Chipotle may have been hoisted by its own melted cheese goo.
Fans of the fast-casual food chain long wondered why it didn’t carry queso, a dip made from melted cheese and peppers that’s a popular staple of the Tex-Mex that Chipotle serves to millions. Finally, with a good bit of fanfare, Chipotle granted these wishes and rolled out its version of the rich appetizer last week.
The queso to which most diners are accustomed tends to be smooth to the point of creaminess, not unlike chocolate fondue. In early tests, diners found that Chipotle’s was a bit chunkier. The company’s chief executive, Steve Ells, said that’s because the chain only uses natural ingredients.
“Additives make typical queso very consistent and predictable, but are not at all in keeping with our food culture,” Ells told The Washington Post’s Maura Judkis in a statement. “Our queso may vary slightly depending on the characteristics of the aged cheddar cheese used in each batch, but using only real ingredients is what makes our food so delicious.”
Never mind that Lisa Fain, the author of a cookbook solely focused on queso, told The Post this isn’t the case, that a smooth queso can be formed from all-natural ingredients. The company decided to push forward with its dip anyway.
Now, the company has reason to regret that decision.
In the few days since queso appeared on Chipotle’s menu, diners have been absolutely brutal when reviewing it. Just watch this one suggestion on the “best way to eat” the new queso. Spoiler alert: It involves a trash can.
One customer apologized to his taste buds for introducing them to the dip. Another called it “the most disappointing thing to ever happen to me.” Finally another guessed its recipe: sand, 1,000 island dressing, a little cheese and vomit.
It’s even been described as “a crime against cheese.”
“I’m sorry you’re not a fan. Our queso uses all natural ingredients that we’re proud of,” Chipotle said in a reply to one unhappy customer. “We’ll keep working on it.”
The problem extends well beyond social media, though.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs said this could actually hurt the company’s bottom line, since reactions to the queso “suggest few customers will become repeat consumers.”
Indeed, one user tweeted he “will never eat at Chipotle again after trying their ‘queso.’ Totally disappointed.”
“A very negative reaction to the queso launch suggests Chipotle launched a product that is not meeting consumer expectations, and, as a result, missed a potentially significant opportunity to add queso as an incremental add-on,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a research note obtained by CNN Money.
The company’s stock fell 3.6 percent on Monday and another 1.5 percent on Tuesday.
Queso — or any single, disliked menu item — might not seem like a tremendous deal, but Chipotle seems to be in corporate distress.
Just a few years ago, it was lauded for revolutionizing the fast food industry, but now it’s difficult to recall a recent positive headline about the fast-casual chain. It’s become the Uber of dining.
The company recently closed a Dallas location after diners claimed to see rats fall from the ceiling of the restaurant. Before that, the company faced a number of foodborne illness outbreaks, including repeated outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella and norovirus.
Things finally reached a point where people were actually asking the question, “Can Queso Dip Save Chipotle?”
If the social media backlash against the dip is any indication, the future looks about as bright as its new dip.
Correction: In a previous version of the story, Chipotle CEO Steve Ells’s name was misspelled. This version is correct.
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