At surface level, Moe’s Southwest Grill and Chipotle Mexican Grill are pretty much the same. Both are “fast casual” establishments, which mean that they’re just a step up from fast food (i.e., Taco Bell). Both serve burritos, burrito bowls and tacos. Ordering is the same at both places: you go down a line and the employees put in exactly what you want. However, as alike as they are, people usually have a strong preference as to which chain they prefer.
Out of 43 people surveyed by Valley, 31 preferred Chipotle and only 12 favored Moe’s. Interestingly, this appears to go against the way the majority of the country feels. In a 2016 Harris poll, Moe’s came out as America’s favorite Mexican fast food chain. Chipotle came out as number five, following Taco Bell, Qdoba Mexican Fresh Grill and Baja Fresh Mexican Grill respectively.
Even though Moe’s is technically the more popular option nationally, Chipotle is still the bigger name. Chipotle has been around since 1993 and has over 2,000 locations worldwide. Meanwhile, Moe’s was founded in 2000 and currently has about 600 locations. This may be why Penn Staters were so quick to vote Chipotle— they just know it better. One student surveyed, Max Greczyn, told VALLEY “I have to say Chipotle because I’ve never been to Moe’s, but I do love Chipotle.”
In defense of Chipotle, a student in the Division of Undergraduate Studies, Delaney Greczyn, said, “I like the different options they have.” The restaurant does offer more starter protein choices than its main competitor. Chipotle has chicken, steak, carnitas, tofu and barbacoa, while Moe’s only has carnitas, steak and chicken.
One thing that may have skewed Penn State student’s opinions is that Chipotle has a location right downtown within walking distance of the dorms. The closest Moe’s is a seven minute drive from campus. That’s no big deal for a true Moe’s fan, but people who are on the fence about the two will likely choose Chipotle for its convenience. Students without a car may not even have any choice other than Chipotle.
Something that Moe’s used to have in its corner was that it offered queso while Chiptole did not. However, this summer, Chipotle introduced queso to its menu with much fanfare. Now, Moe’s can no longer rely on just having queso to bring customers in.
One advantage Moe’s is holding on to comes after the main entree. Joe Nadonley, a sophomore engineering major, told Valley he prefers Moe’s because “they have free unlimited chips and salsa with every order. At Chipotle you have to pay for chips and you get a finite, very small amount.” Chipotle offers customers the chance to buy chips with their meal for $1.25 and salsa is sold separately. At Moe’s every order automatically comes with chips. If you finish your chips, you can go up and ask for more, free of charge. This is one advantage Chipotle can’t compete with.
While both restaurants have their advantages and disadvantages, VALLEY loves them both equally and would love to hear your opinions on them. Tweet us @ValleyMag telling us which one has your heart!