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Chipotle Founder Steve Ells Steps Down as CEO

Chipotle Founder Steve Ells Steps Down as CEO

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

After founding and standing firm at the helm of Chipotle Mexican Grill for over 25 years, Steve Ells has stepped down from his position as CEO. Eater reported that along with missing earnings projections in the third quarter of 2017, the role change for the Denver-based fast-casual food chain has been a long time coming after multiple food safety fiascos, subsequent lawsuits, and overall sales slumps for the past couple of years.

Steve Ells, Former CEO, Chipotle“I am incredibly proud of Chipotle and our people—and grateful to our loyal customers—and while we are continuing to make progress, it is clear that we need to move faster to make improvements,” said Ells in a company press release. “Simply put, we need to execute better to ensure our future success. The Board and I are committed to bringing in an experienced leader with a passion for driving excellence across every aspect of our business, including the customer experience, operations, marketing, technology, food safety, and training.”

Chipotle storefront

Searching for a new leader with demonstrated turnaround expertise in order to address the challenges facing the company, improve execution, build customer trust, and drive sales, the Board has formed a search committee that includes Directors Robin Hickenlooper, Ali Namvar, and Ells.

Neil W. Flanzraich, Lead Independent Director, Chipotle

“Steve is a visionary leader and one of the most successful restauranteurs in history, having grown Chipotle from a single restaurant in Colorado to more than 2,350 restaurants today,” said Chipotle Lead Independent Director Neil W. Flanzraich in a company press release. “Steve made the decision, and the Board agreed, that now is the right time to identify a new CEO who can reinvigorate the brand and help the company achieve its potential. We are committed to recruiting a world-class CEO for this incredible opportunity.”

The Denver Post reported that the market is responding positively to the news of the role change, with trading at $274.52 and shares valuing at more than $293—which at its peak in 2015 closed at $757.77.

With change on the horizon, Chipotle plans to revamp its food safety procedures, introduce new menu items, revitalize its marketing campaigns, and give out lots of free burritos.

Will a change in leadership help Chipotle get back on track as it seeks to continue expansion in 2018? Deli Market News will continue to report as the story unfolds.