Watch your mail for your free meal coupon from Chipotle!
Because of the bad publicity generated by the 2015 food borne illness outbreaks that sickened at least 60 customers (specifically E. coli and Norovirus) in California, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Boston, and 7 other states, customers have largely stayed away and Chipotle closed 43 stores in Washington and Oregon. YouGov Brand Index said customer perceptions about Chipotle sank to their lowest level since 2007 in October, before additional cases popped up in seven more states, which likely pushed them even lower.
As a result of the severe drop in business at it’s 1,500 locations worldwide, the company has seen their stock price drop 39% since November and saw a 44% drop in earnings in the 4th quarter alone, when news of more outbreaks hit the news. Today it was announced that CMG (parent company for Chipotle) is expecting to report a loss in the 1st quarter, for the first time ever as a public company.
To bring people back, following the February 8, 2016 Food Safety Town Hall, Chipotle dispatched about 50,000 employees to go to more than 400 locations, such as movie theaters and hotel conference rooms to spread the word that the investigations were over, stores were given a “clean bill of health” by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and that the company was asking the public to come back by offering free food. The public was asked to text and request a coupon and 5.3 Million requests were received! 67% (appx 3.5 Million) of those coupons were redeemed, at an average cost of $7.10, for an estimated expenditure of $25.2 Million by the company.
To try and regain the public’s trust and repair their damaged reputation, they have added food safety information to their website, boosted their advertising, plan future Buy-1-Get-1 Free offers delivered via mobile devices, and they’ll kick it all off by sending 21 million households coupons for a free meal via U.S. Mail. In all, their efforts are likely to cost the company in excess of $62 Million.
I was a big fan of Chipotle before so many people started getting ill after eating there. A few years back, my husband and I were both hit with E. coli from a local sandwich shop and it’s not an experience that I want to repeat. I’m leaning toward giving Chipotle a second chance. They are so publicly scrutinized, because they are a publicly held company, that I’m sure they are being ultra vigilant with their food safety procedures. My husband however, insists he’ll never go back. One time is one too many, and Chipotle had 60 reported cases. How many went unreported because the symptoms were so mild? A big Hmmm indeed!
Are you still eating at Chipotle?
Will you be swayed to return by the coupon for a free burrito?
If not, what would entice you to go back?
Things that this girl will definitely be pondering as I wait to see evidence (i.e. my coupon) that the company is serious about showing the public they are sincere in their desire to put public health and safety above corporate profits.
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