Chipotle cultivating thought

Food for thought: had lunch at Chipotle, lately? Apparently you’ve got some reading material to digest along with your chips and salsa.

The fast food chain has introduced the Chipotle Cultivating Thought series, a project that, as Chipotle states, aims to present “the words and whimsy of thought-leaders, authors and comedians through unique, you’ll-only-find-them-here essays, each illustrated by a different artist. We’re hoping this will allow people to connect with the musings of these writers with whom they may or may not be familiar and create a moment of analog pause in a digital world, provoking introspection or inspiration, and maybe a little laughter.”

Chipotle cultivating thought

Toni Morrison in two minutes

I am simultaneously tickled and totally confused by this project; evidently the idea came up when Jonathan Safran Foer met with Chipotle C.E.O. Steve Ells a number of years ago, and told Ells, “You have all of these surfaces in your restaurants, like the cups and the bags — why don’t you just give something to people, not as any kind of marketing tool, not with any particular message, but just something thoughtful?”


Involved artists’ motivations for participating include:

“I love the idea of putting something literary in a place we might not expect to find it.” – George Saunders


“It’s delightfully bizarre to try  to get people to read their cups.” – Michael Lewis


If you’ve been to Chipotle, you know that you are rushed through the order line faster than you can decide between refried or black beans. But evidently they want you to slow down and enjoy the moment come chow time.

Chipotle cultivating thought
The full list of participants (collect all ten!) includes:

  • Toni Morrison
  • Malcom Gladwell
  • Sarah Silverman
  • Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Michael Lewis
  • Bill Hader
  • Judd Apatow
  • George Saunders
  • Steven Pinker
  • Sheri Fink

Hey, if it gets more people to read and reflect, I suppose it’s a fine idea. And I think the art is beautifully done. What do you think–does this have real purpose? Does it speak to Chipotle’s clientele, or could it perhaps draw a new set of consumers? (Do marketing questions even have a place at the table for a project like this?) Fast food + slow literary reflection is kind of a random combination, but I’m willing to watch it play out.

At the very least, maybe it will offset my guilt after enjoying too much guacamole.