Deciding to go for burritos instead of tacos sounds like the kind of decision you make during lunch or dinner at your favorite Mexican restaurant. However, this is also the decision Brian Niccol recently made when he resigned after three years as CEO of Yum Brand’s Taco Bell division to become the CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, effective March 5. Niccol is responsible for the highly successful turnaround of Taco Bell, and Chipotle is hoping that, as their new big cheese, he can do the same for them.
Steve Ellis, Chipotle chairman, CEO, and founder, said that Niccol’s “expertise in digital technologies, restaurant operations, and branding make him a perfect fit for Chipotle as we seek to enhance our customer experience, drive sales growth, and make our brand more relevant.” Equally, Niccol himself said he will “focus on dialing up Chipotle’s cultural relevance through innovation in menu and digital communications. This will attract customers, return the brand to growth, deliver value for shareholders, and create opportunities for employees.”
Despite Niccol’s departure for a competitor, Yum Brands Chief Executive Officer Greg Creed was willing to shell out the compliments, thanking Niccol for his leadership in building a team that would be able to seamlessly take over with his departure. More than mere bean-counters, Julie Felss Macino, President of Taco Bell North America, and Liz Williams, president of Taco Bell International, will continue to lead the brand toward its goal of becoming a beefy $15 billion company of 9,000 restaurants by 2022. Each have considerable experience in finance, brand marketing, corporate sales, and the restaurant industry.
Prior to joining Taco Bell in 2011 and being named President in 2013 and CEO in 2015, Niccol had held leadership positions at Pizza Hut, including Vice President of Strategy, Chief Marketing Officer, and General Manager.