23 years late, Chipotle gets food safety religion (or so they lecture)

I just registered for an Ice Hockey Australia Level 2 coaching course.

The course is rarely offered, and there’s only a couple of level 2 coaches in Queensland. It will take 25 hours of training to complete.

dp-sorenne-becThat’s on top of the 16 hours I put in for Coach 1 in Australia, and recertification every two years.

It’s similar to the Intermediate Level Coach status I had in Canada back in 2001, which was required to coach a rep or travel team.

It’s a lot of time, sitting in a classroom, and on the ice.

I view it as my church, my community service.

So when Chipotle makes a big deal saying all of its managers will be trained in food safety the ServSafe way, I shrug, and ask, why weren’t they before?

How far was Chipotle’s head up its own moralistic ass that it paid more attention to food porn – like hormones and GE foods – than to food safety, the things that make people barf?

Great, you’re going to require training. Anyone ask if the training is any good? Third-party audits? Nice soundbite but they’re just a paycheck. Handwashing every thirty minutes? McDonald’s have been doing that for decades (you’d think Chipotle would have picked that up when they were partnered with McDonald’s, but no, there was food porn to peddle).

The Chipotle announcement reads like a moralistic lecture, and that no one had discovered food safety before.

A year after the outbreaks, Chipotle is now getting into standard PR – which it should have done months ago (Chipotle, your communication advisors absolutely suck). The full page ad, the video, the push for food safety.

Guacamole, for instance, now takes advantages of the cleansing properties of the lemon and lime juices in the recipe. Before getting mixed, the chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapeños are laid on top of avocados and drizzled with citrus juices in one last effort to ensure food safety.

Some scientists may question such tactics, saying they have been supplanted by newer methods. But Dr. James Marsden, Chipotle’s new executive director of food safety, who had recently retired from teaching at Kansas State University (and the father of the actor James Marsden, best known as Cyclops in the “X Men” film series) said he was confident in them.

“We’re doing research and are going to publish papers on what we’re doing, so people can see for themselves that it works,” he said.

That’s all good, but they’re still moralistic assholes who expect people to pay a premium for their food sermons (journos, contact me for Marsden stories).

Chipotle founder and Co-CEO stepped in front of a camera in a bid to win over weary diners that still aren’t hankering for the chain’s once-popular tacos and burritos.

In a video that the Mexican burrito chain unveiled on Wednesday, a contrite Ells admits that last year, the fast-casual restaurant chain “failed to live up to our own food safety standards, and in so doing, we let our customers down. At that time, I made a promise to all of our customers that we would elevate our food safety program.”

chipotleadContrite is not the word I would use.

Looking to revalue Chipotle’s share price is more accurate.

Chipotle initially blamed the Centers for Disease Control and Australian beef for its woes. Today, it blamed social media.

“No one has ever had this kind of a food safety crisis in the era of social media,” Mr. Ells said.

I could list hundreds, beginning with E. coli O157 in spinach in 2006, you arrogant poser.

“Jack In The Box,” — a burger chain where more than 700 people got sick in 1993 after eating E. coli contaminated meat — “never had to deal with Facebook and Twitter,” he said.

When I coach, I’m always telling kids, and adults, stop blaming the refs, go score a goal, stop whinging.

What is fresh? Australian beef in the U.S.?

Is this guy stealing from Trump’s playbook?

It’s slogans and hucksterism.

Which Americans seem to go for.

And Mr. Ells, since you seem content on lecturing Americans about food safety, while blaming others, here’s a history lesson.

In the Fall of 1994, Intel computer chips became scrutinized by the computer geeks, and then the public.

Intel had delayed responding to allegations, and Wall Street analysts at the time said it was the result of a corporate culture accustomed to handling technical issues rather than addressing customers’ hopes and fears.

On Monday, Nov. 12, 1994, the International Business Machines Corp. abruptly announced that its own researchers had determined that the Pentium flaw would lead to division errors much more frequently than Intel said. IBM said it was suspending shipments of personal computers containing the Pentium chip

Mr. Grove was stunned. The head of IBM’s PC division, Richard Thoman, had given no advance warning. A fax from Thoman arrived at Intel’s HQ on Monday morning after the IBM announcement, saying he had been unable to find Grove’s number during the weekend. Mr. Grove, whose number is listed, called directory assistance twice to ask for his own number to ensure he was listed.

After the IBM announcement, the number of calls to Santa Clara overwhelmed the capacity of AT&T’s West Coast long-distance telephone switching centres, blocking calls. Intel stock fell 6.5 per cent

Only then, Mr. Grove said, did he begin to realize that an engineer’s approach was inappropriate for a consumer problem.

Intel took out full-page ads, apologized, and did better.

That was in months, not a year.

Mr. Ells, you can claim you’re in uncharted territory, that no one has experienced the woes like you have, that fresh is a meaningful term.

But it’s just a repeat.

Customers may expect you to have the humility to admit such failings when driven by the hubris of your own beliefs.

But hey, anyone who can get Americans to believe that 1,000 calorie burritos are healthy can do anything you damn well please.

And customers will bow down.

Investors. I wouldn’t touch it. But I said that in 2007.

 

Tragically Chipotle: Freebies, settlements, falling stock and drones

It’s about having a voice.

Chipotle can hire all the food safety bigshots it likes, but it has no story, no narrative, to get past its five outbreaks in six months; and no amount of freebies are going to fix that.

kenny-diarrheaChipotle news is playing on the background of Mr. Robot. That’s prophetic.

Google parent company Alphabet is teaming up with Chipotle to test drone delivery for Virginia Tech students, according to a report from Bloomberg. The pilot program marks a turning point for Alphabet’s Project Wing division, giving the team ample room to experiment with airborne burrito deliveries in one of the first commercial programs of its kind to be greenlit by the US Federal Aviation Authority. The drones, which will be hybrid aircraft that can both fly and hover in place, will make deliveries coordinated by a Chipotle food truck on campus.

The news Chipotle probably wanted highlighted was that it has reportedly quietly settled nearly 100 claims over the last six months out of court, probably so the company won’t remind the public that they were so recently plagued by rampant food poisoning. The terms of the settlements are all confidential, but the claims were all filed by people whose ailments were verified by medical professionals. An attorney representing some of the plaintiffs called Chipotle’s move “textbook appropriate,” adding, “They’ve taken responsibility.”

“In 25 years of doing foodborne illness cases, I’ve never had a client ask for coupons for the restaurant they had gotten sick at,” said William Marler, an attorney with Seattle-based Marler Clark who represented 97 Chipotle customers. “In fact, some (clients) had gone back to the restaurant and they would call me and say, ‘Do you think it’s bad that I went back and got a burrito?’”

The company’s stock traded at $430.70 on Friday, down 1.3 percent, and lower than its 52-week high of $757 last October.

“They have a following of especially 20-somethings that other restaurants don’t have,” Marler said. “It’s a little odd, but it probably says something positive about Chipotle.

No, it says there’s a generation so much dumber than its parents.

But who am I to debunk an American myth.

Ironical that this video about American mythology was shot outside Melbourne. Chipotle blamed its E. coli outbreaks on Australian beef. Chipotle: local, fresh hypocrites.

 

Another reason to dislike: Jury rules Chipotle discriminated against pregnant employee

Brenna Houck of Eater, citing the Washington Business Journal, reports a U.S. District Court jury in Washington, D.C., awarded Doris Garcia Hernandez $550,000 in compensatory and punitive damages this week after finding her former manager had discriminated against for being pregnant.

amy.pregnant.listeriaBased on the filing, back in 2011, Hernandez informed her manager — referred to only as “David” — that she was pregnant. Following the disclosure, she claims he began restricting her water and bathroom breaks. Hernandez alleges that her boss required her to “announce” to other staff members when she needed to use the restroom and he would then “approve her bathroom breaks so that he could cover her work position for her.” The manager also refused her requests to leave work and attend her prenatal doctor’s appointment. Hernandez chose to leave anyway and was publicly fired in front of other employees and customers the following day.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.” Likewise, “if a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her in the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee.”

Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination is common in the restaurant industry and Chipotle has been sued before for similar cases. In February, a federal grand jury in Cincinnati, Ohio, ruled in favor of three former managers who sued the company for gender discrimination citing sexist behavior and unfair firing due to pregnancy.

Poor, poor pitiful me: ‘Social media is killing Chipotle’s recovery’

The Motley Fool writes that Chipotle Mexican Grill’s (NYSE:CMG) food safety crisis has been over for six months. But you wouldn’t know it from the company’s sales results. During the recently ended second quarter, Chipotle’s comparable restaurant sales plunged 23.6%.

chipotle_adThe company can probably blame social media for its slow recovery. The rapid spread of information — and in some cases, misinformation — via social media has made Chipotle’s late 2015 E. coli outbreak much worse for the company than it otherwise would have been.

Social media increased awareness of Chipotle’s food safety problems in the first place, and Chipotle’s food safety issues continued to be the butt of jokes on social media long after the initial outbreak.

In my case, Chipotle was the brunt of social media jokes and taunting going back to 2007.

The lesson for executives in the restaurant industry is clear: The right time to address food safety weaknesses is now. Waiting for food safety lapses to make customers sick is a recipe for disaster.

Linda Ronstadt’s version might be more popular, but the original, by songwriter Warren Zevon, is darker and more apt.

Except with the Springsteen bit. Never a fan.

Headline of the week: Chipotle’s decision to open a burger joint is ridiculously stupid

Chipotle has fooled so many people for so long it can say and do almost anything.

But when investors sour, shit gets real.

chipotleBrian Sozzi  of The Street wonders what Chipotle is thinking.

The bruised and battered better burrito joint confirmed Thursday that the first Tasty Made burger restaurant will open this fall in Lancaster, Ohio. Chipotle said the Tasty Made menu will be limited to burger, fries and milkshakes.

Here is why Chipotle’s decision to try and play the role of a bootleg Shake Shack is ill-conceived.

The core Chipotle brand is far from fixed.

Chipotle’s well-paid management team should be 1,000% focused on returning its namesake brand to full health in the wake of several high-profile food safety incidents last year. Judging by Chipotle’s second quarter results, efforts to restore large amounts of goodwill among consumers via free food giveaways, intensified marketing and a new rewards program are not working to a sizable degree.

The company’s second quarter earnings nosedived 80% from the prior year to 87 cents a share. Wall Street estimated earnings of 93 cents a share. Revenue fell 16.6% to $998.4 million, missing Wall Street’s $1.05 billion estimate. Same-store sales plunged 23.6% in the quarter, and are down about 21% so far in July.

Hadley Malcolm of USA Today writes the company’s first burger joint, Tasty Made, is set to open in the fall in Lancaster, Ohio. With it, Chipotle will draw on the game plan it’s banked on for years: a simple menu featuring fresh ingredients. The only items diners can order will be hamburgers, french fries and milkshakes. Burgers will be made from fresh, not frozen beef; the buns will be preservative-free.

Adam Chandler of The Atlantic writes that last week, analysts at the financial-services firm Stifel downgraded its recommendation on Chipotle to “sell” and warned that the company could lose half of its value in the coming months.

“Chipotle was really vulnerable because of their heavy reliance on their claims about their food,” Chris Malone, the co-author of The Human Brand, a book on consumers’ connections to companies, told Business Insider last week. The steady refrain of purity and the constant trill of its motto, “Food With Integrity,” left little room for a contaminated supply chain.

E. coli (and Salmonella and Norovirus) aftermath: Chipotle sales and revenue plummet in the second quarter

Chipotle Mexican Grill reported a steep drop in second-quarter earnings Thursday and missed analysts’ estimates as the fast-casual restaurant struggles to regain its footing after a series of food safety scares, and the recent arrest of one of its executives for drug possession.

chipotle.earning.jul.16The restaurant chain’s profit plunged to $25.6 million in the quarter ended June 30, down 81% from $140.2 million from the same period a year ago. Revenue dropped to $998.4 million, off 16.6% from $1.2 billion compared to 2015. Analysts had expected sales of $1.05 billion, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Earnings per share plummeted to 87 cents versus $4.45 per share in the second quarter of last year. That was also below earnings per share estimates of 90 cents.

Sales at stores open at least a year, a key metric for the industry, fell 23.6%. That was a slightly milder drop than than the nearly 30% fall Chipotle reported in the first quarter.

It’s been a slow climb back to normalcy for the Mexican restaurant, which has been aggressively trying to court favor with its formerly loyal fans.

“Our entire company is focused on restoring customer trust and reestablishing customer frequency,” said co-CEO Steve Ellis in a statement.

The company has employed an expansive comeback strategy, including using coupons, promotional discounts and even a short animated film about the perils of big food operations to get customers back buying burritos again. It implemented new food safety standards and shook up its long-unchanged menu with a new item: chorizo, a spicy chicken and pork sausage available in select locations.

Chipotle has moved away from testing some ingredients in central kitchens for pathogens because doing so resulted in lower quality, co-Chief Executive Steve Ells said on Thursday.

south.park.dead.celebrities.chipotle“Cutting bell peppers for testing in a central kitchen degraded the peppers,” Mr. Ells said, adding that the company has reversed testing for bell peppers, lettuce and other ingredients because its new food-safety czar James Marsden has developed other interventions to sanitize ingredients. The bell peppers are now blanched in the restaurants, a process Mr. Ells said kills pathogens.

Bell peppers and lettuce are now being chopped again in the restaurants and food quality complaints have decreased, co-Chief Executive Monty Moran said.

Jason Bourne novelist tanks Chipotle stock with one tweet

Despite Chipotle Mexican Grill’s attempt to move on from a string of high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks, the company’s stock moves Thursday show how fragile its reputation is at the moment.

chipotle.tweets.jul.16The stock dipped as much as 3.4 percent in early morning trading following a tweet from Jason Bourne author Eric Van Lustbader that said his editor had been hospitalized after eating at a Chipotle in Manhattan.

We are aware of the post made on Twitter, however there have been no reports of illnesses at any of our New York restaurants,” Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle, told CNBC. “Moreover, we have excellent health department scores throughout the city, and we continue to have the highest standards of food safety in our restaurants.”

Chipotle seems to be suffering some Jason Bourne-like amnesia.

jason.bourneAfter Chipotle released the statement, shares began to reverse themselves and were recently trading down $7.88, or 1.9 percent, at $392.44.

“Every time that something like that comes out, yes, it will affect the stock because it potentially impacts … the recovery [in the] near term,” Nick Setyan, a Wedbush analyst, told CNBC. “There is such a lack of visibility right now that every little thing is going to change that variable.”

The illness Van Lustbader reported is unconfirmed at this time, however, other Twitter users have taken to the social media platform to share their experiences with New York Chipotle restaurants.

E. coli, Salmonella, Norovirus: Chipotle, you’re gonna love it

Karlene Lukovitz of MediaPost reports that after battling since last summer to recover from a series of food contamination incidents, Chipotle Mexican Grill has released a new long-form video that returns to its pre-crisis brand messaging about the superiority of its fresh, natural ingredients over typical chipotle.BSfast-food fare.

According to Chipotle, the new video, “A Love Story,” began to be developed 18 months ago, before the restaurant chain’s first two contamination incidents in August 2015. 

Those salmonella and norovirus incidents were followed in Fall 2015 by an E. coli outbreak, and then by separate norovirus incidents in December 2015 and March 2016.

The latest video’s story is about two children who set up competitive all-natural juice stands. As they grow up and establish real businesses, they resort to competing by offering increasingly processed fast food with artificial ingredients. Ultimately, they unite, fall in love, have a family and launch a food truck offering Chipotle-like items in synch with their original standards of natural ingredients and preparation.

With all the natural things like E. coli, Salmonella and Norovirus.

Doesn’t sound like the food safety and marketing hucksters are talking.

In recent months, Chipotle has tried to revive its traffic and sales with free-food offers. But its Q1 2016 same-store sales were down 30%, and it reported its first loss as a public company. Its stock price has dropped by 35% over the past 12 months. 

The new video ends by promoting its latest revival effort: a “summer rewards” program called Chiptopia.

Hipsters, you’re spending money at Chipotle to pay for an alleged cokehead’s habit

Stephanie Strom of the N.Y Times reports Chipotle Mexican Grill was dealt another blow on Thursday after the executive leading many of Chipotle’s efforts to recover from five food safety fuck-ups in six months was charged with drug possession and accused him of having a connection to a cocaine delivery service in New York.

johnny.deppThe company said it had placed Mark Crumpacker (right, not exactly as shown), its chief creative and development officer, on administrative leave. “We made this decision in order to remain focused on the operation of our business and to allow Mark to focus on these personal matters,” Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesman, said in an email.

He made $4.3 million last year.

Mr. Arnold said other executives had already been assigned to take on Mr. Crumpacker’s work during his absence.

The company’s same-store sales, or sales in stores open at least a year, have fallen dramatically after food safety crises involving contamination by E. coli and norovirus. More than 500 people became sick after eating at a Chipotle in the second half of last year.

cocaine.blow.meThe company has adopted a number of more stringent food safety protocols and spent millions of dollars on marketing to win back customers, efforts led by Mr. Crumpacker. Just this week the company announced Chiptopia, a new loyalty program that rewards frequent customers with free food. Buy four burritos, for instance, and get a fifth one free.

On Thursday, Mr. Crumpacker was named in an indictment from Manhattan prosecutors as one of 18 repeat buyers of cocaine from a business that delivered drugs to customers.

Mr. Crumpacker could not immediately be reached for comment.

The district attorney said the drug ring delivered more than $75,000 worth of cocaine over a year. Three men were charged with running the operation, which prosecutors said was based on the Lower East Side.

The indictment described meetings between the traffickers and buyers in Duane Reade drugstores, Chinese food restaurants and hotels.

scarface.gif

Weird because their old steak also sucked: No one likes Chipotle’s new steak

After all of their food safety issues, Chipotle had to change the way they make a lot of their menu items, including steak. Now, steak is cooked on low heat at an offsite facility, and when it gets to stores it’s marinated and grilled.

steak.maubbisson.jun.16Gross.

Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold told Business Insider, “If there is any difference, it’s that the steak may be more tender than it was before,” to which we say, LOL. There’s no way that’s true.

Lots of customers feel the same way. There’s a Reddit post dedicated to solving the mystery called, “What happened to the taste?” So far, there are 27 comments, but this one seems to sum it up: “The new steak sucks, plain and simple.”

Other Redditors agree. “It’s dry, overcooked, and therefore chewy. I actually just had ‘fresh’ steak last night (they had just pulled it off the grill and sliced it) and it was still dry and overcooked.”

“Used to be a three time a week regular, same with a bunch of friends,” said another. “Anyone who was a steak lover including my girlfriend has stopped going really.”

Others argued it was harder to cook tasty steak with the new method, especially when preparing steak until it reached the required temperature for food safety.

steak.therm.jun.16“To me, this new steak never has a chance to be medium rare,”writes one Chipotle employee. “It goes from cold to medium well in two minutes on the grill.”

“Customer reactions so far? Not good,” another Redditor claiming to be a Chipotle employee wrote in March. “Many are saying the steak isn’t rare enough and that is tastes different… poor quality. I use to have a lot of pride in my steak, now that pride has faded.”

Twitter users are also complaining.

Chipotle’s food safety nightmare just keeps getting worse. For now, maybe stick to sofritos. Or, just eat somewhere else.

Like at our guest house in Maubuisson, France, where I went into town the other day and got these two from the butcher – shown against Hubbell tiny hands that are much larger than Trump tiny hands, for comparative purposes – and prepared on charcoal until close to 140F and then sat for 10 minutes.

It was really f*ucking good.