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I've been a little slow in getting this up, but I was in London for work two weeks ago and made an effort to go find Chipotle's first international restaurant and check it out. Here are some notes and observations from my visit.

First off it was quite a long walk for me to find Chipotle. It is not exactly in the heart of the tourist area (Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, etc) it's about 1.5 to 2 miles from there and well I was on foot so it sure as heck seemed like a long ways. Needless to say the area it is in still is a very busy area and gets a lot of foot traffic. That being said it’s not exactly in the thick of other restaurants, there is a department store next door and a sex shop kiddy corner across the street. I'd had hoped they could have done a lot better with location, but I'm sure London real estate is at premium. Still for your first international store....

The interior and layout was different than my local Chipotle (Appleton, WI). I actually liked this layout much better as it was a long and skinny layout and there was a very long almost bar-like table running the entire length of the restaurant, they had some booths as well, but this one long table probably accounted for at least 50% of their seating. Not sure if other Chipotle's use this format, but I liked it as I would think it would make seating a lot easier as its more efficient than the booth concept, granted you lose some privacy as well.

I arrived at 5pm and there were only 4 other people in the restaurant - I've never walked into my local Chipotle anytime of the day with so few people in it. The menu was essentially the same and the prices were exactly the same as my local Chipotle - they were in pounds though so multiple by 1.5-1.6 to get USD. Relatively speaking though this was much cheaper than most other places I ate at in London so I thought it was a good deal.

The Food
The tortilla for the burrito was a little different. Certainly less flexible than I'm used to, but it tasted the same and didn't break - although the guy trying to wrap my burrito did struggle for quite a while. Other nuances were the choice between brown or white cilantro rice (my local only has white) and the option to have mild salsa or mild roasted salsa (roasted was a new option for me).

Like I said the guy had trouble wrapping my burrito and as I watched other people come through they weren't ready for a prime time rush hour when it came to speed - overall though service was quite good and I would have been happy if this was my first experience in a Chipotle as I would not have my previous US experiences to compare to.

Cashier Comments
I spoke to the cashier and asked him how busy they have been since they opened. He said they had been doing pretty good, but were still trying to get the word out. He said he heard somewhere that 90% (yes 90%) of their customers are Americans who already know Chipotle and seek them out when in London. While I was there I would have guess it was closer to 50% when trying to listen to accents. 90% seems extremely high.

I also did notice quite a few people that were very curious about Chipotle and were window shopping. I bet at least 5 or 6 different groups of people tried to read the menu through the window in the alley next to the store or walked in and took a look at the menu. Of those 5 or 6 groups I only noticed one group that decided to take the plunge and order some food.

I did take some pictures of the restaurant, menu, etc if anyone was really interested, I don't believe we can post pics on the message boards.

For what its worth I ordered a chicken burrito and a margarita (horrible margarita btw - it was all tequila). By the time I finished eating the store had probably added another 10 customers and was about 25% full at 6pm.

Anyway I guess that my informal review. Probably not a lot of useful information other than the fact that they really have not gotten the locals to become Chipotle fans yet. I don't think it says much for Chipotle's international expansion plans if they require all of their American Chipotle addicts to fly overseas and frequent their international stores to keep them afloat :-)
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