At 2:34 p.m. Monday, the Chipotle on West University Avenue was empty.
The smell of steak drifted through the door. By 3:04 p.m., four minutes after the restaurant opened, a line of patrons stretched from the tortilla press to the door.
Chipotle locations across the nation were closed Monday for an all-staff meeting to discuss food safety and the recent E. coli outbreak, according to a company Twitter post.
As of press time, E. coli found in Chipotle locations across 11 states — not including Florida — sent 21 people to the hospital during the initial outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A sign on the West University Avenue location informed hungry Chipotle lovers of the meeting, and it promised free burritos for their patience. What it didn’t say was this: The burritos won’t be available until today.
Alex Vance, a 21-year-old UF math and economics junior, received a text about the promotion from his friend. Vance arrived at the restaurant when it opened. He did not bring his wallet.
“I made it all the way through the line, my bowl was made, and they started ringing me up,” Vance said.
Vance thought the burrito was free, and even though the coupons won’t be released until today, he received it free of charge anyway. He said he eats at Chipotle about once a week, despite the E. coli outbreak.
“At the end of the day, if I want a burrito, I don’t want to go anywhere else,” he said.
Most guests who arrived at Chipotle came for free burritos, but some had no idea the restaurant was closed at all.
Patrons pulled on locked doors before 3 p.m. and were forced to eat elsewhere — good news for Firehouse Subs next door.
Robert Law, Monday’s shift manager at Firehouse Subs, said the restaurant was informed of Chipotle’s closing and employed extra staff to compensate for an influx of hungry people.
“We’ve gotten a lot of Chipotle overflow,” Law said. “They’re keeping us busy today.”