Once on a restaurant visit Ells lost his cool when he heard how much racket a

Once on a restaurant visit ells lost his cool when he

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Ramsay–esque outbursts. Once, on a restaurant visit, Ells lost his cool when he heard how much racket a set of new stools was making when dragged against the foor. “They’re too damn noisy!” he yelled at his team, according to two sources. “I never want to see one of these stools again!” It didn’t matter that he’d approved their design, or that they’d already been shipped to around 50 stores. (Arnold, the Chipotle spokesperson, says, “I am not aware of this incident.”) As Chipotle has grown, its operation has evolved to be anything but simple. The company purchases 185 million pounds of what it considers responsibly raised beef, pork, and chicken annually. The raw meat it pre- pares at its restaurants—as opposed to the highly processed, often-frozen goods that other fast-food outlets serve—must be handled and cooked properly, or else potentially harmful pathogens will blossom. Much of Chipotle’s produce has traditionally been prepared at its stores too. “We would go through millions of pounds of cilantro! That’s such a danger- ous item—so many nooks and crannies where E. coli can hide,” says one former Chipotle supply-chain executive. “As much fresh produce as they deal with”—Chipotle goes through more than 200,000 pounds of avocados daily—“in retrospect, I can’t believe somebody didn’t raise a red fag. Did their volume catch up to them?” Before the crisis, the chain had relied on 60,000 mostly low-wage workers (the average hourly pay is $10 per hour) to properly sanitize, dice, and cook ingredients such as lettuce, avocados, tomatoes, as well as raw chicken and steak. Chipotle has an annual turnover rate of 130%, meaning the average store will replace its entire head count at least once per year. “By the time someone learns how to handle a knife and not stick their hand in their ass before handling food, they have left,” says a source familiar with Chipotle’s food-safety program. Now consider that Chipotle opens more than 200 new restaurants annually, or the equivalent of about one every 48 hours. It once hired 4,000 new employees in a single day. Because of Ells’s high standards and insistence upon preparing pork and some beef through time-consuming techniques such as braising, Chipotle has had to employ the same third-party, industrial-scale “central kitchens” that work with fast-food giants such as McDonald’s and Subway. The term is sort of a euphemism Chipotle uses for these outside partners, which help the company handle, distribute, and even source some of its ingredients. Before the E. coli outbreak, multiple sources tell me that this blended operation—centralized and in-restaurant kitchens, with food from scores of global suppliers being shipped to both—had just four people assigned to quality assurance (QA), a low number for a chain of Chipotle’s scale and complexity. (Arnold confrms this fgure, but says the team was “strengthened” with additional hires after February 2016.) “The way the supply chain was set up, they had hundreds of [suppliers] that were fun-
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  • Fall '14
  • DavidCoy
  • Finance, Business, The Land, Chipotle Mexican Grill

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