Your chips and guac, steak and spicy corn always find a way to melt my heart.
But, as a communicator, what really ignites my desire for Chipotle (all day everyday) is how well the E.coli outbreak crisis was and still is being handled.
Some PR pros criticized Chipotle Mexican Grill’s chief financial officer, Jack Hartung, for being defensive when the E.coli outbreak crisis first struck the media in late October 2015. The CFO, Hartung, stated “the media likes to write sensational headlines, we can probably see when somebody sneezes that they’re going to say, ‘Ah, it’s E. coli from Chipotle’ for a little bit of time,” according to this PR Daily article.
For critics and customers, this made it hard for them to decide if Chipotle’s corporate department really cared for its customers and their well-being. For them, it seemed like the fast food chain was blaming its outbreak on innocent institutions, such as the media and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Sure, Chipotle made some mistakes by not addressing the issue with transparency at first, but the restaurant wins the award for the best guac and the best proactive crisis communications in my book.
Chipotle learned their lesson.
Co-chief executive officer, Steve Ells, released a statement just shortly after the New Year emphasizing
anyone becoming ill eating at Chipotle is completely unacceptable to me and I am deeply sorry. As a result, we are committed to becoming known as the leader in food safety, just as we are known for using the very best ingredients in a fast food setting.
As if this sweet apology letter after a bad breakup didn’t change your mood, the Mexican grill restaurant also released statistics on its website by not shying away from the shocking number of E.coli outbreak, Salmonella and Norovirus cases due to its contaminated food.
Chipotle’s brand managers live-tweeted the company’s food safety meeting just last Monday, on February 8. They discussed the new tomatoes dicing protocol, tasting and shipment process that will be established to reduce risks of outbreaks. The directors also implemented a paid sick leave program as an incentive for sick employees to follow company policies and reduce contamination exposure. Because Chipotle closed down all U.S locations for lunch rush, the fast food chain had a free burrito coupon available on its website if you texted ‘raincheck’ to the number provided.
Talk about transparency!
Chipotle did it again. The company’s communications management proactively and reactively exemplified how any company, whether in the restaurant industry or not, should respond under crisis.
A passionate PR student and guac lover.
P.S. Thanks for my free burrito.