Monday, August 1, 2011

Bad Burrito

A little over a year ago, I embarked on the burrito blow-out, giving both Boloco and Chipotle high marks, running neck and neck. After further dining and sampling of the wares at Moe’s, I feel compelled to upgrade Boloco again, and downgrade, to the bottom shelf of the bodega, Chipotle.

I share with you the following email sent to Chipotle headquarters on July 19, 2011:

“This isn't the first time I've written about this location, but it will likely be the last. This particular location has the worst line, and the worst logistical layout of any Chipotle. The past three times my colleagues and I have gone there, the line has been winding through the seating area all the way to the front door. The staff is slow to move people through the line, using up almost our entire lunch-time just waiting to be served. This wouldn’t be so bad, except with of the "open kitchen" concept, we are able to watch what goes on behind the scenes. I have often said that people like to eat sausage, but don't want to see it being made. The same can be said for Chipotle.

Yesterday, while waiting in line, we watched a gentleman in the kitchen, WITHOUT GLOVES, toss ingredients into the rice with his bare hands, and then mix it with a large spoon. When the rice was tossed up onto his UNGLOVED hand, he shook the rice back into the bowl. Adding to this show, he wiped his nose on the back of his hand!!! At that point, my friend and I left, and went across the street to "Moe's" (blog aside-another bad choice). This isn't the first time we've made such observations, but it has grown to such a degree that I doubt the efficacy of your training and there is a tremendous breakdown in supervision. You are lucky the Board of Health hasn't come for lunch there.

Besides my day job, I am a food blogger, and am a frequent guest on WBZ radio here in Boston. On a previous show and posting, I gave Chipotle high marks but my experiences over the past few months has left me no choice but to stop eating in your restaurants, and to update my post warning people about the sloppy food preparation and potential danger. Feel free to email me with your response.”

So kind readers, consider yourselves warned.

I give Chipotle props for their prompt response, which came almost immediately, and not only addressed my issue with the usual corporate double-talk, but also resulted in them sending me gift cards for 2 free burritos (with a side of Giardia if I want to take the chance-and I don’t mean DeLaurentis). We almost took a chance today, which ended with me sending the following email to corporate tonight.

“…I can tell you that after my visit to Chipotle today (which again resulted in my friend and I leaving before ordering), I will not be returning.

Last week, my daughter wanted to eat at the Framingham location, so we went back, with some trepidation, and once again, I could see the exact same situation as before going on in the kitchen. One glove on, one off, handling food. We left without ordering. At the time, I thought to myself “maybe they haven’t received the corporate directive to take patrons' health seriously and WEAR THE GLOVES, so I’ll give it another chance in a week or so.”

So today, one of my colleagues and I went to Chipotle. Of course, we were greeted with a line longer than the Great Wall of China. While we were waiting, we were treated to the usual kitchen show-except this time, the rice-maker wasn’t wearing ANY gloves, mixing and tossing the rice bare-handed! Besides deciding to leave, I also wanted to speak with the manager. When I approached the side window to ask to speak with him, I could see him in the kitchen, cutting up green peppers, bare-handed!

It was immediately apparent that this is a systemic training issue and when the person in charge of the restaurant doesn’t care to observe the rules, the staff will never care to follow the rules either. There just isn’t any motivation to do so, and apparently, can’t be any repercussions since the manager himself is setting the bad example. I just shook my head and walked away, not bothering to speak with the manager. I wonder if these rules have even been communicated to the management, or staff.

At this point, there really is nothing that can be done and there is no reason to return. It is doubtful training will have any effect, as it appears that thus far, it has fallen on deaf ears, if it has been communicated at all. Perhaps a visit from the Board of Health might help re-adjust the staff's perspective on safe food handling.”

I have resorted to a tactic that I rarely invoke-the Board of Health. The report was made. When I described the issue to the BOH, the response was priceless: “what is wrong with them?” Indeed!

Could I have a chicken burrito, with a side of Listeria and a sprinkling of Hepatitis please?

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