MethodThe cooked beef held at temperatures below

MethodThe data base for this paper is drawn from few news articles published during 2015-Oct to 2017 in national and major regional online newspapers covering Washington, Oregon and the other affected states. The Lexis-Nexis database located these articles, which were subsequently downloaded and analyzed. In this case study, analysis of these news articles revealed the stages of the crisis, enabling the application of theory associated with pre-crisis, crisis, and post-crisis stages of crisis management. The application of Situational Crisis Communication Theory due to the organization is having recurring crises or poor reputations provides insight into how Chipotle communicated with the public and with various groups of stakeholders to rebuild the trust. DiscussionPre-crisis phaseThe E. coli outbreak in 2015 was not the first food safety crisis that was linked with Chipotle. In August 2015, 100 customers and employees at a Chipotle restaurant in California, Simi valley were sickened due to a Norovirus outbreak (Flynn, 2015). According to the health records obtained from Ventura County, showed that dozens of consumers among them children from a nearby school and at least 17 employees of the restaurant reported gastrointestinal illness in the days following Aug. 18, 2015. Violations that included an employee’s cellphone placed on the food preparation tables, cooked beef held at temperatures below 135 degrees, fruit flies near the soda and recycling stations, and employees that did not possess a valid food handler card were found in a subsequent health inspection (Wallace & Brown, 2016). Doug Beach, administrative services and east county community services manager for Ventura County’s Environmental Health Division has said “We believe the source was a sick employee, but we cannot confirm that due to the timing of when we were informed” (Wallace & Brown, 2016).  In September 11, 2015, 45 people were affected due to a salmonella outbreak experienced at Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota and tomatoes were suspected as the source (Flynn, 2016). While the source of the outbreak hasn’t been confirmed but having a strong suspicion of the contaminated ingredient, investigators with the Minnesota Department of Health said it has already been swapped out from all of the Mexican-themed fast food restaurants in the state. Later Health Department spokesman Doug Schultz, said “It’s safe to eat at Chipotle” (Siegner, 2015).Crisis phaseThe situation was made worse because of multiple outbreaks, meaning coincidence and accidents were out of the question (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Perceived salience, immediacy, and uncertainty are the three things that can signal a crisis. The Chipotle’s E. coli incident fills all three positions, making this a compelling situation (Coombs, 2007). Two separate outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 (STEC O26) infections were investigated in several states by CDC, FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and public health officials. In the initial outbreak, among 11 states, there were 55 people infected and 21 hospitalized due to STEC O26. During the second outbreak among 3 states, there were 5 people infected with a different strain of STEC O26 and 1 ill person was hospitalized (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). In either outbreaks there were no deaths or reports of hemolytic uremic syndrome. The epidemiologic evidence suggested that a common ingredient as a likely source of both outbreaks but did not identify a specific ingredient linked to illness (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). CDC states that “when a restaurant serves foods with several ingredients that are mixed or cooked together and then used in multiple menu items, it can be more difficult for epidemiologic studies to identity the specific ingredient that is contaminated” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). With the E. coli outbreak in late October, the price of Chipotle’s stock fell dramatically from $720.25 to $640.23 (Chipotle Investor Relations, 2016).With a similar prior crisis history, Chipotle knew not to cover up this issue, because exposing it later could lead to more severe crisis (Zarroli, 2016a). Chipotle worked close with the CDC to provide the public with accurate and necessary instructing information about the incident. Chipotle quickly and voluntarily closed 43 outlets after receiving word from federal and state authorities that diners had developed illnesses linked to E. coli in their restaurants. The Oregon Health Authority recommended detailed, strict criteria of health and safety actions to implement before the reopening of the restaurants and advised every Chipotle in the state to dispose of all food items, sanitize each facility, and bring in all new foods before reopening, to select high-risk food items to be pretested before being delivered to the restaurants, that all fresh produce will be carefully rinsed and sanitized, and that county public health food safety inspectors will visit each restaurant to verify these actions (Oregon Health Authority, 2015). On November 9, 2015, Chipotle successfully implemented these requirements. Chipotle also initiated a site to provide answers to questions about the incident, press releases and general information about E. coli (Arenstein, 2015). In their site Chipotle detailed the steps it has taken to assure its food safety motive including hiring two firms (Arenstein, 2015). After the official investigations, restaurants were quickly re-opened in late November as it was concluded there were no further risks associated with this incident. Chipotle’s founder Steve Ells apologized on NBC’s “Today” show on Dec. 10, 2015 and said, “I’m sorry for the people who got sick. They are having a tough time, and I feel terrible about that. We’re doing a lot to rectify this and to make sure this doesn’t happen again” (Hufford & Jargon, 2015).  Also, he assured that Chipotle will have new safety procedures to become ahead of industry norms and to become the “safest place to eat” (Hufford & Jargon, 2015). In Dec. 23, 2015, Chipotle outlined new cooking and food handling methods, where it would sanitize all produce at a centralized location before shipping them to restaurants, and implement a DNA-based test for all products before restaurants received ingredients (Chipotle Investor Relations, 2016). Post-crisis phaseOn February 1, 2016, the FDA and CDC concluded the outbreak appeared to be over. On February 8, 2016, the company closed all of its U.S. stores for a four-hour and arranged a virtual organization-wide meeting regarding new food safety measures. During this period, the company posted live tweets on Twitter and broadcasted the meeting on Periscope as to address this crisis publicly. After the E. coli outbreak officially was over, according to Strauss (2016) only 37 % of customers are willing to recommend the restaurant, which was 68 % in 2015. Chipotle Mexican Grill focused on improving public opinion by hiring a new public relations firm and launching multiple new marketing campaigns. All these changes were worked together to form a single campaign focused on recovery by starting with a focus on the attitudinal objective to boost consumer confidence which will eventually lead to the behavioral objective of getting those customers come back to Chipotle restaurants again. Chipotle spokesman, Chris Arnold stated “focus now continues to be on three things: marketing programs to continue to bring customers back to our restaurants, providing the best customer experience we can, and rebuilding the strength of our economic model” (Gonzalez, 2016). While the stores were closed on February 8, customers could request a free burrito through a mobile campaign (Stroms, 2016). Also, Chipotle increased staff hours to reduce customer waiting times (Bomkamp, 2016). Meanwhile, the Department of Justice conducted an open investigation into the company for possible criminal activity regarding the E. coli outbreaks (Zarroli, 2016b). ConclusionsWhere the organization succeeded Chipotle CEO presented themselves to the public in a sincere manner that appealed to the public. Chipotle’s goal was to rebuild customer and investor trust following the recent outbreaks of E. coli. Chipotle succeed this by generating positive media coverage of Chipotle in the next three months, increasing publicity of food safety efforts and facts on the website and social media and creating positive brand association with Chipotle. According to Chipotle officials 5.3 million people downloaded the mobile coupon for a free entree offered as a rain check for when the locations were closed (Scudder, 2016).Where the organization failedChipotle CEO should have been more specific on the food safety measurements and employee trainings that they are going to implement because of the crisis. But he was vague during his apology at a time when consumers are looking for specifics (Hufford & Jargon, 2015). Chipotle also less reactive in responses in the social media and company minimized organizational responsibility by not addressing the issue. As a part of the compensation strategy Chipotle offered free burritos intermittently however did not compensate those who were directly affected by E. coli. Health officials reportedly cited Chipotle on food safety violations at the restaurant during pre-crisis phase where they should have paid more attention. Lessons LearnedTo conclude, it has been determined that Chipotle’s crisis was preventable, and based on information gathered, the strategies used were excuse, apology, and ingratiation. The primary crisis strategy used to address the crisis on media based on Coomb’s theory is excuse where the company minimized organizational responsibility by not addressing the issue on social media when it should have. Eventually the organization took full responsibility for the crisis by closing and announced it on both traditional and social media. However, it took a while for CEO Steve Ells to formally apologize. Chipotle used a secondary strategy of ingratiation where they reminded consumers about its mission on “Food with Integrity” (Chipotle, 2016).Chipotle found out its inefficiency in keeping detailed records to allow faster tracing of individual shipments of foods from source to destination and to help investigators identify what made people sick. Knowing your supply chain, can be especially important for a brand like Chipotle that based on “locally sourced” products. Just being local or sustainable doesn’t insure the food safety aspects. Implications for Best PracticeThe main implication for best practice is that organizations can avoid conflicting internal strategies when facing similar situations by developing crisis management plans. Since Chipotle’s crisis was preventable, risk communication needs to be integrated in to the policy development process as it to become more comprehensive and systematic (Seeger, 2006). This E. coli crisis could have been avoided had the organization prepared a Crisis Management Plan (CMP) for the previous Norovirus outbreak. Also, organizations should be open to learning new insights as they confront crises related to their operations. When Chipotle acknowledged that they are going to update their safety measurements, they had a greater understanding of what would be needed in the future. Organizations can learn from crisis situations by developing a culture of adaptation (Seeger et al., 2003). Crisis communication research emphasizes honesty as a best practice. If information about a crisis is not shared by the organization during the crisis, the public will obtain information from other sources like social media (Seeger, 2006). In Chipotle crisis, the spokespersons seemed overly reassuring by stating to “make the safest place to eat”. 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