Strategy: We tried Chipotle's first ever dessert — here's the verdict (CMG)
Chipotle is testing a dessert item for their menu — but is it enough to steady the uncertainty surrounding the chain?
Chipotle has seen some rough times lately.
Between menu fatigue, the E. coli outbreak, and struggling with customer service, the chain is still nursing its bruises — sales turned positive in the first quarter of this year for the first time since Q4 2015.
Chipotle's hopes seem to reside in a new dessert addition: buñuelos.
The sugar and cinnamon-dusted fried tortilla bits are available as part of a limited test in New York City, and if they prove popular, a national rollout is possible.
But how are they, and are they worth ordering? We grabbed a bag and tried them to find out.
The buñuelos come in a small paper bag, and are accompanied by a caramel apple butter dipping sauce. If that sounds outrageously sweet and rich to you, you're right.
These are certainly not traditional buñuelos — tiny deep fried dough balls, typically flavored with anise, cinnamon, or similar spices. These are alt-buñuelos, made of fried squares of flour tortilla, drizzled with honey, and dusted in sugar and cinnamon.
They resemble Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, to be honest. Alone, they're flaky and dry — yet they make a strangely satisfying snack to graze on.
With the sauce, however, things change.
Combined with the incredibly rich and viscous sugar serum, the simplicity is sunk. The dip engulfs any subtleties of the cinnamon and honey. It's like "The Perfect Storm," but the rogue wave is the caramel apple sauce and George Clooney's fishing boat is the buñuelo.
Priced at $1.95, they seem like a fairly cheap deal. But think about it: you're already tacking on $1.95 for guacamole (a tragedy unto itself that demands constant reminder), so are you really going to throw down another two bucks for some sugar and cinnamon chips?
Overall, the buñuelos aren't intrinsically "bad." But are they worth ordering?
With a tooth-achingly sweet dipping sauce and an otherwise underwhelming vibe, they aren't likely to drive a lot of sales after the new-item novelty fades. The optics are strange — one expects larger fried tortilla discs, or original buñuelo balls, not Cinnamon Toast Crunch lookalikes.
Chipotle's portions are huge — a good portion of customers leave with leftovers. So it's doubtful that people will throw a dessert item onto their bill if they're already taking home half a burrito.
This won't right Chipotle's boat — it's a rather confusing distraction.