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Emily Wood

COM312 Blog Post


May 4, 2016

Chipotle Faces Uphill Battle to Gain Back Reputation Post E.coli Outbreak
After a series of food contaminations in multiple restaurant locations, the once
beloved Chipotle has been put in a difficult situation. The fast-food restaurant that built
its brand on food with integrity features high quality raw ingredients and classic
cooking techniques has one of the largest cult followings. However, after the outbreak of
E.coli in six of its restaurants and receiving negative media attention, the chain suffered a
devastating loss of 15 percent in the final quarter of 2015, after more than 500 people
were sickened across 12 states.
Chipotle reacted to the outbreaks with a crisis communication plan quickly after
heath authorities posted information about the situation. It shut down 43 restaurants,
instead of just the six that were tentatively linked to the alleged breakout and selected
Chris Arnold, the Communications Director of Chipotle, to speak on behalf of the
company. Arnold acknowledged the situation, apologized and expressed concern for
those taken ill. Although Chipotle used the proper tone and caution when speaking to the
public, their stakeholders were still not pleased about the thought of getting sick due to
improper care of meat products.
In order to try and correct their mistakes, Chipotle took an alternative strategy in
reputation management by closing all stores across the country for a few hours on the
same day to educate its staff on proper food safety. Although this drastic measure
interrupted the workday and took away from potential business, Chipotle established the
importance of the problem and proved to its customers that it was taking it seriously.
Although this was an unconventional strategy, Chipotle was able to build a new
marketing campaign and make a point to its audiences through shutting down the stores
and proved to stakeholders that Chipotle was dedicated to fixing the problem.
Not only did the company publicly shut down its stores in order to host an
education session about food safety, but Chipotle also publicized it by giving out free
burrito coupons to anyone who was planning on eating at Chipotle during the time it was

closed. By doing this, Chipotle was able to gain the trust of their customers back by
displaying precautionary measures being taken and also convincing them to eat their food
again. Instead of looking back and further discussing the coli contaminations, Chipotle
aims to only look forward.
Marketing experts agree this is the best move for Chipotle to make if it wants a
chance at regaining its reputation. Revisiting the outbreak will only remind customers of
the incidents and scare them away. Instead, Chipotle is aiming to learn from their
mistakes and regain the trust of its customers by driving more people into the restaurants.
Throughout the last few months, Chipotle has created online interactive games and
texting competitions in order to win free meals. By advertising these on its Facebook,
Twitter, and Instagram social media pages, the company is able to gain publicity while
also convincing people to trust their food again. Ultimately, its goal is for people to forget
about the outbreak and for loyal customers to return.
Industry experts reckon Chipotle will have a harder time bouncing back than other
fast food restaurants because it has always put a heavy emphasis on quality and freshness
of its food. This is a situation in which branding backfires. Although Chipotle uses highintegrity foods, this also means that it is more prone to microbial risk. According to the
US News & World Report, natural foods are at great risk for foodborne illnesses,
especially when improperly handled.
If Chipotle continues to be honest, timely and candid about the measures it is
taking in order to prevent another outbreak in the future, I believe that the company will
be able to fully recover from this crisis and regain the cult following it once had.

References
Arenstein, Seth. "3 Things Chipotle's Done Right Post-E. Coli-and a Few Misses." PR
News. N.p., 02 Nov. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.
Crowl, Johnathan. "Can Chipotle's Reputation Management Strategy Save the Brand?"
The Content Standard by Skyword Can Chipotles Reputation Management
Strategy Save the Brand Comments. N.p., 09 Feb. 2016. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

Emily Wood
COM312
April 29, 2016
My blog post was written to address the audiences of the Mindful Reputation blog
and to discuss the crisis communications plan being implemented by Chipotle after its
recent E. coli crisis and the companys struggle to maintain a good reputation with their
customers. Before this year, Chipotle was known as a high-class fast food option with
good quality ingredients and large portion sizes. However, this year, Chipotle faced a
rapid and giant E. coli outbreak in many of their stores. As word spread, people quickly
stopped eating in the chain restaurants and their profits (and reputation) plummeted
rapidly. Since then, Chipotle has been implementing changes in order to win back its
customers. My blog contains an analysis these recent changes implemented by Chipotle
in order to open the conversation to the audience of Mindful Reputation.