News – “After Chipotle’s queso-gate and food safety issues, can a new CEO help?” – Chipotle Mexican Grill is wrapped up in a burrito dripping with drama — but the new year may give it a fresh start.

The Denver-based chain, once the darling of the chain restaurant business, still finds itself on the defensive as food-safety issues resurface and critics are yet to laud the taste of its trendy melted-cheese product, queso.

Signaling a shift, founder Steve Ells, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, announced this month that he will step down as CEO. That leaves Chipotle on the precipice of major change in 2018, hoping it can get its mojo back. 

Experts say it’ll be a long climb back to the top for a company that, along with others like Panera Bread, popularized the fast-casual restaurants — higher-quality fare than typical fast food that can be served quickly. Chipotle’s stock is now trading 40% lower than it was exactly two years ago. 

“They’ve lost the quality edge that they used to have. That should be priority No. 1,” says Andrew Charles, a restaurant equity analyst at Cowen & Co., citing the attention Chipotle is paying to delivery, catering and digital ordering instead. “What they’re doing isn’t attacking the core issues that they have.”

A new CEO could be key. Both McDonald’s and Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants got new CEOs in 2015, and with them, had significant turnarounds. Chipotle has launched a search for a new CEO.

Look I used to love Chipotle just like everyone else but at a certain point enough is just enough….I WON’T LET YOU HURT ME ANYMORE!

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