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Chipotle taps former Taco Bell executive Brian Niccol as CEO

Chipotle taps former Taco Bell executive Brian Niccol as CEO

Chipotle taps former Taco Bell executive Brian Niccol as CEO

The struggling chain's new top executive will be Taco Bell's current CEO Brian Niccol. The Denver, Colorado-based chain spent years railing against fast-food restaurants and the non-transparent supply chains that stock them.

Yum Brands said Taco Bell will be run by Julie Felss Masino and Liz Williams, who are the presidents of Taco Bell North American and Taco Bell International respectively.

Part of the success is attributed to mastering mobile ordering and launching breakfast, and Niccol in a statement referred to using menu innovations and digital communications at Chipotle. But Taco Bell's constant menu changes and insane food pairings aren't likely to work at Chipotle, which is billed as a healthier and hearty, fast-casual option.

And the new CEO brings a wealth of experience to the table.

Niccol's new role as Chipotle's CEO and a member of the company's board will be effective starting March 5.

Niccol checks all the boxes for the skill set Chipotle needs, including operational expertise, turnaround experience, brand management knowledge and credibility with investors, several analysts said.

The news, which came after markets closed, sent Chipotle share prices up by as much as 12%. They'll report directly to Yum Brands CEO Greg Creed.

Chipotle
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In notes issued after Niccol's announcement, analysts expressed optimistic about the successor to Ells, who founded Chipotle in 1993 and will step down to become executive chairman.

Some underlined the stark differences in Taco Bell and Chipotle's business models and the scale of the burrito chain's problems in two years that saw its stock sink almost 50 percent.

Still, Chipotle can not simply repeat the Taco Bell formula with better ingredients.

A spokesman for Pershing Square, Chipotle's biggest shareholder, called Niccol "the right leader to reinvigorate the company and help it achieve its enormous potential".

"I want to thank Brian for his leadership and focus on always keeping Taco Bell culturally relevant, innovative and accessible for customers", he said in a release. Chipotle is a company-owned business model with no drive-thru.

While Niccol is "a good fit" for Chipotle, "he's got some work to do", BTIG's Saleh said.

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