Chipotle Mexican Grill founder Steve Ells is set to step down from his role as chief executive after the fast-casual dining chain failed to retain consumers amid increasing competition and food safety concerns.
The Colorado-based firm rose to success a few years ago thanks to its popular burritos and guacamole made with fresh and natural ingredients.
Since then, Ells and his team have had to navigate declining sales and several food safety outbreaks.
In response, Chipotle shook up its board, revamped food safety, gave out free food and launched new products like its queso dip to try and retain customers.
"[W]hile we are continuing to make progress, it is clear that we need to move faster to make improvements," said Ells in a statement.
"Bringing in a new CEO is the right thing to do for all our stakeholders. It will allow me to focus on my strengths, which include bringing innovation to the way we source and prepare our food.."
Ells, who has been at the helm of the company since its inception, will remain as head of Chipotle’s board and will focus on the chain’s menu and ingredient sourcing.
His replacement, industry analysts say, could be an experienced manager from a large dining chain and could even come from one of the same chains that Ells knocked down during Chipotle’s rise.
Investors have welcomed the move, as shares jumped more than 5% to $301.99, following the news that Ells was stepping down.