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Chipotle stock falls amid illness reports

Virginia restaurant reopens after customers report symptoms consistent with norovirus

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.’s stock fell nearly 7 percent Tuesday morning, after the company temporarily closed a restaurant in Virginia after customers reported getting sick after eating there.

The restaurant, in Sterling, Va., was scheduled to reopen today, after several customers reported symptoms “consistent with norovirus,” Chipotle said.  

Chipotle closed the location on Monday to sanitize the restaurant. 

“We are aware of a small number of reported illnesses isolated to a single restaurant in Sterling, Va., on Tripleseven Road and have notified local health department officials,” Jim Marsden, executive director of food safety at Denver-based Chipotle, said in an emailed statement. “We are working with health authorities to understand what the cause may be and to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”

Marsden said customers’ symptoms were consistent with norovirus.

“Norovirus does not come from our food supply, and it is safe to eat at Chipotle,” he said. 

Business Insider first reported the closure, which sent Chipotle’s stock to its lowest level this year.

Several customers reported on the website iwaspoisoned.com that they got sick after eating at the restaurant on Friday. The customers reported diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. At least one person went to the hospital.

The issue again raised the specter of food safety concerns at Chipotle, where a series of foodborne illness outbreaks in 2015 led to a steep sales decline in 2016, which the chain is working feverishly to recover from.

Estimated unit sales fell 23 percent in 2016, according to NRN Top 100 data, to $1.8 million, from $2.4 million the previous year. While same-store sales have increased so far in 2017, including 17.8-percent growth in the first three months of the year, there is some concern that the recovery is proceeding more slowly than the company hoped.

Last month, Chipotle said full-year same-store sales would increase in the “high single digits,” suggesting that same-store sales are slowing from the first quarter.

Contact Jonathan Maze at jonathan.maze@penton.com

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze  

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