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Sep 20, 2011 07:50 PM

Chipotle steps in it again

ShopHouse = new Asian fusion concept brought to you by the good folks at Chipotle.

First thought: could Chipotle be so clueless as to use what sounded to me to be pidgin English? I mean, Shop/Chop. Not the least linear thought I've ever had.

Wiki calmed my fears. I am so ashamed. I must be the only person on the planet not to know about this particular architectural entity. So obvious, so perfect - who wouldn't want to name their new venture after an arcane mercantile structure apparently designed to minimize property taxes (can't really take issue with that!) while housing sometimes small and sometimes large numbers of related or not individuals.

Although the shophouses in China seem to have been, for the most part, an interesting approach to big city living, the Chophouses in Singapore were, according to Wiki, unsafe and unsanitary: "Many houses designed for only a single family would end up with ten or more families living in them. There was little or no privacy or sunlight, with poor or absent sanitation and little room to cook or prepare and eat food."

Now there's a can't miss elevator pitch.

OK, so the name is unsettling and its derivation of questionable provenance. But wait, there's more.

Here's where those of you who hate vegetarians can move along (if you haven't already). If you are not veg and for some reason feel the need to add to the extant and overflowing body of anti-veg vituperative screeds, can it. I've heard it all, I don't tell you what to eat, and I don't hate you for eating it. Let it go.

Returning to the best marketing goof since New Coke: not that long ago (a month?) a long-time patron of Chipotle found out (quite by accident, from a loose-lipped counter person) that the pinto beans he frequently ordered at lunch are made with pork.The gentleman graciously accepted the restaurant's immediate apology and applauded them for letting the public know, via Chipoltle's website and in-store menu, that the pinto beans were pig-inflected. And had always been. For years.

The denouement: the crack marketing masters chez Chipotle/ShopHouse this time consciously decided not to clutter their consumers' tiny pea brains with info such as, hey, that there's fish sauce we're hiding in your curry. No mention on the menu, no mention on the website, and just dumb luck if you hear it from your server.

I gotta ask - is there something wrong with this company? Many resto's, especially chains, put little symbols next to certain menu items to indicate spiciness, heart healthfulness, the presence of certain allergens and even, where required, calorie count.

Chipo - lemme give you a heads up. Fish aren't plants. And, while I know many SEA condiments contain fish sauce, I didn't know what a ShopHouse was. Guess I'm one of the pea brains.

Resto's are a service business. How about telling your customers what you're serving, and while you're at it, some explication for the whole slum thing wouldn't be amiss.

A shareholder (altho prob not for long - you guys and Netflix seem to be in a race to the bottom)

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  1. Don't really understand what your point is (if any). As for the pinto beans not being vegetarian - there's a reason that the black beans are referred to as vegetarian and are standard on a vegetarian burrito. If someone has a dietary preference and is eating at a fast food joint, it's incumbent on them to ensure that the ingredients conform to their standards. That includes asking if they use animal fat for deep frying and why the black beans are identified as vegetarian but the pinto beans are not.

    Obviously, some things aren't expected to contain animal products, like salsa and guacamole and if they somehow found a way to infuse those with animal products then I'd say you have a right to be upset, but Mexican food items very often contain lard and sometimes pork. Meat-eaters enjoy the flavor. So I think your anger is misplaced.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      <someone has a dietary preference and is eating at a fast food joint, it's incumbent on them to ensure that the ingredients conform to their standards. That includes asking if they use animal fat for deep frying and why the black beans are identified as vegetarian but the pinto beans are not.>

      I agree. Unless you are a "don't ask, don't tell" vegetarian, you shouldn't assume that anything is meat free.

      1. re: viperlush

        I am a vegetarian and I've learned I need to ask about everything (including soup stock) at restaurants... just gotten used to being paranoid I guess. This is why I already knew to ask for the black beans on my vegetarian burritos at Chipotle.

      2. re: ferret

        Ferret, all I want is ingredient and nutritional info, unexpurgated by what a chain might think I need to know. Put it on the web and have in-store material available. Let me decide, based on what's in each dish, if I want to eat it. Waiters have the time to answer questions but fast food places operate under different pressures. I know what's in Mexican food, and I know SE Asian sauces most often have fish sauce. However, neither the Hindu family nor I knew about the fries that mooed until it hit the media.That Chipotle burrito customer unwittingly and unwillingly ate pork for 10 years.
        Websites and in-store materials easily address ingredient and nutritional questions. Put it all out there so we can make informed choices. I don't want a nanny state; I want to be treated as an adult who takes responsibility for my food choices.
        One can then eat whatever one chooses, including french fries bathed in tallow.

        1. re: mrsdebdav

          Ingredients are listed, quite clearly IMO, on Chipotle's web site.

          1. re: mrsdebdav

            I've been ordering the vegetarian burrito at Chipotle for a decade, it's always been identified as containing black beans and when I asked, years ago now, if the pinto beans were vegetarian I was told they were not. "That Chipotle customer" adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" position with respect to ordering food (I have plenty of "vegetarian" friends who avoid a follow-up question about whether there's chicken stock in the soup or some such thing, because if they don't know it's not a bad thing to them) Every single time I've ordered the vegetarian burrito the counter person slaps rice and black beans on the tortilla before I can get all the words out of my mouth. "That Chipotle customer" had to ask for pinto beans each and every time he/she ordered a "vegetarian" dish. Not asking "are the pinto beans also vegetarian?" was an assumption of risk. Not Chipotle's fault - and they certainly weren't being evil about it.

            Ultimately, if I'm the "odd man out" be it for allergies, religious or personal dietary limitations then I'd be reluctant to put myself in the hands of third parties who cater to a mass market. Part of the burden that comes with self-imposed or medically-imposed restrictions is heightened vigilance. With all the hubbub people are having over a "nanny state" it's odd to expect corporations to be "nannies" for consumers.

              1. re: mrsdebdav

                "all I want is ingredient and nutritional info, unexpurgated by what a chain might think I need to know. Put it on the web and have in-store material available."

                Here it is, from Chipotle's website: "Pinto beans: Seasoned with bacon and several herbs and spices to achieve a smoky aroma and a mildly sweet heat."

                And here is shophouse's page on the inspiration behind the name:

                Mrs. Debdav, I think it is you who stepped in it.

            1. I have been eating the veg bowl at Chipotle for years. It's the only thing I order. I ask for pinto beans. Without fail, every single time, the employee tells me that the pinto beans have pork in it. So, I don't get why you think this info was being withheld. And this happens at multiple locations.

              And can't you taste the pork in the pinto beans? I sure can, and that's why I prefer them over black beans.

              What does all this have to do with ShopHouse?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Jelly71

                ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen is a new restaurant concept from the people who brought us Chipotle. I'm guessing that the OP is also accusing them of misinforming vegetarians.


              2. We've had a Chipotle in my town for two or three years, and their menu and staff have been very clear that their pinto beans aren't vegetarian and their black beans are, every time I've been there.

                1. I have to agree with the others. Everyone knows Chipotle's pinto beans contain pork. And agree with the others that when you have a dietary restriction, it's encumbent upon you to ask if the item contains any X, whatever X is.

                  1. Lighten up, Francis. Their food is great, reasonably priced, fresh, and local. Enjoy!!!!

                    1 Reply