Things might be looking up for Chipotle. The Denver-based company this week announced plans to move its headquarters by late 2018 across five snazzy floors at the 1144 Fifteenth building.
The move could be a high point for a burrito chain that has been beaten down over the past few years by food-borne illnesses, lawsuits, and federal investigations. Denver-based Chipotle employees will work from the 40-story office tower — the tallest built downtown since the 1980s — with the option to expand their five-floor footprint in the case of future business growth. Current headquarters are five blocks away on Wynkoop Street.
Chipotle got its start across town in 1993, when then-chef Steve Ells opened a small burrito joint near the University of Denver on Evans Avenue. More than 2,000 locations later, the company’s growth has been matched by a number of setbacks and slumps. Multiple food safety issues from E. Coli to norovirus outbreaks plagued the chain starting in 2015 and as recently as last summer. Late last month, Ells announced he is stepping down from his current role as CEO as Chipotle looks for someone new to step in for recovery. Before the crises, Chipotle’s shares had peaked at over $750 in the summer of 2015; now they’re worth around $315. New store openings are down, sales have been slow to recover, and the Hail Mary of a queso introduction earlier this fall was met with pretty harsh criticism.
“Chipotle is a company that is respected and admired nationwide, and we are proud to add them to our impressive tenant roster,” said Jay Despard, Senior Managing Director of the 1144 Fifteenth building’s developer, Hines. Nearly 25 years after its opening, Chipotle still has deep ties to the Denver community. Robin Hickenlooper, Governor John Hickenlooper’s wife, sits on the board of directors, as does Kimbal Musk, founder of The Kitchen. Pizzeria Locale, with locations in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio, also partners with them.