Chipotle Weighs Risk of Guac Shortage, Bedlam Ensues

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Lesson learned: Never write “guacamole shortage” on the internet.

Chipotle, the popular burrito chain, warned its investors last week that extreme weather events caused by global climate change could negatively impact the availability of certain ingredients, including avocados—that vibrant green fruit loved by just about everyone with a soul.

Specifically, the restaurant explained in its annual report that they may be forced to suspend certain menu items, “such as guacamole or one or more of our salsas,” in the event of a significant weather-related cost increase, like the recent drought in California.

In a somewhat alarming tone, the report goes on to warn that “any such changes to our available menu may negatively impact our restaurant traffic and comparable restaurant sales, and could also have an adverse impact on our brand.”

Not surprisingly, the internet went crazy.

There’s a popular internet meme called Everyone Loses Their Minds in which Heath Ledger’s Joker sarcastically points out how people tend to freak out about all the wrong things. Here’s a good example.

Well, in light of recent events, I’d like to add my own:

Joker guacamole meme.jpg

Listen: Risk forecasts are part and parcel with the management of any company. It's part of what it means to operate a business, especially one as successful as Chipotle. Restaurants, in particular, are expected to anticipate supply shortages and develop proper responses to them.

If anything, Chipotle should be commended for recognizing weather patterns like the recent California drought. It's not unreasonable to expect such events in the future, and that that may take a toll on farmers and food supplies. Chipotle itself hasn’t ruled out the possibility of prices increasing as a result of the most recent drought.

But in response to this news, people predictably freaked out: Comments sections erupted with snark and vitriol, and the internet seemed intent on blaming Chipotle for everything.

So the company went into DEFCON PR mode Wednesday, reassuring just about every major news outlet that their annual business report are exactly that: an annual business report.

"There is no looming 'guacapocalypse' and I wouldn't read too much into this," company spokesman Chris Arnold told NPR.

And to CNN Money: “This is nothing more than routine risk factor disclosure. The sky is not falling.”

And in a public statement: “We are required to disclose issues that could present risks to our business like supply constraints or higher food costs.”

Finally, Chipotle reminded everyone that the restaurant goes through “97,000 pounds of avocados a day... That comes out to nearly 18,000 tons of avocados a year."

So, please, let's not cry over a few guacamole servings, even if the threat were real.

Hero Image: Wikimedia Commons, Muhammad Mahdi Karim

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