My Advice for Chipotle for Their “Portion-size Controversy”

Own it.

Chipotle is having a controversy about its portion sizes.

People are posting videos and saying their portions are not what they used to be, but Chipotle, the company, keeps saying it’s the same.

If Brian Niccol, the CEO of Chipotle, came to me for leadership advice, this is what I would tell them.

First of all, Mr. Niccol, I would kill the platitudes.

When you say you’re all about portion size and you always believe in this, but people are experiencing something else, you’re either seen as a liar or hypocritical, detached, or out of touch.

Too often, companies say we value our employees, we care about your input, and so on. But then their actions don’t match it.

People don’t care about the platitudes and all the things you say. People care about the actions and what you do, and what people are getting and what you are saying is different.

So, first, kill the platitudes. And when you kill the platitudes…

…take ownership of the problem.

Obviously, there’s a problem because a lot of people are saying they are getting smaller portions. Instead of denying it, take ownership of it, whether it’s happening in one store or across the country or wherever you’re located.

Take ownership of the problem.

You can say what you’re about at Chipotle. “We are about giving people great portion sizes, but we have obviously failed.”

You admit. Take ownership. There’s a problem.

So, as a company, take ownership. And, as the leader, as the CEO, you are ultimately responsible. So take ownership.

You have failed them as a leader because they’re not getting the portion size they should be getting.

Don’t blame. Don’t put it on the customers. Don’t put it on whatever it is. Take ownership of it and then work to resolve it.

And, let’s be honest, that little head tilt you told people to give to get the portions they want, that was ridiculous. Don’t put the onus on the customer to get what they need.

Not only that, not only is it wrong to put the onus on the customer, it shows that you aren’t going to do anything about it, or you are saying that you’re incapable, which says to people something about your leadership.

Kill the platitudes. Take ownership, and…

…look at what’s going wrong.

What happened?

Now, there could be many things causing this. It could be a lack of communication. Maybe there’s a communication break up somewhere between the corporate, the company, and all the different stores that’s causing the issue.

Maybe it’s poor training. Maybe the training hasn’t been what it needs to be, which is why people are getting different portions at different stores.

Maybe standards and expectations aren’t clear. When they aren’t clear, people do what they think they’re supposed to do, whether they are or aren’t. So make sure your expectations about portion sizes and customer service are clear, and that it’s communicated, and that the training is good.

It could be your culture. If you have a poor culture, a toxic culture, or one that is very micromanaging, or you have a leadership that’s detached and is just telling people what to do, but never listening, then that could be impacting what’s happening.

It could be the leadership throughout your organization. You see, leadership is the key. Leadership is the number one cause of success or failure in an organization. If you have poor leadership, that’s going to kill your culture.

And I’m not just talking about leadership at the top. I’m talking about throughout the company. When you have poor leadership, that’s going to hurt you. So, you want to make sure the leadership in the company is good.

It could be the incentives that you give, the rewards you give.

If you say you’re about portion size, but the incentives you give to your managers and store employees are to save as much money and nickel and dime as much as they can, and that’s what they get rewarded for, then people are going to do that instead of giving good portions.

Make sure your incentives are giving you what you want.

It could also be, as a company or as a store, or however you are laid out, that you have the wrong focus. Sometimes people have a short-term focus. They’re worried about getting that quarterly profit return and do whatever it takes, even if it means skimping on what the customers get. Make sure you have the long-term focus for customers and doing right by them because, in the end, that gives you the greatest reward.

These are just a few suggestions of what could be the cause of the issues you’re having. Take a look at why it’s happening, whether it’s just in a small region, area, or company-wide, and then work to fix it.

So, when you come and talk to people, don’t give platitudes. Don’t say that you’re always about “this” and pretend it’s not happening because, obviously, people are experiencing it.

One great way to find out what the issues are is to listen to your employees.

Too often, leadership in an organization doesn’t listen well. They keep making rules and policies that they pass down, and they don’t work. And then they make more rules and policies because it didn’t work. And it just frustrates people on the front lines.

People who are on the front lines likely have great knowledge and ideas on how to make things better. So, my first piece of advice to figure out what’s going on is to listen to your employees throughout the organization.

Listen to your customers. Create a way for your customers to constantly give you feedback, suggestions, and ways to improve so you can constantly get better.

Kill the platitudes. Take ownership. Look to see what the cause of the problem is and then work to fix it. It’s pretty simple.

And, if you do that, and if you’re upfront and admit it and are honest:

“Hey, we’ve made this mistake. We obviously aren’t living up to our expectations. I’m sorry. We’re going to work to fix it. This is what we’re doing.”

People respect that a whole lot more than when you say things like: “Oh, it’s not really happening…” and you give a bunch of platitudes.

And Mr. Niccol, if you want more help with training the people in your company in leadership, give me a shout. I’d be glad to help.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top