- Chipotle last week announced it poached Taco Bell’s CEO to serve as its new boss starting next month.
- That news, coupled with a new menu item, has added almost $US2 billion in market cap in less than a week.
- You can track the stock in real-time here>>
Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill are up 3% in trading Tuesday, and have gained roughly 30% since the chain announced current Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol would take over the embattled burrito chain.
News of the fresh C-suite entrant, coupled with new menu items, have added more than $US2 billion to Chipotle’s market value as Wall Street becomes increasingly enamoured with the company’s turnaround plans.
“We were surprised Chipotle was able to hire Mr. Niccol away from Yum Brands! Taco Bell division,” Stifel analyst Chris O’Cull said in a note upgrading the stock from sell to hold. “Over the past three years, Mr. Niccol has pushed the boundaries at Taco Bell and solidified their position in the consumer’s awareness. Chipotle needs a similar reboot to help the brand reengage lapsed customers.”
O’Cull has a price target of $US275 for Chipotle – 15% below where shares were trading Tuesday afternoon.
On Monday, Chipotle added quinoa to the menu at its New York City test kitchen, a move similar to its rollout of queso last year.
While critics have slammed Chipotle’s queso, the company said in February the new menu item had led to a 2% increase in the average customer’s check.
Chipotle recently hinted more new menu items might be in the works. Its founder, Steve Ells, said in a call with investors the company was considering “salads with different kinds of grains,” as well as “traditional things” like nachos and quesadillas.
Wall Street has an average target of $US304 for the stock – 4% below Tuesday’s prices – but some analysts are even more bullish.
“Following an unfounded lawsuit that sharply slowed Taco Bell’s momentum in 2011, Niccol was a key player in first stabilizing the brand and then reaccelerating growth,” Bernstein analyst Sara Senatore, who has a price target of $US500 for Chipotle, said last week. “He spearheaded development of the brand’s innovative digital strategy and disruptive marketing content that led to high customer engagement. He also led the acceleration of Taco Bell’s expansion plans overseas.”
Despite this week’s gains, shares of Chipotle are still down 26% over the past year.
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