john knightWhen Chipotle Mexican Grill needs help with restaurant design, concept development, or creating continuity between their food truck and restaurant experience, the iconic chain turns to John Knight (photo right) of Maverick Consulting, LLC. Knight has been involved with Chipotle since the early days of the company working with a small team of only four people, including the owner Steve Ells to identify and establish the concept of the lifestyle brand.

In this interview Knight shares his perspective on the mobile food industry, working with major brands such as Chipotle and Noodles and Co., and what it takes to create a memorable restaurant brand with the potential for scale. Whether you’re still in the process of developing the concept for your first restaurant or are already a culinary entrepreneur there’s something in this interview that applies to you.

Quotes from the Show

Typically our approach is to start right from the menu. Then work to the service model and how we can get the customer the best food possible for the best service time. And get through puts, especially in the fast-casual market and the food-truck market, the secret is to keep the customers flowing through. Especially as you only have two hours to make 80%+ of your business, which is the lunch crowd. – John Knight on his high-level approach to working with fast-casual restaurants and food trucks.

If somebody has an idea for a food truck. First, make sure your food is good. And then there will be 1,000 obstacles… Just ignore them. Just do it and make mistakes. – John Knight’s on learning how to operate a new food truck business. 


Photo Credit: Chipotle

What You’ll Learn

  • John Knight’s approach to concept development for a new restaurant
  • Why Chipotle identified college campuses as the desired location of their first restaurants
  • Why major restaurant chains view food trucks more of a marketing tool than a source of revenue
  • How the “Chipotle experience” was able to be recreated on a food truck, in part by lowering the serving window or counter to the same level that you would have at the restaurant and making other adjustments to the vehicle itself.
  • The definition of concept development for a restaurant
  • The importance of creating a lifestyle brand instead of just building another restaurant
  • Why a simple menu that’s more easily executed is critical for success
  • Why scalability is critical if you want to compete in the fast-casual space
  • The reason social-media and building a fan-base is so critical for pop-ups and food trucks
  • Some of the reasons large restaurant chains have trouble with change

Mentioned During the Show – The official website of Maverick Consulting, LLC. Learn more about the companies Knight’s group has advised and read the blog posts I recommended in the how here and here.

A short list of projects Knight / Maverick Consulting has worked with in the past include:  

Chipotle Mexican Grill – Nice conversation on how Chipotle’s food truck was developed included in today’s interview.

Shop House – Brand that Knight has consulted with and mentioned in the show.

America’s Next Great Restaurant – Television show that Knight worked with in the past.

6 Things You Didn’t Know about Chipotle – Article published on the Huffington Post I felt was relevant to this week’s show.

While Whale Kickstarter – Help fund Denver’s upscale ice cream truck and get rewarded in the process. Featured on the show.

white whale truck

The new White Whale Truck is Awesome.

iTunes – Enjoy the show? Leave us a comment on iTunes. We love those things!

Want to start your own food business?

Hey! 👋I’m Brett Lindenberg, the founder of Food Truck Empire.

We interview successful founders and share the stories behind their food trucks, restaurants, food and beverage brands. By sharing these stories, I want to help others get started.

If you liked this story, sign up for our newsletter that includes our food business startup kit and most popular interviews sent straight to your inbox.

Know someone interesting that should be interviewed on the website? Tell us about them here.