Chipotle to take a moment for food safety

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Chipotle restaurants will close for a few hours on Feb. 8 for food safety meetings.

DENVER – Chipotle Mexican Grill will close its restaurants for a few hours in February to hold a meeting on food safety with its employees, the company said. The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8.

Chipotle has been at the center of a string of foodborne illness outbreaks in recent months. In October, the company was identified as the source of an E. coli outbreak that started in the Pacific Northwest and sickened 53 in nine states. Weeks later, more than 150 customers in Boston fell ill with norovirus after eating at a local Chipotle restaurant near Boston Univ.

Adding to the company’s woes: Chipotle disclosed in a Jan. 6 Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it has been served with a federal grand jury subpoena in connection with an official criminal investigation tied to a norovirus outbreak in a Simi Valley, Calif., location last August.

The company executives told investors at the ICR Conference in Orlando, Fla., that they don’t expect to return to growth until 2017. In the meantime, the company has developed a plant to win back customers. First, Chipotle said it is implementing new food safety procedures with suppliers in its central kitchens and restaurants to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Second, Chipotle is preparing a marketing push in February to invite customers back to its restaurants.

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