January 2, 2018
Chipotle Deals With Another Health Scare
It’s been a rough year or so for Chipotle, and it doesn’t look like the fast-casual eatery will be going out on a high note. There have been all sorts of reports through the years of people getting sick or other health issues at multiple Chipotle restaurants.
Now, there’s yet another “sick” story that has Chipotle in the headlines. This time, though, it’s the employees who are, apparently, ill, as well as the customers. The restaurant chain was back in the news, bringing up all sorts of bad memories after it was reported that employees and customers at a specific LA-area Chipotle were sick. Company stock fell five percent immediately, before dropping yet again the next day.
Speaking to CNN, Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said, “(Chipotle) takes any report of illness very seriously…”
They’d better. The company had barely gotten past the previous bout with illness in the headlines when this one hit. At this point, taking the news “seriously” is the least they need to be doing. And, according to Arnold, they are doing more. He told CNN:
“As a precautionary measure, we have implemented heightened preventative procedures at this restaurant…”
It may be the case that the issue was confined to this restaurant, but given the recent history of the restaurant, you can bet customers are not thinking “it’s just that one.” Once again, consumers are faced with two choices: risk being the next Chipotle headline or go somewhere else. It doesn’t take much of a guess to determine which choice most people will make.
Now, that assessment may not be fair to the restaurant… After all, they have a lot of locations that don’t have this issue… But fair is not really the number one concern in the minds of most casual diners. They just want to grab a bite without having it grab them back.
While this story probably won’t hit the company directly quite as hard as the 2015 reports of E.coli, this story, combined with that one, will certainly be in consumers’ minds when they are choosing where to eat. Then there are the others: rodents inside a Dallas location, and norovirus in Virginia.
The imminent challenge for Chipotle is to change that narrative before it takes hold…again. And that is a challenge. Every time a new story pops up, the old story gets recycled, making it “new” again for readers. When that happens, time goes out the window, every story feels like it’s fresh and current while building what feels like a trend. If this keeps up and Chipotle doesn’t find a way to counter it, the former “it” brand in fast casual could be in for another rough year.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.