Fast-casual Mexican restaurant Chipotle has been skyrocketing in popularity and is planning on keeping its momentum. After a stellar 2021, which saw a new protein launch and aggressive expansion, CEO Brian Niccol said the brand is going to be working on a menu item that has been eluding it for years: desserts.
On a recent first-quarter earnings call, the company's leaders discussed the question of adding a dessert item to the menu in the near future, explaining a sweet treat would be part of a larger push to increase check averages with add-ons. Currently, guacamole and queso are Chipotle's biggest stars in that realm.
This isn't the first time the company is experimenting with dessert. In 2017, Chipotle tested buñuelos, a cinnamon sugar tortilla chip with a dipping sauce. Buñuelos were an eventual flop, so it was back to the drawing board. For a brief period, the chain did a quick run of Mexican chocolate milkshakes in its New York City test kitchen, which didn't stick either. Chipotle hasn't given up, however.
Add-ons are an important part of Chipotle's success as customers easily tack on an additional charge of about $2.60 by adding a side item to their orders. According to CFO Jack Hartung, these additional purchases happen very frequently.
"We have guac on 50% of our transactions, I think queso on like, what is it, 20-some odd percent of our transaction," he said on the call. In Chipotle's mind, dessert would be another perfect opportunity for customers to spend a little more each time they visit.
Growth and innovation have been on the rise for the company. The chain's sales were up by 34% in 2021, compared to 2019, making Chipotle the tenth-largest restaurant chain in the U.S. It has recently launched its first new flavor of chicken, Pollo Asado, and is well on its way to hitting the goal of 7,000 North American stores in 2022.
Niccol said during the call that the Pollo Asado has been the "most popular new protein to date." Additionally, the CEO teased on the call that the restaurant will be announcing "an exciting new menu item that will start testing in the coming weeks."
Fans could soon see something oddly different behind the counter. Check out: Chipotle Could Soon Make This Big Change To Its Tortilla Chip Prep.