Chipotle steals the Taco Bell CEO To Rescue Fast Casual Brand

The search is over and faith in Chipotle’s future seems to be on its way to being restored.

On Wednesday morning, Chipotle shares experienced a 14 percent hike, according to “Bloomberg.”

This is thanks to Chipotle’s Tuesday announcement that founder Steve Ells will be officially stepping down by March 5 of this year as the chief executive officer to pass along the post to Brian Niccol, former CEO to Yum! Brands’ Taco Bell Division.

Steve Ells will transition from a Chipotle Chairman role to an Executive Chairman for the brand, as he welcomes Brian Niccol as a new member of Chipotle’s Board of Directors.

When Brian Niccol first started with Yum! Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell Division in 2011, his role involved marketing and product innovation. He took on the position of CEO for the QSR chain in 2015 and in those three years, Niccol was credited with repositioning Taco Bell as a lifestyle brand (which is significant for a QSR). Not only did he help turn around sales, but also introduced mobile ordering and payment for the brand across their 7,000 restaurants.

Niccol’s proven record features the kind of skills needed by Chipotle. According to Ells, “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.”

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Niccol expressed his excitement to be joining the fast casual brand, saying “I have tremendous respect for the Chipotle brand and its powerful purpose. At Chipotle's core is delicious food, which I will look to pair up with consistently great customer experiences,” he said in a company statement.

“I will also focus on dialing up Chipotle's cultural relevance through innovation in menu and digital communications. This will attract customers, return the brand to growth, deliver value for shareholders and create opportunities for employees," Niccol added.

It’s looking promising for Chipotle and shareholders have already taken notice.

According to “Bloomberg,” a spokesman for Pershing Square, a firm which held more than 10 percent of Chipotle shares as of September (aka, Chipotle’s biggest shareholder), called Niccol “the right leader to reinvigorate the company and help it achieve its enormous potential.”

However, a couple of questions remain: how will Niccol adjust from running a QSR brand to now run the fast casual brand credited with starting a food revolution? Will Chipotle rise above its PR nightmares involving foodborne illnesses? 

To learn more about this announcement and who will be left in charge at Yum! Brands Inc.’ Taco Bell division, read “Bloomberg.”