In her article “Chipotle Reaches Awkward Age,” Julie Jargon describes the stunted sales that Chipotle is currently facing, which they never before had to worry about. She credits this decline to slower sales growth, difficulty recruiting workers, problems obtaining ingredients, and attacks from critics. With many new competitors entering the fast-casual dining industry, Chipotle is now desperate to find some differentiation in their product, advertising, and expansion plan. With food integrity at the center of their company ethics, Chipotle prides themselves on serving the freshest ingredients. However, recent news articles are blaming Chipotle for their potentially hazardous ingredients, citing cases of salmonella and E. coli caused from their food. Has this pressure for sales by investors caused them to cut corners and sacrifice everything they stand for?
Integrity is at the heart of Chipotle’s professional ethics code and Corporate Social Responsibility is at the core of their company. In their mission statement, they say, “Over 20 years later, our devotion to finding the very best ingredients we can—with respect for animals, farmers, and the environment—is shown through our Food With Integrity commitment. And as we grow, our dedication to creating an exceptional experience for our customers as the natural result of cultivating a culture of genuine, rewarding opportunities for our employees” (Our Company, 2015). However, the Center for Consumer Freedom and the Center for Science in the Public Interest have recently used Chipotle as a public target of hypocrisy because of their high-calorie and high-sodium food (Chipotle Reaches Awkward Age, 2015). Fresh and sustainable food is at the core of Chipotle’s mission, however it is these “fresh” ingredients that seem to be degrading its image and compromising its promise.
As a company that prides itself on sustainability and fresh ingredients, Chipotle has been in the public eye for several produce blunders. Most recently, the company was criticized for the E. coli outbreak that sickened twenty-three customers in Washington and Oregon. This followed a salmonella outbreak due to Chipotle’s tomato producer in Minnesota, which infected over sixty people in August and September (Chipotle Grapples With E. coli Outbreak, 2015). This puts both its integrity and brand equity up for question.
In response to the problems with ingredients in Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota, managers have temporarily closed all affected stores until a problem can be resolved (Chipotle Grapples With E. coli Outbreak, 2015). Some may ask, is this enough? As a company whose sales are already on the precipice of a decline, Chipotle failed to provide the most integral part of its promise to customers – fresh and sustainable ingredients. Simply temporarily shutting down certain restaurants is not enough to make up for the dozens of illnesses caused. As a company, Chipotle must strive to do better and produce the food they promise to customers. They operate using virtue ethics, focusing on the moral character of their business. The managers use their personal values to create and embody the corporate values of the company. Chipotle has multiple moral standards that it strives to ethically uphold. It is obvious that it values its moral integrity and did not intend to harm their customers. However, the management at Chipotle must personally guarantee that a change will be made – and soon.
It cannot be explicitly determined if Chipotle cut corners in these health cases in order to cut costs and satisfy investors. However, it is evident that Chipotle must be more cognizant of the ingredients they are serving if they would like to regain the respect of their customers. With integrity at the heart of their company, Chipotle must start acting like the sustainable and responsible company they once were at their peak.
Jargon, J. (2015, October 20). Chipotle Reaches Awkward Age. The Wall Street Journal.
Jargon, J. (2015, November 2). Chipotle Grapples With E. coli Outbreak. The Wall Street
Our Company. (2015). Retrieved November 4, 2015, from http://chipotle.com/company