For fast-casual chains, TikTok creates both love and headaches

The social media platform demonstrated its power in more ways than one this week, giving unexpected publicity to Cava's "love button" while putting Chipotle on the defensive.
Chipotle line
TikTokers are suggesting that guests pretend to record the makeline workers at Chipotle to get bigger portions. | Photo: Shutterstock.

As Cava’s “love button” becomes a thing on TikTok, Chipotle is clapping back on an increasingly viral hack designed to “shame” team members into giving larger portions.

While reporting first quarter earnings on Tuesday, Cava CEO Brett Schulman noted a recent post by TikTok creator Cody Premer. The Los Angeles-based influencer asked the Cava team member Grayson (whose last name was not revealed) to create a bowl for him, saying it was his first time dining at Cava.

Schulman said Grayson didn’t know Premer was a creator—at least not one with 4.3 million followers. However, Grayson took the opportunity to “hit the love button,” which allows team members to comp a meal.

The bowl Grayson created scored a “10 out of 10” from Premer, and the video has had more than 37 million views—far more, in fact, than Premer’s other posts and more in the viewership stratosphere of mega social media star Keith Lee.

@codypremer Trying @CAVA workers favorite order🤤#codypremer♬ original sound - Cody Premer

Schulman described the post as an example of how Cava is becoming “part of the cultural conversation,” saying the TikTok “tells an authentic story about how much people love our food and how much our team members care about our guests.”

But, perhaps, it also indicates how the notion of a free meal can go viral. Premer, in an email, said it really was his first time at the Cava near his house, and that the video was “super organic and fun.”

Let’s be clear: First timers at Cava—or people who say they’re first timers—should not necessarily expect free food.

Cava empowers team members to use the love button in the POS system to comp a meal for any guest who looks like they need a boost. Maybe they forgot their wallet, for example, or even someone “whose enthusiasm makes the team feel good,” a spokesperson for the brand said.

It’s a concept that TikTokers began to catch onto last year.

@cava Did I stutter? #CAVA#mediterraneanfood#lifehack♬ Thanks for using my sound - 𝐽𝐴✘❥

The love button is also a concept that is creeping into comments about Chipotle, which has been under fire on TikTok recently by guests who feel they have been skimped on portions, with powerful influencer friends like Keith Lee even joining in the chorus. Inevitably in the comments of such posts, someone will suggest that Cava portions are more generous.

Now TikTokers are sharing a hack that has been dubbed “the phone method” for ordering at Chipotle: holding a phone to imply the order is being recorded to ensure workers are “shamed” into giving larger portions, first reported in Ad Age.

@thekingofdiet TRYING THE PHONE METHOD 😳 #thekingofdietofficial#tiktok#diet#foryou#thekingofdiet#burger#ceoofcheatmeal#foodtiktok#diet#dayinmylife#eggs#fyp#cheatmeal♬ original sound - 🔥THEKINGOFDIET🔥

Some of those posts say Chipotle workers have been told to give more if they believe they are being recorded, but company officials say that’s not true.

“Our intentions are to provide a great experience every time, and our meals have always been completely customizable so guests can vocalize or digitally select their desired portions when choosing from the list of real ingredients,” said Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs and food safety officer, in a statement.

She added that Chipotle has made no changes to portion sizes, and, in fact, that the company has reinforced proper portioning with employees. “If we did not deliver on our value, we want our guests to reach out so we can make it right,” the statement said.

Chipotle, meanwhile, clapped back on its TikTok with an amusing post last week, prompting several commenters to tip their hats to the marketing team.

Said one comment: “Chipotle scoops were not giving, but the marketing is servinggg.”


i’m working late, cuz i’m Chipotle

♬ original sound - Chipotle


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