Times are hard for Chipotle CEO Steve Ells. First there was the pork shortage, and not more than three months after getting carnitas back behind the sneeze guard, 43 locations of the burrito chain in Oregon and Washington closed down due to an E. coli outbreak. Eventually, the E. coli spread to six states, before a norovirus hit Boston, where damn near an entire college basketball team got taken out. In short, things are not looking good.
And now, after a series of health-department sanctions, a 25% dip in stock price, and a general public backlash, Ells is going on the defensive, making his rounds and pleading with customers about the new safety protocols and how sorry he is for everything. It doesn’t appear to be helping much though.
Ells’ first TV stop was last week to Matt Lauer and the Today Show, and if he thought he was getting a puff piece, he was dead wrong. Lauer was there to play hardball, and as you can see in the video above, he doesn’t pull any punches. Ells stumbles through an apology and explanation, which concludes that there might still be more people affected by the norovirus and the Boston store still isn’t open. Still, Ells calls Chipotle’s new “15-years ahead of the industry” health standards a silver lining. Lauer doesn’t play that, and calls Ells out for doing too little too late.
With that plan down the drain, Eater reports that Ells took from the boob tube to the printed page, and distributed a long-form apology to Chipotle customers in 61 major newspapers, including the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal.
The apology focuses on most of the things mentioned in the Today Show interview, the increased safety protocol, and the continued insistence that Chipotle uses only 64 ingredients, which is, we guess, supposed to make people feel better about the 192 people that got sick from eating them.
Only time will tell how the public—and the stock market—will react to Chipotle’s attempted comeback, but if Twitter has anything to say about it, it’s only going to get harder for Ells and his team.