To make up for its food having made people sick, Chipotle offered free food.
In November, the Los Angeles Times reminds us, 22 incidents of a food-borne illness were linked to the Mexican food chain. Chipotle temporarily closed 43 of its locations in Washington state and Oregon. The following month, an E. coli outbreak affected Chipotle customers in Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma, while, in Massachusetts, 141 Boston College students who dined at a Chipotle near their school contracted norovirus.
These cases naturally cast Chipotle in a negative light from the perspective of many consumers, with the L.A. Times reporting that, in Q4 2015, the chain’s sales fell for the first time since it went public in 2006, at a rate of 44 percent.
As Chipotle sets off on what will perhaps be a long road of winning back diners’ favor, on Monday (Feb. 8), the LAT shares, the chain closed all of its 1,971 stores in the U.S. for part of the day so that employees could attend a national team meeting. Concurrent to this temporary shutdown, the eatery ran a promotion where customers who texted the word “RAINCHECK” to Chipotle would receive a free burrito for their trouble.
That was only one small part of a large campaign that Chipotle is undertaking to improve its tarnished image and win back customers. The company, shares the L.A. Times, is spending $10 million on food-safety procedures, including DNA testing on ingredients, blanching some produce and new protocols for marinating chicken and steak.
“2016 is going to be the year for Chipotle to try to win back consumer confidence,” Andrew Alvarez, industry analyst at market research firm IBISWorld, told the LAT. “It’s still an uphill struggle for the company.”