Chipotle hires Zenput to help manage food safety compliance with new mobile app

  • Chipotle hires mobile platform by Zenput to help monitor food safety compliance.
  • The software allows managers to assign a checklist of specific tasks to various jobs, like opening or closing the store.
  • Repeated food safety problems have kept Chipotle in the news and made investors and customers wary.
A employee sprinkles cheese on a burrito at a Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Hollywood, California.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A employee sprinkles cheese on a burrito at a Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Hollywood, California.

Chipotle Mexican Grill has a new plan to improve its food safety protocols — hire the company that's already doing it for Domino's, KFC and Jersey Mike's.

The burrito chain said Thursday it will deploy Zenput at more than 2,400 restaurants.

Zenput is a mobile platform that helps restaurants, convenience stores and retailers track their operations using a tablet or phone. The software allows managers to assign a checklist of specific tasks to various jobs, like opening or closing the store, food storage or even new menu item roll-outs.

Managers verify that the work has been done and can more easily identify if a step is missed. Chipotle is using the technology to ensure that all of its food safety procedures are being followed.

The fast casual restaurant has endured a number of setbacks as a result of several very public foodborne illness outbreaks at its chains since 2015. While Chipotle is not the only restaurant to struggle with food safety issues, repeated problems have kept them in the news and made investors and customers wary.

Diners looking for upscale, healthier burritos expect quality and have not been as forgiving of Chipotle's numerous food safety mishaps. While sales have been improving, a recent outbreak of Clostridium perfringens at a Chipotle in Ohio has once again caused consumers to question the brand's practices. The foodborne disease occurs when food is kept too warm for too long.

Wedbush analysts say their research shows that sales at the burrito chain were stymied in the third quarter because of this outbreak.

Still, shares of Chipotle are up more than 65 percent since January, likely the result of rebounding confidence in the chain and its new CEO Brian Niccol. The former head of Taco Bell, Niccol plans to woo back customers with new and limited-time menu items as well as faster mobile and online ordering and a new marketing campaign.

He is implementing many of the same tactics he used while running Yum Brand's Mexican chain, hoping that he can turn Chipotle into more than just a restaurant. He wants it to become a lifestyle brand.

Chipotle is about halfway through updating lighting, painting and other fixtures at its locations across the country. The company said it plans to complete the upgrades by the end of the year.

The company has also extended its hours, opening earlier and closing later, and is testing a "happy hour" with snack items and drinks in the afternoon and after 8 p.m.