Both feature ads, food packaging, websites, social media and uniforms with playful, irreverent writing mixed with messages of social consciousness. Both fast-casual Mexican restaurants are clad in metal surfaces that mimic foil tortilla wrappers.
Since they’re practically twins, which burrito joint wins?
The deciding factor is the biggest difference between the two – something you’d expect to be a huge advantage, but that actually bears out results of a study showing too much of a good thing really is too much.
Through its name and pepper logo, Chipotle shows its simplicity. The chain’s color palette is limited to black, white, silver and a reddish-brown hue that matches its smoked jalapeno namesake.
Freebirds conjures the Lynryd Skynyrd song and gives a wild vibe with its rainbow of colors, backward-F logo and peace signs. The identity doesn’t say burrito restaurant as much as it says anything goes.
Freebirds seems like a better option because it has more choices. Four flavors of tortillas! Three types of cheese! Two types of dessert – Chipotle doesn’t even offer dessert!
So at Freebirds, I tried a green spinach tortilla with chicken, queso and several salsas. The tortilla didn’t taste any different than a regular flour one, and the queso and salsas masked the flavor of the chicken.
Next time I tried a cayenne tortilla with steak and hot sauce. Again, the orange-red tortilla didn’t taste much different from an ordinary flour one.
Side by side, I prefer the more robust flavors of the chicken, carnitas, steak and barbacoa beef at Chipotle.
Long lines are yet another thing Chipotle and Freebirds have in common. But they move more slowly at Freebirds because the myriad choices trip up customers. Even when my family was second in line recently at Freebirds, ordering felt like too much.
Chipotle is more streamlined, with just a few items at each point along a prep line that chugs along smoothly.
Comparing Chipotle and Freebirds calls to mind the Columbia University study in 2000 that’s become known as the Jam Experiment. Shoppers at a grocery store that had only six types of jam on display bought jam 30 percent of the time. Another group that had 24 flavors only purchased jam 3 percent of the time.
The study concluded that too many choices make you 10 times less likely to actually choose something, and more likely to second guess the choice you do make.
Freebirds gives too many choices. Chipotle serves up just enough. When it comes to burrito brands, curation is the secret salsa.