In recent years, it seems that people have cared less about calories and more about where ingredients come from. As a result of this shift, Chipotle has overtaken Subway as the healthiest restaurant chain in America. Chipotle has enjoyed steady growth while Subway is on the decline. Chipotle’s first quarter sales increased by 20.5 percent this year while sales at U.S. Subway locations dropped by three percent last year.
A Chipotle burrito counts 290 calories before a single ingredient is piled on. Factor in all the extra ingredients like chicken, steak, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, etc., you may wind up with a 1,300+ calorie burrito, which could be 4X more calories than a Subway sub. However, the amount of calories doesn’t seem to matter nearly as much as the source of the ingredients these days. Chipotle is known for its high quality ingredients, recently announcing it no longer serves any GMO ingredients. The burrito chain also may stop serving certain foods if suppliers don’t meet its standards. In addition, the company is focusing on a healthier tortilla recipe.
On the other hand, Subway is taking much of a hit lately in popularity. Customers who once admired Subway for its low-fat and low-calorie options are now those who are worried its ingredients are “overly processed with fillers and additives.” The sandwich chain probably didn’t help its reputation by making its bread with a chemical found in yoga mats. Also, the company seems to focus more on what other chains are doing rather than taking the initiative like Chipotle. Subway recently announced that it would drop artificial ingredients by 2017, but that was only after a bunch of chains and companies like Papa John’s and General Mills announced the same plan.
It’s been a tough year for Subway. With declining sales and its now former spokesperson Jared Fogel involved in a horrible child pornography case, Subway may have a real tough time getting back to the company it once was.
MP’s Take: I think this shift is a true sign of the changing generations. Millennials care less about calories and more about the source of the food. We live in a world right now where organic ingredients and trends seem to be at the forefront. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t recommend choosing Chipotle over Subway if you are going to load your burrito up with cheese and sour cream. However, if you stick with healthier alternatives like guacamole or hot sauce, I think there’s really no healthier “fast-food” meal right now than Chipotle.