The last few months haven't been too kind to Chipotle. After a string of food safety concerns hit the company's restaurants all over the U.S, its stock plummeted and the public's trust in the once-golden child of the fast-food industry was severely damaged. Of course, hardcore Chipotle fanatics probably didn't let a little E. Coli scare turn them away from their precious burrito bowls, but a chain with more than 19,000 locations needs to attract a little more than just that constituency.
That's why Chipotle is planning to shut down entirely for a few hours to review new safety standards, thank employees for sticking through the tough times, and get everyone on the same page. As a customer, this knowledge is probably comforting, but not nearly as exciting as the even more recent news that Chipotle will also give out free food to win people back. Apparently, each location will receive double the usual amount of food to simply give away, allowing managers to set up their own campaigns.
In order to make sure customers feel good about eating that free food, Chipotle has made changes to how it's prepared. That includes blanching vegetables in boiling water and dicing some ingredients at a central location. Although completely eliminating the risk of food-borne illnesses will be near impossible, the new procedures should be much better than before. As CEO Steve Ells explained in an open apology published in 61 newspapers, the idea is to become the "safest place to eat."
It'll take a while to prove Chipotle can do that, but its PR people definitely know the art of the apology tour. The company has done everything it needs to do to turn the corner. Now it's about being consistent moving forward.
Cover image: Wikimedia