Friday, July 21, 2017

Poor Chipotle! No wonder I Boloco…

Although I’ve eaten there a number of times, and my food has always been fine, I’m not the biggest Chipotle fan on the face of the earth. But I certainly wish them no ill, and feel a bit sorry for their ongoing bouts of bad health.

In 2015, they had a few “foodborne-illness outbreaks”, including a humdinger local incident that occurred in December 2015, when over 140 folks took ill after eaten at a Chipotle near Boston College. With the exception of the victims, I can pretty much guarantee that there weren’t a ton of Bostonians who lost any sleep over a bunch of BC students getting sick. Still, most of us have had that winning combo of gastro-intestinal yuck, so it’s hard not to feel sympathy for those who come down with it. (When I was in college, something or other went through the student body (literally) – was it after they served chicken a la king in the caf? – and so many students were down with it that no one was able to make it to the infirmary. Nurses came through the dorms, distributing lomotil door to door. Definitely the no fun zone.)

The making of a whole lot of sick customers, of course, had a major impact on Chipotle’s business and stock price. And it took them a lot longer to recover from it than it did for those BC kids to get over the unpleasantness that was visited upon them.

But the world is a (mostly) forgiving place. Chipotle has a lot of fans. The food is tasty and cheap enough.  And sometimes you just want a burrito. So, Chipotle made its way back.

Then this spring, Chipotle experienced a different sort of virus when “a malware attack struck its point-of-sale technology.” While I’m not afraid I’ll catch anything from POS tech, and I wouldn’t use a debit or credit card to pay for a burrito anyway, I sure wouldn’t want my debit or credit card hacked because someone’s POS tech was definitely POS tech with respect to its security.

The point-of-sale hack wasn’t quite the same as getting sick, but it’s still not good news for a business that’s still got something of the shakes. And then there was this:

The reports were familiar: In the space of 48 hours, a handful of people said they’d gotten sick after eating at a Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Bang: Wall Street’s judgment was swift -- and brutal. Chipotle’s stock plunged nearly 8 percent on Tuesday, erasing its gain for the year. The episode, which involved a single location in Sterling, Virginia, recalled the string of foodborne illnesses that upended the chain two  years ago, and underscored the fact that the company remains on probation with both customers and investors. (Source: Bloomberg)

I’d hate to be a company spokesman for Chipotle. I’d hate to be in Chipotle marketing. I’d hate to be on their PR team. I’d hate to be someone working in a Chipotle store. And I’d sure hate to be Jim Marsden, who is the executive of food safety for Chipotle. Marsden was hired after the fiascos of 2015, and he’s sure had his job cut out for him – even if this latest problem (a few folks at a suburban Washington Chipotle) turns out to be nothing whatsoever to do with food safety standards at Chipotle. It could just be a fluke.

Chipotle isn’t just looking a making sure that all their acts are cleaned up, they’re looking to make some changes.

Chipotle is adding new menu items, such as melted cheese and dessert, part of its bid to win back customers.

If my tummy were roiling, I don’t know if melted cheese and dessert would get me to check back in on Chipotle. But I’m sure they’re focusing on the customers who aren’t currently throwing up after eating there.

Meanwhile, after I had completed and queued up this post, my brother-in-law (not aware of my upcoming Chipotle topic) emailed me with another fresh piece of Chipotle news. A Dallas Chipotle had an incident that I think out noroviruses the foodborne illness stories.

A day after Chipotle Mexican Grill faced an outbreak of norovirus at a Chipotle restaurant in Virginia, the company’s PR team is dealing with yet another embarrassing public-health incident. A Dallas TV station reported that, at one local Chipotle restaurant, customers’ lunch was ruined when several rodents reportedly fell from the ceiling and landed inside the dining area.

Footage of the incident - as one angry customer remarked - is enough to put one off from eating at the chain indefinitely (Source: Zero Hedge – includes a swell and very appetizing video.)

There are few things worse than rats in restaurants. (Having worked as a waitress in a place that was quite literally a rat hole, I know whereof I speak.)  Norovirus might be a rogue employee who sneezed. Rats falling from the ceiling…. Well, that’s another story. 

Anyway, I for one am wishing Chipotle a hearty ‘get well soon.’ But if I want a burrito – and mine is the Bangkok Thai with white meat chicken on wheat –  I’m going to Boloco, our local chain. So far, so good.


And a tip of the Pink Slip hat to Ricky T for being so prescient with this one.

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