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Chipotle is about to start testing brisket: CEO

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large
·3 mins read

Put down your BBQ tongs and slow meat grillers, Chipotle is on the cusp of testing brisket.

Yes, brisket. And yes, it will have barbecue sauce.

“We're continuing to experiment. We just launched these new beverages from Tractor Beverages. We have the cauliflower rice that we're testing, and we're getting ready to test a brisket which is just fabulous,” Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol told Yahoo Finance. “It’s got a terrific taste profile and we’ve got this Chipotle barbecue sauce that goes on it. I think it’s spectacular. We got to put it into test and see how consumers react, but I’m pretty optimistic about that one as well.

Niccol — who had a long history of driving food innovation while leading Yum! Brands Taco Bell — has carried over that toolkit to Chipotle since taking over as CEO in February 2018. Under Niccol, Chipotle has jump-started a once dormant product innovation pipeline, releasing carne asada, a revamped dipping cheese and lifestyle bowls.

While Niccol has said in the past Chipotle won’t morph into Taco Bell by releasing new items every month, he does expect to take some major swings. See the recently launched test of cauliflower rice and shortly, brisket, as examples of those big ideas.

The focus on big swings has benefited Chipotle immensely these past two -plus years under Niccol. Shares of Chipotle are up nearly 400% since Niccol arrived amid the return of strong same-store sales and profits — in large part furled by new and improved food.

Chipotle Restaurant for photos, to go with the round-up story, on area mex style fast food. Giant Burritos are the hottest thing in fastfood these days, Chipotle, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Panchero's Mexican Grill and Baja Sol Tortilla Grill just to name a few places marketing the style. Chipotle's huge burrito at the Maple Grove location. (Photo by DAVID BREWSTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images)
Chipotle Restaurant for photos, to go with the round-up story, on area mex style fast food. Giant Burritos are the hottest thing in fastfood these days, Chipotle, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Panchero's Mexican Grill and Baja Sol Tortilla Grill just to name a few places marketing the style. Chipotle's huge burrito at the Maple Grove location. (Photo by DAVID BREWSTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Chipotle’s digital sales during the second quarter grew 216.3% and represented approximately 60.7% of revenue. Same-store sales fell 9.8% — with sales growth returning later in the quarter.

That said, just don’t expect Niccol to veer too far into the world of portable food a la the Taco Bell CrunchWrap Supreme in a bid to boost sales. Burritos are pretty portable, after all. But, there is nothing wrong with a good quesadilla coming off Chipotle’s oven tops.

“I think our burrito already is a tremendous vehicle for portability. Whether you want it for delivery or eating it on the go. Obviously, we've talked about this, we're continuing to test quesadillas. That's something that we're looking at how we can pull that off maybe digitally only. I had an experience in one of our markets—specifically, Cleveland, where we're testing quesadillas—it was great. I ordered in the app, I set it up for pick-up from the Chipotlane [drive-thru]. I got to the Chipotlane line and took me all of 30 seconds. I reserve my time, the quesadilla comes out, I grab it, it's in the car. I was saying to the guys the problem is it's almost too hot. Like, I got it — it was such an on-time experience that it was so piping hot,” Niccol said.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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