Despite better times since the end of its food-borne illness outbreaks (including free food for to win you back!), Chipotle hasn't entirely bounced back to the highs it was riding, pre-outbreak. In fact, some financial experts are expressing doubts about the burrito chain's ability to recover altogether.
According to a report by CNBC, analysts at global financial firm Deutsche Bank downgraded their outlook for Chipotle's stock, saying that although the company is proactively working to rebuilt trust among customers, there is "tremendous uncertainty" on how effective those efforts will be. "We still question what a recovery will look like (and when it will materialize)," the analysts said in a research note. In fact, the analysts predict Chipotle's stock price will plunge as much as 24% -- from its current value of about $525 per share to $400 per share. While the stock gained some ground earlier this year, it's still 22% below where it was a year ago, per the report.
Executives have already admitted this year will be a rough one for the company. In announcing its most recent earnings report, co-CEO Monty Moran said, "2016 will be a very difficult year relative to our past performance. But, by staying true to our food culture and unique people culture, and layering on our rigorous food safety program, we are confident that we are now in a position to aggressively welcome customers into our restaurants and restore customer confidence in the things that make Chipotle great."
Worse yet, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California recently expanded its probe into a norovirus outbreak that sickened more than 200 people (including employees) at a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley, California, and has demanded Chipotle to hand over documents and other information related to food safety across the entire company dating back to January 1, 2013. Additionally, at least nine lawsuits have been filed against the company in relation to the illnesses linked to eating at its restaurants, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.
While the outlook on Chipotle might be bleak, Moran said he remains confident about an eventual turnaround. "With our full commitment to becoming an industry leader in food safety, and our continued focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience, we are confident that Chipotle will emerge as an even stronger company," he said. This is all to say that if you love Chipotle, you might want to do what you do best and just keep on eating those Chipotle burritos.
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and recently enjoyed a nice burrito from Chipotle and it was a great as ever. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.