In January, 2015, Chipotle stopped serving pork at a third of its 1,800 restaurants due to its discovery that a pork supplier was not meeting Chipotle's “Food with Integrity” standards. This case examines the trade-offs Chipotle faced in maintaining its focus on sustainable ingredients as the chain grew rapidly. Demand for healthier ingredients by others in the industry and scalability problems in sustainable agricultural production suggested that supply shortages and higher prices were likely threats to Chipotle's continued rapid growth. Could Chipotle maintain its commitment to “Food with Integrity” when the supply of sustainable foods failed to meet demand or should the company just buy available ingredients regardless of farming methods?
This case was developed from both secondary and primary sources. The secondary sources included industry reports, company annual reports, news reports, social media sites and company websites. Primary sources included video interviews with Chipotle executives (available on the company's website) and visits to Chipotle restaurants in several cities. This case has been classroom tested with MBA students in a capstone course and with undergraduates in a strategic management course.
Relevant courses and levels
This case was written for use in Strategic Management classes at the undergraduate and MBA levels. The focus of the case aligns well with discussions of competitive advantage, firm performance and business level strategy. The case also has application in discussions regarding implementation of strategy. Instructors that choose to emphasize sustainability strategies could assign this case to explore trade-offs between profitability, sustainability and growth. Additionally, the case could be used in supply chain management courses.
This case utilizes a stakeholder analysis approach to examine the trade-offs between sustainability initiatives, growth and performance. The resource-based model of VRIO is used to analyze the firm's competitive advantage.
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