Chipotle customers are complaining about small portions on social media.
The chain says it is not facing any supply chain shortages or issues.
Many brands are shrinking boxes and keeping prices the same to deal with inflation.
Something strange is happening at Chipotle, at least according to dozens of social media posts.
Customers have taken to Twitter to show off tiny serving sizes and small burritos. People used dollar bills, rulers, and beer cans for size references.
Chipotle just raised menu prices by about 4%, which the company told Insider will offset higher wages for employees. The average Chipotle meal now costs 30 to 40 cents more than it did a few months ago.
Alongside labor, prices for ingredients have also increased. Staple Chipotle items, like corn and avocados, grew more expensive this year as demand rose and shipping delays drove prices further up. Chicken in particular has gotten more expensive, and overall food costs are up 2.4% year over year.
"We think everybody in the restaurant industry is going to have to pass those costs along to the customer," Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung said during the company's quarterly earnings call in April. "We think we're in a much, much better position to do that, than other companies out there."
When asked about the size of some orders, Chipotle told Insider it is not experiencing shortages or supply chain problems.
"Guests of Chipotle have the opportunity to 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," Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Laurie Schalow told Insider in a statement. "We are not experiencing any supply chain shortages and Chipotle receives an abundance of praise for the incredible value its entrees offer with responsibly sourced ingredients chopped or grilled fresh daily."
I ordered a burrito to see if mine would compare to the puny Chipotle orders all over Twitter. My standard chicken burrito with no extra add-ons was about five inches long, and roughly the size of my hand. For reference, my hands are fairly small.
The standard burrito looks especially small next to my boyfriend's order. He added extra carnitas for $3.20, plus an extra 25 cent tortilla double wrap. My burrito by itself cost $7.75, while his with add-ons came in at $11.70.
Here they are side by side.
Like nearly all of the complaints on Twitter, these burritos were ordered through Chipotle's app, so customer don't actually see them being made.
Digital sales have exploded at Chipotle, more than doubling in the first quarter of 2021. Over the time period they made up over half of all the chain's transactions, Chipotle said.
Chipotle works on an assembly line type model, where customers move down the line of ingredients to choose what they want in a burrito or bowl. Chipotle locations also run a second assembly line behind the scenes dubbed the "digital make line" in 2019. That section is focused on making mobile and delivery orders, the kind that would make up business at a Chipotlane.
Since COVID-19 prompted more people to order digitally, Chipotle has been able to gather more precise data about ingredient costs and customer ordering. In September, Hartung said that workers were "more consistent on portioning" with digital orders, eliminating potential for for variance depending on the customer and person working.
Then, in October the chain announced it would begin charging for extra tortillas on the side. Though the extra tortilla only costs 25 cents, it showed that Chipotle was getting wise to so-called menu hacks customers used to get extra food. Burrito bowls typically came with more filling than burritos, so adding an extra tortilla meant more food for the same price.
If its portion sizes are getting smaller, Chipotle wouldn't be the only retailer to do so. Retail brands are increasingly turning to "shrinkflation" to avoid scaring off customers with higher prices, instead keeping prices the same for smaller packages and less product.
When it comes to raising prices, companies have two options. "Do we raise the price knowing consumers will see it and grumble about it? Or do we give them a little bit less and accomplish the same thing? Often it's easier to do the latter," consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky told The Washington Post.
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