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Fast food king

Sara Shoemake | Tuesday, September 10, 2013

If you roll into the Chipotle on Eddy Street at 6 p.m. on a Thursday night, the line is probably about 20-people deep.
I generally don’t do lines. I considered skipping this football season because the ticket line outside the JACC was absurd and it was 100 degrees out.
So a fast food line longer than five people sends me out the door empty handed because at any joint other than Chipotle, I have to stand in line behind customers who spend inordinate amounts of time deciding which version of Grade D meat they want.
It’s 2013. I expected there would be some sort of “Minority Report”-style software that knows what food I want and has it ready before I even realize I’m hungry.
Chipotle gets it right in a couple of ways.
1. They make you think you’re being healthy, eating organic beef from joyful cows that were spoon-fed Greek yogurt and acai berries at an ashram in India where they found inner peace and gleefully offered themselves up as sacrifice. And although the average meal probably has over 1,000 calories, you feel better about it than eating a Big Mac and fries.
2. They also expedite the ordering process, partly because their menu has, like, two items. It’s a no-nonsense process. “Burrito or bowl? Rice? Beans? Meat? Salsa? Sour cream and cheese? The guac costs extra.” There’s no time to be indecisive – you just choose.
3. When you go to McDonald’s, it never feels clean. Everything is linoleum, and don’t even get me started on the play place. Chipotle, however, styled everything in sleek stainless steel. So even though it could be and probably is crawling with germs, it feels clean and sophisticated.
There are some fast food places that are headed in the right direction. Subway’s ordering system is similar but is plagued with too many menu options and some sketchy-looking lettuce. Does anyone honestly order the Meatball sub? How does that big metal box make my sandwich crispy yet lukewarm in 25 seconds?
Taco Bell is great for those who have been drinking all night and want to drown their self-loathing in fake queso. I’m pretty sure the only way McDonald’s has any customers is because their chicken nuggets are laced with some sort of highly-addictive, controlled substance.
Five Guys just looks sad. When I’m waiting on line at Chipotle, I like to look over at the empty Five Guys dining room and watch the somber-looking patrons munch on their free peanuts.
So, Chipotle, you have my heart and a nice chunk of my bank account. Please, never change.

Contact Sara Shoemake at      
    The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.