Chad sent us a copy of his letter to Chipotle’s headquarters, which is too long to reproduce here. This all went down at a restaurant in the Midwest, and Chad tells us that the location is pretty new, having opened in the last year or so. In the letter, he admits that his wife’s decision to change the kid in the dining area was “unsavory,” and apologizes for any health code violations that she may have caused, and for any inconvenience to the employees who had to sanitize the table.
Yet he defends her decision in his letter, and defended it to the (horrified) Chipotle employees as well. He concluded that they must not have children of their own based on their shock at his wife’s actions, and their apparently unacceptable suggestions for alternative diaper-changing spots. For example: they asked why the family couldn’t use their car. In his letter, he complained to Chipotle that the employees showed an
inability/unwillingness to empathize with parents who find [the car] a less convenient alternative even on a beautiful day like yesterday, much less a subfreezing day as we undoubtedly will have in [this region] this winter.
Consumerist consulted with the ultimate experts in this area: a number of parents of toddlers and former toddlers, who didn’t buy Chad’s arguments and pointed out the many alternatives. One could, for example, change the diaper while the child is standing up, or lay a changing pad on the bathroom floor. (This option does depend on your ability to get up from kneeling on the floor, and isn’t for everyone.) If the diaper isn’t a poop-laden catastrophe, it could wait until the family can get to another public restroom that does have a changing table. If it is a poop-laden catastrophe, exposing the entire dining room to that is gross.
The incident ended with the manager on duty telling Chad’s family that if they tried another dining room diaper change, they would immediately be asked to leave. That’s fine, Chad noted, because he wouldn’t be coming back until a changing table was in place. He pointed out in his letter that competitor Qdoba does have changing tables.
In a similar incident in Texas just last month, a family was kicked out of a pizza restaurant on their first diaper-changing offense. “I don’t want to lose all these other customers because they see a dirty diaper,” one employee there told a local TV station.
The real question that this incident raises is whether Chipotle restaurants normally have a changing table. The official answer: they do not.
Chipotle responded to Chad’s original letter with the following:
Thank you for reaching out to us. I’m sorry to hear that you and your family don’t feel as comfortable in our restaurants having a little one that might need changing. I can completely understand that it’s a hassle to find a way to change your daughter, and agree, that there are simply no alternatives as convenient as an actual changing table. We are currently in the process of retrofitting locations with changing tables, but I understand that this is not a very timely solution. I will forward your email to our [city] restaurant team, so they can understand where you come from, to maybe ease some of the tension. As you can understand it might be disconcerting for other customers to see a child getting changed directly on the tables, and we want to provide all of our customers with an exceptional experience.
We hope that we get to see you again soon, and that we find a good resolution that makes everyone happy.
When Chad wrote back and pressed for a precise date, they couldn’t give him one.
Separately, we contacted Chipotle’s communications department about the changing table question, and they confirmed that most restaurants in the chain don’t have changing tables, but they are considering it.
We are testing them in a handful of restaurants and our design team is looking to incorporate them into new restaurants that are in locations where we are likely to see a high concentration of families as customers.
It’s interesting that the bathrooms weren’t designed with changing tables from the outset, but maybe the program will leave the test phase and they’ll roll out more across the country.
Please, though, nobody hold diaper-in protests to pressure Chipotle to do it. People eat there.