Taco Bell CEO taking over as Chipotle CEO

Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol is trading in tacos for burritos. Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced that Niccol will be the chain's chief executive officer effective March 5, according to a company press release.

Niccol most recently served as CEO of Yum Brands' Taco Bell division, and was responsible for the highly successful turnaround of that business.

"Brian is a proven world-class executive who will bring fresh energy and leadership to drive excellence across every aspect of our business," Chipotle Chairman, CEO and founder Steve Ells said in a company press release. "His expertise in digital technologies, restaurant operations and branding make him a perfect fit for Chipotle as we seek to enhance our customer experience, drive sales growth and make our brand more relevant. The board is confident that Brian's passion and skill set ideally position him to make the bold moves needed to improve operations and take the company to the next level, all while remaining true to our purpose and the values that are essential to our customers." 

Niccol said he was excited to join Chipotle at a pivotal time in its history.

"I have tremendous respect for the Chipotle brand and its powerful purpose," he said in the relase.. At Chipotle's core is delicious food, which I will look to pair up with consistently great customer experiences. I will also focus on dialing up Chipotle's cultural relevance through innovation in menu and digital communications. This will attract customers, return the brand to growth, deliver value for shareholders and create opportunities for employees."

Niccol joined Taco Bell in 2011, and was named president of the division in 2013. In January 2015, he was appointed CEO.

What's that mean for Taco Bell?

Julie Felss Masino, 47, president of Taco Bell North America, and Liz Williams, 42, president of Taco Bell International, will assume leadership of the Taco Bell Division in their respective roles, according to Yum Brands Chief Executive Officer Greg Creed.

"I want to thank Brian for his leadership and focus on always keeping Taco Bell culturally relevant, innovative and accessible for customers,” he said in a release. "As Brian moves on to another opportunity, we’re grateful he has built a world-class leadership team. I’m confident that Julie, an accomplished brand builder and restaurant industry executive, and Liz, a strong brand veteran, are well positioned to ensure a seamless transition and will continue to elevate Taco Bell into a distinctive, relevant and easy brand. As we look ahead, I couldn’t be more excited about the strength of Taco Bell as the brand continues its journey to become a $15 billion company with 9,000 restaurants globally by 2022."

Felss Masino joined Taco Bell in January 2018, and as president is responsible for ensuring the brand continues to deliver same-store sales growth by driving innovation, new store development and a frictionless customer experience through digital and technology initiatives, according to the releases. She will also continue the brand’s strong partnership with its franchisees to deliver world-class operations. Masino joined Taco Bell from Mattel and, prior to that, has extensive experience in the restaurant industry including Starbucks and Sprinkles Cupcakes.

As President of Taco Bell International, Liz Williams is responsible for the brand strategy and performance of the International business. Prior to this role, Williams was the Taco Bell CFO, where the brand delivered six years of industry-leading sales, profit and brand growth under her financial leadership, according to the release.
Before joining Taco Bell, Williams spent six years with The Boston Consulting Group as Principal in the Consumer and Retail practices in U.S. and Asian markets. She also spent seven years at Dell Computer in various finance, brand marketing and corporate sales positions.

Previously, Niccol held leadership positions at Pizza Hut, where he served in roles that included vice president of strategy, chief marketing officer, and general manager.

Topics: Franchising & Growth

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