The Chipotle apology tour continues today with an interview co-CEO Steve Ells granted the AP from Seattle — ground zero of the original E. coli outbreak. Ells wouldn’t tell the AP how much the chain’s upgraded food-safety standards are costing, but the assumption is it’s a pretty penny — the chain is creating central commissaries as well as a testing program variously described as “industrial strength” and “high resolution” to monitor ingredients along the supply chain. Also, all 1,900 locations have new protocols of their own to implement.
To brace customers, Chipotle’s CFO Jack Hartung last week noted, hypothetically, that this is a lot of spending for prices to not go up, but said they wouldn’t even consider hikes until 2017. Ells reaffirms that to the AP, saying, “This is a cost that we will bear.” He adds that neither the customers nor the suppliers will get billed for putting these standards in place (down the line, though, who knows).
All the same, Ells mentioned once again that Chipotle will quit working with suppliers that, for whatever reason, are still “unwilling” to meet the requirements. The big fear so far, of course, is that Chipotle will stop predominantly working with local farmers, crippling a point of pride that makes Chipotle unlike the rest of fast food. Ells may have confused things further here, because he only said that small farms won’t be asked to cover “the whole cost” of Chipotle’s new approach to food safety.