Would you eat at Chipotle Mexican Grill after its several recent cases of major foodborne illness outbreaks? What if the meal was free?
With the company desperate to win back its customers after the recent health concerns, Chipotle officials say it’s going to step up its efforts to bring customers back into its restaurants with some new marketing campaigns and direct mail offers beginning next month.
Known for crafty marketing efforts in the past, Chipotle won’t specify what its new tactics will be in helping customers forget its transgressions, only that the forthcoming ads may have “clever headlines” addressing its recent spate of bad luck.
Sales for the popular Denver-based fast food chain dropped by 30 percent in December across its more than 1,900 locations after an E. coli outbreak in several states and a norovirus outbreak in Boston made headlines.
“The agency has not identified an ingredient that was responsible for the E. coli outbreak,” reports ABC News, “and Chipotle has said it may never know what was to blame.”
Chipotle, which had long separated itself from the competition with an emphasis on “clean” ingredients and local suppliers, says it’s taking steps to ensure more food safety measures are in place to prevent future outbreaks. The company says it is moving some processes, such as chopping tomatoes and lettuce, to centralized locations. Onions will be blanched prior to chopping in order to reduce the risk of contamination.
But the assurances and marketing ploys may not be enough to win back its once-loyal customers.
Chipotle is also facing a federal criminal investigation over how it handled another norovirus outbreak in California last summer. In addition to the federal investigation underway, class-action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of customers, and there may be more to follow.
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