Food & Beverage

Analyst: Chipotle recovery to take at least a year

A man looking to eat lunch, looks thru the locked front door of the Chipolte Restaurant February 8, 2016, in the Washington, DC, commmunity of Georgetown.
Paul J. Richards | AFP | Getty Images

Chipotle is still not back to 100 percent, and it'll take until the middle of next year for the fast-casual chain to return to where it was before a series of health scares, says Bob Derrington, a Telsey Advisory Group restaurant analyst.

He said the company is mainly trying to win back customers on the East and West coasts, areas hit hardest by the food-borne illness scares, by offering coupons for free burritos and free chips and salsa with a purchase.

Derrington cheered the freebies, saying, "I think it is fair and reasonable to use that carrot to ultimately try and drive traffic back in the door."

The frequency of the illnesses is what really hurt the chain, Derrington told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Friday. There were scattered outbreaks of E. coli and Salmonella across the country, followed by news of a norovirus incident in Boston, which . Currently, the U.S. Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the company's reporting of the incidents.

The most important thing Chipotle needs to do now is "make it safe, make it desirable to return," Derrington said.

Chipotle didn't immediately respond to calls for comment.

It's impossible to value Chipotle shares right now
A person walks past a Chipotle Mexican Grill store location in downtown Portland on November 3, 2015 in Portland, Oregon.
Chipotle's bad timing in closing restaurants