In a high-profile show of transparency, Chipotle’s brand managers live-tweeted and live-streamed the restaurant chain’s food safety meeting on Monday.
All of its U.S. locations were closed during the afternoon lunch rush, making time for employees to hear directly from co-CEOs Monty Moran and Steve Ellis
on their plans to rebuild the brand’s sullied reputation.
The damage control comes after a
500 people became ill after eating in Chipotle restaurants in the second half of 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
completed its probe into the brand’s E. coli outbreak on Feb. 1
Both top executives spoke about the organization’s dedication to preventing another outbreak.
“We've come together today to make sure Chipotle is not just the most delicious place to eat, but also the safest,” Moran said. “We worked with experts who
helped us create the most effective food safety program possible.”
Changes in protocol
Chipotle’s revamped food safety program includes stricter guidelines and procedures for its suppliers, as well as “high-resolution” testing and product
preparation in the brand’s central kitchens.
Prior to the outbreak, items such as tomatoes were shipped to restaurants whole and then were diced without staffers’ testing them individually. Chipotle
says switching this process to its central kitchens will ensure that the products are safe before they ship.
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On its website, the brand updated its “Food with Integrity
” page to explain these procedures in detail.
In addition to introducing sanitation methods such as blanching, Chipotle will require its restaurants to meticulously clean and sanitize
high-contact areas; expect regular restaurant inspections from field leaders trained in food safety, corporate food safety teams and local government
health officials; and offer a paid sick-leave program.
This sick-leave incentive will encourage workers to stay home when they are not well. The New York Times reported that Chipotle said an
outbreak involving 234 sick people in California in August was traced to ailing employees who ignored company policies that prohibited them from working.
Ellis stressed to Chipotle loyalists that the taste of Chipotle’s food will not change.
“We'll continue to source the same high-quality ingredients, raised with respect for animals, the environment and farmers,” he said. “Food safety changes
will not compromise taste or our commitment to Food with Integrity.”
Ellis took advantage of the streaming video to announce Chipotle’s Local Grower Support Initiative.
“It’s important for us to support small and medium-sized farmers whenever we can,” Ellis said. “[As] it might be difficult for some of our supplies to meet
our new standards, we’re here, ready to help.”
This partnership will give up to $10 million and provide educational support to ensure the brand’s growers and suppliers meet its updated health standards
There is such thing as a free lunch
If closing its stores disrupted your lunch plans today, Chipotle is offering to make things right.
reported that in exchange for a text—and your cell phone number—you’ll get a free burrito.
Here’s more from Gawker:
A cynic might argue that Chipotle closing its stores nationwide for simultaneous food safety meetings is simply a mechanism to trigger a widespread data
collection scheme, but it’s probably just that they really care about their customers.
What do you think about Chipotle’s move to include consumers in its meeting via social media?