A Slow Day for Fast Food: Chipotle Announces Store Closings

Or is it a fast day for slow food?

It’s been a rough few months for Chipotle. The fast-food chain, which launched 22 years ago with virtuous intentions of using healthier, more sustainably grown ingredients than we’re used to seeing from competitors—and was acquired by McDonald’s from 1998 to 2006—is fresh off a string of E.Coli, salmonella and norovirus incidents that kicked off last August and are ongoing. The worst of these happened in Boston in December, where approximately 140 students at Boston College got sick with norovirus; another 100 came down with it in California; and customers in more than nine states fell ill with E. Coli last fall. In the wake of all this, the company has seen stocks free-fall and lawsuits mount.

As a result, Chipotle just announced that it will be closing all of its stores on February 8 to train employees in food safety. Chipotle owner Steve Ells, in an open letter on the Chipotle site, assures customers that the chain is "implementing high-resolution sampling and testing," and conducting a "farm-to-fork risk assessment." The closure on February 8 will only last a couple of hours, and while it’s surely as much of a PR stunt as it is a training session, we can only hope that a burrito-less morning for the nation (or for whoever eats burritos in the morning) will mean a healthier, more sustainable 2016 for the company.

Meanwhile, in other fast-food news: What's up with Waffle House? In recent weeks and months, the chain of 24-hour diners has seen a naked one-woman brawl, a plate-throwing customer, a waitress killed because of a non-smoking policy, and an irate knife-wielding customer, as Eater helpfully sums up. And then there was that time in 2007 when Kid Rock got into a fight at a Georgia branch. If Waffle House management has any plans to close the restaurants for a staff training (or better yet, a customer training), it’s going to have a tough time figuring out when: Those branches see constant traffic day and night, as Bon Appetit’s Andrew Knowlton attested in his terrific stunt piece on what it’s like working a 24-hour shift at a Waffle House.

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