The phrase “doing things the Chipotle way” is increasingly heard in the U.S. restaurant industry, where Chipotle Mexican Grill is held up as a paradigm of successful restaurant growth. To some it means mimicking the chain’s principles of simple menus and sparsely decorated restaurants. Others say it implies the freshness-first mentality of assembling food in front of customers, a tactic that’s now the hallmark of fast-casual restaurants.

But what’s undeniable and arguably most significant is how the Chipotle way also implies contrarianism in the form of its founder’s insistence on growing his chain his way.

Since Steve Ells opened the first Chipotle in Denver in 1993, the chain has grown to more than 1,600 restaurants. The public parent company also operates about 10 stores representing two additional brands. All units are company owned and operated.

In the 21 years Chipotle has been operational, Ells has tested only a handful of new items to consider adding to his legendarily lean menu, with only two additions making the cut. His insistence on sourcing humanely and sustainably raised, hormone-free, and non-GMO ingredients pushed Chipotle’s food cost and menu prices higher than the industry average. Yet brand loyalists appear to have no problem with the level of menu variety, or with paying more for food they believe is good for them and the planet.

Same-store sales have never declined since Chipotle’s 2006 initial public offering, and the chain is currently fueling the development of its newest concepts, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen and Pizzeria Locale. One can be certain those two offspring will be raised the Chipotle way.