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Can Chipotle Break Itself Out of Its Rut?

The trials and tribulations of Chipotle Mexican Grill is not a new topic for The Food Institute Blog. Both Jennette and I have opined in the past regarding the slew of food safety scares and other issues the former fast-casual darling has faced. We’ve also taken a look at some of the turnaround efforts by the company, including loyalty programs, coupons, advertising campaigns and even a new menu item.

On September 12, Chipotle launched a queso dip across the nation. The dip can be added to an entree for $1.25 or as part of a large order of queso and chips for $5.25, reported Business Insider (Sept. 12). The much-anticipated item, however, didn’t seem to garner the same feverish attraction its guacamole had in the past. In fact, the company had to reformulate the product just a few months later, reported Bustle (Dec. 3).

But even reformulated queso doesn’t seem to be the magic bullet for Chipotle’s ills. Chipotle CEO Steve Ells stepped down after the company decided to search for a new CEO. The company argued it needed to move faster to make improvements, and plans to work to capitalize on opportunities including the digital experience, menu innovation, delivery, catering and unit expansion, according to Ells.

“I am incredibly proud of Chipotle and our people – and grateful to our loyal customers – and while we are continuing to make progress, it is clear that we need to move faster to make improvements,” said Ells. “Simply put, we need to execute better to ensure our future success. The Board and I are committed to bringing in an experienced leader with a passion for driving excellence across every aspect of our business, including the customer experience, operations, marketing, technology, food safety, and training.” Added Ells, “Bringing in a new CEO is the right thing to do for all our stakeholders. It will allow me to focus on my strengths, which include bringing innovation to the way we source and prepare our food.”

For what it’s worth, analysts believe the executive shift at Chipotle could usher in major changes for the chain, such as undergoing a menu overhaul, introducing breakfast items and adding drive-thru lanes. Analysts expect the new CEO to implement cost-cutting measures, including changes to Chipotle’s food-sourcing standards, reported Business Insider (Dec. 2).