Chipotle is in crisis. For months, a series of health scares have sent its stock tumbling, stalled sales, and triggered a federal investigation. On Feb. 8, the company said, it will close all its restaurants so employees can learn about the gravity of its foodborne illness outbreak. This week, company executives appeared at an investor conference in Florida in a bid to soothe unnerved shareholders, if not customers, and acknowledged 2016 would be a “messy” year for earnings. It helped. Shares in the company, once a darling of Wall Street, rebounded more than 12 percent and appear to be holding steady.
But investors, restaurant analysts, and food safety experts say Chipotle’s woes won’t disappear anytime soon. When it comes to the logistics of food safety, the company still has a lot to understand, and a lot to prove. As it turns out, when your business model is built on the premise of serving fresh food—often with a promise that it is ethically grown and sourced—your supply chain becomes much more complex. And more complexity means more risk.