Don’t Panic, But Chipotle Is Still Experiencing Rolling Pork Blackouts

For a few months now, Chipotle restaurants have been running low on carnitas, the slow-cooked pork shoulder that you can get as a meat filling in burritos. They pulled the meat from about a third of their restaurants after a supplier didn’t meet Chipotle’s “responsibility standards” for meat. Now the pork shortage has turned into a rolling blackout, with the meat rotating in and out of different restaurants according to supply levels.

Unlike when the company can’t source enough beef or chicken raised according to its standards, Chipotle has been known to substitute conventionally raised versions of those meats. That isn’t an option for carnitas for a reason that the company hasn’t quite explained. Instead, they’ve been taking it off the menu entirely in some areas for about six weeks at a time, then rotating it back on.

That’s a fair way to deal with supply issues, but confusing for customers, who want to know when and where they will have access to their favorite pork products. Reporting on their first-quarter sales, Chipotle’s chief financial officer explained the issue is affecting sales, as customers don’t particularly want to call in to check on pork supply levels, even if they do know about the issue before a burrito craving hits them.

What Chipotle has learned is that carnitas fans are very loyal, and aren’t especially interested in trying other meats while the shortage continues. “We had hoped that the shortage would encourage our carnitas customers to try another menu option, and some did,” CFO Jack Hartung explained during that quarterly conference call. “But many have decided to hold out until carnitas returns to their market.”

There are two pieces of good news: the company has found a new pork vendor, and the shortages will resolve later this year. For burrito fans who don’t want to leave the house, Chipotle is also working on delivery options in partnership with an outside company, Postmates Inc. Delivery is available in 67 cities now, and will grow if consumers like it.

Chipotle Supply Woes Threaten to Hamper Growth for Rest of Year [Bloomberg News]

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