US fast food giant Chipotle has recently opened its second UK store in Baker Street. Neil Gerrard talks to Chipotle's lead restaurateur in the UK, Jacob Sumner.
How did you first come across Chipotle? I was finishing up my MBA at the university of Denver which was located about two blocks from the first Chipotle. I found myself eating there about seven to eight times a week as a graduate student. The simplicity of the restaurant really intrigued and inspired me.
How did you start working there? My MBA was in international business and I was really anxious to see if Chipotle would go international at some juncture. I knew that I had to start on the ground floor so I just went in to a restaurant and applied for a job as a prep person and as a grill person. I became an assistant manager, then a general manager and I really found that my true passion was operations.
Why did Chipotle decide to come to the UK? There are a number of factors as to why the UK became the number one prospect. Certainly there has been a Mexican food culture revolution. We are also looked at the economic stability of all the countries in the EU and a few of them had a great market potential.
How big do you think Mexican food can get in this country? I think that there are so many new Mexican restaurants that it is hard to tell where it is going to go. It comes down to the experience in the restaurant. What is Mexican food going to look like in London five years from now? Hopefully it will be better, faster, and hotter.
Chipotle has two UK restaurants but it has 1,300 in the USA - what's the secret to its success? When I think of a traditional fast food restaurant I don't think of smelling toasted cumin when I walk through the door and seeing someone butcher a pork shoulder in front of me and roasting fresh tomatilloes and jalapenos.
The focus remains on hiring and developing great people and continuing to source and focus on cooking really great food using classic cooking techniques. When I arrive in the restaurants in the morning and put away the food order and set up the prep it makes me feel like I am part of something special.