Midtown Manhattan’s intense need for burritos

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In Birmingham, Ala., where I used to live, lunch places start to fill up around 11:30 a.m. New York isn’t like that–the lunch rush hits here around 1. So when I headed out to look for food today at about 10 minutes before noon (I had gotten to work very early this morning, and needed sustenance), I had the brilliant idea of heading down to the Chipotle on 48th St. I’d beat the rush, I figured.

Anyway, the photo above, taken at 11:57 a.m., shows how wrong I was. The line continues to snake invisibly back to the right. By the standards of this particular Chipotle it wasn’t bad; maybe a 10 minute wait. But still, a line for lunch, in Manhattan, before noon. Steve Ells is messing with the natural order.

Update: This deep thought just in from a reader from another part of midtown Manhattan:

Today at Chipotle across from Bryant Park. At 11:48, about a 3 minute wait. By 11:55 — about 15 minutes.

What that means? There’s a very specific rule at Chipotle and I like to call it the 11:45 rule: if you show up at or before 11:45 there’s almost no line, but if you show up at 11:50, you’re gambling on losing 15-20 minutes of your life you’re never getting back. And while it’s easy to go pick up food from Chipotle before 11:45 if you’re fine with eating alone, it’s nearly impossible to drag friends or co-workers out that early. So, do you go early and enjoy your burrito in solitude, or do you go with friends a little later and stand in line talking about how ridiculous it is that people will wait 20 minutes in line for a burrito?

Since you write an economics blog, thought I would point out that for the committed Chipotle addict, it’s a borderline Nash equilibrium situation.