Jon Acuff Guest Post: Life Lessons From a Burrito


I used to hate Chipotle.

The idea of paying for chips felt so counter to everything a great Mexican restaurant stood for.

But in the last few years, I’ve learned how awesome Chipotle actually is.

I think their food is fresh, fast and delicious.

I’m a big fan.

That’s why I was excited when I saw their new promotion.

Right now, you can win burritos for 20 years!

The ad shows a treasure chest full of gold-plated burritos.

That is awesome and actually ends up being a great lesson in perceived value.

Do you know what 20 years of burritos is actually worth?


That’s not a ton of money for a company who had a net—not gross—income of $278 million in 2012 to give away as a grand prize. In fact, on average, Chipotle makes $9 per person and serves 300 people an hour. So in less than four hours they have made that amount of money. They actually serve approximately 750,000 customers every day. Granted, there are a ton of expenses, but at the end of the day, it’s a small prize.

Why did Chipotle do it then?

Because sometimes perceived value matters more than real value.

When people see a treasure chest of gold burritos they don’t think, I bet after taxes that represents a total of about $5,000. They made $278 million and they’re giving me $5,000. Pretty amazing!

No, people see this and think about free burritos (one a week) for 20 years! That has a much bigger perceived value than real value. And that’s key for you to remember any time you launch a dream that requires fans, friends or shoppers. And Chipotle actually has real value because the total amount of prizes they are giving away is around $400,000.

The big win, however—the best thing you can do—is to combine perceived value with real value.

That’s why we created the Start Society. It’s essentially a VIP experience for the Start Conference this September. The title “VIP” has some perceived value, but without real value it’s useless.

So we added:

  • Pre-event, one-on-one coaching with me.
  • Reserved, VIP seating
  • Invitation to dinner at Mangia with me and special guests
  • Entry to Start Society VIP lounge
  • Free ticket to Friday’s writer workshop
  • Exclusive pre- and post-event group conference calls with me
  • Discount on marketplace booth rental
  • Private access to bonus content
  • Other surprises and exclusive giveaways

We then priced it lower than most conferences make you pay for a regular ticket.

We combined perceived value with real value. You can learn more about it here.

And now it’s your turn.

As you build your dream, you must have perceived value. That gets people in the door. That helps people actually notice you among all the noise. Once they are there, though, you have to give them real value or they will leave.

Perceived + Real = Awesome.

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