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Every Chipotle in the United States will close briefly next month for a staff meeting on food safety

All of the roughly 2,000 Chipotle restaurants in the U.S. will close for an unspecified period of time on Feb. 8 while the company holds an all-staff meeting to address food safety issues that caused successive food poisoning outbreaks in recent months.

In the wake of a nightmare year for Chipotle, in which hundreds of people were sickened after eating at the popular Mexican-inspired fast food chain, the company says it is taking another step to clean up its act.

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All of the roughly 2,000 Chipotle restaurants in the United States will close for an unspecified period of time on Feb. 8 while the company holds an all-staff meeting to address food safety issues that caused successive food poisoning outbreaks in recent months.

“We are still working on details,” said Chris Arnold, the company’s director of communications. “[O]ur restaurants will be closed part of the day Feb. 8. We are hosting a national team meeting to thank our employees for their hard work through this difficult time, discuss some of the food safety changes we are implementing, and answer questions from employees. ”

On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported the news inside a story on Chipotle’s marketing efforts, but few noted it then. It gained steam Friday morning after Arnold was quoted in the Oregonian talking about the closure.

The string of food scares has taken its toll on Chipotle’s bottom line. Last week, the company announced that its business was suffering more than it had anticipated. The chain had expected comparable restaurant sales (those at restaurants which have been open for at least 13 months) to fall by as much as 11 percent for the quarter ending Dec. 31, but revised the outlook, saying they are now slated to tumble by almost 15 per cent. In December alone the metric fell by 30 per cent.

The company’s stock was down slightly Friday morning in reaction to the news, adding to an already precipitous, months-long decline. Chipotle shares have fallen by 40 per cent since September, when they reached an all time high.

The announcement follows what has been a difficult time for Chipotle. After years of sustained growth, and a seemingly flawless business, America’s darling fast-food company has fallen on hard times.

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