MONEY Food & Drink

Chipotle CEO Freely Admits He’s Unsure About the Company’s Future

A restaurant worker fills an order at a Chipotle restaurant in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

And that's great news for investors.

When Chipotle Mexican Grill CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL INC. CMG 2.1878% released third-quarter results in October, the numbers were awe-inspiring.

Revenue jumped 31.1% year over year to $1.08 billion, helped by an amazing 19.8% increase in comparable-restaurant sales. Meanwhile, restaurant level operating margin climbed by 200 basis points to 28.8%, cash generated from operating activities rose 41.4% to $549.8 million, and net income increased a whopping 56.9% to $130.8 million.

However, the market was much less enthusiastic about Chipotle’s guidance, driving shares down 7% after the burrito maker called for 2015 comparable-restaurant sales to increase in the low- to mid-single digit range. During the subsequent conference call, analysts unsurprisingly grilled Chipotle management on exactly how they reached that range. After all, it seemed especially conservative considering Chipotle’s Q3 performance had just capped a six-quarter streak of accelerating comps growth.

Chipotle doesn’t have a clue

Here’s how Chipotle Chairman and co-CEO Steve Ells responded:

We don’t spend a lot of time trying to predict how we are going to leap over that number. What we do is, we take our current sales trends and we literally just push them out over the next 14 months — for the rest of this year and then for all of 2015. … This is the way we have always predicted comps. … [W]e really don’t have a magic approach or a crystal ball to predict how you are going to exceed like a 19% comp, for example.

Translation? Chipotle is happily ignorant when it comes to determining precisely what future comps will be. The company simply extrapolate sales trends out, as it always has, to get a rough ballpark figure of what the coming year might look like.

Why this is a great thing

And to be honest, though that might seem unsettling, I think Chipotle investors should be perfectly happy with this approach for two reasons.

First, though it’s true comps give us an idea of how effectively Chipotle is drawing in new customers and keeping them coming back for more, it’s far from a perfect metric to gauge the long-term prospects of the business. Comps tend to naturally ebb and flow with irregular events like price increases, as well as difficult (or easy) year-over-year comparisons. In the end, I’m relatively unconcerned that Chipotle’s not-so-scientific approach at modeling comps predicts it may finally decelerate growth from 19.8% — which, by the way, was its best result since going public in 2006.

On the other hand, I suppose near-term disappointments with comparable-store sales do create buying windows for opportunistic investors.

Second, note Chipotle is focusing on what really matters instead. Ells elaborated:

We are constantly working on improving our customer experience, we are constantly working on improving our people culture, and we are constantly looking to upgrade the quality of our ingredients. … So we are constantly working on the things that will enhance the dining experience. And over the years it has paid off, so that when we do a good job, when we have great teams, and when they do a good job of providing a great dining experience, customers want to come back to Chipotle more often.

Notice nowhere in that comment were actual comps mentioned. Rather, Ells has a singular focus on improving the Chipotle experience for customers, from fostering its amiable culture all the way down to improving the quality of its already excellent food.

In short, he’s thinking about Chipotle Mexican Grill not just as a stock ticker or piece of paper, but rather as the living, thriving, growing business it truly is. From an investor’s standpoint, it’s hard to think of a better way to create shareholder value than that.

TIME Food & Drink

This is What Alcohol Does to Your Sleep

couple toasting with champaigne glasses
Getty Images

Sorry to burst your champagne bubble, but drinking more alcohol often adds up to less sleep

You may want to think twice before pouring that nightcap—it turns out alcohol could be wreaking major havoc on your sleep. Even though it’s the season for spiked hot cocoa, extra glasses of wine, and alcohol-fueled holiday parties, climbing into bed after downing all those drinks can leave you feeling less than jolly the next morning.

Alcohol wakes you up at night.

While knocking back a glass or two might help you fall asleep faster, going to bed with a buzz may also lead to a worse night’s sleep. Scientists reviewed 20 different studies and concluded that the tradeoff to dozing off after consuming alcohol is waking up more easily later on in the night.

It cuts into your REM sleep.

REM sleep is essential to a good night’s rest. It has a long list of benefits, including daytime alertness, improved learning, and better long-term memory, as well as allowing us to process our emotions, saysDr. Philip Gehrman, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. The problem with alcohol is that it has a significant impact on REM sleep, which can hurt long-term memory and make us more irritable. “Basically, alcohol is a REM suppressant,” saysGehrman. “The more we drink, the less REM we get.”

Too many drinks can trigger heartburn.

And that uncomfortable burning sensation wake us up or keep us awake in the first place. Alcohol has been known to relax the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle between your stomach and esophagus that’s supposed to be closed except for when you’re swallowing food. However, when you throw too many drinks into the mix, the muscle can relax and stay open for too long, causing stomach acid to come back up, which results in a burning feeling. Unfortunately, caffeine can have a similar effect, so if eliminating alcohol doesn’t decrease your heartburn, you may want to cut back on that too.

It sends you to the bathroom.

While “breaking the seal” may be a total myth, alcohol’s effect on the bladder is a real one. The fact is that consuming alcohol, a diuretic, can make you go more. Our bodies generally produce less urine at night than throughout the day, allowing us to sleep about six to eight hours without needing to visit the bathroom. However, drinking alcohol before bed can cause us to wake up in the middle of the night with the urge to go, disrupting our sleep cycle.

Alcohol and sleeping aids absolutely do not mix.

Whether you’re taking a prescription or leaning on other sleep aids, mixing them with alcohol can be harmful and sometimes downright dangerous. Both alcohol and most sleep medications target the neurotransmitter GABA, which calms our nervous activity. Because many sleep aids and alcohol target the same neural system, drinking too much can turn into a deadly combination, inhibiting parts of the brain that are necessary for survival like breathing and heart beating, Gehrman says. While many new sleep medications may not have as large of a risk, the safest bet is to never mix any kind of sleep aid with alcohol.

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TIME Food & Drink

7 Ingenious Hacks to Make Hot Chocolate Even Better

Yes, it's possible. Check out these clever tricks

What’s better than a steaming mug of thick, creamy hot chocolate on a chilly day? Not much—except maybe a mug scented with cardamom, cinnamon and other chai spices, or a grown-up version spiked with amaretto and sea salt. Can’t decide? You don’t have to. Take a look at our rich and chocolatey master recipe—plus a few of our favorite hot chocolate “hacks”—all of which are as easy to make as they are indulgent.

hot chocolate chart
Graphic by Onethread Design

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TIME Food & Drink

9 Classic Christmas and Holiday Cocktails Everyone Should Know

Hosting a holiday party? Or just having a festive night at home? Whip up one of these delicious drinks

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to make merry! No matter what you’re celebrating, this is the perfect time of year for sharing a festive cocktail with family and friends. Craving the warming wallop of a hot toddy or the tart, sophisticated tickle of a champagne cocktail? We’ve got you covered with this roster of classic holiday cocktails—every one of which is worth cheering.

Graphic by Onethread Design

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TIME Food & Drink

10 Classic Cocktails You Should Try This Holiday Season

From hot toddies to spiked eggnog, what to serve at your holiday gathering

The holiday season is full of decisions, so when it comes to pouring cocktails, make your life easier and stick with crowd-pleasing standards.


  • Hot Toddy

    Hot Rum Toddy
    Paul —Getty Images

    Not only a festive choice for winter, but also the unofficial cocktail for people with colds, the hot toddy is the perfect antidote to cold-weather blues: hot water, lemon, bourbon, lemon and cinnamon or star anise.

  • Spiked Eggnog

    Spiked Eggnog
    Debbi Smirnoff—Getty Images

    If you want to get fancy, make your own eggnog with eggs, milk and sugar. Otherwise, pop open a carton and simply add your choice of bourbon, brandy or rum. Bonus points for a sprinkling of nutmeg.

  • Mulled Wine

    Mulled Wine
    Getty Images

    Whether you call it glühwein, glögg or plain old mulled wine, few drinks can fill your home with as welcoming an aroma as hot red wine, cinnamon, cloves and citrus.

  • Brandy Alexander

    Brandy Alexander
    Christian Kargl—Getty Images

    Like a snowball in a glass, a Brandy Alexander is on the simpler end of the spectrum for a shaken cocktail: just shake equal parts brandy, crème de cacao and heavy cream with ice.

  • Hot Buttered Rum

    Hot Buttered Rum
    Steve Buchanan—Getty Images

    Long before Americans started adding butter to their morning cup of joe to make bulletproof coffee, they were melting it in their holiday cocktails to make hot buttered rum. Quickly simmer water, butter and winter spices, then add your favorite rum.

  • Gingersnap

    Phoebe Lapine—Getty Images

    Match your cocktail to your cookies with this concoction of lemon, honey, ginger and bourbon.

  • Spiked Cider

    Janine Lamontagne—Getty Images

    Give the people what they want: hot apple cider with a hearty splash of bourbon or rum. Serve punch-style to keep life simple.

  • Peppermint Vodka

    Peppermint Vodka
    Getty Iamges

    If you prefer on-the-rocks drinks, add holiday cheer to your glass by infusing vodka with peppermint: just steep candy canes in decent vodka for half an hour, strain and serve over ice.

  • Spiked Hot Chocolate

    Spiked Hot CHocolate
    John E. Kelly—Getty Images

    Serve dessert in a cocktail glass by adding whiskey to your favorite hot chocolate recipe — for best results, avoid the powdered stuff.

  • Classic Champagne Cocktail

    Champagne Cocktail
    Rob Palmer—Getty Images

    When it comes time for Auld Lang Syne, most folks want to break out the champagne. Make it slightly more festive by adding bitters, sugar and cognac.

TIME health

How Alcoholics Anonymous Got Its Start

An Alcoholics Anonymous Member points to available literature, in 1967 Duane Howell—Denver Post Archive/Getty Images

The founder of AA had his last drink 80 years ago on Dec. 11, 1934

Though anonymity is the hallmark of Alcoholics Anonymous, its founder’s name is well-known: Bill Wilson, often called Bill W., bought his last drink 80 years ago — on Dec. 11, 1934 — before entering the hospital where he had the epiphany that became the foundation of AA.

Here’s how the magazine described what happened:

Psychiatrists now generally consider alcoholism a disease, specifically a psychoneurosis. Alcoholics generally drink, not just because they like liquor, but to escape from something—a mother fixation, inferiority feelings, an intolerable domestic situation, social or economic maladjustment. They may suffer the torments of the damned, even while drinking themselves into a stupor, and especially in the brief period between waking up with a remorseful, clattering hangover and getting down the first drink of the day. Psychiatrists try to help them by discovering the hidden reason for drinking and showing how it can be removed. But cynics in sanatoriums, watching a sober man walk out the door full of good intentions, often bet on how many days or weeks will elapse before he is back. Nagging by families usually makes things worse.

About five years ago a traveling salesman named Bill, after repeated alcoholic relapses, was pronounced hopeless by his doctors. Bill was an agnostic, but some one asked him if he couldn’t believe that there was some power bigger than himself—call it God or whatever he liked—that would help him not to drink. The idea was that though Bill was always willing to let himself down, he might be more reluctant to let God down. Bill tried it, found that he had no trouble resisting the desire to drink. He was cured. He told his discovery to others, and the cure spread. These reformed drunkards called themselves “Alcoholics Anonymous,” now number about 400 in towns all over the U. S. They do their missionary work on their own time, as an avocation.

Today, AA estimates that it has over 2 million members worldwide.

Read the full 1940 story, here in the TIME Vault: “Alcoholics Anonymous”

TIME Food & Drink

SantaCon Hires Famous Civil Rights Lawyer to Defend Its Bar Crawl

Revelers Dressed As Santa Take Part In Annual Bar Crawl Thru NYC
Revelers dressed as Santa Claus drink inside at a bar in the East Village neighborhood during the annual SantaCon bar crawl event on December 14, 2013 in New York City. The SantaCon annual event occurs worldwide in more than 300 cities in 44 countries. In New York some community groups have established a 'Santa Free' zone that urges bars not to serve alcoholic beverages to people participating in order to dissuade incidents of public vomiting and urination in the streets. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images) Kena Betancur—Getty Images

Several neighborhoods in NYC have banned the event, which has gained infamy for disorderly, drunken behavior of its participants in past years

SantaCon, an annual pub crawl in New York City that has earned a reputation for reckless debauchery, has retained famed civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel to represent them.

SantaCon has made headlines over the past several years as its Santa-suit clad participants have been caught publicly urinating, vomiting and engaging in sexual behavior (yes, really) on the street, scarring many children with the bad luck to pass by wasted versions of the man who supposedly brings them presents every year. Several neighborhoods in New York, tired of the inevitable mess and brawls, have banned the event this year.

Siegel, however, defended the Santas’ right to bar hop. “People need to be able to express themselves and do it within the parameters of the First Amendment,” he told Gothamist. Siegel recently represented nurse Kaci Hickox, who was forcibly quarantined in New Jersey after she returned from helping to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Though the crawl has historically taken place in the East Village in Manhattan, Community Board 3 (which oversees the East Village, Lower East Side and parts of Chinatown neighborhoods) has officially banned the revelers. When the group tried to relocate to Bushwick in Brooklyn, city council members encouraged bars to boycott the event, forcing the SantaCon to change locations again. SantaCon’s final route is still a mystery: it’s set to take place on Dec. 13, and the final route is usually announced the day before.

As locals make plans to spend the day uptown to avoid running into hundreds of publicly intoxicated, red-suited participants, SantaCon announced in a statement that it is making changes this year to try to work with the community:

“While this event will always poke fun at society and the overly-commercialized aspects of the holiday (culture jamming), Santa and the Elves are working closely with city officials, the Parks Department and NYPD on better formats to manage the event while growing it as a much beloved annual tradition for the city.”

Organizers are promoting the hashtag #DontScroogeSantaCon this year in hopes of curbing bad behavior.

SantaCon’s plans will likely be further complicated by a planned rally for Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others killed by police called “Day of Anger: Millions March NYC,” also taking place on Saturday. The protest will meet in Washington Square Park near the East Village.

TIME Food & Drink

How a McDonald’s Restaurant Spawned the Slow Food Movement

The McDonald's arches logo is displayed outside a McDonald's
The McDonald's arches logo is displayed outside a McDonald's fast food restaurant Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Slow Food Manifesto was signed 25 years ago, on Dec. 10, 1989

When Italy’s first McDonald’s franchise opened at the heart of Rome in 1986, the opposition came from all angles. Officials said it didn’t have the right construction permits; celebrities called it the “Americanization of Italy”; politicians said it ruined a historic center; neighbors said it was noisy and its odor unbearable; thousands of people rallied outside the location in the Piazza di Spagna.

One of the opponents, an Italian journalist named Carlo Petrini, took a novel approach by handing out plates of penne to the protesters.

“I was alarmed by the culturally homogenizing nature of fast food,” Petrini told TIME years later, in the magazine May 17, 1999, issue.

The McDonald’s franchise, said at the time to be the world’s largest, remained — but Petrini’s grievances would extend far beyond the Piazza di Spagna. He established the Slow Food association that year, aiming to protect traditional foods and advocating for agricultural biodiversity,

On Dec. 10, 1989, three years after the franchise opened in Rome and 25 years ago today, he joined representatives of 15 countries in Paris for the signing of the Slow Food Manifesto, and the international Slow Food movement was born.

Today, the movement boasts more than 150,000 members across 150 countries. TIME described Petrini in 2004 as a revolutionary who “changed the way we think about eating.”

And it was all thanks to McDonald’s.

Read TIME’s 2008 story about the movement: Can Slow Food Feed the World?

TIME Food & Drink

A Harvard Professor Launched an Epic Rant Over an Extra $4 on his Chinese Takeout Bill

And here's what the Twitterverse had to say

A man ordered Chinese takeout. Things went downhill from there.

Ben Edelman, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, expected his takeout order from Boston-area restaurant Sichuan Garden to come to $53.35.

But the bill for his meal from the Brookline, MA, restaurant — shredded chicken with spicy garlic sauce, sauteed prawns with roasted chilli and peanut, stir-fried chicken with spicy capsicum, and braised fish filets and napa cabbage with roasted chilli — was $4 too high, reports, based on menu prices Edelman saw online.

So the professor emailed the restaurant to ask why. Ran Duan, who owns a bar in one of the restaurant’s other locations (his parents founded the eatery), replied. The email exchange escalated. It ended with Edelman still out $4, a worker at a “mom and pop” Chinese restaurant wondering if all this was really “worth your [Edelman’s] time,” and a lot of Twitter rage for Edelman, Harvard, lawyers, and grade inflation, among other things.

Here’s that rage:

Word is getting out. A Harvard professor has behaved badly:

Uh oh, no one is surprised. Harvard’s name is getting besmirched:

And we do mean besmirched:

Well, Harvard Business School, to be specific. HBS is to blame.

Also, privilege, elitism, and grade inflation:

Whoops, all lawyers are going down over this, too:

And everyone in tech:

Now, how shall we punish Edelman?

Or maybe just tweets like this will do:

Don’t worry Edelman, not everyone hates you:

There is chatter about an entertaining sequel:

Let’s all head to Sichuan Garden and plan one:

Except, Edelman is not invited. Actually, everyone is a bit curious, if nervous, about what it might be like to have dinner with Edelman:

We’ll probably never find out, though. Edelman is escorted out of society:

And we are left to reflect on its rubble:

Read next: Twitter Just Made It Easier to Block Haters

TIME Food & Drink

Exclusive: Go Inside the Last Days of wd~50

Get a behind-the-scenes look into the closing of one of the world’s first American avant-garde restaurants

After 11 years of dishing out innovative cuisines, wd~50, a New York City landmark for modernist cooking led by the imaginative Wylie Dufresne, closed its doors. TIME received exclusive access to the restaurant’s last days leading up to its final plating. Check back for the full video in early 2015.

Read Next: Wylie Dufresne Prepares to Close wd-50

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