With Sales Sagging In The U.S., Chipotle Eyes European Expansion

Image courtesy of Josh Bassett

Here in the U.S., where Chipotle runs some 2,000 eateries, the burrito chain has trying to cope with sagging sales following a handful of food-borne illness outbreaks in 2015. But overseas, where the brand is still a novelty, Chipotle apparently sees a bright future. 

Chipotle has opened a dozen or so locations in the U.K.,  France, and Germany since bringing the brand to London nearly six years ago. Today, the company announced the hiring of a new managing director for its European operations, former Costa Coffee and Bombay Sapphire Gin executive, Jim Slater.

In his new post, Slater will oversee the strategy, development and growth of Chipotle’s European business from company offices in the U.K.

The chain’s founder and CEO Steve Ells says he believes the new hire will help the company “enhance and grow our business in Europe.”

Bloomberg points out that while Mexican-inspired cuisine has traditionally been a hard sell in European countries, Chipotle’s focus on fresh ingredients could become a draw for customers across the pond.

“Chipotle’s commitment to better food from ingredients raised and grown with respect for animals, farmers and the environment is consistent with how many Europeans eat and the brand is one that really resonates with customers here,” Slater said in a statement. “Looking at the success of Chipotle in the U.S., I know the company has tremendous opportunity in Europe and I look forward to continuing to develop the Chipotle brand in these markets.”

Chipotle’s renewed push to expand in Europe comes weeks after activist investor Bill Ackmen’s Pershing Square Capital Management took at 9.9% stake in the fast-casual restaurant.

The investment, which makes Pershing the second biggest holder of Chipotle shares, was seen as the possible jolt the chain needed to get over the sagging sales.

Chipotle has spent the better part of 2016 trying to dig its way out of a food-borne illness and safety hole and attempting to bring in customers by giving away free food — to kids, college students, and others — launching limited-time promotions, and a temporary loyalty program.

Those measures don’t seem to be helping the company rebound. A survey recently found that 25% of former customers have stopped going to the restaurant or have been stopping by less frequently.

[via Bloomberg]

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