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An analyst ordered 75 Chipotle burrito bowls to test portion sizes

<i>Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>An employee prepares a burrito bowl at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant in Louisville
Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
An employee prepares a burrito bowl at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant in Louisville

By Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN

New York (CNN) — Leave it to a Wells Fargo restaurant analyst to decisively settle the Chipotle burrito “weight debate.”

On TikTok, some customers accused Chipotle of skimping on food portions. They started a trend of filming Chipotle employees as the workers built out their burritos order with chicken, guacamole and other add-ons in an effort to get larger scoops.

The trend, dubbed the “Chipotle phone method,” went viral on social media, and some employees pushed back on it, saying customers filming them was “stressful and dehumanizing.”

Chipotle’s CEO eventually addressed the issue.

“The portions have not gotten smaller,” Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol recently told Fortune. “We always want to give people big portions that get them excited about the food.” He said that if customers want a little more rice or another topping, they can ask an employee.

So Wells Fargo analyst Zachary Fadem went out to Chipotle to do some investigative work.

Fadem and his team ordered and weighed 75 burrito bowls with white rice, black beans, chicken, pico de gallo, cheese and lettuce across 8 Chipotle locations in New York City. (They brought them back to the office for other Wells Fargo employees’ lunch.)

The analysts found that the consistency of the portions varied widely.

The bowls weighed roughly the same for in-store orders and online orders, but some locations served bowls that weigh 33% more than other locations. Some burrito bowls went to extremes, with one topping out at 27 ounces in one location, and a meager 14 ounces in another. The median weight was around 21.5 ounces.

Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs officer, told CNN that Chipotle’s bowl size may vary depending upon the number of ingredients a customer selects or if they choose to make an ingredient extra or light. She said the company has not changed its portion sizes.

Portion size consistency is important for restaurants because it helps them manage costs and prevent from running out of ingredients or having too much left over.

Customers go to restaurant chains for consistency, and if portion sizes are not standardized it could hurt a chain’s reputation, analysts say. Many brands have been criticized for shrinking their product sizes and charging the same or more, known as “shrinkflation.”

This does not seem to be hurting Chipotle, however. Despite the social media complaints, Chipotle’s sales grew 7% last quarter, and the company’s sales are outpacing rivals such as McDonald’s.

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