Retail

Chipotle Says ‘Goodbye Chorizo, Hello Queso’

In restaurant news, the people have spoken and, apparently, they have had enough chorizo.

That is the takeaway from Chipotle’s latest corporate decision, in which it chose to ax chorizo from its menu to make room for its new queso. The new offering rolled out nationally on Sept. 12.

“When we decided to move forward with the national rollout of queso, we opted to replace chorizo on the line with queso, so chorizo is going away,” Chris Arnold, spokesman for Chipotle, told CNBC via email. “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.”

Though chorizo apparently had its fans, the meat totaled just 3 percent of the protein sold at Chipotle — which meant it was ripe for the chopping block, according to financial services firm BTIG analyst Peter Saleh.

Saleh noted that queso, so far, had proven favored by customers.

“How much that sticks is yet to be seen,” he said.

“Chorizo didn’t sell as expected as it isn’t a mainstream American consumer ingredient,” Darren Tristano, a Technomic advisor, told CNBC via email. “Chorizo is a more authentic flavor and Chipotle serves the more ‘Americanized’ and pop marketplace. Queso is very popular and has likely had good results with consumers.”

More popular than chorizo, certainly, but some diners have given queso a mixed review, complaining the sauce had “grainy” texture. Still others applauded its smokey taste.

“A very negative reaction to the queso launch suggests [Chipotle] launched a product that is not meeting consumer expectations, and, as a result, missed a potentially significant opportunity to add queso as an incremental add-on,” Karen Holthouse, a Goldman Sachs analyst, wrote in a research note on Monday. “The consumer reaction on Twitter suggests few customers will become repeat users, and it could also limit any initial traffic bump around trial.”

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