- McDonald’s is hiring Tabassum Zalotrawala, Chipotle’s former chief development officer, as SVP and U.S. chief development officer, McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger wrote in a message to the chain’s system on Wednesday.
- Zalotrawala announced her resignation from Chipotle on Sunday, after more than four years working as the fast casual brand’s CDO. She will assume her new role at McDonald’s on April 24.
- Erlinger said Zalotrawala will help the chain develop new restaurants after spending the last five years investing in business modernizations.
Zalotrawala’s appointment follows a revision to the chain’s 2020 Accelerating the Arches development strategy. In January of this year, McDonald’s added an emphasis on restaurant development to this program “to fully capture the increased demand we have driven through our M-C-D pillars over the past few years.” The company sees opportunity for extended growth in many major markets, it wrote in a press release.
“We’ve earned the right to build new restaurants and set aggressive goals,” Erlinger said in his message to McDonald’s system.
Erlinger said the chain had elevated the U.S. CDO role in importance as part of the Accelerating the Arches strategy.
As part of its development focus, McDonald’s opened a unit in Texas in December to test changes to its restaurant layout, like an order ahead lane. The Golden Arches also indicated in its update to Accelerating the Arches that it would focus on digital, delivery and drive-thru sales. Chipotle, under Zalotrawala’s watch, began focusing its store development on drive-thru units and saw digital sales spike before stabilizing at around 39% of restaurant sales.
McDonald’s domestic unit count was essentially flat between 2021 and 2022, increasing from 13,438 at the end of 2021 to 13,444 at the end of 2022. Franchised units in the U.S. fell during slightly during that period, dropping from 12,775 in 2021 to 12,751, according to McDonald’s 2022 10-K report.
That slight growth in units was the first time since 2014 that the burger giant added U.S. units, and in the company’s Q4 2022 earnings call, CEO Chris Kempczinski hinted McDonald’s would take a moderated approach to development.
“Sometimes in the past, we were looking at just putting units and looking at an absolute number and not maybe looking at the quality of the site,” Kempczinski said. “We want to take some time this year to make sure we feel confident about the exact number, the pacing, the quality of the site so that when we do roll that out that we've got the ability to continue to drive both comp sales as well as unit growth.”
The brand’s development team will report to U.S. Chief Restaurant Officer Mason Smoot until Zalotrawala takes her office. Previously, John Wendel, senior director of development, oversaw the team’s work on an interim basis during the search for a new CDO, Erlinger said in his statement.