Norovirus Outbreak Threatens To Foil Chipotle’s Recovery

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

Chipotle will release its quarterly earnings report Tuesday, but a recent norovirus outbreak at one of its Virginia locations threatens to hurt its bottom line.

More than a 135 customers reported falling ill after eating at the company’s Sterling, Va., location. Chipotle closed the Sterling storefront July 18. Virginia health officials have yet to determine how the norovirus spread. (RELATED: Chipotle Shuts Store Over Food-Borne Illness Reports)

Shares of Chipotle fell by 6 percent after news broke about the Virginia norovirus outbreak, and fell an additional 13 percent last week. The company lost roughly 5 percent of its gains on the year.

The company has spent nearly a year slowly recovering from an E.coli outbreak in the fall of 2015 and a single norovirus case in Boston in 2016. To regain good faith from investors and consumers alike, Chipotle made changes to its cooking procedures, implemented better training for store employees and extended gestures of good will, like offering customers credit and free burritos.

Chipotle raised menu prices an average of 5 percent in many of its storefronts in April, marking the first price increase in nearly 2 years following the 2015 food-borne illness outbreak. The Virginia outbreak may inhibit the company from raising prices again for the foreseeable future.

The company is expected to release its second-quarter earnings at 4:30 p.m.

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