Operations

Even Keith Lee agrees Chipotle has a portion-size problem

Rants about portion shrinkage are going viral on TikTok, but the fast-casual chain insists nothing has changed and guests can just ask for more.
Chipotle line
Chipotle says it is serving as much food as ever. Yet complaints are snowballing on TikTok. |Photo: Shutterstock.

Chipotle has long appealed to the young male gym rat who looks to fill up with a load of protein after a hard workout. But for months on social media, the fast-casual brand has been accused of skimping on portion sizes, especially as prices have climbed.

@realbrandonfromvegas On cinco de mayo too #chiptole#cincodemayo#brandonfromvegas♬ original sound - BrandonFromVegas

Powerful influencers like Keith Lee—who has partnered with Chipotle on menu promotions and calls himself an “out-loud supporter”—are among those now saying chicken has been lacking from his usual bowl.

And the steak quesadilla he made famous, with the vinaigrette mixed with sour cream, dropped in his rating from a 10 to a 2.5.

“Something changed, and I don’t know what it is,” he said.

@keith_lee125 Chipotle taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕#foodcritic♬ original sound - Keith Lee

Some refer to the “good old days”  of “peak Chipotle” when you could get a generous bowl for $11, or that food is being “rationed like the Hunger Games.”

The rants on TikTok appear to have snowballed in recent weeks.

Some are asking diners to walk out if they are given less than expected in their bowls or burritos, while others are calling for a boycott, or urging diners to give negative reviews.

@bellatvnetwork Chipotle walkouts people walking out before order is complete if portion is small and Keith lee reviewed Chipotle portions @NoahGlennCarter #chipotle#keithlee#food#restaurant#burrito#burritobowl#funny#foodreview#foryou♬ A mysterious scene of the near future like Blade Runner(994826) - The Structures

Chipotle, meanwhile, insists that portion sizes have not changed. In fact, the chain has long allowed customers to just ask if they want more.

“Guests of Chipotle can completely customize their meal in restaurants by vocalizing their desired portions, or digitally selecting extra, light, normal or on the side when choosing from the list of real ingredients,” said Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs and food safety officer, in a statement. “We have not changed our portion sizes, and our guests continue to appreciate the value we offer them.”

That appears to be confirmed by Chipotle’s sales results of late. In the first quarter, the chain reported same-store sales up 7%, driven in part by a 5.4% increase in transactions—despite a challenging macroeconomic climate—and CEO Brian Niccol has repeatedly emphasized that consumers recognize the fundamental value of a meal at Chipotle, even as menu prices have climbed.

And yet social media rants continue.

TikToker Ryan Lynch of @ryanisreallypolite is on a campaign to convince Chipotle to use a measuring cup, rather than a spoon, to make portions more consistent.

And the amount of food is not the only issue. Among those complaining are diners who say they have been charged for condiments, like the hugely popular vinaigrette.

Chipotle officials, however, say there is no charge for vinaigrette.

The viral embrace of the portion rants has sparked parodies like this. Please note that these two are not the co-founders of Chipotle:

@edd.walton Co-Founders of Chipotle response to portion decrease @ReggLuck #chipotle#portion#inflation#fyp#apology♬ Backsound Puisi - Audiolist Productions

The social media storm comes as Chipotle continues to refine throughput operations, speeding service. And the chain is testing an automated makeline that could potentially replace humans for the preparation of digital orders.

The system, created by Hyphen, would use specifically measured portions, rather than the more subjective human scoops of meat, beans and rice that diners say can vary by restaurant, or even by server.

Meanwhile, superfan Dillon Wareham, who on Day 879 of his quest of eating Chipotle daily for 1,000 days in 13 states, is a defender of the brand. Last week he posted that, 95% of the time, his portions are great.

@dillonwareham

I really don’t know what to say about the chipotle portion size debate. I don’t know if mines always great because I’ve built a relationship with the people at my location. But I don’t have that problem as you guys can see.

♬ original sound - Dillon Wareham

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