

Chipotle founder Steve Ells last week told a forum in Chicago that the chain had always offered generous helpings. “So those who complain about portion sizes, I’m not sure I quite get it, but I understand it’s a thing out there.” 

TikTok user Keith Lee, who has 16.4 million followers on the social media platform, said in a May 3 video that he used to love Chipotle but that the quality of its offerings has deteriorated. The post has more than 2.2 million views. Lee filmed himself eating several items from Chipotle’s menu, including a bowl in which he appeared to struggle finding chicken. He ultimately found just four pieces, which he described as flavorless and cold.

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TikTok user Drew Polenske chimed in as well, addressing the alleged portion-size issue head on. “I speak for everybody when I say I am sick and tired of the Chipotle portion sizes and it needs to change.”

Another TikTok user posted a video showing a Chipotle worker fulfilling his order, which appeared to be stuffed with ingredients. “The rumors are true. I held my phone up at Chipotle and they loaded my burrito,” read a line of text in the video. 

Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol weighed in on the social media trend, dubbed the “Chipotle phone method,” telling CNBC at the end of May that he thinks it’s “rude to our team members.”

“We’re not going all-you-can-eat, we are going great ingredients, great culinary, great bowls,” he added. 

Meanwhile, any inconsistency in Chipotle’s bowl servings doesn’t appear to be hurting the company’s bottom line or appeal to investors. Chipotle’s stock split 50-to-1 last week, one of the biggest stock splits in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. 

The stock split, the first in Chipotle’s three-decade history, came after the shares surged almost 350% during the past five years to more than $3,000. As of Monday, Chipotle’s stock traded at $60.58, valuing the company at $83.2 billion. 

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