You can’t deny it: Chipotle Mexican Grill had a really, really bad 2015. The recent foodborne illness outbreak that the chain was responsible for resulted in a huge drop in business, a huge drop in its stock value, and a huge drop in customer trust. But the folks who run the company know that a simple apology won’t cut it, and they’re bringing out the big guns in order to win back our trust — and our business.
Tomatoes, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, and other ingredients will also be chopped, washed, and tested at central kitchens instead of at restaurants, in order to significantly lower the risk of them harboring bacteria. All cilantro will also be tested twice: once in the field before being harvested and again before being packed.
Lemons, limes, onions, avocados, and jalapeños will be blanched in boiling water for five seconds in order to kill germs on their skins before being sliced (these vegetables need to be cut on-premises in order to maintain quality). Blanching will significantly reduce the germs on their skins without affecting flavor.
Areas that lots of employees touch, including floors, counters, cutlery, and the kitchen, will be cleaned and sanitized with a “high frequency” during service. At the end of each day, every restaurant will be cleaned and sanitized.
Highly-trained field leaders will inspect each location weekly, the corporate food safety team will conduct inspections several times annually, and independent experts and government health officials will conduct regular inspections as well.
There have been some questions raised about whether the chain will no longer buy a percentage of its produce locally as it’s done in the past, because many small growers will be unable to implement these strict new testing and food safety practices. But the chain recently announced that it has created a $10 million fund to provide education and training as well as financial assistance to these farmers, in order to make sure that they’re able to meet the new standards.
iStock / Thinkstock
Chipotle announced in January that it will begin offering employees paid sick leave, as the cause of the Simi Valley and Boston norovirus outbreaks were employees who came into work while sick (the Boston employee and his or her supervisor were both fired). This removes any incentive employees may have to come into work when they’re sick.
Chipotle postponed opening its locations for four hours on February 8, and all of its 50,000 employees were forced to watch a presentation given by Chipotle executives in which the new guidelines were laid out. One new procedure? "When anyone vomits in the back of the house or the front line, this is a red event, which means we close the restaurant immediately," a restaurant support officer said.
Screenshots courtesy of Eater
For those who were planning on visiting Chipotle during the presentation but were unaware of the closure, a sign posted to every Chipotle front door provided them with instructions on how to get a coupon for a free burrito. While giving out free food doesn’t do much to restore trust, it certainly doesn’t hurt.
During the presentation, Co-CEO Monty Moran urged employees to be “incredibly hospitable” to customers going forward, so if you decide to test the waters at your local Chipotle again, you can expect to be treated very well, and might even score some free food. "We need you to be your very best," Moran added.