Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Letter that I just sent to Chipotle

Good Evening.  

Today I went to Chipotle on Sunset Hills in Reston for a take-out order. My family has eaten at Chipotle restaurants before, and we like it because we can control what goes into our meals. My husband is allergic to beans, and we like that we can see our meals being made, and ensure that he is not going to bite into a beef and bean burrito when he has ordered a beef burrito. His allergy is actually quite severe, but we have always felt comfortable eating at Chipotle because of the stated ability to see our food being made and the knowledge that the restaurants use safe food handling practices.  

Tonight, as I was standing at the front of the line, the woman behind the counter was making either a phone or fax order--the orderer was not present. After placing rice and beans on the burrito, she placed shredded pork over the beans. Another woman behind the counter told her that it was supposed to be part pork and part beef, so she removed half of the pork (which had been in contact with the beans) and put it back in the bin that it came from.  

Not a single person said anything. I told her that she had just cross-contaminated the food, and she looked at me like I had two heads. I obviously was not able to order food for my husband at that point; I had no idea if this had happened before (to the chicken or beef) or if it was only the pork that was contaminated.  

In an era of allergies and other health issues, it is vitally important that food preparers be educated to not cross-contaminate food. I cannot imagine that it is the policy of Chipotle to correct incorrect orders by putting food back into their bins after they have already been added to a dish.  

Thank you for your time.  
Lynne Powell

Received this message from Chipotle:


Thanks for taking the time to address your concern. I am sorry to hear that your visit to our Reston restaurant yesterday was not impressionable. We shouldn't be depositing food back into their container after they have been incorporated into an order to avoid cross-contamination. Because the health and well-being of our guests is of utmost importance to us, we'll follow-up with our team at this location and make sure that this does not happen again.

We'd like to invite you back for a meal on us, if you'll willing to give us another try. Simply send me your mailing address, and I will send you a couple of free burrito cards shortly. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention so that we can address our team and correct this.

We hope to see you soon!


Louisa Fredrickson | Marketing Consultant
Chipotle Mexican Grill

Responded with:


Thank you so much for your quick reply. I would be willing to give Chipotle another try, but I am concerned about how long I should wait for the follow-up at this location to take place. Should I give it a week? Or will it happen sooner than that?

My mailing address is:

Lynne Powell

Thank you again for your attention to this matter.

-Lynne Powell

Received this message from Chipotle:

Good morning Lynne,

I heard back from our area manager for Reston and he informed me that this would be addressed immediately with our crew. I will make sure that our team our there is in touch with you to assure you that we have properly followed-up with our team regarding your concerns, and that cross-contamination will not be an issue going forward. I am optimistic that you will hear from them soon.

And I will send the Powell family a Chipotle treat this morning—you should receive the cards next week J  Come see us again soon!


And then received this message:

Hi Lynne,

I spoke with Alex (our General Manager at this store) yesterday and he already has addressed this with his managers and crew.  I am really sorry you had to experience this.  You can trust me in that this is definitely not the norm.  You should feel free to try us at any point; as this should have been corrected immediately.

Again I am really sorry this had to happen to you, but I appreciate you taking the time to let us know about this.


So I thanked them both and am looking forward to my next trip.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Restaurants to which we will not return: Ariake in Reston

I never intended to post bad reviews here. This was supposed to be a place of love and sharing of food. But it is actually because of a food love affair gone sour that I am posting this today. 

Ariake is a sushi restaurant in Reston, on Colt's Neck Road and Glade Drive. We started going there when it opened. This was well before Micah was born, and in fact, it was there that I went for my hush-hush pregnancy sushi. We have been going there for so long that we remember the things that used to be on the menu, that are not anymore, and that the waitresses will always bring for us because they remember us. Our children have always been welcome. We have always been welcome. Until tonight. 

Here's a hint to restaurant owners out there: If you don't want children in your restaurant, don't provide high chairs. If a restaurant provides a high chair, I always make the assumption that we are welcome with our kids. In fact, when we entered today, there were two other tables with small children. 

We ordered our food: a sushi/sashimi platter for two for Adam and me, another special roll, a cucumber roll for Micah, and agedashi tofu for Lillian. Drinks (beer for the adults and lemonade for Micah) were also ordered. We had, in fact, had a pretty rough week and wanted a nice dinner and a beer to try to make up for it.

Everything was generally fine. Lillian ate through most of her tofu and was working on some sushi. Micah was doing his dawdling thing that he does. Adam and I were gushing over the wonderfulness of the sushi. Lillian didn't get everything to her mouth; she's 14 months old. Too old to be feeding baby food (which we never did anyway), too old to be spoon or fork feeding her (which we also never did). She's a voracious eater who does, in fact, sometimes drop food on the floor. Just about all kids do. In most restaurants, we make an apology and leave a big tip. I usually try to do some cleaning up before we go.

Tonight, she was getting antsy, so I picked her up out of the high chair, and the owner's son came over to our table. As soon as I had her out of the chair, he moved the chair out of the way and started cleaning the dropped food. If that had been the end of it, I would have just assumed he was trying to be nice so I didn't step in tofu. Instead, he said, "I'm going to clean this up because it's grossing out the other customers."

"Excuse me?" I said

"It's grossing out the customers to see food on the floor."

"I see. Which customers are grossed out?" I said. "Is there a specific customer or do you mean to say that you are grossed out?

"um, um"

"I see. So you're grossed out because a BABY dropped food on the floor. And you couldn't keep it to yourself."

"It's gross to have food on the floor."

Then I turned to Adam and told him I was going to take Lillian for a walk outside. When I came back in he had brought the check to the table (we were no where near done with either the food or the drinks). I said that I wanted to talk to him and he told me that he didn't want to discuss it with me. We went back and forth a couple of times and he said we should go. He also, somewhere in there, commented that it was a family place. I'm sure. 

One of our favorite waitresses was visibly upset. I commented to her that there are a lot of sushi restaurants in Reston and Herndon, and before I got to finish my statement (that we had been coming here for years now), he overheard and said "well you can go to them then."

I walked out. Adam did pay the bill (I wish he had not) and got a to go box to take the rest of the sushi home. I got in the car with Lillian and pulled up to the front door, then got out to help with Micah. Apparently the manager was also very upset (he knows us as well) because he followed Adam out, and was very insistent that the guy had no say in anything and was just the owner's son.

I said, "Yes but if he were a waiter who treated us that way, he would be fired. You do not use the words "grossed out" in front of people who are eating, especially when referring to their child."

The manager said, "yes"

I said, "But you can't fire him because he's the owner's son. And because he's the owner's son, he does speak for the business whether you say he does or not."

So, we're done with Ariake. DONE. We won't be returning there, except perhaps to drop a copy of this off to the owner.