Winsight publication names Brian Niccol 2020 Restaurant Leader of Year

In two years, Niccol modernizes Chipotle without changing its uniqueness

The editors of a respected trade publication from Winsight have named Brian Niccol, chief executive of Chipotle Mexican Grill, 2020 Restaurant Leader of the Year. Restaurant Business (RB) named Niccol this year’s recipient and he’ll be receiving an award at a leadership conference in Phoenix in March.

Niccol joins an elite group of past recipients: Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality; Ron Shaich, Panera Bread founder; Paul Brown, Inspire Brands chief executive; and Greg Creed, Yum Brands chief executive.

2020 Restaurant Leader of the Year accomplishments

Niccol earned the reward for several accomplishments and traits, according to a Winsight announcement. These are summarized below.

  • Transformed Chipotle into a modern concept without losing the distinctiveness of the brand
  • Revamped the leadership team at the Mexican grill concept
  • Relocated the company to California to refresh the culture
  • Executed initiatives to increase the throughput of customers
  • Created a focus within the company and “a disciplined openness to change.”

“A lot of smart people wondered if Chipotle could bounce back after responding to a series of problems in a way that many observers took as arrogance,” said Sara Rush Wirth, RB’s content director in a Winsight company statement. “Brian has dashed those assertions by recapturing Chipotle’s magic without turning the brand into a typical fast-food joint, as many fans had feared.”

Still, Niccol maintains a down-to-earth personality and a balanced life geared toward his family. He says he wants to keep Chipotle as a culinary-centric concept. Niccol will be honored at the Restaurant Leadership Conference in Phoenix.

Photo credit: Chipotle Mexican Grill

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