How it all started
As we all know, in late 2015 Chipotle’s sales plunged due to an E. coli outbreak. Despite having a rising reputation in the beginning of 2015, it wasn’t until August 2015 that over 60 Chipotle loving customers became ill from a California Chipotle restaurant. That very next month there was a salmonella outbreak related to tomatoes, this was linked to 17 Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota sickening an average of 45 customers. This all came on the heels of Chipotle’s announcement that they banned all GMO foods from their menu, a move they had begun heavily marketing. Unfortunately, the campaign had the opposite effect. The campaign was met with backlash, criticism, and distrust making it crucial for the brand to voice the reasoning behind its GMO ban.
So why the hate?
While initial responses to the campaign came back positive it took a sharp turn and people started to question Chipotle’s motives and reasoning. We’ve all heard GMO’s are bad, but why? Most people view this GMO ban as a “gimmick” or “junkscience” to build their reputation and appeal to millennials. The biggest issues with the GMO ban is the lack of scientific evidence behind it and the lack of communication from the company. Going back to what we talked about in class, it’s important to answer the “why” question. By skipping over that simple, yet crucial explanation it left a big gap for questioning and skepticism.
Will Chipotle make a comeback?
Well in order for Chipotle to have a full comeback they need to reach out to their customers on a more personal level to show that they care. Although they do have facts available online through their website, Chipotle needs to step up their game and go above and beyond to prove they are motivated and willing to give their customers a better understanding of the brand’s goals and values, so that their decision to go non-GMO may become more embraced rather than be heavily inspected.
How Chipotle responded
After the incident, Chipotle did not abandon their non-GMO stance, but rather completely retooled how they inspect the safety of their food. They mandated that all store managers are required to become licensed food safety inspectors, they bolstered their in store technology to monitor various food safety hazards, increased the traceability of their ingredients from farms, and much more that can be found at this link: https://www.chipotle.com/foodsafety. Chipotle marketed these changes to reassure the public that the food safety issue would not occur again. This strategy seems to have worked because Chipotle has continued to grow as a brand and has not had another major food safety problem since their new regulations were introduced.
Even though Chipotle has responded and upped the standards for their managers they should have communicated quicker to their customers. As mentioned earlier, even though they have explanations on their websites the customers don’t want to seek out the information. Chipotle needed to bring the information to the customers, not the other way around. After the initial backlash, Chipotle should have quickly responded by having an exec step up, either through a Reddit AMA, Youtube video, or an interview with a popular media outlet.
Team 1 – Claire Campbell, Allison Pouria, Allen Rodriguez, Cason Brownlee