Chipotle in the Spotlight: Is Filming Workers Invasive or Justified?

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Is all publicity good publicity? Chipotle isn’t so sure, as the southwestern burrito-and-bowl restaurant finds itself under scrutiny in a recent TikTok trend that’s sweeping social media.

The controversy broils around alleged skimpy amounts of protein being offered at a chain typically known for its hefty portions. Resentful customers have resorted to filming employees as they’re preparing orders and posting complaints to social media.

One influencer said he couldn’t let the worker “disrespect me with that protein size.” His clip racked up 115,000-plus likes and inspired copycat videos. Another influencer with an audience of 2.6 million encouraged followers to “tank” Chipotle’s reviews by giving one star on their mobile app.

TikTok influencer Keith Lee most powerfully promoted the trend to film orders so customers aren’t skimped. “These portions be crazy,” said the former mixed martial arts fighter. “Where’s the chicken at (sic)?” A TikTok food critic, Lee has over 16 million followers.

Atulya Dora-Laskey, who works at a Chipotle in Lansing, Michigan, says she finds it “very stressful and dehumanizing” to be filmed while working, and it’s “immediately anxiety-inducing for my co-workers and me.”

She shared that sometimes employees will actually serve smaller portions if a customer is filming them, because they don’t want to be seen on video by their manager giving larger portions than what’s allowed.

“There’s a real interest in placing blame on crew members,” said Dora-Laskey. She believes frustration should be directed to the top and not toward employees just doing their job.

Chipotle’s CEO, Brian Niccol, says he does not condone the filming trend, and advised that “filming does not result in larger portion sizes.”

One factor is Chipotle is struggling with a staffing shortage in North America. If a store runs out of a protein, explained Dora-Laskey, it can take “quite a while” to have more ready to go when a shift is understaffed. So “you’re probably going to give them as little…as possible.”

Buyer beware. Last July Chipotle’s CEO told investors a collaborative robot could be ready to hit restaurants in 12 to 18 months. It can reportedly make up to 180 bowls in an hour, six times greater than what a person produces.

While one distressed employee on Reddit urges people to “stop shoving phones in our faces,” we wonder if an option may be to just try asking nicely. After all, would a mechanical server give you that extra dollop if requested? Keep reading here.

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