In ironic timing with the release of the burrito emoji, contemporary Mexican grill and sorority girls’ favorite restaurant, Chipotle, was faced with the news that approximately 20 cases of E. coli were connected to their restaurant chain. As you can imagine, this is any PR practitioner’s nightmare. While PR News Online hesitated to label it as a crisis, it’s certainly not an ideal set of circumstances for any national brand.
In response to the outbreak, which were confined to six restaurant locations in Washington and Oregon, Chipotle temporarily closed all 43 of its locations throughout the two states. Sounds like a good precaution, right? From a practitioner’s standpoint, yes, but one thing Chipotle missed was telling the public WHY all 43 stores were closed. Obviously, it’s better to be safe than sorry, but informing your customers about what’s going on is a much better call than boarding up the windows and hiding behind your doors.
Chris Arnold, communications director for Chipotle provided PR News with a statement concerning the incident, and their decision to close 43 stores, on Nov 2. Chipotle did not update their website with closure information until Nov 5, which provided PR practitioners with some worry. However, when the information did go live, Chipotle went about it the absolute right way. There is a section of their website dedicated to the incident, and it is displayed clearly at the top. There is a plethora of information, including sections on what happened, which stores are closed, frequently asked questions and where customers can go for more information.
So, what do you think? Did Chipotle go about this the right way? What would you have done differently?