Co-opetition: A food industry example

I’m reading an AMA periodical and an article on Chipotle has a brilliant bit about co-opetition. In case you haven’t heard the term, it was popularized by the 1997 book of the same name. The concept is that complex markets see companies act as both competitors and partners depending on what’s happening.

The relevant section is when the author is describing that Chipotle wanted to only buy thigh meat from a vendor but that wasn’t economical for either company. “But it just so happened that Panera Bread used only chicken breast meat in its recipes, so Chipotle approached its competitor with the idea of working together to more economically source all-natural chicken meat for both restaurant chains. Previously, Bell & Evans mostly supplied high-end restaurants willing to pay a significant price premium. With the Chipotle/Panera cooperation, new economies emerged that didn’t exist before, allowing fast-casual chains to afford to purchase the naturally raised meat and still be profitable.

Chipotle’s management wasn’t scared about contacting a competitor with a suggestion that would help both companies. That’s good management.

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