Chipotle portions drama: Wells Fargo analyst exposes inconsistency

Chipotle Mexican Grill's portion sizes are under scrutiny after a Wells Fargo analyst found significant inconsistencies in the popular burrito bowls. 

Zachary Fedam and his team ordered and weighed 75 burrito bowls from eight different Chipotle locations in New York City to investigate claims of reduced portion sizes.

The study found a wide range in portion sizes, with the smallest bowl weighing 13.8 oz. and the largest at 26.8 oz. The median weight for in-store orders was 21.4 oz., while digital orders had a median weight of 21.6 oz. The biggest factor affecting portion sizes was the location of the order.

"Consistency varied widely, with some locations serving bowls that weigh approximately 33% more than other locations (on equivalent orders); and the heaviest digital/in-store bowls weighing 87%/47% more versus the lightest," the report stated.

Social media backlash over Chipotle portion sizes

This investigation follows widespread criticism on social media, where users have accused Chipotle of using fewer ingredients in its burrito bowls. The hashtag "Chipotle small portion size" has amassed over 58 million videos on TikTok, highlighting the perceived reduction in burrito bowl sizes.

In response, social media users have posted videos showing employees adding extra rice, beans, and chicken without charge, attempting to combat the alleged decrease in portions.

RELATED: Chipotle customers claim filming gets bigger portions amid portion size controversy

"Similar to others in the fast-casual industry, our completely customizable meals may have variability in their size or weight depending upon the number of ingredients a guest selects or if they choose to make an ingredient extra or light when ordering from our list of real ingredients in-person or digitally," Laurie Schalow, Chipotle's chief corporate affairs officer, stated in an email to FOX Business. "There have been no changes in our portion sizes, and we aim to provide a great guest experience every time."

Chipotle CEO's response and customer reactions

In a TikTok video with over 15.3 million views, Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol denied any reduction in portion sizes, stating that the company's burritos and bowls have not gotten smaller. Niccol suggested that customers simply need to ask for a bit more if they want extra ingredients.

The CEO's comments were met with widespread criticism on TikTok. "I don’t think he has been to a Chipotle as a regular customer," one user commented. "I can tell he’s the CEO, no one else would approve of this statement," another wrote. Former employees also chimed in, claiming they have seen portion sizes decrease over the years.

Impact of inflation and food prices on Chipotle portions

Meanwhile, Chipotle, known for its fast-casual options with an appealing price point, has faced backlash this year over its portion of offerings, with many big-time influencers complaining about the issue.

The controversy caught the attention of influencers like Keith Lee, who previously partnered with the chain. He criticized the steak quesadilla he made famous, dropping his rating from a 10 to a 2.5.

"Something changed, and I don’t know what it is," he said. Lee’s videos join dozens of social media rants lamenting that the "good old days" of Chipotle offering affordable and generous portions are gone, prompting a flood of negative comments from once-loyal customers. 

But Chipotle insists portion sizes haven’t changed.

"Guests of Chipotle can completely customize their meal in restaurants by vocalizing their desired portions or digitally selecting extra, light, normal, or on the side when choosing from the list of real ingredients," said Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs and food safety officer, in a statement obtained by Restaurant Business. "We have not changed our portion sizes, and our guests continue to appreciate the value we offer them."

Rumors and Chipotle's comedic response

The controversy even went so far to spark a rumor that Chipotle had begun giving larger portions if customers film their orders. 

Videos by influencers like Waynedang show comments from alleged Chipotle employees, claiming managers instruct them not to skimp on portions if customers are filming. 

Chipotle has not responded to requests for comment but previously posted a video addressing the controversy with a comedic take on the rumor that filming gets customers extra portions.

The video shows dozens of customers in front of a Chipotle counter with their phones out, captioned "POV u work at Chipotle rn."