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I cooked the first day and then trained the folks in the kitchen. I was there morning to night every single day for at least the first year. A lot of training and investment go into teaching somebody how to cook, serve and create a restaurant atmosphere that is relevant to the consumer. The most effective way to teach these cooking skills is really shoulder-to-shoulder demonstrations and explanations of why certain techniques are important.
The initial investor was my father, and the first restaurant cost $85,000, which was structured as part loan and part equity investment. It was much more successful than I had ever dreamed of. There were lines out the door. I thought, "Well, maybe I should open one more, and then I can get on to my real restaurant." The second restaurant came from a little more equity investment from my father and cash flow, and opened in early 1995. It was much busier than the first. It just blew me away.
And so the story goes. I just kept opening one more and one more and one more. Early on I felt guilty about not following my true passion. As an aspiring chef wanting to open my own restaurant, I felt like I was deviating. Of course, I don't feel like that anymore.
And as I got more ambitious about growth, I asked my dad [a pharmaceutical executive] for more money, and he invested about $1.5 million. I had a wonderful relationship with my dad growing up, and this experience strengthened our relationship. He helped me put a board of directors and a business plan together, and we raised about $1.8 million. I had never taken a business class in college, so it was a crash course in business. I wanted to find a partner who could continue to fund the business, and one of my board members suggested that I contact McDonald's. I sent McDonald's a business plan, and within weeks someone came out, and I met with him. A year later, McDonald's made a minority investment, and as things progressed, the company invested about $360 million over a seven-year period. It tripled that with the IPO.
McDonald's gave us autonomy. It did not at all try to impose its style, values or brand, or its way of doing things. That was smart. To be able to build a brand, you need to be yourself. Most fast-food places today rethermalize highly processed, portioned then frozen product. We get raw ingredients into our restaurants, such as cilantro, avocados and chicken. There's a lot of handwork, the kind of prep work that is done in fine restaurants. That's what I knew, that's what I did, and that's what we do today.
About eight years ago, I had a revelation about what makes for good-quality raw ingredients. Where the ingredients come from, how the animals were raised and how the produce was grown not only affect the flavor but also the environment, animal welfare and the preservation of family farms. Like most people, we were buying pork that was raised in confinement operationsbig plants squeezing out the independent family farmer and making the rural landscape in Iowa uninhabitable. We switched suppliers, and our pork now comes from farmers who raise pigs humanely, according to protocols such as no growth hormones, no antibiotics and vegetarian feed. We have switched our protocols for beef and chicken too. Today we serve more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant company in the world. But it's only a first step. More people every day find the Chipotle brand experience relevant. That's why we've been so successful. They have finally found a fast-food restaurant that has respectfor them, for their taste buds, for their sense of aesthetics, for service, for its employees and for its suppliers. And really, if you think about it, a great dining experience at a fine restaurant is about respect. Chipotle, as it turns out, has become quite a real restaurant.