How much better are things at Chipotle this month that the discussion has turned away from e-coli and towards whether or not their new cheese dip is artificial enough to appeal to diners' tastes.
— Jason Clampet
Don’t worry about the haters.
That’s the message to Chipotle employees from Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer of the embattled burrito chain, according to an internal email obtained by Bloomberg.
Crumpacker’s memo cites internal research that shows diners like its new queso dish, even though some dissatisfied customers took to Twitter and other social media outlets to trash it. Chipotle added the Tex-Mex cheese dip to its menu nationally last week (while pulling its spicy chorizo sausage) as the chain tries to reignite sales after a food-safety scandal that has tarnished the brand. According to the company, it has taken time to develop a version of the long-requested product that meets its quality standards.
Queso will play a central role in Chipotle’s largest-ever advertising campaign, which starts next week. Crumpacker said he expects the product to drive restaurant traffic, and he assured employees that internal research shows it will be a hit.
“The formal research we conducted prior to rolling out queso nationally showed very different results than what you might assume if you only looked at comments on social media,” Crumpacker said. “The decision to move forward with the launch was based not on social media comments, but instead on in-depth research and the sales impact in the test markets.”
While queso is traditionally made with Velveeta, Chipotle says it’s using real cheese and some customers have complained of a “grainy” consistency.
“We have made progress in making it smoother,” Crumpacker said. “But the bottom line is that we are not going to be able to replicate the gooey consistency of the queso you might get at the ballpark or at a movie theater because those products are not made from real ingredients.”
Chipotle shares have dropped 17 percent this year. The company added queso to the menu to generate some buzz and provide distance from the negative news of the last two years. Bill Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management is the largest shareholder in Chipotle, said in an interview on CNBC Wednesday he had not tried queso yet but didn’t give much credence to the complaints on Twitter.
“I’m beginning to believe that Twitter is filled with a bunch of Chipotle short sellers,” he said.
–With assistance from Scott Deveau
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.