In grad school I created a mock marketing plan for Chipotle. Through researching the company, I learned about the unique business practices that Chipotle used to make the restaurant chain so successful. I'm going through them in a weekly series of posts called Burrito Fridays. I'm in no way an expert on Chipotle, I simply see ways we can learn from the company.
Have you had enough burritos yet? Did you get one last Friday on Boorito? In case you're over burritos (has anyone ever felt this way?), you're in luck because this is the last post in the Burrito Fridays series. Devour as desired.
Though Chipotle has done well in limiting turnover, all of Chipotle’s employee relations haven’t been perfect. In 2011, Chipotle was audited by U.S. Immigration officials and undocumented workers lost their jobs. It wasn't just that undocumented workers lost their jobs, but also that the situation was potentially mishandled by Chipotle since they may not have spoken to fired workers, but simply replaced them with a new crew.
No business is perfect because they are run by people and no person is perfect. It is unfair to expect a company to be perfect, but it is also realistic to expect companies to act with integrity. Chipotle’s brand of “Food with Integrity” was marred by this employee status scandal at the time.
As a business owner, you have an obligation to know and follow the law. More than just the law, you have an obligation to the expectations you’ve created. Chipotle based its name on “Food with Integrity”. Customers expectations are that Chipotle is a company that esteems integrity. When Chipotle potentially mishandled the employment status situation, they caused doubt in the informed consumer as to the very fabric of the company, since they essentially knocked out the soap box that they stood on.
The simplest way to avoid marring your brand is to live out the brand you create.
If your business stands on a specific soap box in trying to better the world, then it is essential that the business lives that out in every way. Chipotle has been criticized for this with the Scarecrow video. It's one thing to choose a cause to get behind, such as "Food with Integrity", but it is another and far more difficult thing to live it out in your business.
Ultimately, what is hidden will come to light. If you have something hidden in a dark back room of your business that goes against your brand - know that it will ultimately come to light. It may not right away, but it will. Set it right before it comes out. Even if it means taking a hit now, you’ll sleep better at night. Doing the right thing is worth it, because you can’t put a price on your character.