Chipotle and Quiznos: The Headlines Giving Us Food For Thought


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In recent headlines, Quiznos filed for bankruptcy and Chipotle decided not to serve breakfast burritos. These two seemingly unrelated stories tell us something very important about creating a customer experience: you can’t change it using an inside out approach.

What happened?

Let me explain, starting with Quiznos.

Quiznos is known for having toasty sandwiches. That means that they make your sandwich with all the fixings (including vegetables) and then run it through a toaster to heat it up and melt the cheese, etc. This toasting process is so important to their business model that they made it their tagline, as in “MMMM…Toasty!”

But according to an article on, last year they decided to add the vegetables after the toasting process. Their logic was that the veggies would be better when they were fresh. But their customers disagreed. Many of them were bothered  by the change and stopped coming in, according to the franchisees. Quiznos went back to the original method as a result.

Okay, now let’s talk about Chipotle.

They had three locations in airports where they are contractually obligated to be open during breakfast hours. They decided since they were open anyway there that they would test the idea of a breakfast burrito. They had several favorable reviews in their test, but as a whole, they decided that most of their customers were still buying their same order (from the lunch and dinner menu) regardless of the time of day it was.

Their spokeswoman, Danielle Winslow told that they are not planning on expanding this test to their other stores that are not contractually obligated to be open during breakfast like the airport stores were. So for now, no breakfast burrito at Chipotle for you.

The Difference Between Inside out vs. Outside in Approach to Customer Experience Design

So what do either of these stories have to do with customer experience? Plenty in fact, because both Quiznos and Chipotle approached changes to their customer experience from an inside out perspective instead of an outside in approach.

Both Quiznos and Chipotle made changes or tested a program based on what they identified as needing to change. We call this in the customer experience industry an Inside Out approach. It means that the business is not focused on the customer who is looking in from the outside, but instead on what is happening inside the organization. This approach can often be beneficial to the company, but harmful to the customer experience.

When Quiznos decided to change their process to add veggies after the toasting process, they might not have considered how that might alienate their regular customers. It is clear that it wasn’t good for the customer based but it does give you some insight to the way they think of Customers internally. They know better. They will not be the first organization who is not Customer centric to go bankrupt.

When Chipotle decided to test breakfast only because they had to open anyway, it wasn’t a real test at all. An airport customer is different than a customer who is eating in one of their restaurants outside the airport. There are different factors at work that could have affected the results of this test. So now, no one gets breakfast burritos at Chipotle, based on the results  from a test of a very small sample of Chipotle diners. From the reviews they were getting on Yelp, there was a market for this, even if it wasn’t with the airport crowd.

When we in customer experience are looking at helping an organization redesign their customer experience, we like to use an Outside in approach for organizational assessment of the current experience. This means that we look at the experience as if we were a customer ourselves. We walk the journey of a customer as much as is possible.

At Beyond Philosophy, we also use Customer Mirrors to help an organization see their experience as a customer would. We do this because it will show us things that we don’t see when we are part of an organization. The things we see here are what are shaping a current experience, good or bad.

Once we know these things we can keep what’s good and enhance it. And likewise we can change the things that are not making an experience all it could be. But it is essential that we do this from the outside in so we can get a real idea of what the experience is like for customers.

I think it’s important to note that Quiznos’ business issues are not simply tied to the fresh vs. toasted veggies change but a potential attitude that they know best. Nor is Chipotle an organization known for adding new menu items, considering their menu is largely the same since they opened. May be both organizations might have had different headlines if they had tried and outside in approach instead of and inside out.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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