The Denver area is arguably the fast casual capital of the world. The original Qdoba, Smashburger, and Modern Market are here, just to name a few, but the one most people probably recognize is Chipotle.
Last week, my niece was visiting Colorado for the first time on her spring break from Purdue where she is studying marketing. We decided to take a "field trip" down to the original Chipotle location near the University of Denver campus because she's always been a big fan.
What we found was humbling and inspiring all the same.
A brand is much more than a brand. In fact, it's the ultimate synergy. When we think of synergies, we typically think of different things coming together to create something greater than the sum of their parts, which is the definition of synergy. What we don't think of as being synergistic, though, is a single brand on its own, and that's exactly what Chipotle has accomplished.
All across the world, there are thousands of brick and mortar Chipotle locations in vastly different types of regions serving a wide range of people. Each store is different, unique in its own way. Some are in strip malls; others are just off campus. But they all contribute to the Chipotle brand and make it bigger than what each individual store added together can accomplish. So to think of what the brand means, and then to walk into the original was, in many ways, humbling.
The original Chipotle is tiny. Though it was renovated a few years ago, the counter is still about half the size of a Chipotle store built today. There are only about eight seats in the entire store, all facing outward. There are no tables, just an original idea that is modest and simple, completely obvious to anyone who enters.
It's also inspiring.
To know you can succeed and have an enormous impact with such humble origins is encouraging in so many ways. And to see a glimpse of that recognition in my niece, who is just starting out as a freshman in college on the long journey ahead, made the entire trip worth it.