Fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced it is searching for a new chief executive officer. News reports from CNBC said Wednesday the company had formed a committee tasked with finding a new leader.
In addition, Chipotle released news that its current CEO, Steve Ells, will become the executive chairman of the firm.
The committee includes Ells and current directors Ali Namvar and Robin Hickenlooper. Recruitment firm Spencer Stuart will also be involved in finding a new CEO.
As has been reported, Pershing Square, Chipotle Mexican Grill’s largest shareholder with 11 percent, and which is led by famed investor Bill Ackman, had pressed at the end of last year for Hickenlooper and Namvar to join the Chipotle board.
Ells, who founded Chipotle in 1993, said in a statement that he was “incredibly proud of Chipotle and [its] people — and grateful to [its] loyal customers — and while we are continuing to make progress, it is clear that we need to move faster to make improvements.”
According to Ells, upon the installation of a new CEO, his own efforts will be tied to innovation.
“As we work hard to restore our brand, I believe we can capitalize on opportunities, including in areas such as digital experience, menu innovation, delivery, catering and domestic and international expansion [will] deliver significant growth,” he said.
The fast-casual restaurant’s stock was up mid-single-digit percentages in trading on Wednesday.
The moves come amid negative headlines such as norovirus outbreaks at a Virginia-based location over the summer and other such viral outbreaks two years ago. In terms of recent financial results, same-store sales in the latest quarter were below expectations.
“While a new CEO is not a silver bullet, the move gives Chipotle a chance to look again at its strategy and its approach,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.
In addition to the latest initiatives announced this week, Chipotle Mexican Grill has been revamping its ad campaign and debuting new menu items.