Chipotle Concerns? We’ve Got Answers!
There has been a lot of concern lately from both the dairy-allergic community and the wheat-allergic community over changes at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants.
Those with dairy allergies are feeling dismayed by Chipotle’s introduction of a hot queso sauce which is positioned near the various meats Chipotle offers for their burritos. As for those with wheat allergies, there is disappointment by Chipotle’s discontinuation of soft corn burrito tortillas.
Is this all true? Is there more to the story? Is Chipotle still a top option for individuals with food allergies?
We called to get the real story.
Introduction of hot queso sauce
Chipotle began offering queso sauce in all US locations two months ago. Due to the need to keep it hot, the sauce is, in fact, kept near the meat section of the burrito line. Clearly, a cross-contact concern between the queso and Chipotle’s various meats make sense.
Management of Chipotle, always cognizant of food allergies (as recognized by their continued strong AllergyEats ratings by diners and their recurring strong position on AllergyEats’ Annual Top 10 List of the Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurants in America), has tried to minimize this cross-contact risk by designing the burrito line layout such that the queso sauce container is closer to the behind-the-counter staff than any of the meats – thus minimizing the chance queso will drip into the meat bins (i.e. the queso ladle should never go over meat products).
For some, that may be re-assuring enough. However, management has still heard the (valid) concern that splashing could occur that would cause cross-contact. While the company believes their employees – trained to be food allergy conscious – would be cognizant about not letting this happen, I believe they understand that there is still potential risk, especially given the number of stores they have along with simple human nature and the fact that mistakes happen.
For this, they suggest that any customer who is uncomfortable in any way with receiving meats from the containers on the burrito line request that the server retrieve fresh meat off the grill. This, of course, may involve a longer wait (particularly during very busy times); however, it is certainly a workable option for those who are not in a hurry. The wait may be short or it may be long – it depends on a number of factors and may be impossible to predict in advance.
All this said, Chipotle has NOT made the decision yet to keep queso as a permanent option. They continue to evaluate feedback on the product (which I have heard some negative comments about myself, though a small sample size), so there’s still hope that this concern may eventually go away. It also might suggest that this is an optimal time for concerned individuals to email Chipotle and express their opinions.
Discontinuation of corn tortillas
While the introduction of queso sauce has drawn much of the attention from the food allergy community on Chipotle lately, those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergies have bemoaned the fact that it appears the company will no longer have their restaurants carry corn tortillas, leaving them with no alternatives for a burrito.
Regretfully, I have to acknowledge that this is true.
Management made the decision to discontinue soft corn tortillas because they were just not popular. (In fairness, I wonder how many people – like me – didn’t even know they existed… and if that would have made a difference or not.) On the flip side, the hard corn taco shells have been popular and will continue to be offered at all Chipotle restaurants.
The result is that those with celiac, gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergies have in fact lost the opportunity to buy burritos at Chipotle. However, they can still enjoy burrito bowls and tacos containing the same meat products and add-ons.
What’s Chipotle up to next?
The truth is I don’t know, but I DO know where to get a glimpse of what they’re considering.
Chipotle has a restaurant in New York City called Chipotle Next Kitchen, which I was previously unaware of. This is where they test new products – some that will ultimately make it to the restaurants and some (maybe even most) that never will. As an example, the queso was tested here 3 months before release to all the traditional Chipotle Mexican Grills.
For those in New York or visiting New York who want to check it out, Chipotle Next Kitchen is located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan at 504 6th Avenue (at the intersection of 13th street). If I get a chance to check it out soon, I’ll report back on what I find. If any of you have a chance to hop over there, we’d love to read what you learn in our comments section. Maybe even send us pictures!
I hope this was helpful in addressing the recent concerns by many about Chipotle Mexican Grill. I always appreciate this company’s commitment to its food-allergic guests and their openness and honesty when I raise important issues from our community. I know the news is not good for those who need to avoid wheat and gluten, though at least there are still other options. As for those who can’t have dairy, I hope this information helps you make more informed decisions when considering dining at Chipotle and/or when in the restaurant.
We love to read your comments! Please share your thoughts, concerns, praises, and anything else regarding Chipotle and these changes in the Comments section below.
And as always, please rate ALL your restaurant experiences – quick serve to fine dining; good, bad, or so-so – on the AllergyEats app or website. Every new rating you add makes AllergyEats a more valuable tool for our entire community. We are all in this together!