Even if you're not a hard-core foodie, Chipotle's food safety issues are having a broad influence on people's desire for natural ingredients and quality food.
"Clearly we live in a post-Chipotle world, where there is an elevated focus on food safety at all restaurants," said Panera Bread President Drew Madsen, during an earnings call this week with investors.
"Given that, we have brought in a highly respected consultant with extensive food safety and supply chain risk management expertise to assess our current practices and suggest opportunities for improvement," Madsen said.
Chipotle Mexican Grill's multistate outbreaks of foodborne illnesses have prompted some eaters to stay away and lowered sales. Coupons and free burritos haven't been enough to offset sales declines. Chipotle on Tuesday said comparable restaurant sales fell 29.7 percent in the first quarter of this year.
Competitors, meanwhile, in the fast-casual restaurant space are promoting more quality ingredients and clean food. McDonald's is testing new Chicken McNuggets in two U.S. markets, with some test recipes excluding artificial ingredients. Panera is expanding its menu of clean food options that exclude artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives.
Forget pale burgers sitting under heat lamps. The future of fast food will emphasize fewer artificial ingredients, innovation and service across mobile platforms, and best-in-class food safety, according to some in the industry.
"There's a broad push to clean food and food safety," said Stephen Anderson, a restaurants and consumer analyst at the Maxim Group.