Friday, December 11, 2015

Chipotle: When too much help is worse than none at all

With the E. coli contamination in the Pacific Northwest and now a Norovirus outbreak in Boston linked to a local Chipotle, I started to wonder about the root cause of all this.
Were they isolated, coincidental incidents? Or are they the result of a common denominator?

Chipotle had a large hiring spree back in September where they had the goal of hiring 4,000 new employees in one day, which would increase their headcount by about 6.7%.
While it makes for good press (much needed for the food service industry as there is a nationwide staff shortage), I had serious reservations about the execution.
Gradually working in staff, particularly for a job that requires a lot of training, is preferable because existing staff can only train so many others at once, while also keeping up with their existing duties.

Most recently:
"Boston inspectors have temporarily closed the restaurant. It had passed inspections in April and last summer. But on Monday, inspectors found under-heated food. And they said the restaurant failed to comply with policy when a sick employee worked a Thursday shift. It’s not clear whether the worker or managers were at fault, or whether they even knew."
"Whatever the reason for this case, Webster said the food preparation model at Chipotle raises the risk of spreading illness. Burritos are filled and rolled assembly-line style.
The Cleveland Circle restaurant is not the only local Chipotle to be cited recently."
"Brookline Health Director Alan Balsam says his department recently found improperly heated food at the Commonwealth Avenue location. He says there was also no worker certified in food safety on staff, as state law requires. Balsam says the violations were not serious enough to close the restaurant immediately, but eventually he threatened to by setting a hearing."
"Balsam stresses that norovirus outbreaks are not uncommon here and can sicken dozens of people very quickly. But this Boston outbreak is adding to public concerns about Chipotle. In August, norovirus was blamed for nearly 100 cases at one of its California locations. In October and November, at least 52 people across nine states were sickened in an E. coli outbreak linked to the chain." (WBUR)

Obviously there was contamination of some sort, but I wonder if this was all linked to improperly trained staff.
From my own experience/opinion, the level of service at my local Chipotles has been lower lately and I had also noted the increase in new employees.

It will be a while before the exact causes of the contaminations are found, but I am leaning towards poor/improper training of new staff and simply not realizing the repercussions of poor hygiene in the restaurant industry.

I'm sure the company got a much-needed boost in headcount in the hiring spree, but there is obviously diminishing returns as the number of hires increases and, in this case, they may be worse off than being understaffed.


And I should know better than read the comments section, but sometimes I can't help myself.

I can't believe these people exist:

Not only do they exist, they are prolific commenters/trolls. (Read at your own risk!)
I am not part of the investigation team, but I am 100% certain the outbreaks are not caused by "disabled workers" or illegal immigrants.

*Also, WBUR is the local NPR station. I was unaware that people like this read the more progressive-leaning site/station.

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