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Does Chipotle Use Freezers? (Answered)

Does chipotle have freezers

Chipotle Mexican Grill is an extremely popular chain of fast-food restaurants that specialize in Mexican cuisine. 

The chain is known for its high degree of meal customization, fresh ingredients (many of which are handmade in the restaurant), and a ‘no freezers’ policy. The restaurants feature only a walk-in fridge, which means that the customers can rest assured that they are getting a freshly prepared dish that has never been frozen.

Is it safe to not have freezers in a restaurant? And how exactly is the food at Chipotle prepared? Let’s find out!

About the Chipotle Food Philosophy

The people who founded Chipotle believed that there is a connection between how the food was raised and prepared, and how it tastes.

That’s why no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives are used at the fast-food restaurants. Furthermore, they don’t have freezers and can openers.

Chipotle is the first national restaurant brand to commit to using only responsibly raised meat which means, among other things, no added hormones. 

Finally, only 53 ingredients are used in the restaurants. And the company is proud to state that anyone can easily pronounce all of them, meaning that they take advantage only of simple ingredients.

Where Are the Ingredients Sourced From?

Most fast-food chains source their ingredients from a handful of national manufacturers, but Chipotle decided to choose another strategy. 

The restaurants source the majority of their ingredients from local farms and suppliers (not factories). This allows them to not only get access to the freshest food products but to also cut down on the distance that the ingredients have to travel. 

Some of the products that are organically and locally sourced include tofu, avocadoes, black beans, and cilantro. 

How Is the Food at Chipotle Prepared?

Most of the menu items at Chipotle are actually prepared by hand. The employees usually spend about 4 hours every morning chopping and prepping the ingredients ahead of the rush hour.

The onions, cilantro, and lettuce are chopped by hand and the rice, guacamole, and tortilla chips are handmade in the restaurants.

The chicken is also diced and cooked on-site. And even though such foods as barbacoa and carnitas are prepared in a central kitchen and are then shipped to the restaurants, the meat still gets hand-shredded. 

The in-store format involves customers moving down an assembly line-style setup. This allows the clients to not only choose exactly what they want in their burritos and bowls but to also see the staff members use fresh, high-quality ingredients. 

Why Does Chipotle Have a No Freezers Policy?

Chipotle does not microwave or freeze its ingredients inside the restaurants. They only typically have one big walk-in cooler where the veggies and meat are kept, and that’s it. 

This became possible thanks to the way the restaurants are managed. The staff members do not order more ingredients that they’re actually going to need and all the recipes are quite simple and mainly revolve around the same food ingredients.

In a nutshell, the well-designed menu and good ordering practices made the installation of freezers simply useless.

Of course, the ‘no freezers’ policy is also an amazing marketing idea as customers like to know that what they are eating is extremely fresh and has not been sitting for weeks in the freezer.

What Are the Main Differences Between Refrigeration and Freezing?

Refrigeration helps slow down bacterial growth which allows the products to stay fresh for longer (a couple of days, instead of a few hours). 

When it comes to freezing, the main idea here is to stop bacterial growth altogether. As frozen bacteria are inactive, many food products can be left in the freezer for months or even years without becoming unsafe to eat. However, that does not mean that they would still taste the same. 

Chipotle is able to keep its highly perishable ingredients fresh and safe without any preservatives thanks to the walk-in fridges that the restaurants have where the temperature is constantly kept below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. 

How Does Chipotle Store and Manage the Ingredients Without Freezers?

Chipotle restaurants do not keep tons of inventory and the recipes are quite simple. This allows the chain to use up the fresh ingredients that have been delivered to the restaurants before they go bad.

In fact, the most popular stores turn over around 300 customers per hour, so no wonder that the food gets sold out long before the expiration date.

Some of the ingredients are kept in the walk-in fridge where the temperature is low enough to slow down bacterial growth but not compromise the taste and freshness of the ingredients.

However, a ‘no freezers’ policy comes with its own challenges. For example, the managers have to make sure that they are not overordering and the staff members have to spend hours preparing most of the ingredients before the restaurant opens.

But this is exactly what allows the clients to enjoy extra fresh food without any preservatives.

Is It Challenging to Maintain Quality Control without Freezers?

Ensuring that the food is safe to eat can be challenging. Especially, if you don’t have freezers.

Chipotle learned it the hard way as the chain was proven to be responsible for over 1,100 people falling sick between 2015 and 2018. 

Have Chipotle’s Policies Changed Over Time?

Since 2015, Chipotle has introduced progressive food safety policies. All of the restaurants operate under an FDA and HACCP system.

Their most critical control point at the moment, is food contamination through employee illness (as that was presumably the root cause of the problem in 2015-2018).

The policy that remained the same throughout the years is the ‘no freezers’ one as the company is sure that if the food is handled correctly and consumed within a certain period, it can be stored completely safely without a freezer. 

Final Thoughts

One of the main reasons why customers love Chipotle is because they know that they will always be served meals made out of fresh ingredients. 

The ‘no freezers’ policy also allows the chain to save valuable space and focus on sourcing the ingredients from local farms that are located close to the restaurants which, in turn, drastically improves the brand’s image.


Shane is a fitness enthusiast who also has a passion for trying and cooking new foods. His favorite stores to shop at include Trader Joe's, Wholefoods Market, Sprouts, Stater Brothers, and Target.

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