“SORRY, NO CARNITAS,” said the signs gracing the doors of hundreds of Chipotle restaurants around the country. The pulled pork is incredibly popular with the fast-casual restaurant’s customers who order it in their burritos, tacos and bowls, so the shortage seems like it could create a serious problem for the chain. Instead of disappointed customers, however, Chipotle has used smart crisis PR to rally supporters behind their cause.
Chipotle has used animal welfare in its advertising for years, and it announced last week that its pork supplier had failed to meet certain standards. In response, the company halted sales of the meat. They acted quickly to explain the reasoning behind the move, hanging signs on the doors of restaurants and conducting far-reaching interviews on the subject. All of this represents excellent crisis management, and provides an important lesson in crisis communications.

Think about it this way: what if Chipotle had knowingly continued to sell meat that failed to meet its ethical standards. The company would be in serious trouble. As it stands, however, its impressive growth rate seems safe.

By acting swiftly and aggressively to address a problem, the Denver-based company has effectively turned a significant challenge into an opportunity. While consumers could have reacted poorly, explaining the values-based reasoning behind the move helped Chipotle inspire even more loyalists.

In crisis communications, appearing honest, competent and capable is paramount. Chipotle dealt with this head on, took control of the conversation and announced a remedy, albeit a temporary one. The company’s deft handling of the situation provides and excellent example of how to effectively navigate a serious challenge and how to execute a winning crisis PR plan.