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Chipotle debunks viral ‘phone rule’ trend after customers complained about small portions

A viral ‘phone rule’ has claimed that filming workers at Chipotle will result in overloaded burritos and bowls

Meredith Clark
New York
Tuesday 28 May 2024 17:41 BST
Related: Chipotle insists portion sizes have not changed despite complaints

A viral trend has circulated online that purportedly influences Chipotle employees into giving customers larger portions. But does the alleged “phone rule” actually work?

It all began when popular food blogger Keith Lee claimed that Chipotle Mexican Grill has become stingy in its portion sizes, and shared a review of his regular burrito bowl order as proof. “The portions been crazy low,” he said in a viral TikTok posted earlier this month.

As Lee gave viewers a glimpse at his Chipotle burrito bowl, which he ordered with chicken al pastor, he dug around the burrito bowl with his fork to find only four pieces of chicken at the bottom. “I don’t taste much flavor. Everything is freezing cold. When I say freezing cold, this tastes like it was in the refrigerator,” Lee told his 16.3 million TikTok followers. “It’s just not – I don’t know if it’s the quality, I don’t know if it’s the seasonings, the time. I don’t know what it is, but this is not – and the amount of chicken.”

In the comments section, it appeared that several Chipotle customers agreed that they too have noticed a difference in portions from the American fast casual chain.

“Keith Lee calling out Chipotle on their servings was needed,” one person commented under his video, while another user wrote: “Had to be said! They have been skimping on the meat and the quality isn’t what it used to be!”

After Lee’s Chipotle review went viral, it prompted an online campaign to get Chipotle to change its portion sizes. The alleged “phone rule” has seen several customers filming themselves at Chipotle, as they hold their phones up to workers building their customized orders. According to TikTokers, the supposed “phone rule” incentivizes workers to give customers more food due to the pressure of being recorded.

In a viral video, one customer recorded a Chipotle employee filling his burrito bowl to the brim with rice, beans, chicken, salsa, cheese, and guacamole. Another clip from TikTok user @luna.escobar_ showed her testing out Chipotle’s alleged “phone rule” to see if her burrito bowl portion would be larger than normal. “Looks pretty full to me,” she said.

As the Chipotle “phone rule” went viral online, it didn’t take long for the chain restaurant to jump in on the supposed trend. Poking fun at the viral hack, the official TikTok account for Chipotle shared an amusing video of people holding their phones up to its food-building station. “POV u work at Chiptole rn,” they wrote over the video.

However, Laurie Schalow – the company’s chief corporate affairs and food safety officer – confirmed to People that the viral “phone rule” isn’t an official policy at Chipotle at all, and said that “there have been no changes in [Chipotle’s] portion sizes”.

“Our intentions are to provide a great experience every time, and our meals have always been completely customizable so guests can vocalize or digitally select their desired portions when choosing from the list of real ingredients,” she added.

Meanwhile, the company told Forbes that they did not “issue instructions [to employees] regarding filming”.

Chipotle customers have the option of choosing a burrito, a burrito bowl, quesadillas, a salad, or tacos at store locations. The price of a chicken burrito bowl starts at $11.35, though proteins like chicken al pastor, steak, beef barbacoa, carnitas, or sofritas cost more. For extra protein, Chipotle typically charges between $3.65 and $5.40.

Customers previously expressed their frustration after the company raised its prices for the fourth time in just over two years due to “offset inflation”. In the first quarter of 2022, Chipotle reportedly raised its prices by four percent on top of another increase back in June 2021, which according to the company, was done to offset increasing employees wages. Chipotle also announced a price hike in July 2022, which led to entrees costing $1 more than usual.

However, one customer went viral as she revealed her secret “life hack” to score a $2 burrito at Chipotle. In the clip, TikTok user Hannah Hutson instructed her followers to order a pinto bean and cheese burrito, which Chipotle employees will charge as side orders. “It’s literally $1.94 and it slaps. I order it even when I have $$$” she said.

Hutson shared that she has been ordering what TikTok users referred to as a “two-pointer” since she started eating at Chipotle as a child. A two-pointer and a three-pointer is a burrito that only consists of two or three items, with every ingredient except for protein and guacamole being one point. Ordering these secret menu items at Chipotle significantly lowers the cost of a standard burrito.

“It’s awkward when they charge it as a three pointer and I gotta say something,” Hutson said, noting that only one Chipotle worker has been hesitant to lower the price of her burrito.

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