Chipotle’s recent E. coli contamination scare is hurting consumers’ perception of the brand.
The long-time darling of the restaurant industry was forced to shut down 43 restaurants in Seattle and Portland earlier this month after some customers became ill after eating there.
The company has since reopened all of its restaurants, but consumers are still wary of eating there, according to a new survey by YouGov Brand Index.
Consumer perception of the brand is at its lowest level since 2007, according to the survey.
A metric that measures how many consumers plan to eat there in the near future has also dropped.
Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said the survey results aren’t surprising, considering the widespread coverage of the E. coli scare.
“Given the attention surrounding this issue, I don’t thing their findings are particularly surprising,” he told Business Insider.
He said the company is taking steps to restore consumers’ confidence in the brand.
“Since this began, we have improved some of our existing practices, expanded testing of ingredients nationwide before delivering them to restaurants, and retained two nationally renowned food safety scientists to help us further assess our practices toward making additional improvements,” he said. “We will leave no stone unturned in terms of finding opportunities for improvement, and we’ll share some of those changes with our customers going forward.”
Chipotle founder Steve Ells also published a full-page letter to customers on Friday in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Oregonian, USA Today and the New York Times, about the issue.
“The idea that eating at any of our restaurants could cause anyone to become ill is unacceptable to all of us at Chipotle,” Ells wrote. “On behalf of all of us, I’d like to offer our sincerest apologies and assure all of our customers that we are doing everything possible to make our food as safe as it can be.”
Read the full letter:
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