Industry News | July 20, 2017 | By Danny Klein | QSR Exclusive Brief

Chipotle's Rough Week Takes Another Wrong Turn

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While Chipotle stresses the isolated nature of its latest food safety scare, the numbers and negative headlines are piling up. Multiple reports Thursday surfaced showing that the actual number of illnesses linked to Chipotle’s Sterling, Virginia, store climbed into the triple digits, much higher than originally assumed. 

The website iwaspoisoned.com showed 89 reports and 133 customers falling sick from eating at the restaurant, which closed Monday before being sanitized and reopened Wednesday, according to Business Insider.

The website’s founder, Patrick Quade, told Business Insider that “dozens of customers” came forward following the initial report. Customers are posting pictures of receipts to prove they ate at the Sterling store.

The symptoms were consistent with norovirus, which causes severe stomach pains, diarrhea, and vomiting, and results in an estimated 19—21 million foodborne illnesses per year in the U.S, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A county health department official confirmed Thursday that one customer did contract norovirus.

According to Reuters, “Stool sample tests from the diner who ate at the Chipotle in Sterling, Virginia, late last week were positive for Norovirus, said Victor Avitto, environmental health supervisor for the Loudoun County Public Health Department, which has jurisdiction over the restaurant on Tripleseven Road in Sterling.”

Another story broke Thursday out of the Dallas area, resulting in Chipotle releasing a statement calling the issue “an extremely isolated and rare incident.”

In this case, diners took cellphone video of rodents crawling around the dining room and one up the wall. A customer told NBC DFW that rodents fell from the ceiling.

A Chipotle spokesperson released this statement to the station:

“We immediately contacted professionals who identified a small structural gap in the building as the likely access point. We're having it repaired. Additionally, we reached out to the customer to make things right. This is an extremely isolated and rare incident and certainly not anything we'd ever want our customers to encounter."

Chipotle’s rough week on the stock marketed continued, as shares fell more than 2 percent in midday trading Thursday. The chain reports its second-quarter earnings on July 25.

Chipotle is still recovering from a 2015 E. coli crisis that began when 42 locations in the Pacific Northwest briefly shut down. It ended up affecting 14 states and leading to a yearlong sales downturn that erased around half of Chipotle’s market cap.

As for norovirus, the brand blamed sick employees for two outbreaks in 2015. A norovirus outbreak in a Boston Chipotle sickened nearly 150 customers.

Those concerns led to a precipitous drop in figures, as same-store sales plummeted 30 percent in December and 36 percent in January.