Taco Bell’s CEO leaving Irvine-based fast food chain for Chipotle – Orange County Register

Chipotle has named Taco Bell executive Brian Niccol as its next CEO as the burrito chain keeps trying to rebuild its business after a series of food safety scares.

Niccol, who will start at Chipotle next month, has been CEO of Yum Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell chain for three years. He’ll be tasked with helping turnaround the burrito chain.

Chipotle CEO and founder Steve Ells announced last year that he would step down in the CEO role and become executive chairman.

No doubt, Chipotle is looking for Niccol’s magic marketing touch to boost the Denver-based brand during challenging times.

“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, ” Ells, 52, said of Niccol.

Niccol led Taco Bell through a streak of game-changing marketing successes since coming to the fast-food chain in 2010. He left Pizza Hut to become Taco Bell’s chief marketing and innovation officer. In that role, he oversaw the debut of the wildly successful Doritos Locos Tacos.

At the time, it was the largest and most successful individual product launch in Taco Bell’s history. In the first 10 weeks, Taco Bell sold 100 million nacho cheese-shell tacos.

Niccol also shepherded Taco Bell when it pivoted its marketing philosophy.

In 2012, the chain swapped its “Think Outside the Bun” mantra for “Live Mas.” Niccol said Taco Bell was shifting from a “food as fuel” restaurant chain to a “food experience” chain.

Since then, Taco Bell has been unstoppable when it comes to getting its message before experience-driven millennials. The chain has revamped restaurants, created a new Cantina concept, and started offering wedding services at its 24-hour location in Las Vegas.

Niccol was tapped as CEO after Greg Creed was promoted to CEO Yum Brands. After the announcement, shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill soared 11 percent in extended…

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