Chipotle Crisis

Solution For Chipotle

How E. Coli and norovirus scare will not slow Chipotle down

Executive Summary

As one of the long lasting fresh fast food restaurant chains, Chipotle Mexican Grill has been under scrutiny for the E. coli and norovirus outbreak in late 2015 into early 2016. Sales have dropped, but that has not stopped our franchise from continuing to grow. With new food safety procedures in place, updated website for costumers to visit, and more restaurants in store for the future, it is important to us to restore our customers loyalty, confidence and regain our sales over the course of the next few months. In doing so, it is important to us to make sure that our employees in all of our restaurants receive full paid sick leave.

E.coli and norovirus are air-borne illness that can be spread in many different ways in restaurants, but primarily it is by sick employees. By changing our food safety procedures and include paid sick leave for employees, this can be a tremendous benefit for the franchise. Chipotle Mexican Grill is one of few restaurants that will be offering this to current and future employees to help eliminate the chances of having an E. coli and norovirus outbreak. It was proven that from one of the E. coli outbreaks in the United States that it was in fact caused by a sick employee. By strengthening our food safety procedures and enforcing employees to stay home when they are sick, it will help us regain the trust of our costumers not to mention, increasing food safety procedures when purchasing food items, cleaning the kitchen, and how the restaurant is handled is what Chipotle Mexican Grill needs.

The Problem

Chipotle Mexican Grill has faced an E. coli and norovirus outbreak scare for the past couple of months, raising concern towards the restaurants food safety procedures and employees. Chipotle was struck with an E. coli scare at the end of October into November of 2015 in both Oregon and Washington State causing Chipotle to close all of our franchise in both states immediately for food safety procedures and for our employees to go over food procedures and training. Right after that, in December of 2015, there was an outbreak of norovirus in Boston, Massachusetts reporting to have over 120 Boston College students confirmed to have been ill with norovirus (Begley, 2015). It has resulted in two lawsuits against our franchise, one against a woman in Washington and one against a man in Oregon. This has caused for our stocks to drop and raise concern to customers. It has led us to not only change our procedures with food safety and how things will be operated from here on out, but also immediately close down our franchise briefly to ensure that our employees know food safety and the procedures that need to be taken when handling food and contaminated food. In addition to that, we have had to review the importance of employees taking sick leave when feeling ill. Our stocks have dropped 22% after the first outbreak, but in our efforts, however, there is more that we plan to do to help eliminate E. coli scares for Chipotle Mexican Grill to then regain our customers and stockholders trust (Levine-Weinberg, 2016).

Background Information

E.coli is bacteria found in both the human and animal intestines that can cause symptoms of diarrhea for the person infected by contaminated food and/or water. Along with E. coli, norovirus causes symptoms of diarrhea, but also vomiting. In late 2015 to early 2016 was the worst outbreak for our company. The outbreak began in both Oregon and Washington State, leaving us no choice but to immediately close 43 restaurants in total.

Once it was brought to our attention that it had spread, not only in Oregon and Washington State, we took immediate action to close our franchise for the sake of our customers and include further training to our employees and go over the company’s handbook.

Chipotle’s Position On E. coli and Norovirus

We at Chipotle Mexican Grill are doing everything in our power to help eliminate E. coli from all restaurants contaminated, including the rest of our restaurants to ensure the safety of our customers. We have changed our food safety procedures in all of our restaurants since the outbreak. First, it starts with our suppliers. Some of our food comes from other countries that cannot be grown in the United States, and that food is sent to our central kitchen to then be washed (Chipotle, 2016). Once we work with our suppliers, it goes to our restaurants to then be handled, stored, and prepared within the restaurant. The chicken and other meats are only marinated at night to ensure that the raw meat is not and cannot be contaminated by germs from other ingredients that may come in contact (Chipotle, 2016). Our produce is always blanched, meaning set in boiling water for five seconds to eliminate any germs (Chipotle, 2016). To help further explain our procedures we:

  • Cleanse and sanitize all areas in restaurants
  • Cleanse everyday at the end of the work day
  • Weekly inspections by field leaders
  • Annual inspections by corporate leaders
  • Inspections by health inspectors
  • Regular local government health inspection

In addition to just some of our food safety procedures, it is important to have our employees always well. With the E. coli and norovirus scare, people who are sick around food can be a factor in E. coli contamination. Our employees will be paid with sick leave to ensure that our employees are not around any of the food in our restaurants. Although many restaurants have had health violations in their past and some have resulted in permanent shut-down, our franchise has been around for twenty-two years and have had consumers return time and time again because we operate under proper guidelines to serve the best quality of food. With that being said, we will be one of the few restaurant franchises to pay employees with sick leave. In fact, 20% of food-borne illnesses start because restaurant employees come to work sick because they simply cannot afford to miss work without pay (Blackmore, 2015). Therefore, we are one of few restaurants to make sure that our employees are well at all times when entering the restaurant.

On Findyr Blog, an offline search engine, there was a poll that involved people from all over the United States that lived near one of our Chipotle Mexican Grill locations and are customers of our restaurants. As a result, people have not been scared away from Chipotle Mexican Grill and still continue to eat with us.

Counterargument and Implications

It is not uncommon for others who believe they had retrieved E. coli and the norovirus from Chipotle Mexican Grill when in reality they did not, because it can be relatable to the boy who cried wolf. Yes, this is a serious issue that is in fact being handled, but once one person comes forth others tend to come along to blame their illnesses on something that does not correlate to E. coli or norovirus. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reduced the number of cases that was in connection to the Chipotle E. coli outbreak to 25% (Peterson, 2015). Some of the cases were proven to be from sick employees. Once we had closed our restaurants to take care of food safety procedures immediately, there have not been any more cases to arise that are connected to Chipotle Mexican Grill. In our statement sent out on November 20, 2015, we included that we have done a deep cleaning on the restaurants that had been contaminated by the bacteria by replacing all ingredients in the restaurants, restructure the food preparation, be cooperative towards investigators and food inspectors, survey our employees to ensure they had not contracted the bacteria themselves, and we are working with food scientists to study the food that we receive from fresh grown farms (Peterson, 2015). In addition to working closely with our food scientists, our website has been renovated to include videos and links of our kitchens to allow costumers with an inside look as to what exactly they are eating when coming to one of our Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants. It is important to us to secure the safety of our costumers and supplying them with helpful links and the word of our CEO’s is steps to secure the loyalty with our current and future costumers. Although the initial reaction towards the E. coli and norovirus outbreak resulted in stocks to drop, once new was released that it was caused by sick employees, the stock market for Chipotle Mexican Grill has increased by 19% as of February 2016 (Nathan, 2016).


The E. coli and norovirus has not slowed Chipotle Mexican Grill down, even though our sales did show a decline this past year as a result of the outbreaks. As we advance toward the future, we plan to continue to work with our food scientists to ensure that our farm fresh foods are safe and healthy enough to serve. In addition to that, we plan to continue to practice safe food procedures and replace our food accordingly to eliminate the chances of contaminated foods. By also paying employees with paid sick leave, it will help eliminate any risk of having the food contaminated even if followed by the two previous procedures. This is for the sake of our employees and customers.

Once our costumer ratio increases and eventually advances as we proceed to expand the franchise, our profit margins will recover and expand in the near future. A Wall Street analyst asked our co-CEO, Steve Ells, why Chipotle isn’t slowing the growth of the franchise until the food safety issue is resolved and Ells responded, “The company expects its new food safety program to reassure customers and lead to a bounce back in sales” (Levine-Weinberg, 2016).   Which is exactly true. By expanding the franchise and promoting our new food safety procedures with the inclusion of employees, we project that this will help gain customers trust and create a stronger bond with the customers, employees, and our local farm growers to ensure that we are a fresh food franchise that only wants the best for our costumers.




Begley, Sarah. 2015, Dec. 9. “Chipotle Outbreak That Sickened 120 Students Caused by Norovirus” TIME. Retrieved from


Blackmore, Willy. 2015, Oct. 19. “You Would Get Sick Less If Restaurant Workers Had Better Benefits” Takepart. Retrieved from


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016, Feb. 1. “Case Count Map” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from


Chipotle Mexican Grill. (n.d). Food Safety. Retrieved on April 24, 2016 from


Dockterman, Eliana. 2016, Jan. 15. “Chipotle Will Briefly Close All Its Restaurants to Address Food Safety Issue” TIME. Retrieved from


Findyr. 2015, Dec. 22. “Does Chipotle’s E. Coli Problem Scare You?” findyrblog, The World’s Offline Search Engine. Retrieved from


Levine-Weinberg, Adam. 2016, Feb. 6. “Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Will Forge Ahead With Growth” The Motley Fool. Retrieved from


Nathan, Ralph. 2016, Feb. 26. “Can Chipotle See Upward Trend In Recovery from E. Coli Outbreak?” Market Realist. Retrieved from


Peterson, Hayley. 2015, Nov. 20. “CHIPOTLE: We’re taking ‘aggressive steps’ to attack E. coli” Business Insider. Retrieved from


Sifferlin, Alexandra. 2015, Nov. 2. “What to Know About the E. Coli Outbreak That’s Linked to Chipotle” TIME. Retrieved from


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