Chipotle’s head of food safety, James Marsden, is retiring next year, and the fast casual is already searching for a replacement, according to Bloomberg.
Marsden, a former Kansas State University professor, was hired by Chipotle in 2016 when the brand was struggling to recover from the 2015 crisis that affected 14 states and led to a yearlong sales downturn that evaporated about half of the brand’s market cap. It’s probably fair to say Chipotle isn’t all the way back yet, although it has enjoyed positive momentum since CEO Brian Niccol joined Chipotle from Taco in March. Shares on the stock market are up more than 51 percent since January, and were trading for $444.93 mid-day on October 4.
To put some of the flux in perspective, when Chipotle announced Niccol as CEO February 13, shares closed at $251.33. They were $674.89 on February 13, 2015.
According to a company spokeswoman, per Bloomberg, Marsden will likely step down in the second quarter.
Chipotle’s food-safety issues in recent years have been put under a microscope. A July outbreak of Clostridium perfringens at a Powell, Ohio, store forced the brand to close the store for a day. More than 600 consumers self-reported gastrointestinal symptoms after eating at the Chipotle. This led Chipotle to announce it was retraining all of its employees and “adding to our food safety routines a recurring online employee knowledge assessment of our food safety standards,” Chipotle said.
In September, the company said it deploying Zenput, the same platform used by Domino’s and KFC, to “ensure every location adheres to standards, procedures and initiatives in order to deliver a consistent guest experience.”
The mobile platform helps operators remotely evaluate and track all aspects of the restaurant and ensure food-safety protocols and overall operations are documented.
Leaders can use the app as a checklist for Chipotle’s food-safety standards, everything from the temperature issues that plagued the Powell store to hand washing and keeping sick employees from contaminating food, as was the case in previous norovirus issues. The closing of a Sterling, Virginia, store in 2017 was believed to be caused by an employee coming to work sick and not following Chipotle’s protocols.
Chipotle’s same-store sales lifted 3.3 percent this past quarter. Revenue upped 8 percent to 2.4 billion thanks to the opening of 34 new restaurants.