Burritos: The Best Investment

May 26, 2013

One of the best investments I've ever made was in Chipotle. No, I don't mean the stock. I mean the "buy a $30 gift card and get a free burrito" program they had a few months ago. On December 10, I purchased $180 worth of Chipotle gift cards, which was actually delivered in the form of 6 $30 gift cards, since the promotion apparently only worked on individual gift cards. The average consumer usually does not buy more than one or two of these, but I am no average consumer. There was no expiration date and no additional information about this program. So, I decided to find out what a "free burrito" actually meant.

A couple weeks later, I found myself in a Chipotle, after already having used some of my free burritos. I didn't change anything about those, though, and got what I always got - a burrito with white rice, black beans, fajitas, half chicken, half steak, tomatoes, mild, sour cream, cheese and lettuce. This was my usual. On that day though, things changed. I was in the process of getting my usual but the meat person was different. I told her, "half chicken and half steak" but she simply looked at me confused. I repeated, "I want chicken and steak". She simply responded, "double?". I hesitated, because I feared that meant being charged for double meat, which I always tried to avoid. This woman seemed to be having a lot of trouble, so I simple told her yes. She proceeded to give me double chicken and double steak. Yes, that means two servings of chicken, and two servings of steak. I panicked. This is a lot of meat, I thought. But it was too late to go back. I added the rest of my ingredients. By now my burrito looked like a morbidly obese man trying to fit into one airplane seat. The poor woman at the end of the line had to wrap my burrito up with two pieces of foil. She passed it to the cashier and had a serious discussion about the contents of the thing, and concluded that the right thing to do was to count it as quadruple meat.

Total cost shown on the register? $14. I nervously handed her my free burrito card, expecting the Chipotle police to come teach me a lesson. And then, like a miracle, the cashier accepted it. I got a quadruple meat monster for free. And, I managed to finish the entire thing, no doubt exceeding my 2000 calories for that day.

Now for the fun part, what was the ROI on this? Some quick math says a return of $14 on $30 is 46.66%. However, there are other factors such as location and guacamole. Guacamole is a $2 value, which if added to the quad meat burrito, gives a ROI of 53.33%. Location is also important.

burrito prices

According to this table, New York, which is where I do most of my burrito consumption, has the highest prices. This means that for the rest of America, returns won't be as good. The lowest possible burrito cost is $6.25 for a veggie burrito in the South, which only gives a return of 20.8%. You would also be getting a veggie burrito, which makes it even worse. Now, I am still a sane person - if you are crazy and have a large stomach capacity, you might be able to make it five or six meats. To keep it realistic, let's say the maximum is six steaks with guacamole. In New York, this would come to a whopping $21, or a return of 70%.

With a guaranteed instant return of between 20.8% to 70%, a Chipotle gift card is quite possibly the best risk-free investment ever. Nothing else even comes close - treasury bonds don't even beat inflation, while penny stocks could give you 300% in a day but could also lose you 95%. Chipotle gift cards will give you healthy profits and healthy calories. A lot of them.