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The Burrito Effect

Posted At: Sept. 19, 2013 7:15 P.M.
by Aime O’Keefe

Credit: Aime O'Keefe and Christi Rich
Credit: Aime O’Keefe and Christi Rich

“On and off there’s a movement for environmentally sustainable practices in our food production,” said Dr. Burton St. John III, APR and associate professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. “Chipotle isn’t waiting for an organized effort. They’ve anticipated it.”

Chipotle is a company founded on “food with integrity.” This resilient platform has been the foundation since its establishment in 1993. But food with integrity goes beyond just great guacamole.

“I’ve started holding myself to higher standards, because I’ve seen how high the standards are at work and how successful we are at meeting them,” said Drew West, kitchen manager in training at a Chipotle in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

PRSA outlines ethical standards for communication professionals, which include advocacy, loyalty and honesty to the client and the public. Chipotle has implemented these core beliefs into its company values and marketing.

Viral Honesty

Chipotle consistently implements the practice of transparency. With a few clicks at the website, consumers can see nutritional information and sources of ingredients for all menu items.

According to St. John, companies are using all sorts of marketing efforts to avoid the label of commercially produced foods.

“With the advent of social media, there are more people putting their personal views on sustainable food and the handling of materials,” St. John said.

Chipotle is aware of the importance of social media in maintaining its consumer relationship. Last Thursday it released the newest chapter in its communication plan: “The Scarecrow from Chipotle.” This three-minute film creates a fantastic world not so different from our own, where food production is controlled by a massive company and altered to be more productive at the consequence of responsible practices. While all the scarecrow “people” continue in their life of processed misery, one strikes away with efforts to liberate food and create a fresh alternative — a dish that looks strikingly like something you would find at Chipotle.

The video, only released on YouTube, instantly created social media buzz. Bloggers like Matthew Yglesias believe that this brutally honest reflection of commercial production is “part of a larger marketing strategy that depends in part on the idea of essentially never doing television ads.”

Chipotle has implemented a viral social media campaign. This high risk, modern strategy comes with giant rewards, paralleling the company’s general success. Honest ingredients and honest marketing make Chipotle memorable and distinctive from other fast food restaurants.


Customers and employees are extremely loyal to the business that continues to approach things differently. Ninety-seven percent of store managers began their careers rolling burritos at Chipotle. How is this possible?

“Great companies give great employees the opportunity to surface,” St. John said.

Chipotle promotes leadership from within its existing crew through a practice of culturing leaders.

West started at The University of Alabama with intentions of becoming a philosophy teacher. “My career aspirations now rest with Chipotle,” West said. “Chipotle gives great opportunities to people within the company who want to move up and who fit the kind of personality the company was founded on.”

This practice of internal promotion ensures that every employee has respect for each other because everyone was either once a part-time employee or understands their potential of advancement. Every crew member recognizes the collective passion for Chipotle and its message for sustainable food.

Chipotle uses the loyalty of employees to represent a trustworthy brand, marketing it as a great restaurant with great service. Chipotle is proud of its employees, and who doesn’t want their boss to be proud of them?


“[Chipotle] tries to appeal to customers who care about the sensitivity of how food is being processed from step to step,” St. John said. “This implies that the organization is personally invested in their processes — including being socially responsible.”

Every effort to communicate to the consumer is in reference to the revolutionary way Chipotle buys ingredients and prepares food. Chipotle advocates “food with integrity,” or best explained by the company itself:

“A commitment to changing traditional ‘fast food’ culture by serving customers with the very best ingredients, all raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.”

The company was founded on this principle and continues to further its commitment every day, most recently with the scarecrow video mentioned earlier. Although this short is meant to announce Chipotle’s new smart device video game, it doesn’t take much to understand Chipotle is really explaining the motivations for its “food with integrity” beliefs.

“I value the fact that there’s someone out there that is trying to do something that can — and does — drastically change the way we look at food and the food industry,” West said.

Chipotle’s alternative interpretation of organic and renewable ingredients is infectious, converting people to the responsible eating craze with a brand loyalty like no other company has achieved. Its ethical attitudes are carried through every message to consumers, marketing an alternative lifestyle as well as a different perspective toward quick-service restaurants.



  1. Post comment

    I enjoyed this read very much! I’ve recently watched the Netflix documentary about Chipotle and this article mirrors exactly what was said in the documentary. Chipotle holds itself to high standards in regards to its food preparations, customer service and employee services.

    A critical aspect of the film was the opinions of the employees. Like in this article, they discussed how they had the opportunity to move up in the company. They wanted to. This set Chipotle apart from the mundane and typical college job. Chipotle is a career-starter organization.

    Overall, I think that this article is a direct reflection of what Chipotle has to say. It is researched and written well.


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