Analyzing Chipotle Pricing, Food Shortages, and More

Map of Median US Chipotle Steak Burrito Price

 

Introduction

Undeterred by the occasional e-coli and frequent gastrointestinal marathons, Chipotle’s super fans religiously eat their burritos.

There are the fanatics. Devin Cunningham ate Chipotle 425 days in a row (and is in better shape than you). Andrew Hawryluk pledged to eat Chipotle every day for Lent and then continued eating Chipotle for 186 days. Mark Rantal gobbled down Chipotle for at least 109 straight days.

Then, there are the more casual devotees. Chipotle’s offered rewards to their addicts with their summer Chiptopia promotion and had to pay out over $20 million.

As a frequent eater of Chipotle in New York, I’ve always noticed that the price of burrito is much less than Chipotles in my hometown in the Chicago area. There is some limited discussion on the web about Chipotle price variance, but there hasn’t been a rigorous look at it.

Curious about price differences, and with the super fans in mind, I decided to take a deep dive into Chipotle data.

With some help from a couple undocumented APIs with info on Chipotle online ordering prices and food shortages, I’ve been able to get an almost complete set of data on Chipotle restaurants. (I've pricing data f0r 2,176 Chipotles. The data was collected on Jan 9, 2017. Their Q4 2016 reports states they operate 2250 restaurants.) I’ve complemented this dataset with Yelp rating data ( as of Jan 27, 2017), sale tax data, cost of living data, US Census data, and CPI data.

How Do Chipotle Prices Vary?

Burritos, burrito bowls, and salads of the same meat/non-meat  —  the different forms of the burrito — always have the same prices at each restaurant. However, across restaurants, menu item prices vary geographically and based on meat/non-meat type within the United States and internationally.

In the U.S., Chipotle generally has three different prices at each location

  1. steak (barbacoa) burrito,
  2. chicken (veggie, sofritas) burrito
  3. pork (carnitas, chorizo) burrito.

There are 11 pre-tax carnitas/chorizo prices, 11 pre-tax chicken/veggie/sofritas prices, and 9 steak burrito prices. The majority of Chipotles in the U.S. sell burritos at the lowest price: 58% charge $6.95 for carnitas/chorizo and $6.50 for chicken/veggie/sofritas, and 59% charge $7.50 for steak/ barbacoa.

US Chicken      U.S. Steak U.S. Carnitas1

Below is a map of the median steak burrito price by U.S. county.

Map of Median US Chipotle Steak Burrito Price

The Midwest, Mountain West, and South generally charge the lowest price, $7.50, for a steak burrito. Some exceptions: Chicago, Midland and Odessa Texas, and Cincinnati all charge $7.95.

Higher prices appear in the Northeast. New York City's steak burrito costs $9.19, the most expensive burrito in the U.S. Long Island and Southwest Connecticut charge $8.25 for a steak burrito.

The West and North West also have some high prices, though not as high as New York. San Francisco has the second most expensive steak burrito at $8.75. Silicon Valley and the general area around San Francisco has an $8.25 steak burrito

Chicken and pork burritos generally follow the patterns of the steak burrito.

Internationally, in Canada and France, Chipotle prices for steak, chicken, and pork items are all the same. Canadian burritos cost C$8.95 or $6.88 U.S. dollars, making them the cheapest pre-tax Chipotle burritos in the world. French burritos cost €9.3 or $10.01 making them the most expensive pre-tax Chipotle burritos in the world.  In the UK, Chicken burritos cost £6.70 ($8.70) while Carnitas and Steak burritos both cost £6.95 ($8.68) .

Where Does Chipotle Have Food Shortages?

Chipotle has two ongoing food shortages: pork in the United States and chicken in Canada. 

Some Chipotle locations serve pork from the UK that doesn't meet all of their food standards. This message is displayed when a user visits the page:

FYI This restaurant is currently serving carnitas made with pork that meets or exceeds all of our animal welfare standards, but not all facets of our antibiotic protocol. For details visit: chipotle.com/carnitas

The pork shortage is an issue in some parts of the Midwest, South, and Northeast.

Unknown-3

Fourteen of seventeen (82%) locations in Canada have a chicken shortage. These locations display the message, "FYI This restaurant is currently serving conventionally raised chicken. We'll be back to our unconventional ways ASAP."

What Is The Best Chipotle In The World?

In order to determine the best Chipotle in the world, I gathered Yelp ratings and sales tax data to complement the Chipotle pricing data. My best Chipotle would have the lowest price while accounting for sales tax along with a high Yelp rating.

Based on a review on all of the Chipotles, I've determined that the Chipotle in Billings, Montana on 1601 Grand Ave is the best.

Here's why:

  1. Montana doesn't have sales tax, so this Chipotle is the cheapest in the world. The post-tax prices for burritos are $6.50 chicken/veggie/sofritas, $6.95 carnitas/chorizo, $7.50 steak/barbacoa
  2. A good Yelp rating of 4 stars with 10 reviews

Of course, the best chipotle depends on your subjective preferences. You can explore this further in the "Where Is The Best Chipotle For Me?" section of my Shiny app.

What Factors Determine Chipotle’s Price?

So why do these Chipotle prices vary?

For simplicity, when focusing on different prices, we will just look at steak burritos. For the most part, menu items prices change together, so a model for steak burritos should match other burrito prices.

There is a clear regional differences in price, especially in New York.download

Prices also vary based on housing price, population, and other factors. 

I've constructed a multiple regression model using the following variables:

  • Cost of living variables (annual taxes, food costs, housing costs, other costs, medical costs, required annual income after taxes, transportation costs, living wage)
  • BLS region
  • Sales tax rate
  • Yelp rating and review count
  • US census variables (the net migration rate,  pop estimate, economic typology, and rural urban continuum code )

The model has an adjusted R-Squared of 0.753 and appears to be an ok fit for the data.

Various Chipotle Facts

After spending a long time looking at Chipotle data, I've learned a lot of random Chipotle facts.

Here they are:

  1. The Chipotle at Dulles Airport is the only Chipotle with orange juice on its online menu. The location opens at 6 am and  has a breakfast menu.
  2. The Chipotle in Las Vegas, not surprisingly, stays open later than any other Chipotle. It's open from 10 AM until 11:59 pm Sunday through Thursday. It's open 10 am to 1 am Friday through Saturday.
  3. The Chipotle at Baltimore Airport is the earliest opening Chipotle with hours from 5 am to 10 pm all week long.
  4. San Francisco Chipotles have the most expensive small sodas at $2.15 due to a local soda tax.
  5. The Chipotle in Cambridge, MA on 100 Cambridgeside Place, F21 is the only Chipotle in the U.S. to offer a can of soda on its online menu.
  6. Canadian Chipotles have Purity Organic Juice and San Pellegrino while most U.S. Chipotles have Nantucket Nectars and Izze.

Code For Project

You can view my code for this analysis in the following repo: https://github.com/livejake/chipotle_analysis/

Jake Bialer
Jake Bialer
During the past eight years, I’ve worked as a full-stack developer, data analyst, and journalist. I’ve a track record of finding unique datasets through web scraping and using them to help companies solve key business problems. My NYCDSA Projects involved large scale web scraping (over a million pages from ZocDoc), advanced statistical modeling, and natural language processing (essay grader).

1 Comment

  1. Lindsay says:

    Love it! I recently noticed that my chicken bowl is $7.50 in Hoboken but $9.00 in the Chelsea area of Manhattan!

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