Restaurants

Chipotle staged a comeback. Here's how it plans to keep the growth going

VIDEO17:1817:18
How Chipotle returned to the top after disastrous food-safety scares
Brian Niccol, CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Chipotle Mexican Grill's stock is one of the top performers on the S&P 500 so far this year as investors continue to applaud the chain's comeback under CEO Brian Niccol.

The stock, which has a market value of $20.9 billion, is up 74% this year, as of Monday's close. Shares are trading down less than 1% on Tuesday.

Before coming to Chipotle, Niccol was chief executive of Yum Brands' Taco Bell. He took the helm of Chipotle after its founder, Steve Ells, stepped down as CEO as the chain struggled to move on from food safety issues that sickened hundreds of its customers.

Analysts now believe that Chipotle's foodborne illness woes are firmly in the past. Niccol's strategy has focused on luring back customers with a loyalty program, more convenient ways to get its burrito bowls and new additions to Chipotle's limited menu.

In October, the chain reported quarterly same-store sales growth of 11%, its biggest jump in more than two years. Delivery and its pricey carne asada helped boost sales.

To keep growing sales, Chipotle is working on even more new menu items, like quesadillas and salads.

The company is also expanding its U.S. footprint, and many of those new stores will have a "Chipotlane" — drive-thru lanes just for picking up digital orders. Outside of the United States, Chipotle has a limited presence, but that could change. Niccol said on the company's most recent earnings call that the company could accelerate expansion in Canada, if that business improves.

Watch also: What the future holds for Taco Bell after ex-CEO Brian Niccol defected to Chipotle

Next Article
VIDEO14:3314:33
How Taco Bell dominates the Mexican fast-food market