How Chipotle's Free Burrito Deal Completely Backfired

As part of the national effort to help encourage people to get vaccinated, the popular fast food chain Chipotle decided to do their part by offering a BOGO deal — a buy-one-get-one-free entree to all customers in support of National Month of Action for Vaccinations, for one day only. Chipotle announced their promotion on their website on June 30, saying that "the offer will support the White House's ongoing initiative to get more Americans vaccinated this summer." To receive their free entree, customers simply had to go to any participating Chipotle location and say the words "friends BOGO" to the cashier anytime after 3 p.m. on Tuesday, July 6, according to Chipotle Newsroom.

"As a proud participant in the National Month of Action for Vaccinations, we are encouraging our fans to give their friends free Chipotle as a craveable reward for getting vaccinated," Chief Marketing Officer Chris Brandt said of the promotion in a press release. However, while the intention may have been good, the execution didn't exactly go off without a hitch. Business Insider reported that the popular Mexican grill failed to give their workers proper advance notice that the promotion would be happening, as well as failed to adequately staff the locations or provide enough ingredients, knowing that they would be much busier than usual. The end result was a disastrous promotion that led to immense frustration for both workers and customers.

Overworked and understaffed employees were unable to keep up with the high demand

Many Chipotle locations were understaffed, resulting in long wait times and lines out the door for people trying to cash in on their free food. Behind the counter, overworked employees were stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed trying to deal with the seemingly never-ending tide of customers. One Michigan worker recalled being "overworked" as the "understaffed restaurant crumbled under the pressure" (via Business Insider). Some employees at other locations reported their sites running out of the most basic burrito ingredients, like lettuce, sour cream, brown rice, steak, corn, vegetables, and guacamole, making it difficult for them to do their jobs and infuriating customers, some of whom even took it out by yelling at the cashiers. The major staff and ingredient shortages forced some employees to take shortcuts and lower their standard for food preparation just to try to keep up with the demand. Exhaustion, low morale, and even computer system malfunctioning all culminated in what one witness called "pure chaos."

However, Chipotle has not spoken out publicly about the problems with the BOGO promotion. "It was a very successful day and we were proud to participate in the National Month of Action to encourage vaccinations," Laurie Schalow, Chipotle's Chief Corporate Affairs and Food Safety Officer, told Business Insider.