On the back of the “most challenging year we’ve ever faced in our 23-year history,” in the words of CEO Steve Ells, it goes without saying that Chipotle has a busy and difficult time ahead in climbing back to its former position. Ever since last October’s E.coli outbreak at the chain became public knowledge, the company as a whole entered a downward spiral that seemed for a while relentless.
On the plus side, of things are slowly but surely beginning to head in the right direction in terms of sales. Performance is still down approximately 30% compared to the same time last year, but senior management at Chipotle are confident that the next 12 months could bring about much-needed the improvements.
In order to facilitate such improvements, Chipotle has detailed an action plan for the next year, which along with further expanding revenues will lead to cost savings of around $100 million.
“Returning to our roots of what originally made Chipotle great has helped refocus all of our strategies toward the guest experience,” Ells said in a statement Thursday.
“In the upcoming year we intend to continue to simplify and improve our restaurant operations, utilize creative marketing to rebuild our brand, and further the roll-out of our digital sales efforts.”
One of the specifics the company intends to focus on is the expansion of digital ordering, which Chipotle hopes to have in place across all 2,000+ outlets up by the end of the year. By reducing order and pickup times, the company hopes to be able to make considerable savings and cut down on labor costs.
There will also be a significantly enhanced focus on customer service – a number of key performance measures previously tracked by the company now being replaced by those which focuses on the best possible customer experience. This, Chipotle hopes, will help ensure that more first-time customers become repeat customers.
In addition, the company plans to increase the number of fundraising events held at its various branches throughout the year, while at the same time tweaking its current menu as a means by which to hopefully bring back former customers. They did however make it clear that any menu adjustments would be relatively minor, given the way in which complex menu alterations can be time-consuming, expensive and present a risk factor in their own right.
Ells also stated outright that price hikes did not represent a planned strategy for the time being at least.
“That’s never been our strategy, we have always wanted to be accessible to the masses. We want to remain affordable,” he said.