Chipotle just said it will break one of its cardinal rules to win back customers


Chipotle is considering adding new menu items to win back customers as sales plunge in the wake of E. coli outbreaks that affected restaurants across the country.

One of the first items that Chipotle could add is chorizo — a spicy pork and chicken blend, Chipotle executives said on a call with analysts Tuesday.

The company is hoping it will draw back its most loyal customers.

A test of chorizo in Kansas City last year was “very, very popular with our loyal customers,” Chipotle co-CEO Monty Moran said. The company is hoping the addition of chorizo will “make our loyal customers come more often,” he said.

Chipotle’s revenue dropped 23.4% to $834.5 million in the first quarter, the company reported Tuesday. Same-store sales dropped nearly 30%.

The decision to add menu items goes against one of Chipotle’s core business strategies.

Chipotle has deliberately left its menu virtually unchanged since it was founded more than two decades ago. The only major change in the menu in the past 23 years has been the addition of tofu sofritas in 2014.

The company prides itself on the simplicity of its menu and boasts that customers can create thousands of combinations from the ingredients they offer.

“Chipotle restaurants serve only a few things: burritos, burrito bowls, tacos and salads,” the company wrote in its 2014 annual report. “But because customers can choose from four different meats or tofu, two types of beans and a variety of extras such as salsas, guacamole, cheese and lettuce, there’s enough variety to extend our menu to provide countless choices.”

Chipotle co-CEO Steve Ells said the company is being mindful of keeping things simple with the addition of new menu items.

“When we think about adding something to Chipotle, we are very, very mindful of our overall efficiencies in the kitchen, in cooking, in throughput and in ease of ordering for the customer,” Ells said.

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