It doesn't matter that eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill landed one 19-year-old woman in the hospital—she loves that fast-casual Tex-Mex cuisine no matter what.
Over the last several months, the company has quietly reached cash settlements with 100 customers who were sickened by outbreaks of E. coli, norovirus, and salmonella at its restaurant last year. And while the majority of William Marler’s clients seemed to be content with the money, one 19-year-old woman was such a loyal customer of the chain that she requested coupons for free-burritos added to her deal.
Marler—who’s represented thousands of people in cases against food companies, including the infamous Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak of 1993—says he was stunned by the woman’s request.
"In 25 years of doing foodborne illness cases, I’ve never had a client ask for coupons for the restaurant they had gotten sick at," he told the Denver Post. "In fact, some (clients) had gone back to the restaurant and they would call me and say, 'Do you think it’s bad that I went back and got a burrito?'"
Still, in recent months, Chipotle has seemed increasingly worried about losing its loyal millennial customer base, attempting to appeal to younger consumers with rewards programs, happy hours, and a somewhat riské Twitter account. The chain was hugely popular with millennials before the food-safety scandal, and perhaps the company will rebound more easily than some experts have speculated.
While the 19-year-old victim was the only person to flat-out request coupons ("I really love Chipotle and want to go back,” she told Marler simply), other clients received vouchers for free food from the company as well.
"They have a following of especially 20-somethings that other restaurants don’t have," Marler said. "It’s a little odd, but it probably says something positive about Chipotle."
Still, giving out free food has been hugely expensive for Chipotle, and is not likely to solve all of the company’s legal woes. Nearly 10,000 employees of the burrito chain have also filed a class action suit against the company, alleging wage theft.
[via Denver Post]