Less than a year after taking over as CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, Brian Niccol has helped reshape the once beleaguered burrito chain, improving sales and fueling the company's best stock performance in five years.
Niccol told investors at the ICR Conference in Orlando that he hopes he's making the brand more visible and reminding consumers why they liked Chipotle in the first place.
It's no secret that Chipotle has struggled in the past. A series of foodborne illness outbreaks three years ago crippled the stock, which once hit a high of nearly $759 a share. These days the stock is just over $500, having recovered from a 52-week low of $247.52 last February. The change has come as investors gained confidence in Niccol's ability to turn the brand around.
Since joining Chipotle in March, Niccol has championed upgrades to the company's mobile app and in-restaurant technology. His goal has been to remove friction so that food gets to customers faster. He's also pushed for more menu innovation, stronger marketing and bringing in new talent to staff its corporate finance, operations and digital teams.
When Niccol was CEO of Taco Bell, he launched the company's mobile ordering and payment program and reached an agreement with franchisees to finance new tech initiatives, like self-serve kiosks and expanded delivery.
At Chipotle he has advocated for updating the chain's kitchens with a separate prep station for digital orders. He also added digital order pick-up shelves and is testing drive-up windows designed for guests to pick up the orders they've placed online. Niccol's goal is to make ordering from Chipotle easier and more convenient.
Now, around 11 percent of all Chipotle's sales come from online orders. This is a good trend because online sales tend to be higher and customers who use the app tend to be more loyal.