Chipotle's Path to Redemption's Paved in Milkshakes, Quesadillas
(Bloomberg) -- Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. isn’t the fast-food joint most diners visit when they’re craving a milkshake. Its new CEO is trying to change that.
The restaurant chain known for its burritos is preparing for what could be its biggest menu expansion in company history. Chipotle announced Thursday that it will add five new food items -- Mexican chocolate milkshakes, avocado tostadas, quesadillas, nachos and a salad with avocado-citrus dressing -- at its test kitchen in New York City.
“We wanted something snacky,” Chad Brauze, the chef who runs the test kitchen, said during a Thursday afternoon preview of the new items. Brauze said some of the smaller additions are designed to boost spending by existing customers who might, for example, tack on a side of nachos to their regular order. The chain also hopes the new offerings will bring in diners at off-peak hours when they weren’t craving a full burrito.
The fast-casual chain is on a hunt for growth after multiple illness outbreaks linked to its stores in recent years sickened hundreds and damaged the chain’s image. Earlier this year, Taco Bell veteran Brian Niccol took over as chief executive officer and is already shaking things up. He’s partnered with DoorDash to offer delivery and is moving Chipotle’s headquarters to Newport Beach, California, from Denver. Niccol also is looking at doing drive-through restaurants.
In its most recent quarter, Chipotle reported same-store sales that topped analysts’ projections, providing a nice welcome for the incoming CEO. It also signals that the beleaguered chain may finally be starting to recover from years of negative headlines.
Chipotle has recently dabbled with more experimentation on its menu -- it has tested frozen margaritas, along with a fried-tortilla dessert dish. Last year, it added queso cheese dip as a permanent menu item. It’s also testing out a frozen paloma cocktail in New York, the company said Thursday.
“We hope these things will become permanent,” Chief Marketing Officer Chris Brandt said at the event, noting that the next step will be to test at additional restaurants -- though it’s too early to say whether they’ll all be rolled out nationwide.
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