Monday, July 4, 2016

Unable to catch a break

Chipotle, the Mexican-ish restaurant rocked by a series of food safety scandals, needs a life-line. Actually, several of them.

Paris Chipotle by Maxlöh (Own work)
 via Wikimedia Commons
A few days ago, its chief creative and development officer, Mark Crumpacker, was charged with drug possession and ties to a cocaine delivery service. This isn't helpful for a nationwide chain that's struggling to rebuild trust with consumers after tainted food caused the chain to close several restaurants.

Chipotle's comeback strategy seemed to be going well. The stock only dropped 0.68% when Crumpacker got his mugshot. And, to be fair, Chipotle's spokesperson handled the boss' away-message as well as any PR person I've seen.

(I wrote about Chipotle's issues in late 2015, and again in January. Three's my limit. Honest.)

To mend its reputation, the company closed all its restaurants for a day to shock-train employees on food safety and quality. It launched a loyalty-card/reward program called "Chiptopia." And it paid for a public radio underwriting campaign that called attention to its quality ingredients.

But, with its creative guru on "leave," the company needs to catch a break. And a confusing loyalty program isn't the way to go.

Screen shot,
Reward programs, in general, baffle consumers. Staples will give you credit for used ink cartridges, but only if you buy replacement ink from Staples -- at 10-15% above other retailers' prices. Panera Bread has a rewards program, but most of the offers are for selected menu items, rather than something everyone wants: coffee or tea.

Chipotle's reward offerings include food items, as well as imprinted clothing. I don't know if Chipotle's reward members really wish to become walking billboards for the restaurant chain.

My key ring's laden with loyalty tags. But they aren't building relationships if there are too many confusing rules or offers. And a little plastic tag doesn't make me trust a restaurant, clothing store, or drug retailer as much as honest behavior.