June 30, 2016
What went wrong at the fast-casual leader, and how foodservice operators committed to fresh and local ingredients can ensure it doesn’t happen to them.
Since opening its first restaurant in Denver in 1993, Chipotle Mexican Grill has redefined the world of limited-service dining. Its “Food With Integrity” focus ushered in a new wave of consumer demand for foods deemed fresher and more wholesome—even if equally as calorie-dense—than the ingredients at the fast-food giants it battled for market share. And the brand is widely credited as one of the most influential trailblazers of the fast-casual dining segment.
But a series of foodborne illnesses linked to various Chipotle stores has raised fundamental questions about the company’s supply chain, in-house training, and culture around food safety. After all, of what benefit are ingredients like organic veggies, responsibly raised pork, or antibiotic-free chicken if they aren’t safe for consumption?
Chipotle’s outbreaks have led many to believe that the brand’s focus on wholesome, simple ingredients belies a slew of operational challenges associated with its labyrinth supply chain of small farms and suppliers. Now, many are left wondering: Is it possible to scale a brand built around fresh, locally sourced foods?
May 6, 2016
A rash of food-borne illness outbreaks have operators rethinking food safety.
By Nicole Duncan
It’s been a busy few months for Sloan’s Ice Cream. The West Palm Beach, Florida–based brand is planning to ramp up growth, which means it needs a larger manufacturing facility to support increased volume.
But bringing this new building online is a more delicate process than simply shipping equipment and ingredients. In fact, David Wild, director of franchising for the eight-unit brand, emphasizes that it is taking great care to ensure that the new facility is clean and up to the best food-safety standards. After all, it’s not hard to bring to mind cautionary tales from the least year alone.
In November, 42 Chipotle locations in the Pacific Northwest were temporarily closed following an outbreak of E. coli. The incident came on the heels of smaller Chipotle-based outbreaks in California and Minnesota. And before the fast-casual leader could regain its footing, another crisis struck—this one across the country, in Boston. Nearly 100 customers fell sick with norovirus, leading founder and CEO Steve Ells to make a very uncomfortable appearance on the “Today Show,” where he expressed sympathy for those who had fallen ill and then attempted to explain how Chipotle would change its policies to prevent further repeats.
April 18, 2016
With the increased emphasis on quality foodservice, maintaining in-store equipment is necessary for keeping a clean image.
By Howard Riell, Associate Editor
In the wake of the publicized instances of food-borne illnesses such as the Norovirus outbreak at Chipotle, more convenience stores are protecting their operations against similar operational risks.
Many c-store operators are looking at a variety of potential danger areas, from food preparation equipment to storage containers and ice machines, honing their food safety policies and procedures along the way.
Jeff Oppenheim, director of food service for Sampson-Bladen Oil, which operates 79 Han-Dee Hugo’s convenience stores throughout North Carolina, said his chain is working to grow its proprietary foodservice program in new stores, focusing on food safety.
Han-Dee Hugo’s foodservice program varies from location to location, but includes branded Subway sandwich outlets as well as fried chicken, hot dogs, burgers, pizza, taquitos, egg rolls, breakfast sausages and, coming in late spring, Little Caesars Pizza. Nine stores currently offer foodservice.
Many of Sampson-Bladen’s stores are equipped with self-cleaning ice machines, though managers are instructed to run a cleaning cycle once a week. The c-store also has an outside service vendor come in quarterly, break down and clean all units.
“But every month we break down those machines and clean them ourselves to maintain the quality because there is nothing like getting a piece of ice with a black chunk from mold,” Oppenheim said. “Mostly we go in and actually open the machine and clean behind the doors. We take out some of the shields and clean those pieces. We teach our managers how to maintain those.”
The self-cleaning feature helps out a lot with maintenance, he added. “I have one ice machine that does not have the self-cleaning piece in it; and that one is always heavily soiled, and so it is taken apart and cleaned more often.”
When food deliveries arrive the boxes are marked to ensure good first-in, first-out product rotation. To help expedite the process, the chain also uses automatic label printers in many locations.
“If you have a big operation, I recommend getting something like that,” Oppenheim said. “All you do is push a button and they print out a sticker based on your parameters. It’s good if you’re doing the same program at different stores.”
Newer models include time and temperature data, which are logged automatically. Store staffers do temperature checks at least twice per day, and up to four times at 24-hour locations.