Montgomery out, Ells in at Chipotle

A shake-up is happening at the at the top of our ever-favorite, Chipotle. Co-chief executive Montgomery Moran is out while the other co-chief Steve Ells, the perfectionist and touch-for-doneness guru remains.

According to the New York Times, the change is food safety-driven.rs_560x406-150423100706-560-chipotle-burrito-jl-042315

The food safety crises that have battered the once high-flying Chipotle Mexican Grill over the last year are now taking a toll on its executive suite.

Montgomery F. Moran, a co-chief executive who has long presided over the company’s operations, will step down early next year, the company announced Monday morning. It also said it would be changing the board.

“We all agreed that one C.E.O. will serve the company better,” Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder and other co-chief executive, said in a telephone interview. “The board decided that one C.E.O. would be me, and I’m looking forward to a continued friendship with Monty.” The company declined to make Mr. Moran available for comment.

Shares have fallen more than 30 percent in the last year. Late Monday morning, after the executive change was announced, shares were up about 3 percent, to about $380 a share.

Chipotle is also dealing with an activist investor in William A. Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management disclosed in September that it owned a 9.9 percent stake in Chipotle. Chipotle and Pershing Square have described their interactions as “cordial” and productive. Pershing Square declined to comment on Monday.

Mr. Ells said Mr. Moran’s departure was not at Pershing Square’s behest. But other investors have been clamoring for change.

Last week, Chipotle executives said that in part because of an extensive new food safety program the company had instituted over the last year, the amount of time it took customers to get through the assembly line as their meal was made had increased. Spot checks by executives and the company’s auditing team found used napkins left on tables, smudged windows and doors, and messy condiment stations. Some customers using the Chipotle app to order were told their meal would not be ready for 45 minutes to an hour.

Such issues largely fell under Mr. Moran’s supervision, but will now fall to Mr. Ells, a self-described perfectionist who founded the company in 1993 with a loan from his father.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.