1) Chipotle’s model of local sourcing and delivering “food with integrity” challenged the traditional quick-service model of centralized preparation common at McDonald’s and others. How can Chipotle now balance the need to control critical operations through centralized preparation with the desire to differentiate itself in the competitive fast casual restaurant market? Can Chipotle continue to compete effectively using its past positioning as “fresh and local”?
2) Some argue that Chipotle, like many growing firms, focused on growth over attention to store-level operations, which increased operational risk, as many processes were not standardized. Which standardized processes, both in operations and sourcing, are important to the Chipotle model and need to be addressed to reduce risk?
3) Chipotle’s operations led to a reputational crisis that caused customers to become wary of eating its food. Other companies in similar situations have made great efforts to communicate how the product was different and safer. In Chipotle’s case, its burrito looked no different after all of its food safety changes. How could the product and process be altered to communicate the new focus on safety? Could this change be demonstrated?
4) Chipotle gave away millions of free meals to attract customers. Was it enough to rebuild trust? What other things would you recommend the company do to rebuild trust with customers?
5) Chipotle has inspired many copycats. Given how sensitive restaurants are to notoriously fickle consumer tastes, how likely is it that the challenges facing Chipotle would drive consumers away from its menu to copycats offering other food types?
6) In the Internet age, details about what Chipotle did and the narrative it created to explain its actions will be available forever. What did the company do well and what could it have done better?