On July 13, 1993, a 28-year-old chef opened an 850-square-foot taqueria on Evans Avenue near the University of Denver. He had no great ambitions for the place. Mostly he hoped it would throw off enough cash to support the high-end restaurant he’d left his dream job at Jeremiah Towers’ Stars restaurant in San Francisco to open.
Steve Ells never opened that high-end restaurant. He made too much money at his taqueria. Its name? Chipotle.
Today, on the verge of the 20th anniversary of that first stormy Tuesday night, there are nearly 1,500 Chipotles in 44 states and four countries. (A location opening in Frankfurt later this summer will make Germany the fifth.) The company generates nearly $3 billion in revenue a year. Yet if anyone ever became a restaurant mogul by accident, it was Steve Ells.
“Never in our 20-year history have I set a goal of becoming a national chain or a global brand or [having] a certain number of restaurants or a certain number of markets or a certain run rate or anything like that,” Ells said.