Chipotle repeatedly told employees they need to stay home if they feel sick and the restaurant chain kept all its US locations shuttered early Monday as executives went over new food safety procedures. The presentation for workers, which comes after Chipotle has been slammed by a series of food scares, was broadcast live at hundreds of theaters and hotel conference rooms around the country. Co-CEO Monty Moran noted two of the four incidents were the result of norovirus, which is typically caused by sick workers. "If you're feeling sick, especially if you've vomited, whether at work or at home, you need to let your manager or your field leader know right away," Moran says from a restaurant in Denver.
With about 50,000 employees expected in attendance for the presentation, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. postponed opening its restaurants for four hours to 3pm local time Monday. As a peace offering to inconvenienced customers, Chipotle said it would give free burritos to people who text "RAINCHECK" to 888-222. Moran urged employees to be "incredibly hospitable" as the company fights to win back customers. "We need you to be your very best," he said. Chipotle is trying to bounce back from plunging sales since an E. coli outbreak came to light in late October. Executives say they may never know what caused the illnesses, but that it was likely the result of cross contamination in restaurants. In December, the company was also hit by a norovirus incident in Boston. Those cases brought more attention to a norovirus case in California and a salmonella case in Minnesota earlier in the year. Click for more from Monday's Chipotle meeting. (Read more Chipotle stories.)