In December 1993, Steve Ells opened Chipotle, a small Mexican restaurant, with the idea of turning it into a fine dining establishment.

“I only intended to open one Chipotle and figured it would provide me the cash to fund a full-scale restaurant,” Ells said.

His plan failed, in a manner of speaking, but took off in another way. Today, Chipotle is an insight-filled example of a quick-service restaurant chain that scored big in the face of multibillion-dollar competitors like McDonald’s and Yum Brands, the operator of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC.

“We’re now close to having 1,000 Chipotles, and I’ve lost my interest in that restaurant,” said Ells, chairman and co-CEO of Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Among the things that Chipotle did right: sticking with what it does best and keeping service fast and menus simple and healthy.

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