On March 5, Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol will replace Chipotle founder Steve Ells as chief officer of the beleaguered Colorado-based chain restaurant. Ells is stepping down after 25 years leading his company. The change comes on the heels of a rough three years for Chipotle, plagued with food safety issues from E. Coli to norovirus.
But Niccol, 43, has run Taco Bell for a successful three years, according to the Wall Street Journal. He also served as marketing and innovation chief for the brand during a period when it revamped its image on Twitter and Pinterest, introduced a taco lens on Snapchat, and tried to make photos of its food a thing on Instagram, WSJ reports. “Mr. Niccol aims to draw on that work at Chipotle, using social media to make the brand more youthful and culturally relevant, according to a person familiar with the matter.”
The question is whether former, current, and potential Chipotle diners will respond to new ad campaigns or stay concerned with the company’s past issues. “Chipotle executives have acknowledged neglecting basic operational details, like keeping restaurants clean and up-to-date, while they focused on food safety,” WSJ writes. “Chipotle shares have lost nearly 40% of their value in the past year.” Recent efforts by the company to introduce innovations and new products have been met with skepticism.
In completely unrelated news, Olympic gold medal winner Red Gerard will have 87 Chipotle burritos waiting for him when he comes back to Colorado — the number is equivalent to his winning score in slopestyle snowboarding. And Chipotle continues to build its brand new headquarters for 450 Denver-based employees at the 1144 Fifteenth building, a new 40-story office tower between Arapahoe and Lawrence Streets.