Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has named former Yum! Brands Inc. executive Laurie Schalow as its first chief communications officer, the company said Monday.
Schalow is the second new C-level executive the Denver-based burrito chain has appointed in the past three months, as well as the second outsider from a quick-service chain, following the hiring in May of former Arby’s executive Scott Boatwright as chief restaurant officer.
“We have been actively working to strengthen our leadership team to better prepare Chipotle for continued growth and success,” Chipotle founder and CEO Steve Ells said in a statement. “Laurie is an extremely talented executive, and I am confident that her broad expertise will help strengthen our communications and better integrate all of our internal and external communications functions to amplify our messages.”
Schalow held a variety of positions at Yum, most recently as vice president of public affairs. She has worked on internal and external communications, and crisis and issues management. She was most recently responsible for the brand reputations of Yum’s KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains.
“Chipotle is a great brand, and I have been a longtime admirer of the company and its mission,” Schalow said in a statement.
Schalow takes over communications for a company that has struggled to regain sales lost following a series of foodborne illness outbreaks in 2015. Chipotle’s unit volumes fell 23 percent in 2016, hurting profits.
A norovirus outbreak at a Virginia restaurant last month and a rodent infestation at a location in Texas reminded customers and investors of those problems. Chipotle’s stock has fallen more than 34 percent since May, and is down 14 percent this year.
Chipotle has long portrayed itself as a new type of restaurant chain, but this year has turned to more traditional quick-service chain expertise in a bid to strengthen its executive team. The company also added four new directors to its board late last year, pushed by shareholder and activist investor Bill Ackman.
“There is considerable opportunity ahead for Chipotle,” Schalow said. “I am thrilled to join the company to help shape and strengthen its strategic communications in support of a very important mission to make great tasting food, made with real, whole ingredients available to everyone.”
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