Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill is a publicly traded company. Like all publicly traded companies, its executives answer to shareholders. When sales decline, as they did in the aftermath of the norovirus outbreak at Chipotle restaurants that sickened almost 400 customers, the company has to appease its shareholders with new ideas to rise among competitors and boost sales, ideas like innovative marketing strategies. This summer's Chiptopia program rewards Chipotle's most loyal customers with "FREE burritos, swag, and other big prizes."
How puzzling, then, that the Mexican fast-food joint released a short film today that condemns not only competition among food chains, but also mass-processed food and cheap marketing ploys. Like this summer's Chiptopia program.
"A Love Story" stars Evie and Ivan. Evie sells lemonade from a modest stand in what one can only assume is her nice little neighborhood. Ivan sells orange juice across the street. Googly-eyed over Evie, Ivan devises a plan to raise enough money to take her to the movies: Sell the shit out of some orange juice. Evie loses customers, which makes her sad. But only momentarily. The bespeckled budding entrepreneur starts posting even more signs around her neighborhood promoting her lemonade. Ivan, who's definitely gotten over Evie, answers in kind.
The next few minutes show Evie and Ivan's respective stands spiraling downward into the bowels of fast-food hell. Neon signs are tacked on to what now look like huge diners. A graph appears, showing menu options rising and food costs falling.
One day many years later, adult Evie and Ivan are glaring at each other from their respective offices when Evie takes a sip of her lemonade, apparently for the first time in years. She's disgusted. Her lemonade has glitter in it! Evie visits Lemonade Land's processing plant and realizes why there's glitter in her lemonade: A scary machine is dumping glitter in her lemonade! All the while, a remake of the Backstreet Boys' 1999 hit "I Want It That Way," sung by Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard and My Morning Jacket's Jim James, sounds increasingly more sinister.
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Evie and Ivan realize the error of their ways, ditch their McMega joints, and start up that perennial symbol of small business in America: a food truck, from which they sell – what else? – tacos.
This isn't Chipotle's first venture into ad-length cinema; in 2013, the company released "The Scarecrow," which features another cute character saddened and disillusioned by the growth of industrial food production. The titular character quits his job at a factory and uses homegrown veggies to make — you guessed it — tacos.
Short-film premiere notwithstanding, it's been a tough week for Chipotle. On Tuesday a marketing executive was arraigned on seven drug charges. Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief creative and development officer, had allegedly been buying cocaine from a drug ring in New York.