What’s Behind TikTok’s Beef With Chipotle?

“If the price goes up, the portions ideally should go up as well,” Mr. Francis said.

Motivated by other TikTok videos, Mr. Francis decided to join in on what he called “the peaceful protest.” On May 18, he walked into his Chipotle, filming, and asked for a bowl to go. When he believed the worker did not give him enough beans, Mr. Francis said, “Appreciate you, bro,” left the bowl behind and walked out without paying. The video, which is captioned “couldn’t let him disrespect me with the protein,” has received more than 114,000 likes. (The popularity of videos like Mr. Francis’ have led to a spinoff genre of satirical posts in which people bring professional recording equipment into Chipotle.)

While influencers like Mr. Francis and Mr. Polenske say they are fighting for consumers, others feel their videos are punishing the counter workers at Chipotle, who are paid an average of $17 an hour, according to Erin Wolford, a company spokeswoman. A thread in the Chipotle subreddit demanding that customers stop recording employees touched off an impassioned debate, with over 1,000 comments.

“People think (or at least say) that they are doing it to stand up against corporate greed and injustice but are filming line workers without their consent while they try to scrape out a living,” one comment reads.

In a statement, Ms. Wolford discouraged the practice. “We appreciate when our guests treat our employees with the respect that they deserve,” she wrote. “Filming does not result in larger portion sizes.”

Mr. Polenske and Mr. Francis both said they didn’t intend to scapegoat workers.

“It’s a wake-up call to the corporate side of Chipotle,” Mr. Polenske said.

In a video interview published on May 30 with Fortune magazine, Brian Niccol, Chipotle’s chief executive, denied that the restaurant was serving smaller portions. (The day before, in an interview with Jim Cramer on CNBC’s “Mad Money,” Mr. Niccol said the filming trend “bums me out.”)

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