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Dear Chipotle, Get Well Soon


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Poor Chipotle. With its formerly shiny reputation and lofty goals of locally raised, happy chickens marching straight to your plate, it has become the Jack In The Box of the 2010s. As is often the case with hindsight, nobody saw this coming, but it makes sense that the poster child for locally sourced clean eating now struggles to contain the damage from multiple outbreaks of foodborne unpleasantness.

Did you catch founder Steve Ells’ full-page mea culpa appearing in many of the country’s largest newspapers today? Titled “Comprehensive Food Safety Plan,” it’s a decent dispatch that serves the purpose of apologizing, outlining some changes and reassuring king size burrito enthusiasts. Take those words however you choose.

While consumers are the intended audience, I suggest every food-based franchisor thinks carefully about what’s going on at Chipotle and sees the chaos as a cautionary tale. Rather than thinking, “Serves them right, those high-horsed jerks,” the takeaway is more important—and polite.

Transparent food sourcing and ethical practices (both for farm laborers and soon-to-be-eaten animals) is a movement that will not be stopped. These supply chain problems become much more challenging in an organization that strives for local ingredients, but soon (sooner the better?) all major restaurant chains will need to adopt some degree of Chipotle’s practices to appease discriminating customers.

You might snicker from the sidelines today, but your restaurant better be preparing to evolve its own supply chain. For brands less invested than Chipotle in trumpeting their foodie bona fides, avoid the temptation to rush it or do it on the cheap, no matter how tempting. 

Marketing copy decrying your switch to "cage-free glutens" and "non-GMO salmon bellies" is easily blown up when your fancy new supply chain starts getting people sick.

Be like Jurgis and never stop saying, “I will work harder.” Everybody’s watching, you know…

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is staff writer at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonLaura Michaels is managing editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 
Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nanweingartner.
 

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