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Sales at fast casual chain
A terrible year for Chipotle just got worse, with the announcement of a federal criminal investigation into the Mexican chain’s norovirus-laced burrito death bars. For the last six months, Chipotle has served up a wide variety of ways and places to get sick eating its food.
(To recap: An August norovirus outbreak in California sickened at least 93 people. A September salmonella outbreak in Minneapolis sickened at least 64. An October E. Coli outbreak in Oregon and Washington sickened at least 52. A second October E. coli outbreak in Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma sickened another five. And a December norovirus outbreak in Massachusetts sickened at least 120 people.)
The only thing doing worse than the company’s food safety record this year, it turns out, is its stock, which this week tumbled to $444.01—down from $749.12 in August. For the last quarter, the company is expecting $1.70 to $1.90 a share in earnings, which is, as the Wall Street Journal points out, “well below the $2.45 to $2.85 a share it had forecast in early December.” Same-restaurant sales in December were also down, by at least 30 percent.
Now the feds are adding criminal charges to the diseased mix, serving the company with a grand jury subpoena tied to the California outbreak. According to reports, Chipotle must produce “a broad range of documents related to the Chipotle restaurant that experienced the norovirus incident.” The company says it is cooperating with the investigation.
Chipotle: Where either way, you’re going to want to stay near a restroom for the next few hours.