Chipotle CEO says customers will have to keep waiting for breakfast burritos

Key Points
  • Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said that the chain has no plans to enter breakfast in 2020.
  • Niccol said that the food is the easy part, but Chipotle's operating model would need some changes to make breakfast work.
  • Chipotle is one of the top performing stocks on the S&P 500 in 2019.
Watch CNBC's full interview with Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol
Watch CNBC's full interview with Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol

Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Brian Niccol said its customers will just have to keep waiting if they want a breakfast burrito, even as Wendy's and other competitors launch morning menus.

"Maybe down the road, there's an opportunity for us to extend our hours earlier into the day, but I think there are just a lot of things we would have to tweak on the operating model to be really effective," Niccol said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

Niccol has been saying since 2018 that Chipotle has no immediate plans to start serving the early morning meal. In May, for example, he said at a conference that he loves the idea, but it is not an immediate focus.

"Look, the food is the easy part here: eggs, chorizo in a burrito, freshly prepared — what's not to love about that?" Niccol said on Tuesday.

One entrant to the breakfast wars in 2020 will be Wendy's, which is investing $20 million to prepare its U.S. restaurants for a nationwide launch of the morning menu next year.

While Chipotle stays out of breakfast, the burrito chain is instead focusing on digital sales growth and other new menu items, according to Niccol.

Shares of Chipotle, which has a market value of $23.4 billion, are up 94% so far in 2019, making it one of the year's top performers on the S&P 500.