- Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol told investors on Wednesday that he would "love Chipotle breakfast," but said that the chain would not be launching a new daypart menu anytime soon, according to Restaurant Business.
- Niccol also said the restaurant is focusing on driving sales between lunch and dinner, and that it may enhance its beverage offerings to bring more interest to the afternoon. A Chipotle spokesperson told Restaurant Business that details about these new beverage options are not yet available.
- The chain is also testing carne asada, a new protein for the company, in Fresno, California, and Cincinnati.
Chipotle has been eyeing a number of menu innovations of late. The Mexican fast casual launched Lifestyle Bowls on its mobile app in January, which make it easy for diners on keto, Whole30, high-protein or plant-forward diets to customize meals to their preference. The restaurant has also recently experimented with queso and chorizo offerings, and has tested alcoholic beverages in the past.
But none of these innovations have stretched Chipotle beyond lunch and dinner. If the chain does enter the breakfast ring, it could have serious competition. Panera recently overhauled its morning menu with delivery in mind, and breakfast delivery has grown over 250% for the company and is the largest growth driver for delivery. "Breakfast has been one of the few areas in the restaurant space that has been organically growing," Panera's chief growth and strategy officer Dan Wegiel previously told Restaurant Dive.
A growing number of consumers are turning to restaurants for their morning meal — breakfast represented 21% of restaurant traffic in 2018, compared to 19% in 2013, according to the National Restaurant Association's 2019 State of the Industry Report. This growth will likely signal more investment in this daypart across the industry, but Chipotle's new "Chipotlane" drive-thru pickup program could give it a leg up if it launches breakfast, allowing users to order ahead and pickup at a specific time.
But not every chain has enjoyed smooth breakfast sailing. McDonald's recently gave franchisees the option to choose which items they want to serve on the company's all-day breakfast menu, and the time they are sold, in response to sluggish breakfast sales and long drive-thru waits. And while most of these issues appear to be tied to the breakfast all-day framework, Chipotle would need to be careful of running into similar issues of efficiency. Introducing a new product line takes extra training and back-of-house organization, and if the daypart has overlap with lunch items, it could complicate and slow down operations.