- Chipotle Mexican Grill has named Chris Brandt as its new CMO effective April 2, per a news release. Brandt is replacing long-time chief marketer Mark Crumpacker, whose resignation was announced last week.
- Brandt previously served as chief brand and marketing officer for Yum Brands' Taco Bell, overseeing the launch of popular menu items like the Doritos Locos Tacos and its breakfast line, campaigns such as "Happier Hour" and digital initiatives, including the Taco Bell mobile app and other media and sponsorship programs.
- Brandt more recently was EVP and chief brand officer at Bloomin' Brands, which owns Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's, Bonefish Grill and Fleming's, where he helped with product innovation, brand positioning, consumer insights, creative strategy and development, media strategy, loyalty and digital marketing. He's also held marketing and brand development roles at Odwalla/Coca-Cola and General Mills.
Major changes continue at the embattled Chipotle brand after Brian Niccol — like Brandt, a former Taco Bell exec — stepped in as CEO earlier this month. Crumpacker worked as Chipotle's CMO for nine years but was the subject of controversy, including when he was caught up in a New York cocaine ring in 2016, per CNBC. As chief marketer, he also had to weather a number of food health crises at the restaurant chain that have put a lasting dent in its reputation and continue to impact sales.
By tapping Brandt as CMO, Chipotle is likely planning to ramp up its digital offerings on channels like mobile and refresh its marketing strategy. Taco Bell was among the first fast-food chains to offer mobile ordering and is seen as an innovator with digital initiatives. Menu items overseen by Brandt, including the Doritos Locos Taco, have become a staple of the brand and a favorite with its fans.
Chipotle has already signaled plans for a digital overhaul and a more seamless, modern customer experience. In November, it announced an app redesign with new mobile features including coupons, quick re-ordering of past meals and streamlined checkouts with mobile pay options. The brand previously launched a "smarter pickup times" program, where customers can place digital orders to shorten their wait times via an express line.