When news about David Einhorn betting against Chipotle came out today, it was obvious there was at least one person who would disagree: Slate Moneybox writer Matt Yglesias, who believes in the innovation of Chipotle so much, he famously compared Chipotle (a food place) to Apple (you know, that one). But that was no one-time economics and food comparison. Matt Yglesias, we're on to you: You love getting econ ideas at lunch.
Idea: Food service industry innovates just like tech companies.
Entrepreneurs in the food industry don't get enough credit for innovating, such as Steve Ellis of Chipotle, as Yglesias wrote in February.
Ells invented a way to maintain the basic speed and experience of the standard fast-food experience and make the quality of the food a little better. The better food costs a bit more money, but consumers turn out to be happy to pay a premium for a superior product."
Idea: Innovation can't be calculated.
In a post Tuesday about the poor methods of calculating innovation, Yglesias references one of his favorite restaurants, Chop't, a New York/DC salad chain. Its innovations might not necessarily make it into a typical economic innovation calculator, like counting patents:
One thing they do is that at peak demand times when the store gets crowded and things get hectic, they employ a guy to serve as a kind of 'traffic cop' who directs customers to the optimal line to order at. This might be a good idea or might be a bad one. But if it's working for them, it's a real example of [total factor productivity]-boosting innovation.
Idea: Structural factors impact the deliciousness of some foods.
When Reuters columnist Felix Salmon wondered why taco trucks are so good in March, of course Yglesias had some input. It's not fresh tortillas that do it. It's that trucks have low overhead so "the only competitive edge available is to make the food good," and tacos, which can be eaten while standing, are particularly suited to trucks.