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The viral Chipotle Philly cheesesteak quesadilla hack is taking a toll on some workers

“PROTEIN AND CHEESE ONLY ON QUESADILLA! No TikTok trends allowed,” reads a sign at one Chipotle.

A Chipotle menu hack is picking up steam across social media — and some of the fast-casual chain's workers are not happy about it.

On Dec. 20, 2022, TikTok user Alexis Frost shared a video of her sampling a Chipotle order she says was recommended to her by a Chipotle employee: a steak quesadilla with some specific modifications.

“The person that originally suggested this to me said that it tasted like a Philly cheesesteak,” says Frost in the video as she shows off a steak quesadilla with extra cheese and fajita veggies from her local Chipotle.

Taking a bite, she clearly endorses the menu hack, dipping a second bite into a pair of sauces that came with her quesadilla and taking another bite. “Definitely a 10,” she says.

The popular menu hack didn’t truly blow up until Frost's video was stitched by popular food-reviewing TikToker Keith Lee added a important yet complicating component to the menu hack: a special dipping sauce.

“I ordered it exactly how she said to and I warmed it up so it’s hot,” Lee says in his TikTok, which has garnered over 3.5 million views. “It do look good, but I ain’t gonna lie: First impression, I did not trust her opinion.”

Lee explains that he didn’t trust the original video because Frost didn’t include any vinaigrette, which makes sense, because the chain’s Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette typically only comes with an order of salad. Still, this new component added to the hack seems to have taken its virality to the next level.

“I need vinaigrette, it’s not a want — I need vinaigrette,” Lee says, adding that he drove back to his Chipotle because he asked for six vinaigrettes and only received three.

Before giving his official ruling, he combines the vinaigrette with a little bit of sour cream, to make his own custom dipping sauce for the quesadilla. Taking a bite, Lee proclaims the quesadilla hack with the added dipping sauce a “10 out of 10” — quite the declaration from a food reviewer with over 6.3 million followers.

Since this pair of videos went viral, other TikToks of people trying out the hack for themselves (and often loving it) took over the hashtags #quesadillahack, #chipotlehacks and more, each garnering tons of views.

“Oh s---, this is delicious,” says TikToker @soogia1 in her sampling video, which also garnered over 6 million views, fanning the flames of this already blazing hack.

But there are just as many videos and social media posts that show the other side of the Chipotle counter and what the workers have been going through because of this trend. On Dec. 30, TikTok user @andreamarchant3 shared a story of her going into her local Chipotle and attempting to order the custom quesadilla for herself but being denied at every turn from a young-looking Chipotle worker. Long story short, it was this worker's first day of training and they had already been subjected to a trial by Philly-cheesesteak-quesadilla fire.

“The manager said that so many people have come in today and confused us with this hack that the girl had said, 'Is there is there a secret Chipotle menu y’all didn’t teach me about?'" she says.

On Dec. 29, another TikTok user @bmar1992 posted a short clip showing a sign she saw posted at the register of her local Chipotle.

“PROTEIN AND CHEESE ONLY ON QUESADILLA! No TikTok trends allowed," reads the sign shown in the video. “Chipotle is being a Debbie downer,” reads the caption on the video, which has nearly 2 million views.

Another viral video regarding the hack’s backlash (or hacklash, if you will) which has since been taken down, showed a Chipotle worker describing the “WORST SHIFT” of her life which she directly attributed to having to make so many of these customized quesadillas.

Most of the comments on these videos from the customer perspective simply wonder why the hack is such an issue for a restaurant whose model is based on customization.

“Chipotle is like, no please don’t give us money,” reads one TikTok comment.

“It’s the way chipotles whole concept was that you could build your own meals and now they are limiting so many things like toppings on the tacos and-,” reads another TikTok comment.

“I’m floored they are refusing. Literally it’s a make your own bar. You can pick and choose what you want on each item on their menu. This is so wild,” said another commenter.

When reached for comment, a Chipotle spokerperson issued the following statement: "We’re amazed by the passion of our fans and their ability to find unique ways to enjoy our hand-crafted quesadillas with Chipotle’s real ingredients. Due to the preparation time required, quesadillas were designed to be digitally exclusive to best support our team members, avoid overcrowding on our front-line, and ensure guests have a seamless experience. Currently, our quesadilla offering does not include fajita veggies with a protein, however, we are exploring the possibilities of adding this combination in the future."

For those wondering why it seems to be such a problem for Chipotle workers to make what seems like an simple order, a post on subreddit r/Chipotle titled “PLEASE STOP TRYING TO GET THE CHEESTEAK [sic] HACK” tries to explain:

“I know it looks cool. But we recieved [sic] an email from our Field Leader that if employees are caught doing this for themselves or customers that it’s termination for Food Safety Violations and cross contamination at my Certified Training Restaurant,” wrote Redditor u/Environmental-Arm-92. “If we are getting hounded on before the first infraction incurs, I’m sure other Chipotles are too.”

“We can’t put fajitas in the quesadilla machine or excess cheese or meat, we just aren’t allowed and it isn’t worth my job,” they continued. "So please don’t be like the guy who swung at me last night and had the cops in store arrest him, and just try not to be mad at us. For a lot of us our jobs are potentially on the line."

Another Reddit user suggested a workaround for the sticky situation: "Order steak quesadilla / Order fajitas (free) / Put fajitas... Get this. In the quesadilla," wrote u/Zepertix.

“Chipotle employees are taught to not put anything other than the protein and cheese in the quesadilla maker. Things can get quite messy and things could break,” they added. “Chipotle got cucked by whoever sold them those machines. They are very fragile.”