Even before the late 2015 E. coli and norovirus outbreaks crippled Chipotle shares, the restaurant chain was getting its customers sick at a much higher rate than its peers.
In mid-July, Chipotle shut down its restaurant in Sterling, Virginia after multiple customers reported instances of vomiting, diarrhea, severe stomach pain, and nausea on crowdsourcing website iwaspoisoned.com as a result of eating at that particular Chipotle location. Chipotle concluded that it was an episode of norovirus related to a failure to adhere to proper safety protocol, not a direct issue with the food as it relates to Chipotle’s supply chain. The restaurant chain’s management team made this very clear on their most recent earnings call.
On August 1st, 2017, Hedgeye Restaurants analyst Howard Penney hosted a Thought Leader call with Patrick Quade, the founder of iwaspoisoned.com. Key takeaway? The Sterling, Virginia incident is far from an isolated instance. In fact, iwaspoisoned.com data shows that the number of Chipotle customers reporting incidents of sickness after eating at a local Chipotle chain has been a problem for the brand as far back as 2012. In fact, the incidence of consumer-reported illness is “multiples higher than other brands dating back to 2012,” Quade says.
In the video above, from Quade’s discussion with Penney, the iwaspoisoned.com founder explains his shock when looking at this Chipotle data back in 2012. “Back then, we were still relatively small … so we hadn’t even really promoted it because Chipotle was such a darling at that time and had such a reputation for quality,” Quade says. “The notion that they were unsafe, I think no one would have believed us.”
The Chipotle data that came rolling in, however, was exactly why Quade started the company back in 2009, a direct response to the lack of any coordinated, consumer-led, national food reporting system. “What we were [seeing at Chipotle] was a clear red flag to us that someone ought to take a look at it because it was such a huge outlier,” Quade says.
Watch the video above to find out precisely why Chipotle’s issues are far from over.