Chipotle’s Ells named sole CEO
The founder promises to focus on guest experience by getting closer to the day-to-day operations.
Chipotle Mexican Grill founder Steve Ells promised to “relentlessly” focus on improving customer experience after being named the sole chief executive of the Denver-based fast-casual chain on Monday.
“I want to get much closer to the day-today operations and really make sure that we focus on the guest experience,” Ells said during a call with investors.
The leadership change comes as the burrito chain struggles to regain momentum after being rocked by a foodborne illness crisis last year. Chipotle saw its stock fall as much as 7.8 percent one day last week — its worst stock decline in weeks — after Ells expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s rate of recovery and its in-store experience.
Chipotle’s board of directors announced Ells as the sole CEO on Monday following the resignation of co-CEO Monty
Moran effective immediately. Ells and Moran had served as co-CEOs of the fast-casual chain since 2009.
“Given the ongoing challenges facing the company, the board felt strongly that it was best for Steve to resume leadership of the company going forward,” Neil Flanzraich, lead director of Chipotle’s board, said in a statement. “This will ensure that his high standards for the guest experience and his unyielding commitment to the company’s mission are top priorities.”
Ells said among his imme- diate goals is removing “unnecessary complexity” from the company’s operations, including in areas of hiring, training and how it measures success.
“We know that doing the basic fundamental blocking and tackling is empowering to our folks and it results in a better guest experience,” he said.
In stepping down as coCEO, Moran also resigned his seat on Chipotle’s board of directors. Ells will remain board chairman, the company said, despite investor pressure to bring in an independent board chair and create a less insular board.
Activist investor Bill Ackman in September acquired a 9.9 percent stake in Chipotle with an eye toward improving the “company’s operations, cost structure, management and strategy,” according to Bloomberg.
Ells said increasing repeat visits by customers is key to the chain’s ongoing recovery.
Among the areas that have “slid” recently, though, company officials said, are how often restaurants are running out of food and how quickly lines are moving.
“We can immediately change some things to refocus our crews’ efforts and they will go immediately toward a better customer experience,” Ells said. “As customers come back, the better the experience, the more frequently they’ll come back.”
Steve Ells, visiting one of his Chipotle restaurants in downtown Denver, became the only chief executive after the resignation of co-CEO Monty Moran. Glen Martin, The Denver Post