The Burrito Blog

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Chipotle Ignores Own Nutrition Information

I get furious when people give numbers a bad name. Read on and you'll agree, or skip to the chart.

From the Midtown Lunch post that inspired the analysis:

The law requiring all chain restaurants in New York City to post calorie information goes into effect today. And while it is still being fought by the New York State Restaurant Association, many have already complied, including Chipotle, which has already posted a Calorie Range for all of the items on their menu. There’s only one issue… somebody’s math sucks, because when you compare the ranges posted to the (very difficult to find) nutritional information on the Chipotle website, it doesn’t quite match up.

What's truly offensive is the deliberate misrepresentation of customer ordering habits. They state the caloric range of a burrito as 420-918. A range is low to high. All inclusive. We'll take a closer look in a moment, with the help of my beloved Excel 2007. Download the analysis.

First, let's get familiar with the Chipotle menu as concerns burritos. The Chipotle burrito and fajita-burrito variation have up to seventeen distinct ingredients, which can be broken up into three basic components: tortilla, filling, and topping. All caloric values are taken directly from the official nutrition information provided by Chipotle.

  • Tortilla, 290 Calories (Required)
  • Fillings (Minimum 1)
    • Rice, 160 Calories
    • Beans, Choice of
      • Black Beans, 130 Calories
      • Pinto Beans, 138 Calories
    • Meat, Choice of
      • Barbacoa, 170 Calories
      • Chicken, 200 Calories
      • Carnitas, 210 Calories
      • Steak, 190 Calories
  • Toppings (All Optional)
    • Fajita Vegetables, 70 Calories
    • Salsa, Choice of
      • Tomato, 20 Calories
      • Corn, 100 Calories
      • Red Tomatillo, 28 Calories
      • Green Tomatillo, 15 Calories
    • Cheese, 110 Calories
    • Sour Cream, 120 Calories
    • Guacamole, 140 Calories
    • Lettuce, 5 Calories

Of course, you can order a burrito consisting of only beans and a tortilla, so Chipotle indicated that as the low end of their caloric range: 420. Logically, the high end should consist of a burrito with the works. It doesn't. Not even close.

The burrito analysis team developed a list of the 4,640 ways you can order a burrito at Chipotle using the above criteria. Then we solved for calories in each burrito configuration and created a frequency distribution.

There are zero burrito configurations with fewer calories than Chipotle's lower bound value. There are 1,913 configurations with more calories than Chipotle's upper bound value. That's a bad start.

Having ordered and witnessed the orders of thousands of burritos, we created two subsets of burrito types, small and normal. A small burrito has 2 fillings and 1-3 toppings. A normal burrito has 3 fillings and 3 or more toppings. For example:

  • Pinto Beans, Rice, Cheese = Small
  • Rice, Steak, Fajita Vegetables, Tomato Salsa, Guacamole = Small
  • Pinto Beans, Rice, Chicken, Cheese, Tomato Salsa, Sour Cream = Normal
  • Black Beans, Rice, Carnitas, Cheese, Green Tomatillo Salsa, Guacamole, Lettuce = Normal
We plotted these frequency distributions over the set of all possible burrito variations. Think Venn diagram, but cooler.

Click for full size.

Most customers are likely to order small or normal burritos. The caloric range of these ordering configurations, according to Chipotle's own nutrition information, are way off from what they claim on their new menu.

Low High
Chipotle Claims 420 918
Actual Small Burrito 585 1030
Actual Normal Burrito 840 1343

What's really infuriating is that Chipotle has additional information with which to conduct this analysis; they can approximate the consumer's likelihood of ordering each option. If you combined the probabilistic order trend information with nutrition information, you'd get an even better estimate of the calories consumed per burrito. But they're not interested in that. They're interested in lying to you.

How many calories are in your Chipotle burrito of preference? Check out the calculator here.

See also: Behold the Possibilities and the original coverage.

This entry is filed in Chipotle.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 by Jonah.