After public stumbles, Chipotle changes tactics to address food safety

Restaurant Dive – The burrito chain’s varied reactions to its string of foodborne outbreaks can serve as lessons to other restaurants in how to respond when disaster — and bacteria — strikes.

Although media attention can stir up hype, the rise in food contamination is real. For many customers, the Chipotle scare in 2015 still stands out as a major incident, one that has made many wary of eating at the chain. But Scott Langdoc, senior vice president and practice lead at restaurant consulting firm BRP, says the frequency in food safety issues goes well beyond Chipotle.

“What Chipotle represents is a visibility issue and that chains need to be more proactive in maintaining consistency of measurement and monitoring,” Langdoc said. He added that brands today need to go beyond having methods in place to find and deal with food safety issues. Instead, he argues that restaurants need to create protocols to supervise staff and monitor work to ensure that employees carry out their training consistently.

One food safety process that restaurants can employ is an advanced system for monitoring food temperature. If a restaurant automates this process, an out-of-range temperature can be determined faster, giving management an opportunity to respond to the issue faster, says Langdoc.

He admits though that points of failure in the food safety process can exist anywhere and are bound to happen when you run a large-scale chain. But it’s how a company responds to those isolated incidents that can help the business rebound faster.
“Chipotle has done a great thing in this last incident. They were visible and transparent to the issues and announced immediately that they were isolated to the specific stores in Ohio,” Langdoc said. “And use of promotions to make sure customers would keep coming back worked, at least Wall Street thought it was effective.”

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