If you like buritto bowls, behavioral psychology, and life hacks you will like this article.
Few things interest me more than human behavior and getting more chicken and guac in my buritto bowls. I could eat burrito bowls all day long.
Fresh off reading Influence by Robert Cialdini for the 2nd time, I had lunch with my fellow carnivore buddy Charlie at this new burrito place Guac Star. I noticed that he ordered a chicken bowl without rice AND BEANS.
As a “just black beans” with meat guy, I was intrigued…
…I started thinking about the contrast principle from Influence and whether there was an opportunity to leverage this concept in this situation.
The Contrast Principle states that humans make relative judgements instead of absolute ones. The example they use to explain this is if you’re talking to a beautiful person at a party and then are joined by an unattractive one, the second person will strike you as less attractive than they actually are.
Having an awareness that people usually make relative judgements vs. absolute ones enables you to position requests in such a way that you increase the chance you achieve an optimal outcome.
Burrito Bowls and Contrast
My ideal outcome in burrito bowl land: get more chicken.
Would the fact that the burrito bowl was empty when they went to serve chicken cause the server to pile more chicken into the bowl?
I had to find out.
The next day I ventured into the wild and ordered a burrito bowl with no rice or beans. To my delight, they gave me a small mountain of chicken much larger than the typical serving. Yes!
Hmmm…was leveraging the contrast principle to get more meat a repeatable fast casual chain miracle or was this instance just a stroke of luck. Experiment time!
A Field Report From the Burrito Bowl Hacking Lab
Over the course of 2 weeks, I ordered 1 burrito bowl with rice and beans and 1 with just chicken at 3 separate burrito joints including Chipotle. I tried my best to prevent bias by varying my ordering each time.
- Ordered both burrito bowls concurrently (chicken only first)
- Ordered 1 burrito bowl with chicken and had a friend get a normal one immediately after me
- Ordered 1 burrito bowl with the works and came back an hour later to order one with just chicken
To my dismay, I was not able to consistently replicate the same degree of chicken over-serving as I had in that initial instance. The scenario where I ordered a bowl and had a friend get one behind me was the only instance where I got an unusually large serving of chicken. Sigh.
Some photo evidence from Tres Carnes.
Beyond the small sample size, there were a ton of imperfections with this experiment due to the variability of the environment. I.E. some servers are more generous than others, maybe the boss was there, someone was having a bad day – you get the picture.
One thing I did notice is that when I ham it up by being super friendly and ask for more meat, I consistently get served more everywhere I go.
The story does not end here. If you were reading this post, hoping to get a Chipotle Hack you can use I got you covered.
Chipotle Hack for More Meat in Your Burrito Bowl
Again, I’m pretty much a paleo/carnivore and my favorite part of a burrito bowl is the chicken and guac. The beans, salsa, and other condiments are secondary.
Instead of ordering a burrito bowl, order 3 sides of any meat and then a side of guac. You get way more meat and it’s actually cheaper than a chicken burrito bowl with guac.
Burrito bowl with guac: 10.75
3 sides of Chicken with guac: 9.75
If you need salsa, you can ask for it on the side after you’ve paid and they’ll give it to you free of charge.
Normal Burrito Bowl
3 Sides of Chicken with Guac
It might be hard to distinguish the difference from these pictures, but I can vouch first hand that you consistently get almost 2x more meat ordering this way. #winning
Bonus Points Ordering Note
When executing a sides only order, I’ve noticed that you can actually get even more meat by explicitly indicating from that you’re going to be eating the sides in a bowl when you order.
Note the difference in order language:
“I’m actually just going to order 3 sides of Chicken”
“I’m actually going to get 3 sides of Chicken in a bowl“
If you just ask for 3 sides they sometimes put the meat into the side containers like you see above. Though you’re still getting more meat than a normal bowl, the containers facilitate precise measurement.
Conversely, when ask in a way that leapfrogs side containers by going directly into a bowl, there’s a margin for measurement error which usually works in your favor. Me thinks that because the order is so peculiar and people desire acceptance, they overserve you when there’s any doubt about whether they’re making it correctly.
I’ve found using everyday interactions as a testing ground for social experiments like this to be incredibly fun and a great way to internalize behavioral psychology concepts you read about. I plan on sharing many more soon, so not a bad idea to subscribe by entering your email in the box below if you’re interested in hearing about them.
If you have any cool or interesting observations from testing psychological concepts in your daily interactions, please share them in the comments! I find this stuff crazy interesting.