(Bloomberg) — Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., under fresh scrutiny this week after customers got sick at one of its restaurants, is turning to an iconic New York hip-hop act to generate some buzz for its food.
The Denver-based chain enlisted rapper RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan to unveil a new website that spotlights Chipotle’s ingredients. The company’s so-called clean menu — free of artificial preservatives and other additives — was a major selling point before a 2015 food-safety crisis sickened hundreds of customers and sent its shares plummeting.
RZA, whose real name is Robert Diggs, helped design Chipotle’s new Savor.Wavs site. The rapper created 51 snippets of music, one for each ingredient on the menu, that lets people hear a audio interpretation of their typical Chipotle order. The new site doesn’t let customers order food, but it’s meant to drive home the simplicity of the chain’s menu.
“That might be lost on some, but people who are into the music will appreciate it,” said Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer.
In an era when even the biggest fast-food chains are embracing natural ingredients, Chipotle executives have complained that it doesn’t get enough credit for being a pioneer in the industry. But the chain’s reputation was badly tarnished since outbreaks of E. coli and norovirus hit in 2015.
As part of its attempt at a turnaround, Chipotle is stepping up marketing spending. It also said in March that it completed its quest to rid its menu of artificial preservatives, unveiling a new flour tortilla made with just five ingredients.
Crumpacker touted Chipotle’s simple menu at a party in Manhattan on Tuesday that featured a performance by RZA. He noted that fast-food hamburgers can have as many as 47 ingredients.
While the company declined to say how much they spent on the RZA campaign, Chipotle indicated it was less than the $5 million that a Super Bowl ad would have cost.
Chipotle’s stock, which hit a closing high of $757.77 in August 2015, has been battered by the food-safety concerns. The shares had been up for the year until Tuesday, when reports surfaced that customers had been sickened after eating a restaurant in Virginia. That location, which was closed on Monday, was slated to be reopened on Wednesday.
The fresh round of negative headlines hit just as the Wu-Tang marketing push was set to debut, which company spokesman Chris Arnold acknowledged was less than ideal.
“It’s a bump in the road,” he said. “But we’re focused on running this business for the long term.”
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.
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