- Chipotle offered buy-one, get-one-free entrees after 3 p.m. on July 6 as part of a limited promotion.
- Five workers told Insider their stores were unprepared and understaffed to deal with the new influx of customers.
- Chipotle told Insider the chain had a “very successful day” in a statement.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Chipotle customers and workers say a free-food promotion on July 6 drew huge crowds that in some cases overwhelmed stores and staff.
As part of the promotion, customers could go to a participating Chipotle location after 3 p.m. to get a free entree as long as they bought one. They just had to say “friends BOGO” to the cashier to activate the deal, which Chipotle promoted as supporting a national month of action for vaccinations.
Insider spoke to five Chipotle employees in Michigan, Iowa, California, and Georgia, who each told Insider that their locations were understaffed and unable to keep up with the demand from customers looking to score a deal. All spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
One worker from Michigan described himself as “overworked” after a five-hour shift without a break or chance to get a drink. He said his “understaffed restaurant crumbled under the pressure,” and was full until closing.
Chipotle did not respond to specific questions about staffing and ingredient shortages.
“It was a very successful day and we were proud to participate in the National Month of Action to encourage vaccinations,” Chief Corporate Affairs and Food Safety Officer Laurie Schalow told Insider.
A store manager at a California location described a similar experience as the worker in Michigan: “I’ve worked doubles [shifts] before but not like this. My feet will never be the same.”
The manager’s location ran out of lettuce, cilantro, and corn, and came close to running out of rice on Tuesday.
“Everyone [working] on the shift is fighting and angry,” she said, because the store was running low on ingredients and customers were angry and demanding.
Another worker in Iowa described having dozens of customers yell at them because of long wait times, running out of food, and the computer system malfunctioning.
“It’s a burrito. It is not worth a 2-hour wait,” they said. Their store ran out of lettuce, sour cream, brown rice, steak, vegetables, corn, and guacamole during the promotion.
The Iowa employee said that they only found out about the promotion was happening through coworkers a few hours before it was scheduled to start, and the Michigan employee only found out midway through his shift.
Another manager in the Midwest told Insider that he and his employees were forced to take shortcuts in food prep just to keep up with the lines, skipping seasonings like lime juice and salt.
“I’ve never seen food served at a lower standard at my store,” he said. A worker in Georgia told Insider his store faced the same situation.
Customers also posted on social media about their experiences trying to cash in on the deal, including complaints about long lines and missing ingredients.
Another asked corporate to send out extra ingredients for the next BOGO promotion. “I just left a location & they literally only had; white rice, black beans, chicken, salsa, queso, and shredded cheese,” the disappointed customer tweeted.
One tweet mentioned seeing two workers crying at a store in “pure chaos.”
“Seems like maybe this was really unfair to them. I love Chipotle but I’m gonna give it up just to give those poor workers a break. Do better,” the person wrote.
-faboolah (@azninthesun) July 7, 2021
-Austin Love (@AustinLoveTV) July 6, 2021
Janette Park in Denver, Colorado told Insider that there were at least 30 people in line ahead of her when she arrived, and workers told her the store had been completely crowded for five or six hours. Rahul Mangalore shared a photo of a Chipotle location In Pleasanton, California, packed full of waiting customers.
-Rahul Mangalore (@Rahul_Mangalore) July 7, 2021
Insider reporter Tom Pallini attempted to take advantage of the BOGO deal and waited in the long line at a location in New York City. When he asked the cashier if he needed to say the phrase to redeem the deal, the worker replied “please don’t.”
Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at [email protected].