With a shifting marketing landscape and Americans more health-conscious than ever, Chipotle should push to be even more transparent in coming months, according to Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist, and her husband Russ, a public relations expert and consultant.
First, Chipotle needs to determine the source of the outbreak. She then suggested the company have an inspection and endorsement from a credible outside authority, and a video that can show consumers what in the supply chain has changed.
Chipotle, of course, isn't the first restaurant to experience a foodborne illness outbreak. But the company's "calculated, slick, sophisticated" image, partnered with the immediacy of social media, makes it different than any previous incident, said Andrew Alvarez, an industry research analyst specializing in food and hospitality at IBIS World.
"Because the company has given itself this branding as being the right choice for conscious eating, they are one of the few [quick-service restaurant] chains that has been able to maintain this coveted notion that to eat there is the right, healthy choice," Alvarez said. "As a result, Chipotle has fallen harder because of what we have come to expect. The fun, smug, worry-free mindset has come to look arrogant among some consumers."