Chipotle Mexican Grill temporarily closed and later reopened a restaurant in Ohio after customers fell ill after dining there.
While there were no immediate indications the episode had wider scope, concerned investors drove the chain’s stock down 7% in Tuesday afternoon trading.
The chain closed a location in Powell, Ohio, after customers wrote online they had experienced nausea and diarrhea after eating there in recent days. At least 10 people had reported falling ill as of Tuesday morning.
The Delaware General Health District in Ohio said it’s investigating after receiving more than 100 calls complaining about the issue. Later, the chain said the restaurant had been reopened.
Chipotle is still trying to regain momentum following a series of E. coli incidents and a norovirus scare nearly three years ago that unnerved customers and battered the company’s finances.
Chipotle spokesperson Laurie Schalow said in an email that the latest scare was “an isolated incident.”
“Our protocols identified a handful of illness reports at one restaurant in Powell, OH,” Schalow said. “We acted quickly and closed this single restaurant out of an abundance of caution. We are working with the local health department and we plan to reopen this restaurant today.”
The chain continues to grapple with the financial implications of the 2015 crisis, which triggered a federal investigation and prompted the company to implement new safety standards and food-handling procedures.
The company’s stock was trading at about $437 on Tuesday morning, which was up about 50% from the start of the year but still down more than 40% from pre-crisis levels.
The Ohio restaurant closure marks newcomer “Brian Niccol’s first test as CEO,” Cowen stock analyst Andrew M. Charles wrote Tuesday. Niccol, former CEO of Taco Bell, became CEO of Chipotle in March, promising digital innovation, new menu items and fresh appeal to young people.
The primary concern for the company surrounding the Ohio situation is likely the threat of renewed perception among customers that the food is unsafe.
“We would like to see CEO Brian Niccol take a more accountable and responsible approach and grab the bull by horns to clarify what happened, what was remedied, and what changes going forward to limit the risk an event like this will occur again,” Charles wrote. “We believe this will be a more effective way to restore trustworthiness than previous tactics.”