CNN's Christine Romans sits down with Chipotle's CEO to discuss the chain's turnaround, its soaring stock price, and what the future of its restaurants looks like.
CNN's Christine Romans sits down with Chipotle's CEO to discuss the chain's turnaround, its soaring stock price, and what the future of its restaurants looks like.
Now playing
02:29
Chipotle CEO on the company's dramatic turnaround
Heinz ketchup packets are shown in New York on Monday, August 22, 2005. H.J. Heinz Co., the world's biggest ketchup maker, said first-quarter profit fell 19 percent on expenses to cut jobs and sell businesses.  (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Heinz ketchup packets are shown in New York on Monday, August 22, 2005. H.J. Heinz Co., the world's biggest ketchup maker, said first-quarter profit fell 19 percent on expenses to cut jobs and sell businesses. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:53
Restaurants face a nationwide ketchup packet shortage
Taco Bell
Now playing
01:31
Chicken sandwiches are big business. See them all
burger king
burger king
burger king
Now playing
02:11
Burger King slammed for International Women's Day tweet
CNN
Now playing
01:32
These are the racist origins of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben's
Now playing
01:16
See Burger King's retro new logo and uniforms
Now playing
03:39
This vegan restaurant is actually opening locations during the pandemic
Stew Leonard's
Now playing
04:46
Stew Leonard's CEO: We have plenty of food
Lifetime
Now playing
02:34
Mario Lopez stars as KFC's Col. Sanders in steamy movie
Now playing
02:48
Goldbelly is shipping food from iconic restaurants nationwide
Now playing
02:46
Why the world's largest ice cream company is betting on home delivery
screengrab mcplant
Getty Images
screengrab mcplant
Now playing
02:05
Internet mocks McDonald's new meatless burger
bacon mask 2
CNN
bacon mask 2
Now playing
02:00
This company is giving away bacon-scented face masks
Now playing
02:19
People are brewing fancier coffee at home. That's good for this company
Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill, two legendary cultural icons, come together to settle the greatest debate of all time - what's for dinner?
Uber Eats/Youtube
Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill, two legendary cultural icons, come together to settle the greatest debate of all time - what's for dinner?
Now playing
01:00
Uber Eats' new ad pits Luke Skywalker against Capt. Picard
Now playing
02:42
Imperfect Foods' business is booming during the pandemic
(CNN Business) —  

After targeting keto and paleo dieters, Chipotle is courting vegetarians.

The fast casual chain on Monday expanded its new line of diet-based bowls to include vegan and vegetarian options. “Lifestyle bowls” launched earlier this year with Whole30 and double protein meals in addition to the keto and paleo bowls.

The lifestyle bowls are a way for Chipotle to market itself to a wide variety of customers focused on health, especially as it rebounds from E. coli and norovirus scares from a few years ago. And the vegetarian and vegan options could help raise awareness among an increasingly important customer base.

Chipotle first introduced its vegan protein option, Sofritas, in 2014. Demand for Sofritas has continued to grow, the company said. Last year, it cooked 7.5 million pounds of Sofritas. Vegetarian and vegan meals made up roughly 12% of all the meals Chipotle sold in 2018.

“We’ve found that many people are increasingly looking for plant-based protein options,” said Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer. The bowls don’t include new vegan or vegetarian ingredients. They’re only available as pre-configured options on Chipotle’s website or mobile app.

Chipotle's plant-powered lifestyle bowls
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle's plant-powered lifestyle bowls

Taco Bell recently tried a similar tactic.

In January, Taco Bell announced a plan to test out a vegetarian menu board that would highlight the restaurant’s current vegetarian options, including tacos, tostadas burritos and crunchwraps. Putting all of the meat-free items on one menu should make it easier for vegetarians to see their options, Taco Bell explained.

For Chipotle, the lifestyle bowls are a way not only to lure vegetarian eaters, but to create positive hype for the brand.

During an earnings call in February, CEO Brian Niccol said that the lifestyle bowls “resonated with consumers in a big way.” CFO John Hartung said the bowls “created an awful lot of buzz and interest.”

“The whole idea here is to really emphasize again that Chipotle can be an option for virtually any diet,” said Sharon Zackfia, an analyst who covers restaurants for the research group of asset manager William Blair. By raising awareness of the many different diets Chipotle is compatible with, it is “eliminating the veto factor,” she said.

Chipotle has come a long way since it suffered following an E. coli outbreak that 60 Chipotle customers in 14 states ill in late 2015 and early 2016.

Now, customers are coming back. In 2018, the company reported a revenue increase of 8.7% compared to the previous year. Sales at restaurants open at least a year jumped 4% in that time frame, and digital sales surged 42.4%.

To help drive the rebound, Chipotle unrolled its “for real” marketing campaign, which highlights ingredients and offers transparency into its operations, streamlined its pickup options, expanded its delivery services and made its production lines more efficient, among other things.