Live from inside Chipotle's unprecedented company-wide food safety meeting
In an unprecedented move, Chipotle has temporarily shuttered all of its U.S. stores today for a company-wide meeting with its employees. The fast casual trendsetter is discussing changes to both its ingredients and food preparation methods, following a spate of reports linking Chipotle to foodborne illnesses.
Fast Company reporter Mark Sullivan is attending one of the employee meetings in San Francisco today, and we'll be bringing you full coverage of the proceedings. Stay tuned here for more details.
Over the past six months, the company has been subject to a slew of bad press due to outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella, and norovirus in locations across the country. Prior to its quarterly earnings report last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that Chipotle's E. coli outbreak had come to an end.
Update 12:03 p.m. ET: During the meeting, Chipotle noted that the outbreaks likely stemmed from cross-contamination at Chipotle restaurants. Tomatoes, which caused the salmonella outbreak, will now be diced at a central kitchen—rather than at individual restaurants—which will allow Chipotle to test each tomato slice before shipping it out.
Chipotle is still not clear on which ingredient brought on the E. coli outbreak, though it again confirmed that the norovirus was spread through employees who came into work while sick.
"If you are feeling sick, or if you have vomited, either at work or at home, you need to tell your manager or field leader immediately," co-CEO Monty Moran told workers. Managers are also expected to report if an employee gets sick at work, and if a worker or customer vomits in a restaurant, the location must be shut down immediately.
Update 12:24 p.m. ET: Chipotle is launching a $10 million Local Grower initiative to help smaller suppliers meet the updated food safety standards.
The company also has no intention to curb its growth; co-CEO Steve Ells said Chipotle will continue to open new locations. "People will come back," he said, urging employees to treat Chipotle patrons with more care than usual. "Our customers should never have to wonder whether the food is safe."
Update 12:33 p.m. ET: Chipotle played a number of videos outlining, for example, how employees should clean surfaces and how they should wash their hands. Workers are now expected to wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds, after which they should use hand sanitizer; employees have to wash their hands before serving customers or preparing food in the kitchen. Managers should ensure that this happens every hour.
Some employees groaned as Chipotle played video after video detailing food safety procedures.
Here are pictures of the Chipotle closing earlier this year:
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