Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rounding totals at Chipotle

Okay, I have to chime in on this article about rounding off to the nearest nickel or quarter. Apparently some restaurants have cash registers that are programmed to automatically round some totals up or down by a couple of cents to make a nice round total, like rounding $9.24 to $9.25 or $16.02 to $16.00 as this receipt shows. Perhaps it would be more ethical to only round down but I think the line item on the receipt in the previous link should suffice. At most, a sign next to the register that says “Totals may be rounded up or down by up to 2 cents to reduce the use of pennies” should be adequate.
I have been to over 40 Chipotle restaurants across the country and have not personally seen any of this rounding (and I do check the receipts every time). I suspect this is because I almost always pay with a credit card, where the whole point of rounding becomes moot because there’s no cash exchange.
My stance is that this is a perfectly sound and acceptable business practice as long as it rounds down as much as it rounds up. More places need to implement systems like this to cut down on time spent searching for and counting pennies. But really, instead of rounding, there is a better way to do this – just make the menu prices such that the totals come out to nice numbers. This is yet another way the Europeans are ahead of the Americans. They include tax in the listed menu prices so when something costs 6.50 Euros, it is 6.50 Euros, not 5.99 + 8% tax = 6.47. That surely means food lines move faster, at least at the cashier point.
As long as the USA continues to use this silly method of not including tax in listed menu prices, let’s look at the Chipotle menu and see how I would price these items.
The vast majority of my Chipotle receipts are $6.69, the price for a chicken or veggie burrito in Atlanta, where there is 7% tax. Charging $6.26 instead of $6.25 would make the total be and even $6.70.
For the steak or carnitas eaters, the $6.65 burrito comes to $7.12 with tax. Let’s change that to $6.54 to make it an even $7.
Soft drinks cost $1.60, or $1.71 with tax. Let’s change that to $1.64 so it will be a nice $1.75 with tax.
Chips and salsa: currently $1.75. Make that price be $1.775. Yes, use the thousandths place because $1.78 yields a $1.9046 total, which makes it fairly likely that the total will have a penny when combined with other items.
Guacamole: currently $1.80. Let’s adjust that down 2.5 cents to be the same chips and salsa.

Since I have some time, let me list the Chipotles I have been to:
Atlanta (13): Ponce, Lenox, Toco Hills, Emory, Northlake, Pleasant Hill, Lawrenceville, Mall of GA, Perimeter Mall, Windward Pkwy, Roswell Rd, Cobb Pkwy, Alpharetta Hwy
Jacksonville (2)
Tallahasee (2)
Columbia (2)
Greenville SC
Washington DC (2)
Philadelphia (2)
NYC and Long Island (3)
Las Vegas
Seattle (2)
San Jose
Ann Arbor


  1. Not only doe Europe include the tax, but tips are included also. I love the fact that they use 1 and 2 Euro coins. The U.S. has tried dollar coins and people didn't like them, probably because of the way they looked -- too close to other coins.

  2. You should really have put this post on your separate Chipotle blog (which I assume exists).