Is This Thing On? Ep. 7 with Chipotle Mexican Grill CMO Chris Brandt

In episode seven of “Is This Thing On?,” our President & CEO Brad Simms sat down with Chipotle Mexican Grill CMO Chris Brandt to chat about what it takes to be a modern marketer in the ever-evolving landscape. In this conversation, they cover: 

  • Successfully managing a turnaround for a legacy brand
  • Leading with customer centricity and finding effective, innovative ways to reach audiences
  • Building authentic brand purpose to drive consumer connection and love 

And much more!

We’ve included the full transcript of the conversation below for easy reading, and please make sure to have a listen on Amazon, Apple Podcasts, Audible, iHeart, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, or wherever else you get your podcasts!

TRANSCRIPT

Speaker 1 (00:00):

Is this thing on?

Speaker 2 (00:06):

Welcome to, Is This Thing On?, an audio series from GALE exploring marketing, life, and random thoughts with business leaders from around the globe. On this episode, GALE president and CEO, Brad Simms speaks with the chief marketing officer of Chipotle Mexican Grill, Chris Brandt. Let's join the conversation.

Brad Simms (00:29):

You joined Chipotle at a moment where the stock is at its lowest, it's kind of working through some food safety issues. And I mean, let's just start there. I mean, what is it that brings you to Chipotle at that moment? What is the challenge? What is the, I mean, you've been every … General Mills, tons of places. What brings you to Chipotle at what appears, from a stock perspective and a brand perspective, at a real valley?

Chris Brandt (00:58):

Yeah, I think when you showed up there, Brad, I don't think I had been able to find my way in the office. I was maybe two weeks ahead of you. I think that's how you guys showed up there really soon. Most places that hire new CMOs aren't in the best of shape. So you have to kind of get used to that. And I think that there were a couple factors for Chipotle. I've been ... always was a huge longtime Chipotle consumer. I remember when they first came to Minneapolis. I think I was there in the late nineties with General Mills, maybe early two thousand. And I just loved Chipotle. I thought it was a great brand. And then the CEO, who I worked with at Taco Bell, was taking over as the CEO at Chipotle. And Brian Niccol, he asked me to come.

Chris Brandt (01:46):

And I remember flying out with him, probably it was February. I think I started in April, and I think it was early February. He hadn't started until March. And we sat in a Chipotle in California and we just talked about the opportunity, and we ended up sitting there for two and a half hours. Funny enough, one of the gals ... I think he had just been announced as a Chipotle CEO, and one of the ladies who was the area manager, she was the patch manager for those … we call them ... when you have eight stores, it's a patch. So she was the manager for those eight stores. She came up, after we'd been sitting there for a couple hours, and said, "man, has anybody" she said to Brian, "has anybody ever told you that you look exactly like the new CEO we just hired?"

Chris Brandt (02:31):

And I said, "Well, he does look remarkably similar to that person because it is him." And then she was all flustered and really was very welcoming. And I think that the great thing about Chipotle, so you did a great job, I think, summarizing some of the issues that they had, but what we found there was an amazing company, and I think a very powerful brand that had a lot of latent power that hadn't been woke up, because there were a lot of people like me that really loved the brand. And we just kept finding more and more things that were just wonderful stories about what Chipotle does, with food [inaudible 00:03:07], responsibly raised ingredients. And it's a real restaurant. We're not just heating and reheating food. And so it was great stories that the brand had available to tell the consumer.

Chris Brandt (03:17):

And so it was really on the strength of my relationship with Brian, the strength of my relationship as a consumer with Chipotle, and a real opportunity to start over again, because it was ... financially, Chipotle has no debt. I think we have a billion dollars in cash. So there was no ... yes, the stock was beat up, but the upside just felt like it was a great opportunity. It was a great opportunity to work with Brian, who's a friend of mine and one of the more talented people I've ever worked with. And so it was a great opportunity. And I remember my wife, we'd only lived in Florida for a couple years, and she goes, "Brian's calling you about Chipotle." She goes, "we're taking that job, aren't we?" And I'm like, "Yeah, we're probably going to take that job."

Brad Simms (04:05):

It's really interesting, and I've seen it in our time that we've had a chance to work together. But when I started GALE, I started it with seven friends. And for me, I was just at a point in my career where working with people that I really enjoyed spending time with, it almost outstrips everything. You know what I mean? And I think you've probably been there. And as I was listening to that story, and I've watched it, kind of, in the interaction, I mean, you and Brian, and even the team you've built around you, are people you've worked with in the past. I mean, for me, it's like at this point in my career, that is almost more. How does that factor in at this point in your career, working with people, either on the agency side or at Chipotle or in whatever you do, that you appreciate spending time with?

Chris Brandt (04:54):

Oh man. As you said, it's everything. And I think the beauty was great. I knew Brian, so that's always ... knowing who your boss is going to be and knowing who the CEO is, you know what he does. And then meeting ... Curt Garner's our CTO. Scott Boatwright's our CLO. Those guys are really good friends of mine. Jack Hartung's our CFO, and Marissa and Laurie are on the ... our leadership team, we're all friends. And I tell you that it's a great group, and it's an amazing group. I mean, and I think Curt's in the CTO hall of fame. Jack's the best CFO. And we really held Chipotle together during a lot of the tumultuous times in 2015, 2016, 2017. He's an incredible guy. Scott Boatwright's outstanding. Everybody's really good at what they do, but they're also really nice people. And I think that ...

Chris Brandt (05:45):

I do feel, just like you said, that I get to work with those guys every day, but then I also remember when Brian asked me if I wanted to come, I said, "Look, I'm going to go try to get Tressie Leberman and Stephanie Perdue, because they're two of the best marketers I know, but they're also two of the best people I know." And well and behold, we were able to do that. And then we really have paid a lot of attention to the chemistry of the team we're hiring. When we moved the headquarters from Denver, we had a luxury of …  we could start over if we wanted to. And we brought some of the best people from Denver, for sure, but we were also able to hire really talented people. So I love my marketing leadership team. I love our executive team. And everyone at the company's great. One of the things I'm really proud of is, I've interviewed every single person on my marketing team, every single one. And by that time they get to me, look, we know they can do the job, but I call it the conference room test.

Chris Brandt (06:41):

If you have to go in with these people at five o'clock on a Friday in a conference room, are you going to be happy to see them, are you going to be sad? And the pro tip is you don't hire any of those people that you're going to be sad to see no matter how qualified they might be. And I think it's created a really nice chemistry. It created a really good bond for us all. And like you said, Brad, it's a fun place to go. I mean, I really enjoy it. I think the other part that's great about Chipotle is we don't ... Like at Yum, there's a holding company and there's franchisees, and we don't have that. It's just us. We don't have a holding company. We don't have franchisees. We own all of our own restaurants, which is also unique. And that enables you to make decisions quickly. And so you hire the people you like, you give them a lot of empowerment to go do things, and a lot of magic can happen.

Brad Simms (07:34):

Yeah. That's interesting. On the agency side, you can definitely see the difference when you work with marketing organizations, of people that clearly respect each other but like each other versus respect each other and have to work with each other. And I think it's easy when it's an easy time and when you're growing, and it's like, then, it doesn't matter. But when you’ve got to double down in a crisis or in a moment in which tough decisions need to be made, whether it's the pandemic, whether it's the food safety issues, having an additional level of kind of chemistry, I think, is kind of critical at that moment. So when you joined …

Chris Brandt (08:19):

I remember ... Yeah. Yeah. [Crosstalk 00:08:19] I remember going when the pandemic was first starting, right? So it was that. I think it was just announced on the Wednesday in March. That Friday, the country was walking down, right? Everybody was going into quarantine. I think I had a meeting in my office. I think we had maybe, I don't know, 30, 35 people from the marketing team crowded in my office, which is the opposite of what you should do if a pandemic was approaching, right?

Brad Simms (08:43):

Yes.

Chris Brandt (08:43):

But no one knew. We didn't know what was happening. We didn't know anyone who had COVID. It was kind of one of those things. But it was a test of, hey, we've talked about how we think we're agile and can make decisions quickly and move quickly. We're about to see. We're about to get the ultimate test. And on Monday, we had replanned our media plan, because all the sports were shut down. It was getting close to March madness. All the sports were shut down. We replanned that.

Chris Brandt (09:09):

We had some of the first Zoom concerts of anybody, because people were trapped at home. And I think that we really wanted to be a leader in that cultural movement that happened. And while other people were still debating what to do, we had made decisions and were moving, because we had such a good bond, because ... and we didn't miss a beat. And I think that the digital investments we had really paid off for us. I mean, I think if the pandemic had happened in 2018 or early in 2019, we weren't as prepared as we were for 2020, as prepared as you can be for a pandemic. But yeah, I a hundred percent agree with you.

Brad Simms (09:50):

Yeah. And it's interesting, you and I talk a lot about customer centricity and kind of being focused on the customer. And I think Chipotle has done a good job at doing that. I mean, and I think that customer centricity has definitely morphed over the years, probably customer centricity in 2015 when you're at Taco Bell means something different than customer centricity in 2022, January in a Chipotle environment. How do you think about customers? And how do you think about customers and balancing the brand? Chipotle is such an epic brand, right? It has new product innovation, it stands for so much. Then you have customers and their interests. In connecting those two, how do you think about that in kind of a modern marketing context? Because I think whether it's the cilantro soap or it's the roadblocks thing, I mean, you guys have figured out something there to connect, where Chipotle is just not a fast casual restaurant, but it's also a little bit of a cultural force to it.

Chris Brandt (11:00):

Yeah. When we came in, I think that was one of the big opportunities in 2018, it was one of the things, we didn't really spend more money in marketing. We always spent around 3% of our sales on marketing, but we completely revamped how we approached media. And before, the marketing was very decentralized. We had a lot of different people doing a lot of different things in a lot of different regions. We weren't embracing a lot of media. The creative was very different. So we just completely reversed that. We became much more centralized. We invested heavily in reach media because we needed to bring more people in. The company hasn't  grown transactions or have more transactions when people make a purchase, new people. We weren't growing transactions. And that's the litmus test of any company, is are more people coming in this year than came in a prior year? That was not happening.

Chris Brandt (11:56):

So we knew we had it. And we knew we had a good message, so we had to go out and do more reach. And then one of the biggest things was, we asked people. We just did a broad base. So when you come in, you revamp all of your consumer information. They had had some that we use, but we just asked people, Brad. We just said: "What are the things that would make you come to Chipotle more often?" Number one was free Chipotle, so they were doing a lot of giveaways and a lot of promotions that were giving away a lot of free Chipotle, but it really wasn't driving more traffic in. But the other things they said were more menu innovation, have a loyalty program, build one near me.

Chris Brandt (12:39):

And the build one near me is key. We clearly wanted to build more restaurants. I think when we came in ... I think we're building over 200 every year now. But what they really meant was, how do I get more access to Chipotle? And the key to access to Chipotle was the digital piece. And one of the first decisions we made, I think maybe was my first executive team meeting since I started, and probably Brian's third or fourth, was we put mobile pickup shelves in every restaurant, because the digital side of things was where things were growing. And so when we talked about the consumers, we said the big piece we had coming in the very first day, Brian and I were aligned, and we want to make the brand more visible, more relevant, and more loved. More visible, hey, we were fixing the media plan. We did a lot more reach.

Chris Brandt (13:24):

We started advertising in sports. We've revamped the creative. We started doing that really in the fall of 2018, but the more relevant was being a part of culture. And part of it, we said we want to drive culture. That was a bit of an overreach at the time. We just wanted to be part of culture. And when people ask me: "Who's your target consumer?" Look, we're a pretty big brand. We're seven and a half billion in sales and 3,000 restaurants. And so we have to get a lot of people in, but I think what we really want to be relevant, who we want to be relevant to is people in their 20s. And why? Why people in their 20s? Well, they're the ones who define what's cool, in food, in sports, in music. All those cultural standards are defined by people in their 20s.

Chris Brandt (14:14):

And also, whether you're 40 or whether you're 12, you kind of want to be 20, or in your 20s. So if we're relevant to people there and we're resonating with people in their early to mid 20s, then we're going to be a part of culture and we're going to be successful. And I think the other part, you mentioned doing cilantro soap and those things, we're looking for that intersection of Chipotle and culture. And a lot of it is understanding the insights behind ... Cilantro soap's a great one. Everybody knows if you have that genetic marker that says cilantro's going to taste like soap, cilantro tastes like soap, so we made a joke out of it, but it was ... and the social media previous to us was a lot more based on puns, dad puns, “Guac On,” those kind of things.

Chris Brandt (15:03):

We're like, we can be more insightful than that. The other part is, we felt like Chipotle is different. We're different from everybody else. We're a real restaurant inside. The inside of a Chipotle looks more like a farmer's market in the morning than any other restaurant I'd ever been in, and I've been in this business for 20 plus years. And because we're different, we're not just reheating food, we're cooking it, it gives us a chance to really show up in different places. So we launched our loyalty program with Venmo. It was wildly successful. One of the coolest things we did was we showed up at the spelling bee in, I guess that was 2019. And it was really low cost.

Chris Brandt (15:52):

We just said we're going to show up at the spelling bee and we're going to ask kids to spell a Chipotle ingredient and to spell an ingredient from a competitor. So all the Chipotle ingredients are things like avocado, jalapeno, and it's all real ingredients. We only have 53. So you ask a kid to spell avocado, and then you have them spell a competitor ingredient like dimethylpolysiloxane. And it was awesome. And think of it. There's no brands showing up and doing an onsite activation at the national spelling bee, but it was really cool, and it was gold. And we ended up taking that footage and we ran it in theaters at the end of the year, because it was so charming, and kids were so excited to win Chipotle. And I think just showing up differently in different places ...

Chris Brandt (16:39):

We had the overarching TV program and all those things, but I think whether it's Cilantro soap or a collaboration with Elf Cosmetics, or a collaboration with Carhartt, or doing a ... Last Thanksgiving, we launched a sequel to Back to The Start, with A Future Begins, an animated feature that talks about the plight of farmers. Those are fun things to do, and those are real cultural moments to give people a chance to peek into your brand's mission and your brand's purpose. And that was always something that people wanted to see, but the pandemic really made it something they really wanted to see. And so we're lucky as well that this brand is a founder-inspired brand. Steve Ells did an amazing job of ... and one fact people may not know is he opened Chipotle because Steve really wanted to open a higher end restaurant. He was a chef. And higher end restaurants don't always make a lot of money. So he opened Chipotle to try to finance that higher end restaurant. Chipotle took off so fast, he never opened the other restaurant.

Chris Brandt (17:43):

And at credit to him, that's where they, over time, developed all of the food with integrity standards that are a hallmark of us today with the toughest animal welfare standards in the industry, and we buy miracle local produce than any other restaurant group, and on and on and on. But those are a great north star. And so when the brand gets in trouble, you have this north star that you can lean on. And I will tell you, like no other place I've ever seen, the brand purpose is real at Chipotle. I mean, there was a gal early on when I was at Chipotle, and she was 20 years old and she had been at the company for a year. And I asked her ... And she was up for an operations award. And I said: "Well, how did you find Chipotle?" She goes, "Oh, I was only going to work at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods or Chipotle, because those are the only places that align with my values."

Chris Brandt (18:36):

But it was really impactful talking to her and hearing that piece. And this is somebody who works in a restaurant, not at the headquarters, is off in a restaurant somewhere. I'm like, that is a powerful thing. We believe we're doing the right thing. We believe that real is better, that people should eat this way. It's better for you individually, it's better for people in general, it's better for the planet. And I tell my team: "Look, we're the good guys. This is the way people should eat. Good guys are supposed to win, so we better go win."

Brad Simms (19:04):

Yeah. It's interesting. You talk about mission and purpose, which I think is something that authentically, if brands can figure out how to amplify and connect with folks, just drives a tremendous love with their consumer. And I think it was last year, might have been the previous year, you returned to the Super Bowl with a spot. Talk to me. I'm interested. I actually have never asked you this question, although it's been [inaudible 00:19:29]. How do you end at a Super Bowl in a spot that is a really unique story that you were telling there? I mean, how did you just arrive at that? Because it was a little bit unexpected for me, and frankly, I think I know the brand pretty well.

Chris Brandt (19:49):

Yeah. So one point about the brand purpose I would say to people is, you're not always blessed with such a great brand purpose that Chipotle has. Taco Bell was a great example. I was part of the team there to develop Live Mas. And Taco Bell didn't have a ... I mean, it was developed to make money and have a drive through and do all those things. There's nothing wrong with that, but it didn't necessarily have a higher order brand purpose that we could rally around. We did a lot of work. And that's where Live Mas came from, which has been great for Taco Bell. And so sometimes you’ve got to create one, right? So I provide that, but the Super Bowl was an interesting one, because as we got through 2020, kind of harkening back to what I've mentioned before, we knew people wanted to know more about Chipotle's brand purpose.

Chris Brandt (20:41):

And people love Chipotle, because Chipotle at its core is craveable food you feel good about eating. And think about how rare that is in your life, because most things that you really like eating don't know if they're good for you, you don't feel very good about. Most things you feel good about eating don't taste that great. Well Chipotle is a great intersection there, but what people don't know is all that, we're a real restaurant, that we have the toughest animal welfare standards. People didn't know that, and we want them to know that, because we felt like the more you know, the more you care, that if we can get some of those messages across, we'll be in really good shape.

Chris Brandt (21:13):

And so at around the middle of 2020, we said we need some communications that are going to highlight that brand purpose. And so we challenged our agency, Venables, with, we really need a pretty powerful brand campaign that has some of these elements in it. And when they came back with the ideas, that was probably around August or September, one of them was, can a burrito change the world? And I immediately saw that outline of that spot. And I'm like, this could be a Super Bowl spot. And we wanted 2021, even at that time, to be the year of purpose. How do we make people more aware of our brand purpose, about cultivating a better world and food with integrity and those things? And so that's how it started. And we thought, wow, it would be.... We like to do firsts. I like to be first in doing stuff. And Chipotle had never been to the Super Bowl, so that would be pretty cool.

Chris Brandt (22:08):

And we felt like this spot, we really made this spot, in all honesty, Brad, I felt like if the a hundred thousand employees we have are proud of this spot, then we've won. And so I think people sometimes think about ... the impact on your organization from a Super Bowl spot can be really big, because if they're really proud of the spot, then they really rally around it. And again, we own all of our own restaurants, so we have a hundred thousand or more employees. I think we'll be at 120,000 sometime here in the first quarter, but that's how it started. And we really…. Can a burrito change the world that spent a lot of time and energy? Launching a Super Bowl spot is like launching a brand new product.

Chris Brandt (22:51):

And it turned out great. We were really proud of it. Our employees were really proud of it, and it was really well received by the consumer. So that's how we did it. I mean, we're not in this year's 2022 game. Maybe we'll come back next year. But boy, I tell you, it's a nice luxury not to have to feel like you have to come up with something every year, because we felt like we had some really good creative that time. Great, we'll put it in the Super Bowl. It puts a lot of pressure on you if you have to do it every year. And I'm not sure it's effective every year, but it was certainly…. It was also, I think, a rally cry that just says we're back at Chipotle, that we're in the Super Bowl.

Chris Brandt (23:30):

And I think even post the Super Bowl, there was a lot of commentary about, well, the brands that are in the 2021 Super Bowl are the ones who won the pandemic. And so that's always a nice company to be in. And so this year, we didn't feel like we had to do it. The Olympics were at the same time. We're an advertiser. We're not a sponsor of the Olympics, but we're an advertiser in the Olympics. So we decided, hey, I think we can not do the SuperBowl. We might be back in again, but we've got to find the right messaging, the right creative, and make it work, but I really do think that it was.

Chris Brandt (24:01):

Chipotle, before us, had never had a tagline either, and we made the tagline of, for real, because it harkened back to what the company was about, even though that it was new. And having that rally cry that says something's different was really important to everyone at the company, that no, we're getting back on our feet. And one of the best compliments I got in 2018 was, one of the guys in a restaurant, when I was visiting some restaurants one day, said, "Man, I love our marketing. I feel like we're back on the front foot again." And the power of optimism, the power of people believing they're moving forward and they're back on the front foot is a really great motivator and bodes well for you for the near future, for sure.

Brad Simms (24:44):

I mean, it's a really interesting idea there, which is, you're not only speaking to consumers, but you're speaking to employees. At a hundred thousand plus employees, that's a material amount of humans. And if you can fire up your employees to be brand advocates... And you can do some simple math if an employee nudges five friends. You take a hundred thousand of them, that's a material way. So it's an interesting angle to talk about not only saying something that needs to be said and creating an authentic brand halo, but also about being a place that people are really proud to work.

Brad Simms (25:35):

I did a little bit of work at T-Mobile for a while, and they place such a premium on firing up their people that work there. I left that time watching that, and I was like, that is how it needs to be done. I mean, people will die to work at T-Mobile. They're fired up. They wear a magenta. I think that says it all, right? I mean, who looks good in magenta? But people will wear it to work there. And I think that's a really interesting angle. So you're …

Chris Brandt (26:13):

Well, and I think the corollary to that is, look, we can do all the marketing we want. Your experience at Chipotle is only as good as the last burrito you ordered and when you came into the restaurant. So a friend of mine told me one time, "Marketing brings them in once, but ops keeps them coming back. Marketing brings them in once, ops keeps them coming back." And that's a hundred percent true. And so we can have the best marketing in the world, but if you're  not having a good experience inside the restaurant, we're going to lose, but the operations have really improved, the morale of the places improved, and our PR is great.

Chris Brandt (27:03):

I mean, every function has really pulled in the right direction to make it all happen. But yeah, the ops piece has to come along, and all those people out there are really the frontline. And we call our headquarters a restaurant support center for a reason, that we're designed out there. Everything we do is to support those restaurants, and we take that seriously, for sure.

Brad Simms (27:26):

Yeah. When you look out for inspiration, where do you look? What brands are you making part of your story? Where do you go, and who do you think is doing interesting work out there? I mean, I know you're as much a student of the game as a professor in the game. Where are you looking?

Chris Brandt (27:47):

I think Peloton does a great job of engaging their membership and creating badges and things. I'm a big Peloton person. I find myself ... no one else sees these badges but me, but man, I'll work out one more day so I get this seven-day streak versus the five-day streak.

Brad Simms (28:01):

Sure.

Chris Brandt (28:01):

I feel bad. So I think the things can be real motivators. And they're not financially motivated. They're just motivators for you. So we have a lot ... I think they've done a great job of that and engaging membership. I think there's a lot of innovation out there with a lot of different tech companies and the like, and how they manage to kind of reinvent themselves all the time. And we think of ourselves as a digital first brand. I mean, we've gone from, today sitting here, about 40 plus percent of our business is now digital.

Chris Brandt (28:33):

We had three and a half billion in digital sales last year. We had maybe a hundred million in digital sales in 2018. So it's been incredible…. In 2019, I think we had ... maybe we had more than a hundred million. I think in 2019, I think we had close to a billion, but obviously, the pandemic has fueled a lot of that, but we think of ourselves as digital first brand. So we're trying to be first. We're trying to take inspiration from a lot of different places. Going to the metaverse, looking at high-end fashion brands, what are they doing? What are a lot of influencers doing to be cool? How do we show up in the right places like TikTok? With the right creative. And we love to be first, but we also want to be endemic in those places to feel like the creative really fits, because putting bad creative or creative that doesn't fit the platform as  a real ... people will call you out, and you'll just look out of touch.

Chris Brandt (29:30):

So we have a great social and digital team that makes sure that we're showing up in the right way. Be it on TikTok or Snapchat or whatever, we got to show up the right way. But I think that's ultimately just how we will be more relevant in culture, where people are. The metaverse … we had a big promotion for Boorito in the metaverse, and that was the first foray in there. But I remember when they pitched me the idea that we're going to make our own Chipotle land there, I'm like, "Oh my gosh, the potential for this to be a disaster is really huge, brands start creating their own lands." But the team did an extraordinary job. It was an amazing promotion. And one of the things I tell them is, whatever we're going to do, don't be lame.

Brad Simms (30:17):

Yes.

Chris Brandt (30:18):

I would rather do nothing than show up the wrong way for one place. So I think they're like, "Oh my gosh, your don't be lame quote was burned in my head for Boorito." And God bless them. They did a great job and made it amazing. And I think Halloween last year was our biggest digital sales day ever. I think we had four and a half billion impressions for a little foray into the metaverse. So I think that it's the teams that take these ideas and make the power of them, but we've got to show up the right way, and we've got to do ... and we can't be lame whatever we're going to do, and it's a pretty fun place to be.

Brad Simms (30:57):

Yeah. I mean, it's interesting. It's like the ingredients part in the pun of what brings a brand together, the team, the purpose, being relevant produces that activity by the consumer into the restaurant, quality and service bring them back, the halo around, that creates that community feeling, being relevant in culture. I don't know. It's a fascinating use case, because, I mean, obviously we have the opportunity to jam on a small piece of this with you, but I just don't think there's a lot of parallel examples out there. Yeah, you can go to app Peloton, but it's so radically different. You look at what Chipotle does.... And I remember the first meeting with Brian and you, he said two things. He said, one is, "We need to begin. We need to talk to a lot of people to fill our restaurants." But then he talked at length, like you just did, about the fact that you're cooking chicken every day. You are making guacamole-

Chris Brandt (32:05):

All day long.

Brad Simms (32:05):

... every day.

Chris Brandt (32:06):

All day long. Yeah.

Brad Simms (32:07):

All day long. The operational hurdle to that is not the same as some of those other brands we've talked about. And so quality and service in the restaurant is kind of table steaks pardon the pun, but it also brings folks back. And then I just think the great marketing around the outside creates the brand love in the community. It's a really interesting balance.

Chris Brandt (32:29):

Well, thank you. And look, we're lucky to have such a wonderful marketing team, but our partners are great. And Brad, you've been, since that first meeting, I think we had certainly talked on other things-

Brad Simms (32:41):

Yes.

Chris Brandt (32:42):

... but from that first meeting, I remember you walked in. And I'm like, "Man, we got to go get him. I want that guy working on our business." And you've been instrumental in helping make our loyalty program super fast growing, and I think one of the best. I mean, look, we still got work to do, we still have a lot of opportunity, but  not only our marketing team has been great, but our partners have been great. And whether it's on the creative side, whether it's on our social and digital side, whether it's on the loyalty program. And we have a luxury that people want to work on this brand, and we're really, again, we're having fun.

Chris Brandt (33:19):

And there's some hard work, there's ups and downs just like everything else, but we really like our friends and we really like working with our partners, and we do feel like we have this mission to cultivate a better world, and this is the way people should eat. And I also feel like, of all the jobs I've had, I've never had the best product before. And I honestly believe in my heart that just Chipotle is the best food out there. I'll put us up against anybody at any category of food at any price in terms of responsibly [inaudible 00:33:54] and fresh ingredients and unadulterated food. It's amazing. And so when you have a passionate, talented group and they have a mission, it's a pretty powerful force.

Chris Brandt (34:08):

And so we're lucky to be able to build on the legacy that Chipotle had before us. They did a lot of great things before we arrived, but it's been quite a story. And I think we're just getting started. I mean, we have 3,000 restaurants today. We think we can have 6 or 7,000 in the United States. Our Europe business certainly was set back a little bit by COVID, but that's getting taken off. Canada, this will be near and dear to your heart, Canada, we view it as a big growth market for us, and that's all working. So we got a lot of irons in the fire. We got a lot of wood yet to chop, but it's been a great journey so far. And I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it today, but I appreciate your partnership in helping make that happen too. It's been wonderful.

Speaker 2 (34:52):

This has been, Is This Thing On?, the GALE audio series. For more information about this or any other episode in the series, visit gale.agency/ideas. And to learn about GALE and how we can help you with your marketing efforts visit www.galepartners.com. On behalf of the entire team at GALE, thanks for listening.

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