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Case Study

Chipotle E. Coli Outbreak Crisis

Chipotle Mexican Grill is an American chain of fast casual restaurants that serves tacos and burritos. As described on their website, Chipotle had the idea of food being served fast using  “classic cooking techniques and distinctive interior design.” The company’s mission statement is “Food with Integrity.” It highlights Chipotle’s efforts in using naturally grown ingredients and serving more naturally raised meat to their customers.

What Happened?

Over the course of the 2015-2016, nearly 500 people were sickened after eating at Chipotle restaurants, which was reported by Food Safety News (Hauser, 2015). The outbreaks resulted in many consumers and experts to rethink the brand’s initial mission statement.

Chipotle Response

In response to the E. coli crises, Chipotle acknowledged the crises and acted rapidly. They paid the price after the outbreaks, which forced them to close several stores, change safety and health procedures, and work hard to gain the public's confidence back.  They immediately post on a dedicated web page, on Chipotle's website, about the E. coli outbreak and published an open letter response to Seattle and Portland-area newspapers and voluntarily shut down 43 restaurants in the Pacific Northwest.

Results

Chipotle had many shortcomings in their response to the incident but also effectively responded. Although, they should have been more specific and intentional with their message they still responded appropriately and quickly to the incident. Gaining back the trust and loyalty of their customers is a long process that takes effort.

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