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3/17/2016 8:31 am  #1

Chipotle Faces No-Win Scenario as Crisis Taints Its Every Move

I love Chipotle chicken tacos. Used to eat there on a regular basis but when the outbreak hit PA I stopped eating there until just recently. Received a coupon for "free" tacos or burrito. It had been weeks since any reports of illness so I decided to give it a try again. As usual the food was delicious. But their stock has been damaged and I think if there is one more big outbreak it could spell doom for the chain.

Chipotle Faces No-Win Scenario as Crisis Taints Its Every Move

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. responded quickly when four of its workers called in sick last week with suspected cases of norovirus. The Boston-area restaurant was shuttered for cleaning, and no customers got ill.The company’s management considers that a successful outcome -- a sign its updated health protocols are working. But customers, still wary of the chain after a string of outbreaks, didn’t see it that way.Headlines about the Massachusetts restaurant closing once again sent Chipotle’s sales plunging.

And while the company called that sales decrease a “blip” on its road to recovery, the incident illustrates just how difficult it will be for the chain to get its mojo back. “It’s great that they caught it before anybody got sick, but how could it happen again?” said Christopher Muller, a restaurant and hospitality expert who teaches at Boston University. “They’re caught in a very bad cycle.”Chipotle sales tumbled 26 percent in February, marking at least the third straight month of declines for a chain once known for intense customer loyalty. Sales had started to recover a bit in early March, but then sank 27 percent in the week following the Boston situation.

The company called that incident a “nonevent” and said it only became public because parents of one of the workers called the media.Stock HammeredBy March, Chipotle had mostly been out of the news for the better part of a month. Then workers at a different Massachusetts location got sick. Once again, the company’s stock price fell. The shares are down more than 26 percent over the last 12 months, a plunge that has wiped out more than $5 billion in market value.

Norovirus is the most common foodborne illness in the U.S., according to the CDC. From 2009 to 2012, almost two-thirds of cases from food contamination were linked to restaurants.It’s likely that other chains have had workers get sick with norovirus in recent months without generating media attention, said Ben Chapman, a food-safety expert and professor at North Carolina State University. Chipotle, however, remains firmly in the spotlight as it tries to restore its reputation.

“This is norovirus season -- it’s really not that unusual,” he said. “But there’s heightened awareness with Chipotle because they’ve had so many incidents.”

 “We hold these truths to be self-evident,”  former vice president Biden said during a campaign event in Texas on Monday. "All men and women created by — you know, you know, the thing.”


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