One Size Doesn’t Fit All : How Taco Bell and Chipotle Fans Differ On More Than Just Their Food Choices
“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are,” extremely French guy Jean Brillat-Savarin said. Everyone thought this was clever enough that JBS had an entire subset of cheese named after him. Doc cannot claim the same breadth of vision, but if you tell him what you want in your burrito, he has a good idea of what movies and TV you like.
When you’re craving a fistful of Tex-Mex fast food, do you find yourself thinking “barbacoa” or “XXL Grilled Stuft?” That answer is more revealing than you’d expect. One of the slickest features of Ranker Insights is its ability to cross-reference movie/TV/entertainment affinities with individual brands. When you compare something as simple as the tastes of Taco Bell customers versus those of Chipotle fans, you’re seeing two vastly different fan communities.
For instance, if you’re sitting down to a hearty tray of Crunchwrap Supremes and Beefy Nacho Grillers, Doc is gonna take a wild guess that you saw Rogue One. If there’s one thing we do know, Taco Bell fans love the Star Wars franchise. And Lord of the Rings. And Batman. Basically, they love Hollywood franchise blockbusters with monster special effects; the very top movie among this crowd is Independence Day. Thirty-one films are linked with an affinity score over 100 percent, meaning that a Taco Bell fan is at least twice as likely to be a fan of that film than the average person. Of those 31, all but 10 were part of a cinematic franchise. Of those 10, most boast established Hollywood A-listers like Will Ferrell, Steven Spielberg, and Bruce Willis.
What’s happening at Chipotle? For one, its fans aren’t as forthcoming. Taco Bell fans cluster around their favorites in greater volume and concentration. Collectively, Chipotle fans are more muted about their pop culture choices. Whereas Taco Bell had 31 films crossing the 100 percent threshold, for Chipotle, that number is 17. While 67 percent of the Taco Bell favorites are part of franchises, that number is 29 percent for their fast food rival. In fact, if Chipotle fans have a soft spot for anything, it’s for coming-of-age films. The Breakfast Club, Stand By Me, Dead Poets Society, Juno, and Superbad all sprint past the 100 percent threshold. When the person in line in front of you orders a taco bowl with a tender wistfulness suggestive of poignant life lessons from a simpler time, now you know why.
You’ll see a similar enthusiasm gap with comparison to their respective TV choices. Taco Bell fans are, if nothing else, more passionate about their TV than their movies, with 38 shows surpassing the 100 percent affinity mark Chipotle? A mere 22. Taco Bell fans are all about animated shows and sitcoms. Of those 38, 17 were animated and 18 can be defined as sitcoms. Some shows, like The Simpsons and King of the Hill (Taco Bell fans’ top show), counted on both lists. Within those genres, you can see a wide variety ranging from youth programing like Rugrats, Thundercats, Saved by the Bell, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch through the more risqué fare like South Park, Beavis & Butthead, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Over in Chipotleland, things are the same, yet different. There’s a preference for animated content, but A) not nearly as strong and B) the favored shows are different. Chipotle animation fans have a more off-center sensibility—after South Park (the only common denominator), you’ll find more cerebral meta-cartoons like The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, Invader Zim and Rocko’s Modern Life. As for comedies, here’s a simple distinction: Taco Bell fans generally enjoy shows that feature a laugh track; Chipotle fans don’t. Chipotle fans have 12 sitcoms at or crossing the 100 percent mark. Only one of them (Roseanne) features a laugh track; the rest are single-camera series with no laugh track and off-center comic sensibilities like Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Louie. Among the Taco Bell shows, It’s Always Sunny is atypical in this respect; most of the favorites are ‘90s stage-based, laugh track-heavy classics like Seinfeld, Friends, andThat ‘70s Show.
Doc isn’t saying that there’s little these groups have in common, however. Among the over 100-plus affinity movies, there are a handful of joint favorites: Independence Day, Fight Club, The Bourne Identity, and The Empire Strikes Back. Not so much with TV. Only two shows, South Park and Parks & Recreation, overlap between the competing groups.
What about music? It’s a similar pattern, but even starker. Taco Bell fans’ music tastes are the dead center of the classic/alternative rock spectrum: Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Queen, Guns N’ Roses, Stevie Nicks, Green Day. All that’s missing from that list is a commercial break from your Jack FM sponsors. Once you cross the mini-mall to Chipotle, you’ve entered an alternate universe of hipster musical tastes: KT Tunstall, Mos Def, M.I.A, Sia, Smashing Pumpkins, and Tegan & Sara.
So what does this tell us? The Taco Bell fans are taking up a big spot smack in the center of mainstream pop culture. Their preferences are things that are on everyone’s radar. Chipotle fans favor sleeper hits and cult classics, the stuff you have to find on your own. What else would you expect from customers of a restaurant that requires you to be an active participant in the creation of your meal? The whole point of Chipotle is to create an order to your particular tastes. Clearly, Chipotle customers are used to that challenge, rejecting the one-size-fits-all offerings of box office blockbusters and Nielsen champions in favor of an individually curated sensibility.
What else does this tell us? Chipotle fans are older than their Taco Bell counterparts. After all, curating one’s individual sensibility and taste preferences requires years of experience. The kids at Taco Bell only have enough time to absorb the biggest and the broadest items off the entertainment menu. As they get older—some of them, anyway—those tastes will mature and diversify. Someday, they may find themselves watching an old movie or an offbeat TV show, or maybe even embracing the cosmic uncertainty of the great black bean/pinto bean divide.
Of course, even Doc doesn’t want to make the effort to figure out what’s going in his burrito. Sometimes, Doc just wants a Supreme and a Mountain Dew and Will Ferrell. That’s when you’ll find him in line at the drive-thru.