After Chipotle Outbreaks, Will 'Food With Integrity' Still Resonate?


A sign saying “we hope to be opening soon” is pictured outside a new Chipotle Mexican Grill location at University Village in Seattle in November.

Jason Redmond /AFP/Getty Images

Chipotle Mexican Grill is struggling to convince its customers it’s a safe place to eat, after several outbreaks of foodborne illnesses have sickened hundreds of its customers. But no one thinks the task is going to be easy.

“This is a fairly significant problem for Chipotle,” Timothy Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, tells us. While customers are often quick to forgive companies for transgressions, that may not be the case this time, he says.

“The difficult thing for Chipotle is that, it’s not that there was one incident. There have been a number of different incidents,” he says. “And the problem with that is that it creates an overall perception, and it raises questions about safety.”

The once-high-flying restaurant chain has been hit with two separate outbreaks of E. coli over the past three months. The larger one sickened 52 people in October, mostly in Washington and Oregon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A se…

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