If you've ever thought to yourself, while eating a burrito, "Hey, I'd love to read a story by a famous author on my cup of Diet Coke," great news: Starting today, Chipotle's cups will feature original stories by Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and Jonathan Safran Foer.
Foer told Vanity Fair he came up with the idea while eating a burrito after he'd forgotten to bring a book or his phone to read. "I really just wanted to die with frustration," Foer said, so he wrote Steve Ells, Chipotle's C.E.O., an email.
"I said, 'I bet a shitload of people go into your restaurants every day, and I bet some of them have very similar experiences, and even if they didn't have that negative experience, they could have a positive experience if they had access to some kind of interesting text,'" Foer recalled. "And 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.'"
Wouldn't Foer, who wrote an entire book about vegetarianism and ethical eating, have a problem with Chipotle, which serves huge amounts of meat each day? Nope.
"There were things that I had to at least think about, like the fact that they serve meat, and I don't eat meat," Foer said. "And the fact that they're a sizable corporation, and that I don't tend to get involved with sizable corporations any more than I have to, and the fact that I have no interest in marketing for anyone or endorsing anything. That having been said, I got to know quite a bit about the company, not in the process of doing this, but in the process of Eating Animals Chipotle was pointed to quite often, as a model of what scaling good practices might look like."
But the real reason for Foer's plan? To help the people who frequent Chipotle but somehow lack access to libraries, bookstores, or the internet.
"I mean, I wouldn't have done it if it was for another company like a McDonald's, but what interested me is 800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing. A lot of those people don't have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this."