Twitter Fight, Take Two: How Chipotle Uses Social Media

Mar 17, 2010 at 1:00 pm

A few weeks back, virtual sparks flew when local restaurateurs clashed with a group of social media-packin' diners on Twitter. But while social-media exchanges can cause anger and hurt feelings, the medium can be a catalyst for discussing problems in the industry and ultimately bringing down the wall that has for so long separated the kitchen from the dining room.

What happens when Twitter complaints are aimed at a large chain? Well, that depends on the chain. Chipotle Mexican Grill has always been in the forefront of combing technology and dining, from offering its in-store music via streaming audio on the companyr website to being one of the first restaurants to introduce an iPhone application. It's no surprise that Chipotle is using social media, on both the corporate and local levels.

It started as a subpar meal at a St. Louis-area Chipotle...

My dining partner attempted to order nachos, i.e., a burrito bowl over chips. While this isn't an uncommon request, the server refused. Instead of arguing, my partner opted for three tacos, which he mashed into a nacho-esque pile all on his own.

My request wasn't quite as esoteric; I ordered guacamole on my steak burrito. The server made sure she yelled repeatedly at the cashier to charge for the guacamole -- which evidently distracted her from actually putting it on the burrito. That fact became clear when we got to our table.

So no guac, but we were charged for it.

I returned (to the end of the line, which consisted of one person) and spoke with the cashier. "I can give you some guac on the side," she sighed, tossing me a little container of the green stuff.

If I wanted to fix and roll my own burrito, I would have done it at home.

Being a social media type, I took to Twitter.

It's crappy service day at (@ Chipotle) 2:26 PM Mar 13th via foursquare

Did I stop there? No, I did not.

I did a quick search on my phone and found @ChipotleMedia, the official spokesman on Twitter for the Chipotle corporation.

@ChipotleMedia Burrito explosions! That's what happens when staff forgets to add guac & makes me do it myself. What takes out bean stains? 2:41 PM Mar 13th

Forgotten guac, DIY burrito wrapping, tough steak, refusal to do a burrito bol on chips. @ChipotleMedia, time to visit Fairview Heights, IL. 2:48 PM Mar 13th

Redemption! Manager checked on us, was super responsive, apologized, gave us coupons. Kudos to her, @ChipotleMedia. 3:07 PM Mar 13th

To which Chris Arnold, the person behind @ChipotleMedia replied:

Manager did the right thing. May be the only right thing on this visit. My apologies. Hope you'll use the coupons to see us again. (Sat 13 Mar 3:54)

And I will, thanks to the apologetic manager and the responsive corporate Tweeter who's listening, regardless of where the customers are speaking.