We know. You know. Chipotle is sinking fast. Their last few years have been catastrophic — so much so they hemorrhaged 95 percent of their profits in 2016 alone. Ouch. Norovirus, E. Coli, rats, middling queso — we’ve all heard the guttural refrain of a once triumphant fast-casual chain in its death howls. Now, instead of more free burritos and mediocre queso, the company has taken a bold move and poached Taco Bell’s CEO, Brian Niccol, to lead Chipotle into a new era.
Chipotle’s founder and CEO, Steve Ells, finally stepped down late last year (don’t worry, he’ll be fine) amid continued troubles for the company. Chipotle’s choice to replace Ells is a bold one. Niccol took over Taco Bell’s direction in 2011 and is behind the brands massive 180 from fast food also-ran to an internet-era brand juggernaut with a huge social media presence and an ever-evolving menu that hits the perfect balance of nostalgia, health craze, and deep-fried gluttony. So good was Niccol’s turn around that within three years of his tenure Taco Bell became the number one brand for Yum Brand Inc (which also owns Pizza Hut and KFC).
Does that mean we’re going to be getting Doritos carnitas bowls with Mountain Dew infused queso at Chipotle now? Maybe. We’ll have to wait and see. At least we know that Niccol is not afraid to try anything as he was, arguably, already coming after Chipotle with Taco Bell’s recent expansion — 300 alcohol-slinging ‘cantinas.’ The The Wall Street Journal quoted Niccol as planning to use “social media to make the brand more youthful and culturally relevant.” Which, kinda feels like a retread of the company’s early days in the aughts.
Is this what Chipotle needs to get themselves into the twenty-twenties? Is it even worth righting the ship at this point? Or, maybe, Niccol has heard our own Steve Bramucci’s call to turn the company into a fast-casual incubator and start making that Ray Kroc money by focusing on their leased properties and liquor licenses instead of their dying brand?
Time will tell, friends. Time will tell.
(Via The Wall Street Journal)