David B. Reath, MD
Knoxville, TN (865) 450-9253

What Plastic Surgeons Can Learn From Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipolte and plastic surgeryOne my family’s favorite places to go for a quick meal is Chipotle Mexican Grill. In fact, my wife used to frequent the first one that was started in Denver back in 1993. It was actually opened by a graduate of the CIA (that’s Culinary Institute of American, not the Company) who started this in an old Dolly Madison Ice Cream shop near the University of Denver with an $85,000 loan from his father. They figured out that he would need to sell 107 burritos a day to break even.By the end of the first month, they were selling over 1000 burritos a day. The second store opened in 1995, and in 1999 the first store opened outside of Colorado, and most importantly, the first store in Knoxville opened in 2011.

Currently there are now over 1200 stores in 41 states, Canada, and England. In 2010 they were recognized as the third fastest growing restaurant chain, and Consumer reports named them as the best Mexican fast food chain in 2011. Last year’s revenue was over $2.2 billion, and the net income was over $350 million. All from a single restaurant and a loan from his Dad.

Why It Works
How did this all happen? And, parenthetically, what does this have to do with plastic surgery? To the first question, I would say that there are several reasons. But key among them would be quality and simplicity. The Chipotle culture is one that thrives on naturally raised meats, organically grown produce, and dairy products free from added hormones. And, the food is all cooked on the premises. Chipotle restaurants do not have can openers, microwave ovens, or freezers. Early on Steve Ells began using free range pork for his carnitas switching from cheaper, mass produced (and fed) animals. This increased the cost of his burritos, but also increased their sales. With quality products, they can be simply made into great meals.

What you will notice when you eat in a Chipotle, no matter where it’s located, is that the food is always great and it has been so since the first burritos left the line in Denver.

The KISS Principal
The other secret for their success is simplicity.  The stores are well- designed, the food prep line flows sensibly, and the menu design is straight forward. This is to say that it is all quite simple, which is a real complement in any business model.  Simplicity allows for a consistent and reproducible result, in an easy consumer environment with a low risk of errors. When was the last time your order was not right at Chipotle?  It’s never happened to me. The KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) may well be the key to success.

How We Apply These Ideas In Our Office
In plastic surgery, simplicity is just as important. I could go on ad nausea about areas where I try to make things simpler, but I will give you one example related to paying for surgery. Most people want a simple explanation of fees, i.e. the bottom line, and they want to pay this with a single transaction. For this reason we always quote a price on an operation that will include everything that must be paid (surgeons fee, operating room expenses, surgeon’s fee, implants, follow up appointments, and surgical garments) as a single figure. Then, we allow our patients to pay us for the total price with one transaction, and we will take care of getting the right amount to the right party.

This really eliminates the chances for errors, and makes the whole process much simpler. Further, if there are questions about what has been paid, those questions come to us and not our patients. Long ago we understood that having elective surgery, even if it is something that you really want, can be a bit stressful and not a part of your daily routine. Our goal is the find ways to make this simpler for the patients. If we are successful at this, we are able to eliminate sources of both stress and errors and hopefully make it a better process.

When I was a young man, my father first introduced me to the KISS principle. For me it really has been a guiding principle and I truly believe a key to success.

All the best,

David B.

P.S. Go get a burrito!

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