04/29/2014 11:27 am ET Updated Jun 29, 2014

6 Things You Didn't Know About Chipotle Mexican Grill

For many, Chipotle is what fast food should be: tasty, ethically responsible, not too expensive, and reasonably healthy. While you might think that you know everything there is to know about this mega-chain, there's actually a lot out there that you're probably not aware of.

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Chipotle was founded by Steve Ells, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, in 1993. He'd been inspired by the popular tacos and burritos he discovered in San Francisco's Mission District while working there for chef Jeremiah Tower, and after securing an $85,000 loan from his mother, he opened the first Chipotle in a former ice cream shop near the University of Denver campus.

  • 1 There Are No Franchises
    Nearly every fast food chain is franchised, with some locations owned by the company and others owned by independent restaurateurs. Like In-N-Out, however, Chipotle doesn’t franchise out any of its locations; they’re all company-owned. Photo Credit: Chipotle
  • 2 They Burn Through a Ton of Avocados
    Want guacamole on that? So do a lot of other people: Chipotle uses 100,000 avocadoes per day, some contributed by a farm that’s owned by none other than singer-songwriter Jason Mraz. Photo Credit: Thinkstock Click Here to see the More Things You Didn’t Know about Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • 3 Their Hiring Criteria is Very Strict
    According to Ells, employees must be "polite, hospitable, smart, ambitious, curious, happy, respectful, honest, presentable, conscientious, motivated, infectiously enthusiastic, and have high energy." Judging by one of the lowest turnovers in the business, Chipotle does a good job of finding employees who not only meet those qualifications, but really want to be there. Photo Credit: David Sundberg
  • 4 Their "Musical Identity" is Well-Curated
    Every month, DJ Christopher Golub creates a 500-song playlist that gets pumped through the sound system at every location. Photo Credit: iStock/ ThinkstockClick Here to see More Things You Didn’t Know about Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • 5 All Their Advertising is Done In-House
    It's nearly unheard-of for a company as big as Chipotle to shun ad agencies when coming up with advertising concepts, but they've done just that. While their ads aren't nearly as ubiquitous as those of McDonald's or Subway, the ads they've released have been unique and effective, usually touting the virtues of small-scale farming. Photo Credit: Chipotle
  • 6 One Man Designed all the Interior Décor
    Bruce Gueswel was one of Ells' old college friends, and he designed every table, chair, and Mayan-inspired sculpture in every location, even the first. If you want one of the Mayan sculptures, you can purchase one for a price between 350 to 900 USD. Photo Credit: David SundbergClick Here to see More Things You Didn’t Know about Chipotle Mexican Grill

Ells estimated that he'd need to sell about 100 burritos per day to be profitable, but after a month he was selling more than 1,000. Knowing he had a good thing on his hands and fueled by an investment from his father and a Small Business Administration loan, he jettisoned his original idea of opening a fine-dining restaurant and focused on expansion, opening a second store in 1995 and a third shortly thereafter.

Without an investment from an unlikely source, however, the chain never would have grown to its current massive scale. In 1998, McDonald's made its first investment in the company, and by 2001 it was a majority shareholder. There were 16 locations in 1998, and by 2005 there were more than 500. McDonald's invested about $360 million into Chipotle in total, and when it divested itself in 2006 (as part of a larger effort to divest itself from all "non-core business restaurants" including Boston Market), its investment had grown to $1.5 billion.

Today, Chipotle's stock is worth around $550 per share, and in 2012 the company pulled in a net income of $278 million. It's one of the fastest-growing companies of its type in the world, and everything from their menu, to the restaurant design, and the commitment to source its ingredients ethically has inspired a new generation of fast-casual dining. To learn some fascinating facts about the chain that will go down in history as one of the most revolutionary, read on.

-Dan Myers, The Daily Meal

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