Before the age of smartphones and restaurant-provided dining companions, it was imperative to have reading material when eating alone. Apparently, being stuck at a table with no literary stimulation is especially traumatic if you’re an actual author.

According to a Vanity Fair interview, Jonathan Safran Foer (Eating Animals, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) once found himself in a Chipotle without anything to read and “just really wanted to die with frustration.”

The heinous experience led to a lightbulb moment: Safran Foer emailed Chipotle’s CEO Steve Ells and suggested that he start publishing quality writing on Chipotle’s packaging.


Safran Foer told VF,

“Unlike McDonald’s, it’s not like they’re selling their surfaces to the highest bidder. They had nothing on their bags.  So I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to just put some interesting stuff on it? Get really high-quality writers of different kinds, creating texts of different kinds that you just give to your customers as a service.’”

Thus came to pass the burrito chain’s Cultivating Thought initiative, which rolls out today featuring original work by Safran Foer, Malcolm Gladwell, Toni Morrison, George Saunders and Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Lewis. The text was curated and edited by Safran Foer, which is why that last sentence reads like the guest list at David Remnick’s birthday party.


You can read three of the vignettes on the Vanity Fair website, but you’ll actually have to go into a Chipotle to read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest published work. We’ll just pause for a moment while that sinks in.

This foray into highbrow culture has seriously raised Chipotle’s game. The ball’s in your court, Taco Bell.

[via Vanity Fair]