FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Chipotle Bell

Photo by Mike Mozart | CC BY 2.0

A year or so ago, I was sufficiently desperate as to walk into a Whole Foods store.  The grocery chain I normally shop at had run out of coffee filters, and Whole Foods was nearby.  What the hell, I thought, and stoically entered that paragon of green capitalism.  I found what I was looking for—filters—albeit overpriced, inferior ones made from “unbleached paper” distributed by a company with the totally obnoxious name If You Care.  This company’s  corporate  b.s., plastered all over its website, goes like this:  If You Care knows you care.  We all do.  We care simply because it’s the right thing to do.  Now, more than ever.”

Overlooking the delicious irony that the “Now, more than ever” construction was made famous as the tag line in Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign, the treacly If You Care self-righteous moralism is characteristic of almost all firms trying to fill one or another  green- capitalist niche in the U.S.   economy.   Perhaps the most egregious of such firms in recent years has been the now much-derided fast-food (oops, “fast-casual”) restaurant chain Chipotle.  The Colorado-based chain was once  famous  for its claims of freshness and naturalness, its over-the-top denunciations of foods containing purportedly dangerous GMOs, and its finger-wagging at competitors that didn’t meet its supposedly exalted standards.  Today, of course, the firm is infamous not only for its belly-busting 1100-calorie   burrito bowls, but also for the repeated outbreaks of food poisoning at its outlets.  Although Chipotle’s motto is “Food with Integrity,” it would be more appropriate to change it to “Food with Norovirus, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter.”   Available with a side of hepatitis. Now, more than ever.

The fact that Chipotle, which was founded by Steve Ells in 1995, expanded rapidly in large part because McDonald’s was a major investor between 1998 and late 2006—and its major investor for much of that period—should have raised at least a few questions about its simon-pure posturing.  And that’s not meant as a slap against Mickey D’s, which serves up reasonable and more or less honest eats at decent prices without resorting to the soapbox.  But Ells, in trying to dress up market differentiation and higher prices in ethical garb, was hoisted on his petard, as it were, when Chipotle’s “healthy” food began to make people sick.  Although Chipotle corporate speak still claims that   “with every burrito we roll or bowl we fill, we’re working to cultivate a better world,” the main thing it has always tried to cultivate with its strutting was a better bottom line.   And since the start of a series of food poisoning episodes in 2015, its bottom line has sucked.  Indeed, the share prices of the once high-flying firm have been in a dizzying downward spiral for several years now.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say, and if things get desperate enough in the fast-food (oops, fast-casual) restaurant sector, there’s always Taco Bell.  With this in mind,  the news yesterday that Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol will be replacing Ells as CEO of Chipotle as of March 5  is not totally surprising.  After all, Taco Bell has been extremely successful under Niccol’s watch, as consumers have flocked to the chain.  To be sure, no one goes to the Bell because its food is seen as health food,   but because they  want to live más—if not necessarily más tiempo!   That is to say, the food is cheap and tasty, if sometimes of rather indeterminate origins, to which the “signature recipe” that long accounted   for  12%  of the “beef” in its tacos attests.  But at the Bell, no one cares—that’s the beauty of the place.

So, with Ells kicked upstairs, let’s hope that Niccol is free to jettison the “food with integrity” blather at Chipotle in order to firm  up the company’s supply chain and “clean up” operations.  In other words, to get Chipotle off the soapbox and maybe to get its employees to start using a bit more lather instead.  In so doing, it might even become a more “honest company.”   Wait, I can’t use that descriptor either, since Jessica Alba has already nabbed it for her own sketchy “mission driven” consumer brand, the principal mission of which seems to be to make TV’s Dark Angel rich.  And, at the end of the day, that’s what green capitalism really means.

 

More articles by:

Peter A. Coclanis is Albert R. Newsome Distinguished Professor of History and the Director of the Global Research Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 23, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Why Boris Johnson is Even More Dangerous Than Trump
Christopher Ketcham
The American West as Judeo-Christian Artifact
Jack Heyman
Whitewashing American History: the WPA Mural Controversy in San Francisco
David Mattson
Through the Climate Looking Glass into Grizzly Wonderland
David Macaray
Paul Krassner and Me
Thomas Knapp
Peckerwood Populism is About Political Strategy, Not Personal Belief
John Kendall Hawkins
Assange and His Wiki Wicked leaks
Howard Lisnoff
What Has Happened to the U.S. Since the Kids Left Woodstock?
Victor Grossman
“How Could They?” Why Some Americans Were Drawn to the Communist Party in the 1940s
Gary Leupp
Minnesota, White People, Lutherans and Ilhan Omar
Binoy Kampmark
Lunar Narratives: Landing on the Moon, Politics and the Cold War
Richard Ward
Free La Donalda!
July 22, 2019
Michael Hudson
U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses
Evaggelos Vallianatos
If Japan Continues Slaughtering Whales, Boycott the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Mike Garrity
Emergency Alert For the Wild Rockies
Dean Baker
The U.S.-China Trade War: Will Workers Lose?
Jonah Raskin
Paul Krassner, 1932-2019: American Satirist 
David Swanson
U.S. Troops Back in Saudi Arabia: What Could Go Wrong?
Robert Fisk
American Visitors to the Gestapo Museum Draw Their Own Conclusions
John Feffer
Trump’s Send-Them-Back Doctrine
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Landscape of Anguish and Palliatives: Predation, Addiction and LOL Emoticons in the Age of Late Stage Capitalism
Karl Grossman
A Farmworkers Bill of Rights
Gary Leupp
Omar and Trump
Robert Koehler
Fighting Climate Change Means Ending War
Susie Day
Mexicans Invade US, Trump Forced to Go Without Toothbrush
Elliot Sperber
Hey Diddle Diddle, Like Nero We Fiddle
Weekend Edition
July 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
The Blob Fought the Squad, and the Squad Won
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
It Was Never Just About the Chat: Ruminations on a Puerto Rican Revolution.
Anthony DiMaggio
System Capture 2020: The Role of the Upper-Class in Shaping Democratic Primary Politics
Andrew Levine
South Carolina Speaks for Whom?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Big Man, Pig Man
Bruce E. Levine
The Groundbreaking Public Health Study That Should Change U.S. Society—But Won’t
Evaggelos Vallianatos
How the Trump Administration is Eviscerating the Federal Government
Pete Dolack
All Seemed Possible When the Sandinistas Took Power 40 years Ago
Ramzy Baroud
Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis
Ron Jacobs
Dancing with Dr. Benway
Joseph Natoli
Gaming the Climate
Marshall Auerback
The Numbers are In, and Trump’s Tax Cuts are a Bust
Louisa Willcox
Wild Thoughts About the Wild Gallatin
Kenn Orphan
Stranger Things, Stranger Times
Mike Garrity
Environmentalists and Wilderness are Not the Timber Industry’s Big Problem
Helen Yaffe
Cuban Workers Celebrate Salary Rise From New Economic Measures
Brian Cloughley
What You Don’t Want to be in Trump’s America
David Underhill
The Inequality of Equal Pay
David Macaray
Adventures in Script-Writing
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail