Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has named former Costa Coffee executive Jim Slater to the role of managing director in Europe, the company said Monday.
Slater, who was previously managing director of Costa Coffee in the U.K. and Ireland, is tasked with overseeing the strategy, development and growth of Chipotle’s European business, which currently includes six restaurants in London, five units in France and one location in Germany.
“Jim not only believes in our commitment to change the way people think about and eat fast food, but he also celebrates our vision of building teams of top performers empowered to achieve high standards,” said Steve Ells, Chipotle founder, chairman and co-CEO, in a statement. “We have great confidence in his abilities and expertise, and believe his leadership will help us enhance and grow our business in Europe.”
The move comes as Chipotle faces pressure from analysts to slow growth in the U.S. to focus on rebuilding traffic after a series of foodborne illness outbreaks took a toll on sales.
With more than 2,000 units in the U.S., Chipotle executives have projected opening 220 to 235 new restaurants in fiscal 2016. During the first half of the year, 114 new units opened. Guidance for 2017 has not yet been revealed.
Executives with the Denver-based chain, however, said they planed to refocus the real estate team on assessing future unit growth with a more conservative lens, saying the chain will target new growth in the strongest markets.
Chipotle executives credited Slater with growing the Costa Coffee chain to 2,200 units, with more than $1 billion in sales, larger in the U.K. than Starbucks, Nero, Pret A Manger and Eat combined.
Slater’s previous experience included growing the Bombay Sapphire Gin brand, as well as working for the Sunderland Association Football Club as commercial and marketing director.