The Flyer

Chipotle dominates Hot Head Burrito in FHS taste challenge

Photo: Jessica Wuensch

Sophomore Zach Morgan enjoys a bite of burrito at a taste test in "The Flyer" newsroom.

By Nikki Kelley, Staff Writer

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The classic burrito can be found on almost any Mexican restaurant menu. But in the Dayton area, Americans’ taste for burritos has boiled down to a fierce competition between the two leading burrito-based restaurants: Chipotle and Hot Head Burrito. These places are cashing in on a growing fad within the American fast-food community, and in the process, are giving birth to a new corporate competition.

Even Kettering Fairmont High School students have taken sides on the issue. In response to the debate over who has the best burrito, The Flyer decided to conduct a burrito taste test to find the real winner in this competition.

Background on the burrito war

Chipotle, the older of the two franchises, was founded by Steve Ellis in 1993. Chipotle opened its first restaurant in Denver, Colo., but the popularity of its Mexican food has spread quickly throughout the country. Chipotle has four restaurants in the Kettering-Dayton area and a total of 976 restaurants in 21 states.

Hot Head Burrito, the more local and younger of the two restaurants, was founded in 2007 by Ray Wiley. According to the Dayton Business Journal, Hot Head Burrito is the fastest growing restaurant in Dayon. Hot Head opened its first restaurant in Kettering and now has 12 restaurants in Ohio. The Mexican restaurant plans on opening another six restaurants in Ohio by the end of summer 2011.

Student opinions

In truth, the point of any restaurant, like all other businesses, is to make money by drawing more people into their stores. However, while Chipotle and Hot Head both draw huge crowds, the true fight lies in which one really is better.

Fairmont students such as sophomore Marcus McCormick have been weighing in on this raging debate. “Chipotle is definitely better because they have more of a variety of food options, and I think the food is better,” McCormick said. “I think Hot Head Burrito has sloppy food and it’s a stereotypical fast-food restaurant.”

Sophomore Cody Antonelli agrees Chipotle is an all-around better place to eat. “I like Chipotle because you get to see where your food is being cooked on the grill,” said Antonelli. “I love Chipotle’s spice, and it tastes way better than Hot Head Burrito. Hot Head Burrito just has an average burrito in my opinion.”

But sophomore Taylor Connolly thinks everything about Hot Head Burrito is better than Chipotle. “I feel Hot Head Burrito’s food is a lot spicier, which is good because that’s what a lot of Mexican lovers like,” said Connelly. “I also feel I get better service when I go to Hot Head Burrito. The employees are nicer, faster on your orders, and the lines aren’t as long, either.”

In 2010, Hot Head Burrito was voted “Best Burrito in Town” by Active Dayton. Some Fairmont students feel this achievement validates their preference for Hot Head Burrito. “Hot Head is better than Chipotle and has the best burrito because the chicken is not as spicy, and I feel like you get more food when you’re served,” said junior Jessica Powers. “Also, Hot Head Burrito has incentives such as coupons and collecting stickers for your card to eventually get a free burrito.”

The taste test

After all the talk at Fairmont about whether Hot Head Burrito or Chipotle has the better burrito, The Flyer decided to conduct a burrito taste test between the two Mexican restaurants. The test was conducted in The Flyer newsroom after school on Feb. 23, 2011. Two teachers and eight students participated, and each received a portion of a burrito from Chipotle and Hot Head Burrito. Participants were not informed which burrito was from which restaurant; they only knew that their burrito samples came on red or blue plates.

Half of the participants received portions of steak burritos from Hot Head Burrito and Chipotle that consisted of spicy steak, rice, black beans, tomatoes, corn and cheese. The other half received samples of chicken burritos that contained regular chicken, rice, black beans, tomatoes, corn and cheese.

As the teachers and students sampled the burritos, they filled out an evaluation form with ratings, comments and which burrito they preferred overall.

And the winner? (Imagine the drum roll here, please.) The final results showed that 8 of the 10 participants favored Chipotle’s burritos over Hot Head Burrito.

Sophomore Kerrianne Ryan was in the minority. She said she favored Hot Head Burrito because the specific taste of Chipotle’s burrito turned her off. “Chipotle’s burrito was extremely spicy and had an intense flavor. Then again, I’m also a pansy when it comes to flavors in foods,” said Ryan. “But I thought that the burrito from Hot Head Burrito was really good and had the perfect amount of spice.”

According to the evaluations, though, three of the participants preferred Chipotle’s spiciness, two favored Hot Head Burrito’s spiciness and the other four said the restaurants finished in a dead heat (pun intended) in terms of spiciness.

Fairmont Math teacher John Harvey, a participant who felt Chipotle had the better burrito, had a problem with the texture of Hot Head’s burrito. “The burrito from Hot Head Burrito was overall mushy and the meat was chewy, which I didn’t like,” said Harvey. “So if I was forced to choose between a burrito from Chipotle, a burrito from Hot Head Burrito or being stabbed, I would choose a burrito from Chipotle.”

Perhaps The Flyer should have invited Harvey to sample a different type of food, huh?

Interesting, but perhaps useless data:

The Flyer had to dig deep into its budget – nearly $25 – to afford this taste test. The money broke down like this:

  • Chicken burrito cost: $5.95 at Chipotle; $5.79 at Hot Head
  • Steak burrito cost: $6.35 at Chipotle; $6.39 at Hot Head

We also thought it would be interesting to weigh the burritos before demolishing them for the test. Biology teacher Mary Grace Gnau helped us out with her trusty scales. We learned:

  • The heaviest burrito was the Chipotle chicken, weighing in at 1.31 pounds. By comparison, the Hot Head chicken burrito weighed 1.23 pounds.
  • The lightest burrito was the Chipotle steak, which weighed 1.19 pounds. Hot Head’s steak burrito weighed 1.20 pounds.
Nikki Kelley, Editor-in-Chief

Hello! I’m Nikki and this is my third year on The Flyer, first year as Editor-in-Chief! I’m really excited to be able to take charge of the class and...


3 Responses to “Chipotle dominates Hot Head Burrito in FHS taste challenge”

  1. Natalie Wolfe on March 6th, 2011 8:40 pm

    This is a really interesting story and a super unique story idea :)

  2. Rob Bowling II on March 10th, 2011 9:03 pm

    The only reason Chipotle won is because nobody has ever eaten at Hot Head and they haven’t tried all of the differences. I will always be in favor of Hot Head!

  3. Scot Dew on March 13th, 2011 4:35 pm

    Hothead won the best burrito contest because they have something available to their customers that Chipotle does not. Hot head sauce, and queso for example. Tons more ingredients also comes to mind. I think the contest was tilted to Chipotle’s kitchen, so to speak, as Hothead specializes in specialized burritos, whereas Chipotle wants to get out with as little variety as possible. When I visit Chipotle, they never suggest any sauces or combinations or flavored tortillas to go with certain meats. Hothead is more of a true serve-the-customer experience. They make sure you leave with YOUR burrito, not their burrito. While a well-conceived topic, I think the limited nature of your sampling group and quality testing based on such a limited amount of food was very casual at best. I would bet that if you visited each company’s web site, you could request possibly 10 burritos from each to sample in the locations. After you have eaten “your” burrito made the way you would get it at each location, rate the food based on specific guidelines such as eatability, appearance, overall flavor, and heat (if that’s what you wanted or lack thereof). Chipotle’s heat is going to win every time unless you specialize “your” burrito to your taste (Hothead is famous for that). Also you should sample 2 locations if there are 2 of each in Kettering. I know that there is a Dorothy Lane Hothead in Kettering as well as on Smithville Road; not sure of the locations of Chipotle that fall into Kettering. I do know that the Huber Chipotle is not their best, Centerville is pretty good. Not sure which Hothead is dragging them down, but Dorothy Lane and both Beavercreek locations (I think Col. Glenn Rd. is Fairborn actually) are Boom-Chica-Wow-Wow. I am anxious to see what happens on the burrito test the Re-dux. Also allow me to request an increase to your food section budget as we need to know about the best BBQ item in the city. I recommend a request be made of all the top 8 joints in the city as voted by your readers to present 3 of what makes them famous in quantities and reheatable packages to feed your panel of 9-11, need an odd number to break ties. Trust me, restaurants will give you food for free press, particularly if you get yourself noted on a morning show. Bucher’s beat “eats” this kind of stuff up. Go for it guys, all out! Good luck on your future articles.

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Chipotle dominates Hot Head Burrito in FHS taste challenge