Chipotle has a 'clean' menu -- but many customers are still terrified of E. coli

Chipotle may claim to have the “cleanest” menu in the chain restaurant business — but that doesn’t mean that customers trust the burrito maker just yet. 

On Tuesday, Chipotle announced it had become the only national restaurant brand with no added colours, flavours, or preservatives of any kind on its food menu. 

On social media, customers’ responses to the news were mixed. Many expressed scepticism stemming from the E. coli scandal that rocked the chain in 2015. 

Some customers took offence specifically to CEO Steve Ells’ criticism of McDonald’s “clean” McNuggets. Ells told Business Insider that McDonald’s nuggets could not be considered clean until the company stopped using synthetically-manufactured “natural flavours.” 

Others said E. coli was still a reason to avoid the chain, despite Chipotle’s efforts to assauge customers’ food safety concerns. 

Chipotle made major investments in food safety following two E. coli outbreaks in late 2015 that affected its restaurants in 14 states. The company retrained all employees, changed certain food preparation methods, and increased the number of restaurant inspections locations undergo, among other changes. 

According to Chipotle, the company’s internal research has shown that the brand is at or near pre-crisis levels on essentially all of the metrics in its brand health index. 

“We’ve always done things that were hard to do, but that were the right thing to do. This is another step in that direction,” Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer, told Business Insider on the chain’s updated, clean menu. “The food safety crisis of last year interrupted that story and replaced a lot of [discussion] about our brand with that story. It’s really important to get back on the track.” 

While some customers may remain unconvinced, there are signs of change, even amongst the harsh critics of Twitter. It seems that some former customers are once again returning the the chain — albeit skeptically. 


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