Chipotle taps Taco Bell's CEO to turn around the struggling chain

Hollis Johnson
  • Chipotle’s new CEO will be Taco Bell’s current leader – Brian Niccol.
  • The struggling chain has been searching for a new CEO since November, when founder Steve Ells announced plans to step down in an effort to turn around the chain.
  • At Taco Bell, Niccol pushed for creative marketing, digital innovation, and wild new menu items.

Chipotle’s new CEO comes from another Mexican chain.

The struggling chain’s new top executive will be Taco Bell’s current CEO Brian Niccol. Niccol will replace Chipotle’s founder and current CEO, Steve Ells.

Ells said in a press release that Niccol will bring “fresh energy and leadership to drive excellence across every aspect of our business.”

Brian niccol taco bellRedditBrian Niccol

“His expertise in digital technologies, restaurant operations and branding make him a perfect fit for Chipotle as we seek to enhance our customer experience, drive sales growth and make our brand more relevant,” Ells continued.

Chipotle announced in November that Ells plans to step down as it begins its hunt for a new CEO with “demonstrated turnaround expertise.”

Niccol joined Taco Bell 2011 as its chief marketing and innovation officer. Over the last seven years, Taco Bell has experienced explosive growth due in part to Niccol’s strategy of pushing for creative marketing and new menu items that at times border on bizarre, such as the Naked Chicken Chalupa.

Recently, Chipotle has made major a major push into digital, with the company reporting earlier in February that digital orders had increased 50% in the most recent quarter, compared to the same period last year. The chain also hinted it may be testing new menu items – a fast-food strategy that Chipotle has long refused to try.

Niccol’s new role as Chipotle’s CEO and a member of the company’s board will be effective starting March 5.

Chipotle has struggled since an E. coli crisis two years ago drove customers away from the chain. Shares of the company have fallen more than 60% since peaking in August 2015.

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