A Wells Fargo analyst ordered the same Chipotle burrito bowl 75 times and found the portion problem is real

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To finally “put the ‘weight debate’ to rest,” Wells Fargo analyst Zachary Fadem and his team bought and weighed 75 burrito bowls, they wrote in a note this week. The analysts “studied” (and hopefully later devoured) burrito bowls at eight different Chipotle locations in New York City, with half the orders placed digitally and the other half in person.

Throughout the study, the analysts found that the bowls’ weights were wildly inconsistent.

The median bowl ordered online and in person weighed about the same, according to the Thursday note, but the weight of the burrito bowls varied drastically in each category. For in-person orders, the heaviest bowl weighed 47% more than the lightest. The weight varied even more for digital orders, with the heaviest bowl weighing 87% more than the lightest bowl. At 13.8 ounces, the smallest burrito bowl weighed just a little more than the average can of soda.

Apparently, there’s at least one New York City Chipotle that may also be worth avoiding, as the analysts found that many of the 10 lightest bowls were from the same unnamed store. All 10 were also digital orders.

“While throughput is improving, order consistency remains an opportunity,” the analysts wrote in a Thursday note.

A special look

The analysis comes as Chipotle has been criticized on social media for doling out supposedly smaller portion sizes. A rumor, which Chipotle denied, later emerged that the chain had instructed employees to give bigger portions to people recording them, sparking a flurry of videos across social media, especially on TikTok.

Last month, Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol told Fortune that portion sizes had not gotten smaller, but added that customers could give employees a “look” to bulk up their burritos. 

On Wednesday, Chipotle founder and former CEO Steve Ells reiterated that the restaurant chain’s portions have not shrunk and insisted that it has, in fact, been “quite generous” with its portion sizes, Quartz reported.

“I’ve never experienced someone walking out of a Chipotle hungry in my 30 some odd years, I mean, it just doesn’t happen,” Ells said at the Wall Street Journal Global Food Forum. “So those who complain about portion sizes, I’m not sure I quite get it, but I understand it’s a thing out there.”

Although the varying bowl sizes may have looked bad for the chain, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs officer, Laurie Schalow, said the variability was totally normal because of how the restaurant serves its orders.

“Similar to others in the fast casual industry, our completely customizable meals may have variability in their size or weight depending upon the number of ingredients a guest selects or if they choose to make an ingredient extra or light when ordering from our list of real ingredients in person or digitally,” Schalow said in a statement to Fortune. 

Despite the controversy over portion sizes, Wells Fargo found that Chipotle’s foot traffic continues to increase, aside from a setback last month, and the bank is still optimistic about the stock. The company’s quarter-to-date foot traffic is at its highest level in 10 quarters, the bank found.

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