The burrito maker’s advertising has mostly focused on the quality of its food since a string of disease outbreaks surfaced last fall, sending its sales and share price cascading.
The new film, to be posted Chipotle’s website, YouTube, Hulu and other outlets, starting Wednesday, features two juice-stand owners who use conventional methods, including new menu items and price promotions to attract guests.
The short, dubbed “A Love Story,” also takes issue with the use of processed ingredients and ends with the two entrepreneurs discovering the error of their ways and uniting to create a food stand that offers fresh ingredients.
“While we certainly have some trust to regain as it related to food safety that’s not what the video is about,” said Mark Shambura, director of brand marketing at Chipotle. “What we’re really looking to do is remind consumers about our commitment to using quality ingredients and classic cooking.”
Mr. Shambura said the film has been in the works for the past 18 months, before the food-safety issues or the unrelated legal problems facing Mr. Crumpacker cropped up.
Robert Passikoff, president of marketing firm Brand Keys, said it seems like Chipotle is hoping that focusing on all the strengths that made it successful, such as local food and no preservatives, will help people forget that its food made people sick. “But rebuilding trust takes a long time,” he said. Mr. Passikoff hasn’t seen the new video, which is not public yet.
The outreach to the public comes at an awkward time for the chain. The company’s chief creative and development officer, Mark Crumpacker, was placed on administrative leave last week after being indicted on drug charges. Prosecutors said he was one of 18 alleged buyers indicted as part of what was described as a $75,000 drug ring. On Tuesday, Mr. Crumpacker was arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court and released on $4,500 in cash bail. His lawyer declined to comment, and said they would “deal with the case in the courtroom.”
Mr. Crumpacker has been responsible for setting the tone of Chipotle’s communication with guests in the aftermath of the food-safety problems. He steered away from mentioning food safety, choosing instead, he said, to focus on the quality of the ingredients.
The chain, which saw its stock price fall 35% over the past 12 months, also has relied on food giveaways to lure back customers who have stayed away from its restaurants.
Crisis marketing expert Richard Levick, who hasn’t seen the new Chipotle video, said the company is taking the right stance in sticking with its roots, despite the hiccups. “Leadership is not about perfection, it’s about keeping true to who they are,” he said. “This is who we’ve come to associate with Chipotle.” It isn’t the first time Chipotle has used film to take mark their position on food.
In 2011, Chipotle released a short film called “Back to the Start,” which demonized large, industrial farming. Two years later, Chipotle released “The Scarecrow,” which criticized processed food. Last fall, Chipotle produced a short film showing a customer entering a fictitious restaurant called “Cheapotle” where she discovers workers adding artificial ingredients to her food.
Meanwhile, rivals such as McDonald’s Corp.
and Yum Brands Inc.
’s Taco Bell have been posting stronger growth and borrowing from Chipotle’s playbook of offering fresher food and more humanely sourced ingredients.
The new film’s message of fresh over prepared foods appears to contradict Chipotle efforts to prepare more of its dishes in central kitchens, rather than in its restaurants.
The chain had been loath to offer the type of loyalty program common in the restaurant industry, but recently introduced one for the first time to reward customers who visit frequently each month.
—Pervaiz Shallwani contributed to this article.