June 30, 2016
What went wrong at the fast-casual leader, and how foodservice operators committed to fresh and local ingredients can ensure it doesn’t happen to them.
Since opening its first restaurant in Denver in 1993, Chipotle Mexican Grill has redefined the world of limited-service dining. Its “Food With Integrity” focus ushered in a new wave of consumer demand for foods deemed fresher and more wholesome—even if equally as calorie-dense—than the ingredients at the fast-food giants it battled for market share. And the brand is widely credited as one of the most influential trailblazers of the fast-casual dining segment.
But a series of foodborne illnesses linked to various Chipotle stores has raised fundamental questions about the company’s supply chain, in-house training, and culture around food safety. After all, of what benefit are ingredients like organic veggies, responsibly raised pork, or antibiotic-free chicken if they aren’t safe for consumption?
Chipotle’s outbreaks have led many to believe that the brand’s focus on wholesome, simple ingredients belies a slew of operational challenges associated with its labyrinth supply chain of small farms and suppliers. Now, many are left wondering: Is it possible to scale a brand built around fresh, locally sourced foods?