A year after an E. coli crisis outbreak caused Chipotle to shut down some restaurants, the fast-casual food chain is promoting its updated food safety program to win back customers.
The Mexican food restaurant on Wednesday took out full-page advertisements in national newspapers including USA TODAY and The Wall Street Journal and posted a video and explainer on its website.
In 2015, Chipotle "failed to live up to our own food safety standards, and in so doing, we let our customers down," said Steve Ellis, the company's founder, co-CEO and chairman in the ad and video. "At that time, I made a promise to all of our customers that we would elevate our food safety program."
Among the changes undertaken: increased safety protocols at Chipotle suppliers, an electronic ingredient tracking system, new food handling and sanitization standards, increased inspections, an independent food safety advisory council and a requirement that all store managers earn food safety certifications.
Earlier this month, Chipotle announced that it had financially settled with more than 100 customers who got sick after eating at its restaurants. The company was forced to shut down some restaurants after multiple outbreaks involving E.coli and norovirus in several states during 2015. More than 50 customers in 11 states were sickened.
In the wake of those outbreaks, the company began implementing new safety standards and food-handling procedures.
But the chain, which has more than 1,900 restaurants, has seen its sales plummet along with its stock price. Second-quarter revenue of $998.4 million, was down 16.6% from 2015. Profit fell 81% to $25.6 million.
Shares of Chipotle (CMG) were up 0.1% in early trading Wednesday to $400.99. That's down more than 40% from its 52-week high in October 2015.
To coax consumers back into stores, over the first two months of 2016 Chipotle mailed out 21 million coupons for free burritos. And frequent customers could earn free food as part of a new loyalty program this summer.
Calling the company's stock undervalued, activist investor William Ackman bought a 9.9% stake in the company, disclosed earlier this month, through his investment firm Pershing Square Capital Management. In the filing Ackman said he believes Chipotle "has a strong brand, differentiated offering, enormous growth opportunity, and visionary leadership."