Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Chipotle’s Leadership Has A Significant Trust Problem

Amid a new foodborne illness outbreak, Chipotle’s leadership, including CEO Brian Niccol, is not only failing to protect all of its customers, it’s failing its brand.
chipotle
Chipotle in Athens, Ga.
Photo: Brian Schulman, Chipotle

Does Chipotle recognize the continuous damage it is doing to its relationship with its customers, investors and the market at large, due to its problematic food safety challenges?

Do investors, the media, consumers or prospective customers feel that Chipotle has discovered why food safety has been an issue, discovered a way to resolve it and have implemented that response strategy, consistently and effectively?

These are rhetorical questions, but right now the answer seems to be a resounding “no” for both. A Chipotle restaurant in Ohio was the cause of more than 500 inquiries related to a possible foodborne illness outbreak among patrons of the reopened restaurant.

Chipotle saw its stock fall nine points on Tuesday as a direct correlation.

Because of its negative perception, Chipotle’s leadership, including new CEO Brian Niccol (started on March 5 of this year) is not only failing to protect all of its customers, it’s failing its brand and continues to look untrustworthy in the eyes of consumers. Moreover, the way its responding isn’t helping things either. The crisis communications are proving inadequate.

The lack of skilled corrective communications and operations process correction means failing crisis management and thus, failing reputation management. The restaurant chain has to regain its poise, realize what’s at stake for the brand, value its relationship with customers, investors and its market.

If it doesn’t happen, the media will continue to act as the watchdog and Chipotle’s business relationships will continue to suffer and the social media mob will fan the flames, causing further destruction to the brand. What should the Chipotle CEO and his leadership team, as well as the corporate board, be doing as a strategic, successful, ethical response?

  • They have to be more assertive in communicating through the media, with poise, remorse, understanding of the pain being caused sick customers, investors and its market and sincerely apologize.

  • They have to reveal a commitment to provide a safe dining experience and what they specifically will do to assure consumers that will happen.

  • They have to be accessible to media follow up, be transparent and forthcoming.

  • They have to expand their thinking on problem solving to improve on what has been shown to remain a critical process and brand weakness.

  • The company has to make amends with negatively-impacted consumers and investors in a language that shows deep remorse and commitment to healing a relationship that Chipotle says it values. They need to show business character as well as human character.

  • Then, the company must find answers to its process, implement them, significantly raise standards and meet them, without exception.

Doing the above will exhibit effective crisis communication, work towards successful crisis management and thus, improve leadership reputation.

The spotlight of disappointment and cynicism remains on Chipotle and will remain until leadership shows it cares about its customers and investors like it infers it does. Right now, management, process, crisis communication, crisis management and brand reputation is not an exhibition of competency.

Communication and problems must be solved, short-and-long term.

Chipotle doesn’t just have a food safety issue right now. It has a trust problem.

It’s time to get it right on all those points and communicate and problem solve with competency and excellence.

Read more: Unable To Recapture Early MoJo, Steve Ells Will Step Down As Chipotle CEO


MORE LIKE THIS

  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events

    Roundtable

    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)

     

    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.