Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Reputation

It was the strangest feeling.

We were scampering around on a recent Friday night, racing from place to place and juggling multiple simultaneous events.  A meal had to be secured, and so we stopped in at Chipotle.  It had been a while.

I knew, in the back of my head, that Chipotle had been struggling after a series of food-related illnesses had hit their restaurants in other areas of the country.  But there'd been none anywhere near our metropolitan area, and I'd honestly not given it a second thought.  Our regional supply chain and practices, I figured, were most likely unrelated to the problem.

As a vegetarian, it's a great option, and I am simpatico with their corporate ethos.  The only issue I'd had with Chipotle: the lines were too long.  Particularly on a Friday night, when the place would be packed.

That wasn't even close to the case.

Though it was peak dinner rush on a Friday, there was almost no-one in the place.  We walked right up, and ordered.

Convenience aside, it was a little unsettling.  And a reminder.

When organizations lose their reputation for something, when the perception of their place or role shifts in the cultural narrative, the impacts can be substantial.

If your product is tainted, or your service is flawed?  Crowds vanish.  Lines disappear.  If you lose sight of your core narrative as a faith community?  Formerly crowded pews sit empty.

And repairing something as precious and ephemeral as reputation is a difficult thing indeed.

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