Silence Spikes Food Scare

This November, Chipotle has come under scrutiny for the E. Coli outbreak in its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. According to PR Week, Chipotle finally broke the several-day silence and reached out to them to explain what steps they have taken to resolve the potentially deadly issue.

The article ends with the caution that Chipotle had yet to report any of the actions on their website. This could ultimately hurt Chipotle more than it could help. They may be taking the prudent steps to correct the issue that caused the outbreak but it’s hard to protect the brand if they avoid transparency about their actions. Silence breeds speculation.

From the day the crisis began Chipotle should have announced that they are taking the matter seriously and helping the investigation in any way possible. After initially closing eight locations, they should have disclosed the steps they were taking to resolve the issue such as removing all food from those locations, outsourcing food health services, and re-training employees on a national level. All of these statements should appear on the website as a cover page that each customer has to hit the “continue to site” arrow to pass. That  would ensure transparency.

What other steps do you think Chipotle should have taken immediately? Does it appear they had a crisis plan in place?

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3 Responses to Silence Spikes Food Scare

  1. Siera Whitten says:

    It is better to respond than to do nothing at all. The PR team behind Chipoltle did a great disservice to the reputation of the company by not immediately acting on the health crisis- it shows that they were not prepared to handle this type of situation (they had no reason not to be prepared). If you take a look at their twitter account, they have not tweeted to the public since October 30! That is 10 days without a tweet to their Twitter audience! While they have replied directly to individual tweets, many of them come off as dry and cocky. ( This may be a part of their lingo and social media personality, but I don’t think it is professional to reply in the same manner of the tweets. I believe a tweet to their whole audience would be more responsible. I do think they did a good job of being active in shutting down 43 stores in the affected areas even though the outbreak was linked to eight locations. Chipoltle takes pride in their “food with integrity” process, but this did not stop e. coli from reaching their business. Let’s hope they are more prepared to take immediate action when another crisis like this occurs.

  2. Juliet Moo says:

    I think Chipotle handled the issue adequately. At times like this, it is almost impossible to avoid customer dissatisfaction. While closing the stores without issuing a thorough explanation disabled transparency regarding the steps taken to fix the issue, it shows that Chipotle’s immediate concern is the customers’ safety and well-being. What I think Chipotle could have done immediately is have a spokesperson clarify the situation and keep the public updated with the crisis management process. Nonetheless, I believe this crisis caught Chipotle off guard, and its immediate responses were justifiable.

  3. Megan Brown says:

    I would have to argue that Chipotle most certainly did not have a crisis communications plan in place. You would think that a well-oiled machine like Chipotle would at least have some sore of strategy to implement should they have an issue with the safety of their food. Immediately, Chipotle should have acknowledged the mishap with a public statement the day the news broke. I agree with your other suggestions as well. Chipotle should have shared their plans to remove the remaining food and retrain all of their employees. Should this have happened to begin with, I believe there would have been far less public outcry from a missed response.

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