Has Chipotle Recovered From 2015-16 Health Scares?

The Chipotle brand was in the midst of a major crisis in the back end of 2015 and beginning of 2016.  In the span of just 6 months, the company had experienced 6 major health scandals - a July norovirus outbreak in Oregon, August Salmonella and norovirus scares in California and Minnesota, an E. coli outbreak in Kansas and Oklahoma, and a final additional Boston norovirus outbreak in December. The series of headlines triggered a federal investigation and led the company to dramatically close all 2k+ stores on February 8th, with the stated hope of refocusing and training employees on the severity of foodborne illness outbreaks. The stock, which once traded at a pre-scare high of $749 per share, traded off over 50%, to a low of $370.

After a tremendous 3 year run tripled the stock, shares fell over 50% amid food scares

Ironically, the ultimate cause of Chipotle's trouble is the same reason customers and Wall Street fell in love with the brand in the first place. On the one hand, ethically grown and locally sourced ingredients created a Mexican culinary experience differentiated by its high food quality. At the same time, the enormous supply chain complexity that came with local sourcing exposed the company to greater risks of foodborne illness.

The more complicated your supply chain is, the more opportunity you have to introduce problems. Chipotle’s food sourcing is a laudable effort—and it’s what customers want. But they’re probably walking a fine line between offering fresh, local ingredients and decentralized food preparation and the risk of introducing foodborne pathogens because it is such a complicated food chain.
— Melinda Wilkins, food safety expert at Michigan State University (Wired 2016)

In the 12 months since the outbreaks, Chipotle has taken steps to try to improve food safety and polish its reputation, but the jury is still out on whether consumers have fully warmed back up to the brand. At QuickPulse, we've deployed our web crawler to compile tens of thousands of Yelp data points on the company's US restaurant fleet to answer that question. Have store openings recovered since the scares? Where has the company been opening locations, both before and after the health crisis? And most importantly, what are consumers saying in their reviews, pre- and post-crisis? The below slideshow offers a preview of the types of analysis made possible by this store-level data, none of which is otherwise publically released by the company.

To download the full dataset, including a complete directory of Chipotle's entire 2k+ location US fleet with review and geographic data, or any of our other compilations, visit our datasets page.