MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Chipotle is trying to win back customers after the recent E. coli outbreak that traced back to the chain. Monday, workers across the country completed mandatory training, in an effort to curb the loss in sales.
Chipotle typically opens at 11 a.m. for the lunch rush, but the doors stayed closed at 11 a.m. Monday. Instead, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., employees learned about food safety and new company policies. This comes after about 500 people got sick last year across the country, sending Chipotle's profits into the tank.
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. saw its sales slammed by food scares, including an E. coli outbreak and norovirus cases. In January, sales plunged 36 percent at stores open at least 13 months.
The company's new "farm-to-fork" food safety program, which went into place in January, includes paid sick leave to make sure employees stay home when they're sick, a bold move in the fast-food industry.
It also includes changes to food preparation protocol, including washing and cutting tomatoes and romaine lettuce, and shredding cheese in central kitchens, rather than individual restaurants.
The company live tweeted the training. "Steve says that food safety changes will not compromise taste or our commitment to Food With Integrity. #ChipotleAllTeam," one tweet read, referencing Chipotle's founder, Steve Ells.
"Steve: Deeply sorry that some people became ill after eating Chipotle. Committed to make sure it won't happen again. #ChipotleAllTeam," another tweet read.
Many people in the Grand Strand area said they haven't been to a Chipotle since the E. coli outbreak, and they would need convincing to go back. Still, some said they think the steps the company has taken, put it on the right track.
"I think they had a fantastic business before," Cathy Grimes, a Chipotle customer said. "I think people will stay away maybe for a while, see what comes up in the news if anything, and then return back as a happy patron. I think their food is great. It's tasty, it's affordable, and I look forward to returning."