Chipotle to close all outlets in February?

January 18
6:25 AM 2016

Following reports of back-to-back outbreaks of food contamination, Chipotle is shutting down all restaurants and store operations on February 8, albeit for a few hours.

The food-chain giant was forced to take this extreme step to call for an emergency food safety meeting with all its 1900 outlets. According to The Hill, Chipotle's spokesperson, Chris Arnold, said that the company would be discussing some of the changes regarding food safety, and about the restaurant's role in the process.

Vox reports say that Chipotle has been opening outlets at a swift pace, owing to its huge popularity as a fast food chain. Its quality control measures seemed to have taken a back step with the company's extensive hiring and focus on serving customers at a quick pace.

The company first got into trouble in August with the outbreak of Salmonella in Minnesota where 64 customers were affected. This set the tone for what was about to become the biggest case of food contamination in the history of food chains. Around the same time, 100 people in South Carolina were infected with norovirus.  Before Chipotle could recover from this setback, in October and November, people in nine states suffered a severe bout of E.Coli. This was followed by another case of norovirus which affected around 140 Boston students, along with another instance of E.Coli in three states.

The multiple outbreaks, as represented by CNN Money, ripped apart the company's image completely, and the once-successful fast food chain found itself staring at several lawsuits slapped on by irate customers, along with a subpoena by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations.

The company's advocacy on non-GMO standards that was once a powerful marketing tool for health-conscious customers now turned into a huge joke as the social media platforms became flooded with tweets and jokes on getting infected if you consumed Chipotle food.

Quite expectedly, its stocks took a sharp 42% downturn and stood at an all-time low of $428 per share, from its $750 a share. Given the scenario, the company projects a fourth-quarter decline of 8% this year. However, it had already started a comprehensive reform program of its policies and practices in October, which evidently could not keep the outbreaks in check.

Today, Chipotle is forced to take this drastic step in an attempt to absolve its tarnished image, and close all its operations nationwide to hold discussions regarding food safety. CEO Steve Ellis sounded optimistic when he said "We know that Chipotle is as safe as it's ever been before," at a conference on January 13. He also mentioned the new marketing campaign which would hopefully help win back their customers. As there has been no instance of food contamination in two months, Ellis hopes that Centers for Disease Control would give them the green signal soon.  

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