Brian Niccol is Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer for Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG), which has over 2,700 company-owned restaurants and employs more than 94,000 people. He assumed the role of Chairman in March 2020, and under his leadership as Chief Executive Officer, a role he’s held since March 2018, Chipotle has seen accelerated comparable sales growth. Driving the brand’s purpose to Cultivate a Better World, Mr. Niccol has focused Chipotle’s growth strategy on increasing visibility, expanding access, fostering innovation and encouraging engagement with employees and consumers.
A leader and innovator in the food industry, Chipotle has received global recognition and honors during Mr. Niccol’s tenure including Newsweek magazine’s America’s Most Responsible Companies (2020), Fortune magazine World’s Most Admired Companies (2020), Forbes magazine Best Employers for Diversity (2019-2020), one of Comparably’s Best Companies for Culture, Diversity and for Women (2019).
Mr. Niccol has been placed on notable lists including Reuters Responsible Business Awards - Leader of the Year (2020), Barron’s World’s Best CEOs (2020), Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year (2019), Bloomberg’s People who Defined 2019 (The Bloomberg 50), Comparably’s Best CEOs for Women (2020), Comparably’s Best CEOs for Diversity (2020), Comparably’s Best CEOs(2019), Orange County Business Journal’s Business People of the Year (2020), as well as named ‘Leader of the Year’ by Restaurant Business magazine (2020) and a ‘Distinguished Alumni’ by University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business (2020).
Prior to his current role, Mr. Niccol served as Chief Executive Officer of Taco Bell, a division of Yum! Brands. During his tenure at Taco Bell, Mr. Niccol was Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer and President. Mr. Niccolalso held several executive positions at Pizza Hut, another division of Yum! Brands, including General Manager and Chief Marketing Officer. Before joining Yum! Brands, Mr. Niccol spent 10 years at Procter & Gamble, serving in various brand management positions.
Mr. Niccol currently serves on the board of Harley-Davidson in addition to the board of directors of The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, Chipotle’s nonprofit organization. Mr. Niccol holds an undergraduate degree from Miami University and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Brian Niccol - Why We Chose Him:
Ever since overcoming the disastrous ripple of e-coli outbreaks a few years back, Chipotle devoted itself to making sure it provides healthy food, served in a healthy place and produced in a healthy way that is good for consumers AND the rest of the supply chain. Those proven principles became REAL relevant and popular after the pandemic hit, and they honestly shared them with their customers rather than worrying about social media and marketing trends.
When Niccol took the reigns, he rebuilt the company’s reputation and their profits through his dedication to those principles. After the e-coli outbreak, Chipotle closed stores in affected markets for deep cleaning, implemented incredible new food safety procedures and reassessed safety risks of every ingredient on its menu "with an eye toward establishing the highest standards for safety.” That including DNA-based testing of ingredients before they are shipped to Chipotle locations, and extensive changes to food preparation and handling practices. New paid sick leave plans were designed to ensure ill employees stayed home. They also spent millions to help local farms meet food safety standards, and to make more local ingredients available across the country.
Under Niccol’s direction the company developed a great responsibility to care about where their ingredients come from. They wanted to create a supply chain that helps the planet, the consumers, and the food stay healthy. They did this by choosing certain suppliers and building relationships with them. They wanted to change fast food, start conversations, and shift the future of farming. They partnered with Niman Ranch and Mesiter Cheese for humane and sustainable farming as well with the The National Young Farmers Coalition to offer $5,000 grants to 50 young farmers and ranchers for the next generation of providers.
Beyond all that, Chipotle makes a huge difference in the community through its partnerships with FCCLA, DECA, and ProStart to help students along their educational journey. They partnered with the International Rescue Committee and created all kinds of initiatives and opportunities for youths to become part of the workforce.
All of that paid off in ways beyond soaring profits. Chipotle boasts a customer loyalty only longtime neighborhood restaurants enjoy. That put them in the driver’s seat when the pandemic hit. So when it came time to send out a letter to customers recently amid the worries of the pandemic, all Niccol did was put all that they had been doing for the last few years and would continue to do in his own words, addressing his heartfelt and historical commitment to customers AND local farmers at a time when hardly anyone was talking about this vital segment of the food supply chain.
Then he added his commitment to some pretty powerful additional steps. Chipotle gave employees a 10% pay increase during the height of COVID-19 crisis, and gave managers a bonus. It ramped up sanitization and personal hygiene requirements and instituted social distancing markers and masks for employees like many others, but also instituted a tamper evident packaging seal for mobile pick-up and delivery orders, which just might become a model for other delivery companies even after the pandemic panic subsides.
All of that makes CEOs like Niccol real, and real important to the Social Capital movement.