With Chipotle Mexican Grill generating so much unfavorable publicity lately, it's hard to determine exactly when Chipotle became the ugly-step child of eateries. In its heyday, the chain seemed to be a top choice on the list of affordable and generally-healthy casual restaurant choices.
Things have changed, but it's hard to tell exactly when and why.
I verified this after I posed the question: "Are you someone that refuses to eat Chipotle? Why? Can you tell me when your disgust/unwillingness to consume Chipotle initially started?" on my Facebook and Twitter pages.
In 2009, South Park aired an episode titled, Dead Celebrities. The episode featured the ghost of Billy Mays selling a product called, "ChipotlAway" that was used to remove blood from underwear after eating Chipotle.
South Park got away with saying "Chipotle," but the company's actual logo is not used. Still, after the episode aired, people I knew — who had never eaten Chipotle — would swear it was the most disgusting thing and would warn me I would need "ChipotlAway" if I continued to eat it.
Even then, there was something about Chipotle that left a bad taste in the public's mouth.
I'll admit, I ate Chipotle religiously for years. However, in 2013, a friend and I both ate Chipotle one weekend and experienced the same food poisoning symptoms — almost in unison — a few days later. I didn't eat Chipotle for a year after that, up to this day, my friend still will not.
Although, after getting sick, I didn't turn against Chipotle specifically, as there were two other places I stopped visiting, too.
Since I've returned to Chipotle, the brand has clearly lost the spark it once had. Maybe the rice recipe has changed, or they switched to a different chicken vendor, but something is different.
The responses to my question revealed two things: people either hated Chipotle, and it's NOT part of their diet. Or, they have eaten it, but hate it afterwards.
Most people who admit eating Chipotle still feel a certain level of repulsion toward their experience.
Surprisingly, Chipotle was an engaging topic for people to discuss. People seemed eager to vent their opinion about why Chipotle was a sub-par eatery, and why they've refused to eat it. Ironically, there was less mention about Chipotle's public health issues as reasoning for not consuming it, than I had anticipated.
However, multiple people said they, "felt like shit," or "got sick" after eating there.
As the responses began coming in, this became the norm:
Some decided to switch up their order, just to avoid any discomfort.
Others complained that Chipotle's portion sizes were too large, and the food lacked flavor.
Judging from the responses on my page, one could potentially make the argument that Chipotle has quickly become America's most hated food, but it's hard to say exactly when that happened.
I wanted to pinpoint when Chipotle's smudged reputation started to reflect negatively on the company, financially. Chipotle self-reported the first cases of food-borne illnesses appearing in August 2015 — that's exactly when its stock price began to slide.
Chipotle's stock market performance has waffled over the year, but actually reached its highest price in July 2015, at about $700 per share. Just one month before the first illness was reported.
Chipotle's stock has fallen drastically in the past 13 months, recently closing at $418.88, according to NASDAQ.
Not everyone who commented agreed with the majority opinion, though. In the midst of all the blatant hate for Chipotle on my Facebook, there was a silver lining for Chipotle lovers.
In fact, this comment received more collective "likes" than the original status itself and more than any other comment on the thread.
Looks like people are still holding out hope for Chipotle. We also cannot forget Devin Cunningham, the man who ate Chipotle burritos for a year, who now looks SHREDDED. He didn't seem to be bothered by any of the anti-Chipotle hype.
However, regardless of what the responses on the posts insinuated, if you're someone that eats Chipotle regularly, or if you've sworn off burritos bowls for good — this is just a microcosm, a small sample size of opinions, that could potentially reflect the sentiment of the larger population as a whole.