Skip to content

Chipotle Restaurants

In 2007, AO started working with Chipotle Mexican Grill, then a rather small Denver-based chain, on the prototype design for their restaurants. Our goal of elevating what had been considered trite, cheap fit-outs into thoughtfully considered public spaces constructed with real materials and sustainable practices paralleled the young company’s vision of uplifting fast food with quality ingredients and culinary craft. Together we created the “fast-casual” typology where fresh food is prepared directly in front of each customer and eaten in an uplifting setting. Finding inspiration from art, culture, and well-designed everyday objects (rather than kitschy interpretations of Mexican culture), we took Chipotle’s motto of ‘do a few things and do them well’ to heart as we devised their ‘kit-of-parts’ that was deployed in thousands of locations globally.

Our prototype store designs, codified in an extensive manual, enabled the economical construction of fully operational and immediately recognizable restaurants in a wide variety of sites. We devised plan layouts, applicable to spaces of different sizes and shapes, identifying the “speed zones” associated with the functions of queuing, ordering, and eating. Each restaurant is anchored by a ‘box”. Clad in custom perforated AC plywood panels, the box is a signature element that absorbs sound and discretely contains necessary functions such as the condiment and beverage service, garbage and recycling, restrooms, and speakers. The custom perforated blackened steel light fixtures are suspended closely over the communal tables to create an intimate dining experience even in lofty spaces while allowing the ceilings to remain visually clean. Color is restricted to the subtle hues intrinsic to the construction materials and the brand red in the façade signs and menu boards. The fabrication of all custom elements was streamlined to control quality and reduce material and energy use in production, transportation, and operations.

After perfecting the formula for the fit-outs, AO developed a new freestanding restaurant model based on an extensive analysis of how to improve on what other chain restaurants build. Just as we were able to conceive the fast casual experience with the interiors, we devised innovative approaches to exterior cladding, road signs, orientation, approach, parking, and landscape for a more suburban model.


Chipotle Mexican Grill


Various Sizes Interior Renovation & Exterior Modifications


Prototype & Multiple Stores (Various International Locations)


Completed 2009-2012


Concept Design, Architecture, Interior Design, Custom Millwork and Light Fixtures, Furnishings/Furnishing/Equipment, Brand Design Guidelines