Chipotle completed its system-wide shutdown today, closing all locations from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The company spoke with employees across the country during that time to update them on the food-safety crisis that has pummeled the fast casual leader in the last several months, leading to same-store sales declines of 30 percent and 36 percent in December and January, respectively.
During the meeting, Chipotle executives told employees that the norovirus outbreaks last year likely originated with sick employees, while at least one E. coli incident likely stemmed from tomatoes.
The company rolled out new programs during the meeting, including a bonus initiative that incentivizes store managers to uphold food safety standards. CEO Steve Ells also revealed the Chipotle Local Grower Support Initiative, a program that supports local food producers and helps ensure they also meet food-safety standards. Chipotle pledged $10 million to the initiative.
The fast-casual company had already announced other food safety protocols, which include preparing certain foods off site, DNA testing meat and fresh produce, rolling out a new food-tracing program, and offering employees paid sick leave.
In an effort to start winning customers back, Chipotle also announced that it would give away one free burrito to any customer who texted a designated number.
By Sam Oches