There comes a time in every brand's life when it reaches a crossroads. For Chipotle that time is now, and that crossroads involves bacon

Yes, Chipotle has announced it's adding Applewood Smoked Bacon to its tacos and Mexican food, starting next month at eight stores in California. It's step one "on the road to a national rollout," the chain says. 

And people can't decide if that move is truly brilliant or flat-out desperate.

I feel a little responsible, in the sense that I'm fairly typical. 

I used to like Chipotle a lot. I liked the food. I felt good when Tim Ferriss told me that it could actually help me lose weight.

But then, two words. Or at least a letter and a word: E. coli. 

After the outbreak, back at the end of 2015 and the start of 2016, I flat out stopped going there. And so did a lot of other people. Many of them didn't come back, because the scare got stuck as part of Chipotle's image.

One consumer study earlier this year said 26 percent of people cite food safety as a reason not to eat at Chipotle, much worse than other chains.

"For comparison, roughly 15% of respondents say that food safety concerns are the main reason they are eating at McDonald's less frequently," wrote Kate Taylor on Business Insider when she reported on that study.

So, Chipotle's been changing lots of things. They hired a new CEO, Brian Niccol, whose last magic act was to revitalize image and sales at Taco Bell. They've been trying all kinds of new menu items, usually starting out at their test kitchen in New York City.

Some of it's clearly created optimism, as Chipotle's stock has rebounded.  And now, they're trying bacon. 

"Consumers have always said 'everything tastes better with bacon,'" and that is exactly what we confirmed in our New York test kitchen," Chris Brandt, chief marketing officer at Chipotle, said in a press release

Does Mexican food usually come with bacon? I acknowledge I'm a guy named Murphy who grew up in New England, so perhaps I'm not the expert.

So I'll ask a few other questions: 

Brilliant or desperate? 

Are you more or less likely to give Chipotle a chance with bacon on the menu?

And if you ever had a brand image problem in your business, would you consider Chipotle a role model or a cautionary tale?

Let us know in the comments.
 

Published on: Aug 19, 2018
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