retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to issue a report as soon as today that declares the Chipotle E. coli outbreak to be over ... which really means that its investigation has been completed, even though the source of the problem has not been identified.

That outbreak sickened more than 50 people in nine states and called into question Chipotle's value equation, which has hinged on a "food with integrity" message. More than two months have passed since the reporting of a new illness, though a federal investigation is being conducted into a separate norovirus outbreak.

Chipotle is scheduled to have a company-wide meeting on February 8 - with restaurants around the country closing down for several hours so employees can attend virtually - that will set the stage for its new standards and efforts to reintroduce the brand to US consumers.
KC's View:
As I've said before ... I think Chipotle has a real shot at coming back because there are so many people who are looking forward to the veil of suspicion to be lifted. That is enormous brand equity, and they need to nurture it carefully. I'm not sure the company can weather another food safety crisis without a loss of equity, but for the moment, I think they're probably okay.

This is an important lesson for every food retailer - it is absolutely critical to have the kind of relationship with customers that will survive these kinds of issue. Not to mention having the kind of internal infrastructure that can deal with food safety issues.