Chipotle Mexican Grill may be a popular restaurant chain, but it continues to face public relations issues. An illness outbreak in early July has been tied to the restaurant, and another recent incident at a Dallas-area Chipotle has taken the idea of “bad press” to a whole new level. Video of what happened at the restaurant (included below) is best summed up with one word: RODENTS.
In the past month, Chipotle has dealt with two major controversies. Both highlight systemic problems with how their restaurants operate, but even worse, the controversies have jeopardized customer faith and loyalty in the brand. You might be able to fix unsanitary conditions, but losing the trust of your customers could be a problem beyond fixing.
In mid-July, there was an illness outbreak at a Chipotle in Sterling, Virginia, after at least 135 people became ill after eating there. According to WJLA ABC 7 in Virginia, at least two of the people were diagnosed with the same strain of norovirus.
What is norovirus?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), norovirus (or acute gastroenteritis) causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines or even both. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, fever, headache and body aches. A person usually shows symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. For most, the illness clears up in one to three days.
The CDC warns that anyone with the norovirus illness will feel extremely ill and throw up or have diarrhea many times a day. Dehydration is also an issue. Anyone with these issues should see a doctor immediately.
Chipotle is only two years removed from a devastating E. coli outbreak that sickened over 60 people across 14 states. Government investigators were never able to determine what food item was actually infected, and dozens of restaurants closed during the outbreak in an effort to contain the spread. They also had at least one norovirus outbreak at another location that year, but it was lost in the rest of the negative media coverage.
In addition to the illness outbreak this month, social media has not been kind to Chipotle either. There is this video, circulating on Twitter, that claims to show a maggot a customer found in their dish. The claim, and the video, is unsubstantiated. It could be someone merely jumping on the “Bash Chipotle” bandwagon after seeing their latest problems.
Topping that video, however, is a verified story from a Chipotle in Dallas, Texas. A couple claimed that rodents began falling out of the ceiling at a downtown Dallas location. In this case, however, the couple took video of the incident, and the restaurant verified that it did happen.
In the video, taken at the North Market Street location in Dallas’ West End district, rodents are seen crawling on the floor. At least one can be seen climbing up a wall. “If we would have been sitting at the table next to that it definitely would have fell on top of our food,” Daniela Ornelas said in an interview with KXAS, the NBC affiliate in Dallas. The incident occurred July 18 during the height of the lunch rush.
“I just kept wondering what it was, and I kept looking around until I looked at the floor, and I saw three rats, and I ran,” Ornelas said.
A Chipotle spokesperson attempted to explain what happened, blaming a hole in the building as the cause. “We learned yesterday that mice got into a restaurant,” Chipotle said in a statement. “We immediately contacted professionals who identified a small structural gap in the building as the likely access point. We’re having it repaired. Additionally, we reached out to the customer to make things right. This is an extremely isolated and rare incident and certainly not anything we’d ever want our customers to encounter.”
Here is video of the incident from KXAS-TV in Dallas. Warning: if you’re not a fan of rodents, dead or alive, you may not want to watch.
Most consumers fail to realize that many cities allow residents to know health inspection grades of local restaurants. Many cities require restaurants to post their score or grade, while other cities post the ratings online. If your local restaurant has a problem, there is often a way to discover it before you go there.
The health scares and controversies have taken their toll on Chipotle. The company’s stock value is half what it was at the time of the E. coli outbreak two years ago. After a slight rebound earlier this year, the problems in July have sent stock prices into freefall once again.
— Charlie Bilello (@charliebilello) July 24, 2017
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