Chipotle will close all locations today, February 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to host a company-wide video meeting on food safety.
The fast-casual leader plans to explain the E. coli and norovirus outbreaks to employees, as well as go over its new food-safety protocol. This new protocol includes preparing certain foods off site, DNA testing meat and fresh produce, rolling out a new food-tracing program, and offering employees paid sick leave.
Chipotle’s same-store sales dropped 30 percent in December and 36 percent in January after E. coli and norovirus outbreaks sickened hundreds of customers across the country. Meanwhile, fourth-quarter results from 2015 showed a 14.6 percent drop in same-store sales and a 44 percent drop in profit.
The Centers for Disease Control earlier this month declared that the E. coli threat at Chipotle was officially over, but the company isn’t out of the woods just yet; it announced that the criminal investigation that originally stemmed from a norovirus incident in California has since expanded to a federal investigation.
At least one fast-casual company is using Chipotle’s closed hours today to promote business. Freshii, a health-minded brand with 200 locations around the world, is discounting its Mexican menu options today for customers looking for a fix while Chipotle is closed.
While Chipotle plans to launch a massive marketing campaign this year to regain customers’ trust in its food, one demographic it could consider leaning on is teens and young adults. Market research firm The NPD Group recently found that this demographic increased its visits to Chipotle by double-digit percentage points last year, signaling a loyalty to the company despite its food-safety concerns.
By Sam Oches