Dear Mr. Ells,
Thank you so much for making a TV appearance the other day as part of your apology tour. It’s great to see you since, well, never. I also read your full spread ad in the paper yesterday. It’s a nice Mea culpa but begs the question “Why weren’t you more serious about food safety earlier?”
You normally fly under the radar screen, unless of course you could take advantage of a platform to publicly admonish your peers about "food with integrity” — much to our dismay (and we were jealous as you picked off our sales). But mostly we were dismayed since we didn’t agree with the entirety of your approach.
We (the industry) didn't believe your approach was legitimate or sustainable at your scale and please note that we have been at the foodservice thing for a long time. Dining out wasn’t invented yesterday for god’s sakes.
We let you run with it though, just like we let you run your mouth.
We mostly remember you as the guy proselytizing: “Spending money dining at my joint is better than spending it at your joint. Why? Because I say so. I know how things should work. If you don’t believe me, just ask me. I based my brand on authentic, local and protein friendly." Nevermind that much of your marketing nonsense is just that — nonsense.
We also find it interesting that you are going to save the planet and all the lovely critters on it as well. Especially, you know, the special critters — swine, bullock and fowl. Mr. Ells, how come you don’t take credit for birthing all these animals so you can kill them and stuff them into your burritos? If not for you, this protein wouldn’t exist for you to harvest. We understand it’s a tough marketing message — We are responsible for raising a large number of critters for a specific purpose — to grow them, kill them and eat them (but we smother them gently)."
However, Mr. Ells, we must remind you that you forgot to include the most basic rule of foodservice in your brand architecture. You know…like the number #1 rule?
Rule #1: Don’t make the guest sick.
Rule #2: Don’t forget rule #1.
It’s interesting that the food sold by most chains and supplied by conventional sources seems to be safer than yours. Other than a hamburger chain 20+ years ago we don’t recall a chain of your size that successfully created so many cases of acute abdominal distress in such a short time.
Take Subway for instance, especially since they use the same style production line. We can’t recall an issue there on the scale of yours, and they are a heck of a lot bigger. Perhaps you can learn a few tips from the chains you are fond of trashing. They appear to practice foodservice basics you ignore. Perhaps they can’t claim they are GMO free, but lets come clean…neither can you. Right?
Mr. Ells, congratulations on the successful transformation of an enviable brand into “just another foodservice joint”. You set a land speed record doing that. You lost the halo you didn’t deserve and betting odds are it will stay lost. And make no mistake about it — that is exactly what you are today, just another foodservice joint and an expensive one at that.