Chipotle’s Recipe for Online Presence

Developing and managing all of the facets of an online presence is not simple. There are so many questions that need to be answered in the planning stage. This post covers how Chipotle has tackled its online presence.

There’s a lot of buzz around Chipotle right now. Much of it’s focused on the company’s Hulu series Farmed and Dangerous and on its successful Scarecrow animation. Behind each production Chipotle’s brand identity is infused into everything the company does, including its website. Let’s start from the foundation-brand positioning

Chipotle’s most popular slogans:

“Cultivating a Better World”
“Cultivating Thought”
“Food for Thought”

I like Chipotle’s way of thinking. The wording is all about growing and the topic is growing healthy food and healthy people.

Definition of Cultivate

“To improve and prepare land, as by plowing or fertilizing, for raising crops. To grow or tend a plant or crop. To promote the growth of a biological culture. To nurture; foster. To form and refine, as by education. To seek the acquaintance or good will of; make friends with”.

Cultivate is a fitting word for Chipotle’s mission. The food served in its restaurants is produced in a natural way-not raised in confinement with added drugs or preservatives. The company is also looking to cultivate the motivation of others-hoping to influence individuals and others in the food industry to make changes for the better. Chipotle is positioning its brand to reach out to the millennial age group that desires community and transparency.

Why Three Websites?

Chipotle has three main websites:

Each site builds a community around the company’s cause and is transparent about how Chipotle is making progress. Chipotle uses each site to focus on a different company goal-segmenting its communications.
Websites may be segmented by a split in target audience or by different goals for the same target audience. The goal of every website should be to attract the right visitors. When planning each site, keep in mind that search engines look for keyword-filled domain names. Each domain name should have a specific content focus to lead visitors to action. The domain name(s) for your company website(s) should be the first keyword phrase that you rank for in search results.

All three Chipotle websites offer visitors transparency about the company. For instance, the origin of the ingredients used in its menu items, how the food is prepared, and how much money is donated from the company foundation. It is all a process and Chipotle wants people to see how it works.

Brand positioning should always identify an answer to a market problem or opportunity. This answer should separate a brand from its competitors. Chipotle has done just that. It offers healthy/sustainable fast-food, a community experience, and the funding to help it all happen.


This is the main website for the Chipotle fast-food organization. The first thing that I noticed about the site is that it has a theme of transparency and tangibility. Transparency in the sense that there is so much information on the site about the food Chipotle provides its customers. You can learn about all of the different animal types and how they are farmed. You can read about the sustainable design of the restaurants.

The graphic design and branded theme to the website is very tangible. The background of the website is paper and the images pop out of a cut with a dotted line. Also, notice all of the photographs with white borders, notebooks, and sticky notes with hand written text that becomes magnified when scrolled over with the cursor.

Website Design Choices

There are many ways to add content and interactive pages to your website that can help people. Chipotle uses the interactive functions of location finder, e-commerce, and Q&A to list a few. The Q&A is termed “TALK TO US.” It has a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) tab and an Email tab visitors can use. The design layout of this page gives the visitor a focus for interacting without having to leave that page.
Ecommerce is titled “SHOP.” Chipotle partnered with Loomstate to sell clothes that represent the mutual brand values of the companies.

“Chipotle and Loomstate are working together because both food and clothing ultimately start from the same place, the farm. Our partnership is a joint commitment to environmental and social responsibility, with a focus on the highest standards in the ingredients we use, the materials we source, and our methods of production. It’s all connected. Our meals, our clothing, our environment.”
– Scott Mackinlay Hahn, Loomstate
Steve Ells, Chipotle

The store shopping experience is very well designed. It mostly features images of the clothing items and the website design stays out of the way. It is all about the products. My favorite has to be the skateboard they partnered with Element to produce.


The Mission Statement:

“The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation is committed to creating a more sustainable and healthful food supply and to raising awareness concerning food issues. This is realized through the support of family farmers and their communities, educators and programs that teach younger generations about food matters, along with support for ranchers and farmers who are working to develop more sustainable practices.”
What is the Cultivate Foundation up to?

“Over the last several years, Chipotle has contributed more than $2 million to help fund initiatives that support sustainable agriculture, family farming, culinary education, and innovation that promotes better food. The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation is a non-profit organization established by Chipotle Mexican Grill to continue and strengthen its philanthropic efforts.”

It’s important to have the right copy on your website that describes in this kind of way what your mission statement is. This is especially true for foundations.


This website highlights Cultivate and its focus on: food, ideas, and the music festival. The festival includes celebrity chef demonstrations with organic sustainable foods, live music, and other new ideas.
This video provides a clear picture of the website’s focus.

Website User Experience

The first thing that I noticed about the site was how easy it is to use. You don’t have to read or look for information that answers your “What is it about?” question. There are two video options right on the home page! They are the first thing that you will see on the site followed by the second-most important topic-location. Take a look at the screen grabs of the site below. Notice the celebrity chef highlights, the social media feed and the high level of visual navigation.

Chipotle Mobile App

The Chipotle app gives mobile users options for ordering and having fun. Customers can use it to order food on their smartphone, and play the Chipotle Scarecrow video game. The best players win a free burrito. Ultimately, the app increases Chipotle’s productivity during peak hours, reportedly allowing locations to process six additional transactions per hour during lunch time.

Take Away

Here are a few takeaways from the Chipotle’s online presence to consider for your brand:

Fine-tune your content to match a segment on each website you develop

Be transparent – provide evidence of how you do what you do

Educate your audience – do not expect it to just take your word

Match the web design to the topic or goal of the website

The web design should never get in the way of finding information

Information in whatever form (text, video, etc.) should be organized with the most-needed information first

Determine the website or app feature that would make life better and increase revenue

Before you start know your segments

Before you start know your brand positioning

Chipotle does a great job with web design and branding the company. Look forward to more posts about Chipotle.