Chipotle, Where Are You Now?

Chipotle Sales Chart

It has been about a year since Chipotle Mexican Grill’s first E. Coli outbreak surfaced and it is safe to say it has been a PR nightmare for the locally sourced food restaurant. On Oct. 31, 2015, 22 total E. Coli illness cases from Washington and Oregon were being investigated for their connection to Chipotle.

The scandal quickly grew as more cases surfaced across the U.S. in 11 different states. By January 2016, the specific illness was pinpointed to a strain of STEC, shiga toxin producing E. coli and had infected 55 people.

Sorry Chipotle, but the crisis was definitely not averted.

To this day, Chipotle’s sales are still far below what they were before the outbreak. On Oct. 25, information released that third-quarter revenue dropped nearly 15 percent. But not all hope is lost, their sales do appear to be slightly rising with each passing month.

Food Safety

Sales are rising because Chipotle’s public relations team has created multiple efforts to show that their number one priorities are customer safety and serving “food with integrity.”

On the company website, there is a new page called “food safety” that goes in depth about what Chipotle has done since the E. Coli outbreak to ensure customers of their safety.

Here is what is shown on the page:

Screenshot of Chipotle's food safety web page


Chipotle has also created multiple promotions and offers to pull in more customers. For example, a matching game was recently released for users to play and win a buy-one-get-one free deal.

Chipotle's Real Foods Matching game

Over summer Chipotle also created their “Chiptopia” rewards program. The promotion rewarded customers who purchased food from July to September at least 4 times each month. The rewards included free food, merchandize and free catering depending on the status achieved.

On top of free promotions, Chipotle has continued to build their brand by releasing materials that connect back to their happy healthy food initiative. On the website there are countless videos showing how they make their food and they recently released a cartoon called “Ingredients Reign.”

The Verdict

All in all, I couldn’t be happier! As a loyal customer, all these changes and promotions have just reinforced the love I’ve always felt for Chipotle, and I’ve gotten multiple freebies! Who doesn’t love free food?!

Every step Chipotle has taken is helping them head back to the road of success. They are a great role model and learning opportunity for crisis management. It is clear now that they are probably one of the safest places to eat.


Written by Kasey Perez, Account Executive

PR Wins of 2015

A common misconception about public relations is that it is only important when a company is in crisis. To the contrary, PR is a versatile tool that organizations can employ whenever they see fit. In no particular order we will take a look at a few notable PR wins of 2015.

  1. LACMA brings culture to Snapchat


These photos are what happened when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art joined Snapchat. Often organizations can struggle with new social media, but LACMA seemed to be a natural from the beginning. Who knew that artist so long ago were in tune with today’s popular culture? LACMA killed it on Snapchat and should be an example for how to use social media as a tool to garner interest of a younger generation. Even BuzzFeed took notice!

2. ALS #IceBucketChallenge

The ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) Association started the Ice Bucket Challenge in the summer of 2015 and it quickly became one of the world’s largest social media efforts. More than 17 million people uploaded videos of them accepting the challenge on Facebook. The campaign was a call to action that created awareness and an influx of donations that supported research on the disease.

3. Volkswagen’s recovery

In September of 2015, the German automakers were notified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in regards to their violations of the Clean Air Act. The plot thickened when the EPA cited Volkswagen for using software that could essentially cheat on an emissions test. Volkswagen was facing fines and their stocks took a large hit, dropping 19 percent almost immediately, and led its CEO to resign. While the fines and stock dip hurt Volkswagen, the damage its reputation took was devastating. Volkswagen won this situation for how they handled the crisis. The company answered to the media as soon as two days after the news broke. It also took in the reaction of customers that were impacted and created a plan to regain their trust. Volkswagen released a video with its then CEO promising to resolve the problem and even gave customers a “goodwill” refund of $1,000. Volkswagen presented a textbook example of how to handle a crisis and has been recovering well since the incident.

4. White Walkers in London


Courtesy: The Daily Mirror

Imagine seeing one of these while you are out running errands! Thankfully, it was just a rather large man dressed as one of the menacing characters from the popular television series “Game of Thrones”. Several White Walkers were spotted wandering around London in June of 2015 to mark the digital release of the series.

5. NHS Blood and Transplant “Missing Type” campaign

Leading up to National Blood Week, NHS Blood and Transplant enlisted the help of several high profile British brands. NHS asked the respective companies to leave the letters A, B and O (representing blood types) out of their logos to demonstrate how important it is for people to donate blood. Many shops and venues dropped the letters for the campaign. This was a very clever campaign that even got the prime minister to remove letters from signage on the official residence. Most importantly, it started a conversation.

6. Burger King pays for the Wedding of Mr. Burger and Miss King

Miss King and Mr. Burger “had it their way” when the fast food giant decided to sponsor the wedding of the Illinois couple in 2015. The couple decided to have some fun with the coincidence after their engagement and took a picture by a Burger King sign. The story went viral after they were interviewed by a reporter from a local newspaper. Burger King caught wind of the story and decided to give Joel Burger and Ashley King a pretty awesome wedding gift.

7. Chipotle’s raincheck


Courtesy: Chipotle (retrieved via 2/23/16)

This campaign carried over from 2015 and saw its resolution in the early part of 2016. Chipotle had an E. coli outbreak that lead to a lot of customers shying away from the Mexican grill for some time. The company even decided to close all of its restaurants for a day to discuss what the next move should be… You may be wondering why this is considered a success. Chipotle #blessed us all with a “raincheck” when it reopened. By simply texting the number seen in the above picture, (don’t try it now, you already missed out), customers were given a free burrito. Chipotle won back the trust and patronage of its customers by taking responsibility for what happened and ensuring that the problem was resolved. The giveaway thanked those who stayed loyal and welcomed back those who had strayed away. Oh yeah, and the burritos got a LITTLE bigger.

Here’s to seeing what the PR world will generate in 2016!

Written by Darrell Chambers, Account Executive