Chipotle's (CMG) image is looking pretty sickly right now.
Shares of Chipotle dropped 3.3% to $344.45 by Friday's close, hitting new 2017 lows, as Chipotle grappled with twin PR crises. Public health officials confirmed that a customer at a Chipotle location in Sterling, Va. is ill with norovirus, while data from food poisoning crowdsourcing website iwaspoisoned.com indicates that over 100 customers at that location also fell ill. The same week, customers complained that a Dallas location had rats "falling from the ceiling."
A new foodborne illness scandal requires a total re-brand at Chipotle, according to one branding expert.
Foodborne norovirus outbreaks are usually caused by individual ill workers, rather than larger supply chain problems, a fact that Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants and CEO of private equity firm Patriarch Equity, said is "irrelevant."
"If it had happened at any other brand, it's a nonstory, but if it happens at Chipotle it's a mortal wound," he said, given Chipotle's multistate E. coli outbreak in 2015. "This brand is a perfect candidate for a name change. You can only have so many hotbeds of evil themes that can happen to a brand and not create a seismic shift in public perception."