The next time you're alone in a Chipotle with a giant burrito and a bag of chips, you won't need to search your phone for something to keep your attention — there'll be some light reading right in front of you. Beginning today and rolling out in all locations over the coming weeks, Chipotle's cups and bags will each be covered in illustrations and feature a brief essay from a famous author, journalist, or comedian. The series was curated by Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), and in addition to his essay, features new works by George Saunders, Malcolm Gladwell, Judd Apatow, and Sarah Silverman, alongside five others.
"It might have really beautiful payoffs."The essays are meant to be quick, two-minute reads, and they cover a range of subjects. "We live in a world in which there is shrinking space for literature and writing, and less time than ever for quiet reflection," Foer says in a statement. "The idea of expanding the space and time, of creating a small pocket of thoughtfulness right in the middle of the busy day, was inspiring to me – particularly given the size and diversity of the audience, which is America itself."
Foer initially brought the idea up to Chipotle's CEO six or seven years ago. It may seem like a strange partnership — particularly given that Foer is the author of Eating Animals, a book discussing various issues with and the morality of eating meat — but Foer tells Vanity Fair, whose contributing editor, Michael Lewis, is among the essayists, that his interest lay in putting good writing in front of a diverse group of people. And by all means, with the names on board, it should be good writing. "The question isn't really, 'Is this going to change the world?'" Foer says in a video promoting the essays, "the question is, 'Is the is better than having a blank back?'"
The other contributors to what Chipotle is calling its "Cultivating Thought" series are Pulitzer Prize-winner Sheri Fink, Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison, psychologist Steve Pinker, and comedian Bill Hader. It's an impressive lineup, and shows Chipotle's continued interested in nontraditional means of promotion, such as its Hulu series, Farmed and Dangerous. This time, however, there's reportedly no promotional slant to the essays themselves. The pieces are all available to read online too, though you may want to hold off if you're one of the chain's frequent diners. "In the general scheme of things, in the scheme of corporate America, this is not a massive investment of any kind," Foer says, "but it might have really beautiful payoffs."