by Bruce Horowitz)
Chipotle has added some unlikely best-sellers to its roster: authors.
The Mexican, fast-casual dining chain has signed 10 best-selling writers to create ultra-short stories -- up to 250 words each -- that will appear, at least temporarily, on its bags and cups.
The move comes at a time chains in the intensely competitive fast-food industry will do just about anything to distinguish themselves. One method requiring little investment: packaging.
The story concept was the brainchild of best-selling author Jonathan Safran Foer, whose books include Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Eating Animals, and Everything is Illuminated. Among other top authors whose work will appear on Chipotle packaging: Toni Morrison (Beloved), Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point) and Michael Lewis (Moneyball).
They pieces are aimed as two-minute readings and could tweak the concept of what fast-food packaging is for. "Packaging in fast food restaurants is typically sold to advertisers, or used to promote new, limited time menu items," says Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle. Instead, he says, "we have used it to entertain our customers using wit, humor and design."
Foer, the author who co-created the promo, says the concept is simple. "The idea of creating a small pocket of thoughtfulness right in the middle of a busy day was inspiring to me."
Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold says he doesn't know how long the promo will last. "It's something that could certainly be replicated, and we think it could be cool to refresh every few months"
But author wannabes need not send manuscripts to Chipotle.
"We're not encouraging that, at least not now," says Arnold. "The idea here is essays from writers, authors, and other thought leaders. There really isn't a mechanism for customers to submit works of their own."