Chipotle Mexican Grill is adding to its already considerable momentum by maximizing the visibility of its sustainable food source practices at a time when food safety has never been more on Americans' minds.
First, the fast-food chain seized a golden opportunity to dramatize its decade-long commitment to establishing a more sustainable supply chain by forging a sponsorship with the producers and distributors of "Food, Inc." The muckraking documentary about the health and environmental impacts of the country's "industrialized" food system has won generally excellent reviews and a high profile in online, social and traditional media.
In addition to sponsoring free screenings of the film in 32 cities around the country, Chipotle is distributing promotional pieces for the film in its restaurants. When the film's DVD is released later this year, Chipotle has rights to include a bonus feature about its commitment to sustainable agriculture in the DVD.
"I hope that all our customers see this film. The more they know about where their food comes from, the more they will appreciate what we do," declares the QSR's founder, chairman and CEO, Steve Ells, in a quote appearing prominently in its promotions for the film.
The documentary's director, Robert Kenner, is also quoted as citing Chipotle as "a great example of a company that's on the right track to improving our food system."
Today -- one day after the "Food, Inc." sponsorship announcement -- Chipotle's buzz quotient took another leap when Ells testified before the House Rules Committee in support of H.R. 1549, the "Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act" (PAMTA).
In his statement, Ells said that Chipotle is "changing the way the world thinks about and eats fast food," according to the chain's release about the testimony. He reported that the chain will this year serve more than 60 million pounds of naturally raised meat -- more than any other restaurant company -- including all of its pork and chicken and more than 60% of its beef. He added that Chipotle is also increasing its use of organic and local produce and dairy products made with milk from cows free of the synthetic hormone rBGH. Ells described PAMTA as "an important step in driving the kind of change we have chosen to work toward for the last decade, but that too many others have ignored." Still, he added that the chain's business model is hard to emulate. Chipotle is a "unique success story in that we have found a way to serve more expensive, sustainably raised ingredients, but in a way that remains affordable to the average customer," Ells said. "At the same time, we are able to produce attractive financial results for our shareholders. This is a difficult balance to strike."