Chipotle Attempts To Rebrand By Ditching Mexican Food For Burgers And Fries Following E. Coli And Norovirus Outbreaks

Chipotle suffered a detrimental blow to sales after a series of norovirus and E.coli outbreaks linked to the chain’s signature burritos. However, the restaurant has been unable to recover despite attempting to lure customers back with the promise of deep discounts and free burritos. Therefore, it seems Chipotle is focusing on a full rebranding with the company scaling back its Mexican food offerings for burgers, fries, and shakes.

The Daily Mail reports that with Chipotle sales suffering again in the second quarter, the restaurant chain in refocusing efforts from its trademark Mexican food to a new burger chain. The burger chain is slated to open a flagship store in Lancaster, Ohio, under the name Tasty Made. The restaurant will feature gourmet burgers, fries, and shakes using the “Chipotle” model and there are alternatives to fast food that offer high-quality ingredients and exceptional dining experiences.

This won’t be the first time that Chipotle has dabbled in non-Mexican food options. Chipotle also owns an Asian food restaurant chain called ShopHouse along with a pizzeria called Pizzeria Locale. There are currently 15 ShopHouse locations along with five Pizzeria Locale establishments. The Tasty Made burger joint will just be another addition to the expanding lineup for the company struggling with its signature Mexican grill concept following the e.coli and norovirus outbreaks in 2015.

The company has attempted to respond to the e.coli and norovirus concerns by posting updates to their official website indicating the steps the company has taken to ensure future incidents do not occur. Chipotle addressed the issue, noting that they have a new Focus on Safety food program which outlines changes in food prep following the norovirus and e.coli outbreaks. While Chipotle promises to run thorough checks on all food before it enters the restaurant, they also say they have a better plan in place to prepare the ingredients in the kitchen. For example, the company says that all tomatoes are cut at a central kitchen location. They are washed, diced, rinsed, and then tested for pathogens. If even one piece of diced tomato tests positive for a pathogen, the entire batch is thrown out. Therefore, Chipotle says that they are going to extreme measures to ensure food safety by preparing products such as tomatoes, lettuce, and beef in a central kitchen location with testing.

In the Chipotle stores, the company says all produce is blanched in hot water before being served. This “dramatically” reduces the amount of contamination in the kitchen. Furthermore, the company says sanitation measures have been increased along with an increase in the number of audits and inspections to ensure quality across the board. In a bid to attract more customers to the Mexican food chain, the company offered free burrito coupons and numerous discounts but were unable to secure the results they had hoped for and the company’s sales declined again in the second quarter.

Therefore, Chipotle executives say they are scaling back on Chipotle chain expansions until they have a clearer picture of the chain’s future. Despite the decline, the company still plans to open over 200 new Chipotle stores in 2016 in addition to the 2,000 plus currently in business.

What do you think about Chipotle’s move to offering burger chains? Could the Tasty Made concept save the struggling restaurant from ruin following the norovirus and e.coli scare? Would you be willing to try a “Chipotle concept” burger joint?

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