After a testing period of nearly two months, Chipotle will be rolling out queso nationwide on September 12.
Chipotle has been testing the dip in 350 restaurants in Southern California and Colorado since early August and began serving it in its New York test kitchen a month prior alongside frozen margaritas, greens with an avocado citrus dressing, and buñuelos.
Customers can order queso on their entrée, or on the side in two sizes with chips. Prices vary slightly by city, but range from $1.25 to add it to an entrée to $5.25 for a large side order. Throughout the testing phase, Chipotle was able to gain customer feedback, tweak the recipe and ingredient proportions slightly, and arrive at the final recipe that the company says has proved popular with customers.
“Although queso was the number one requested menu item, we never added it to our menu before now because we wouldn’t use the industrial additives used in most quesos,” CEO Steve Ells said in a statement. “Additives make typical queso very consistent and predictable, but are not at all in keeping with our food culture.”
Ells says the queso may vary slightly between batches and restaurants depending on the characteristics of the aged cheddar cheese used and the fact that the brand will use no industrial additives including flavors, colors, or preservatives. In addition to the cheese, Chipotle uses tomatillos, tomatoes, and several varieties of peppers in the dip.
Nearly every Chipotle competitor offers a variation of queso, which executives have pointed to as a lure away from Chipotle in addition to the effects of food safety scares and illnesses.
“Queso is something that could attract new customers, could attract lapsed customers, could increase frequency of existing customers, and then also have the ability to increase check average,” said Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer, in a July conference call. “It hits on all four, whereas, if you look at a dessert, it's unlikely that you're going to get somebody who's a competitor's customer to come to Chipotle because of that, whereas we know that one of the main reasons why people reject Chipotle is that we don't have queso.”