McDonald's Picks Former Chipotle Exec to Lead U.S. Development

    Tabassum Zalotrawala will take on the role in late April. 

    McDonald's exterior
    Tabassum Zalotrawala joins McDonald's after being with Chipotle since late 2018.

    McDonald’s is tapping a former Chipotle executive to help with its accelerated restaurant opening plan in the U.S. The fast-food giant has named Tabassum Zalotrawala as its new senior vice president and U.S. chief development officer, effective April 24. She will relocate to Chicago and report directly to McDonald’s USA president Joe Erlinger. 

    Zalotrawala joins the company from Chipotle, where she served as chief development officer since late 2018. More than 750 restaurants were opened during her tenure, including more than 550 drive-thru Chipotlane locations. Before that, she held leadership positions focused on real estate, design, and construction at Panda Restaurant Group and Arby’s Restaurant Group. 

    In 2022, Chipotle opened 236 restaurants, and 202 of those were Chipotlanes or about 85 percent. The brand opened its 500th Chipotlane during Q4. The company ended the year with 3,187 stores and a $2.8 million AUV. 

    “This role has been purposefully elevated to the U.S. senior leadership team as we prioritize development as part of our Accelerating the Arches strategy,” Erlinger said in a message to the McDonald’s U.S. system on Wednesday. “Having spent the past five years investing our capital and energy in modernizing our business, we’ve earned the right to build new restaurants and set aggressive goals, and Tabassum is the right leader to advance our ambitions.” 

    First unveiled in November 2020, the “Accelerate the Arches” strategy has seen McDonald’s double down on digital, delivery, and drive-thru. It was updated earlier this year to include a focus on accelerated development in both international and domestic markets. 

    During the company’s Q4 earnings call in January, CEO Chris Kempczinski said McDonald’s plans to open roughly 1,900 new units this year, including hundreds in the U.S. The domestic system netted six new stores last year and ended fiscal 2022 with a total of 13,444 restaurants. It was the first time in eight years that McDonald’s domestic business saw positive unit growth year-over-year. 

    “I am confident that Tabassum’s leadership will elevate our position as a leading brand and enable McDonald’s to serve more customers than ever before,” Erlinger. “With our sustained success over the past several years, there is still much work to be done. Now is the time to take this important next step.

    In Q4, U.S. same-store sales increased 10.3 percent on top of 7.5 percent growth in 2021. On a three-year basis, domestic comps lifted roughly 25 percent.