Chipotle Ditching Chorizo To Focus On Queso

Less than a year after Chipotle added chorizo sausage to its menu, the fast-causal Mexican chain is ditching the protein option and turning its focus toward its new — not entirely loved — queso.

Chipotle confirmed to CNBC today that it would remove chorizo from its menu following speculation that it was considering cutting the item in light of sluggish sales.

The protein option — which joined chicken, steak, sofritas, and carnitas as a burrito, salad, and taco topping — accounts for just an estimated 3% of Chipotle’s sales.

Chipotle’s Chorizo Choice

Chipotle added chorizo to its menu in Oct. 2016 after more than a year of testing.

The chorizo is made with “responsibly raised” chicken and pork, and seasoned with paprika, toasted cumin and chipotle peppers, and then seared on a hot grill to give it a perfect char.

Adding Chorizo to the national menu has been a long time coming for Chipotle. The company initially added the meat to the menu in Kansas City in June 2015. Select restaurants in Washington, D.C., Ohio, New York, Colorado, and California received chorizo in June 2016.

The company had previously planned to rollout the option nationally sooner, but noted on an earnings call last year that the launch had been postponed because of the company’s ongoing food safety crisis.

Queso Over Chorizo

The decision to remove chorizo from the menu was made around the same time the company decided to roll out queso nationally.

“While we really liked the chorizo — and many customers did too — the efficiency of our model has always been rooted in part, in doing just a few things so we can do them really well,” Chris Arnold, spokesperson for Chipotle, tells CNBC.

Whether or not Chipotle can do queso well remains to be seen. The initial reaction from customers hasn’t been great.

Still, the Arnold noted last week that it was prepared for the lukewarm reviews, “we knew there would be some who didn’t like it based on the simple fact that ours is different, largely because it’s not made with artificial ingredients.”

“That’s OK,” Arnold told Consumerist. “Others love it. And it’s performance in testing has been sufficiently encouraging that we opted to roll it out national.”

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