Chipotle taps former Taco Bell executive Brian Niccol as CEO

Feb. 13 (UPI) — Chipotle Mexican Grill announced Tuesday it has appointed Brian Niccol to replace Steve Ells as CEO.

Niccol, who previously served as president of Yum! Brands’ Taco Bell Division from 2013 to 2014 and CEO from January 2015, will join Chipotle effective March 5.

“I am very excited to be joining Chipotle at this pivotal time in its history. I have tremendous respect for the Chipotle brand and its powerful purpose,” Niccol said.

In November, Ells, Chipotle’s founder, announced he planned to step down as CEO of the company amid struggles relating to a 2015 E. coli outbreak at several of its 2,350 locations.

He praised Niccol for his “passion and skillset” and said he expected him to “make the bold moves needed to improve operations and take the company to the next level.”

“Brian is a proven world-class executive, who will bring fresh energy and leadership to drive excellence across every aspect of our business,” Ells said. “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.”

Niccol was responsible for introducing mobile ordering and payment at both Taco Bell and Pizza Hut and promised to deliver similar innovations to Chipotle.

“At Chipotle’s core is delicious food, which I will look to pair up with consistently great customer experiences,” Niccol said. “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.”

Last week Chipotle announced it will provide new benefits — including cash bonuses — to more than 70,000 employees, as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.