In the beginning, Chipotle took the fast-food industry and concept by storm. Founder and former CEO Steve Ells committed all of his time and effort into ensuring that Chipotle is a wholesome, and environmentally-friendly brand with the mission statement being: “Food with integrity is our commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.” During their long and tumultuous 23-year journey, the brand has neglected important aspects in relation to their transparency.
After a history of public health scares following contamination in restaurants, Chipotle finally spilled the beans about their true internal transparency regarding the Sterling, Virginia norovirus outbreak. This was the first time Chipotle admitted to an employee being the root of the cause, whereas in past instances the company steered clear of giving a direct answer on the root of the contamination. Despite their efforts to maintain transparency externally, a lack of communication as well as protocol enforcement internally have produced some issues. We can see Ells’ efforts to maintain a positive public image by quoting their protocols as “excellent” and “designed by leading experts,” but only if employees follow them. In a nationwide restaurant closure, Steve Ells conducted an employee food safety meeting providing employees an opportunity to ask questions and establish stronger internal bonds. One important message delivered: Employee’s should not be scared to call into work if they are showing any forms of illness.
At the end of the day, Chipotle is still a brand we all know and love. But with the recent string of events, can we really trust the food inside the foil? Are we really being served “food with integrity,” or grub with a side of food poisoning? We hope for Chipotle’s continued success as they continue down this long path of recovery, because who doesn’t love a good burrito?