Chipotle's woes may not be behind it just yet. The burrito chain still has plenty of work ahead to persuade diners to come back to its stores.
After what CEO Steve Ells called the "most challenging [year] we've ever faced in our 23-year history," sales at the chain's established stores turned positive in December for the first month in more than a year. They had been in a downward spiral since last October, when news broke about its highly publicized E. coli outbreak.
With comparable sales now trending in the right direction — albeit off a 30 percent decline in the prior-year period — Chipotle's management laid out its plans to continue growing these revenues next year, while saving $100 million in costs.
The strategy was first outlined at the ICR Conference in Orlando, Florida, in January and was elaborated on during an earnings conference call Thursday.
"Returning to our roots of what originally made Chipotle great has helped refocus all of our strategies toward the guest experience," Ells said in a statement Thursday. "In the upcoming year we intend to continue to simplify and improve our restaurant operations, utilize creative marketing to rebuild our brand, and further the roll-out of our digital sales efforts."
With this plan in place, Chipotle expects it will be able to turnaround its same-store sales and post increases in the high-single digits this year.
Here are five ways the company plans to reel in more customers.