More changes are afoot at Chipotle under the tenure of its new CEO, Brian Niccol, who hails from Taco Bell. In addition to testing new menu items such as a Mexican chocolate milkshake and avocado tostadas, the company announced on an investor call today that it will close 55 to 65 underperforming stores as part of its ongoing turnaround plan to recover from the food safety debacle that began in 2015.
Niccol also said he intends to make Chipotle “more culturally relevant” and turn it into a “lifestyle brand,” which sounds an awful lot like more moves from the Taco Bell playbook. (Is it just a matter of time until Chipotle launches a fashion collection complete with burrito hoodies and “guac is extra” t-shirts?)
One of the brand’s major initiatives is increasing digital orders, which it says currently make up about nine percent of sales; it’s making it easier for customers who order through the app to pick up their food by installing “digital pickup shelves” in stores. The burrito chain also plans to push delivery more, by integrating third-party delivery options directly into its app (Postmates is its official delivery partner).
Chipotle fans can also expect some new happy hour deals: Niccol said the chain intends to launch $2 tacos and alcoholic beverages between 2 and 5 p.m., with a similar deal in the later evening (post-8 p.m.) hours. A new customer rewards program will debut in 2019.
Niccol’s had his work cut out for him: Following E. coli and norovirus outbreaks, Chipotle’s profits plummeted by 95 percent in 2016 and has struggled to recover. Since the former Taco Bell CEO joined the company in February 2018, Chipotle’s stock price has risen more than 75 percent.