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In an effort to bounce back from the food-safety crises that have recently plagued the brand, Chipotle announced it would close down all of its restaurants for a few hours on February 8 to hold a company-wide discussion on food-safety protocol.
Company leaders also said at the annual ICR investor conference earlier this week that they would soon begin a new marketing campaign to regain consumer trust.
The moves come after a norovirus outbreak in a Boston Chipotle that sickened nearly 150 customers and an E. coli incident that sickened many others and shut down dozens of locations across the country. The food-safety slip caused same-store sales to decrease 30 percent in the month of December and 14.6 percent for the fourth quarter of 2015.
They also come after the company announced that it had been served with a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The subpoena is connected with a criminal investigation being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California on an isolated norovirus incident in California in August.
Closing restaurant locations to retool the operation is not unprecedented in the limited-service restaurant industry. In early 2008, shortly after Howard Schultz returned as CEO of Starbucks, the coffee giant’s founder closed all 7,100 locations for three hours to retrain employees. The move was the beginning of a major brand revamp that has since elevated Starbucks to become the second-largest quick-service brand in the nation.
By Sam Oches