Every Chipotle in America was closed for lunch today as 50,000-plus employees gathered for a company-wide staff meeting to review new food safety protocols. According to the Associated Press, the information session that included CEO Steve Ells and other top executives "was broadcast live at hundreds of theaters and hotel conference rooms around the country."
For employees, one of the biggest takeaways from the meeting was hopefully this: If you're sick, do not come to work. "If you're feeling sick, especially if you've vomited, whether at work or at home, you need to let your manager or your field leader know right away," co-CEO Morty Moran stated during the meeting. The company also has instated paid sick days to further encourage workers to stay home while they're ill. While E. coli is transmitted through fecal matter particles in food, Norovirus — which sickened more than 120 people at a Boston Chipotle in December — is a highly contagious illness that is easily transmitted from person to person.
And if someone ill does come into work, the company will not be treating it lightly: "When anyone vomits in the back of the house or the front line, this is a red event, which means we close the restaurant immediately," Chipotle restaurant support Gretchen Selfridge stated during the broadcast.
Also top of mind during the Chipotle all-hands meeting today: customer service. In addition to offering customers free burrito coupons today, the AP says "Moran urged employees to be 'incredibly hospitable' to customers as the company pushes to win back business."
Chipotle has a steep uphill climb ahead of it, and has warned investors that the next year will be "messy": January same-store sales were down a whopping 36 percent from last year, but the company has a clear plan laid out to win back its customers. Seeing just how many decide to jump on that free burrito offer could be a good early indicator of how the next few months will go.