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    Chipotle's Chorizo is Making a Comeback

  • The fan-favorite product returns for a limited time.

    Chipotle
    Chorizo was removed from Chipotle's menu in September 2017.

    In addition to menu innovations, Chipotle has hinted at pulsing limited-time offers into its yearly offerings—another industry standard the fast casual has historically resisted. Chipotle’s first foray turned out to be a familiar one.

    For a limited time, Chipotle is reintroducing chorizo nationwide. "Chorizo had a big following in its heyday, and a lot of our customers were disappointed when it was taken off the menu," said chief marketing officer Chris Brandt in a statement. "As part of our overall commitment to menu innovation and delivering the craveable food our customers love, we're spicing things up and bringing chorizo back to our menu."

    READ MORE: Are customers finally ready to forgive Chipotle?

    Chipotle first introduced chorizo across its system in October 2016. It was tested in five markets the previous June. Come September 2017, alongside the much-maligned rollout of queso, the brand took the product off menus. At the time, according to BTIG analyst Peter Saleh, chorizo accounted for about 3 percent of protein sales at Chipotle.

    It came down to logistics as much as customer response, Chipotle said.

    “When we decided to move forward with the national rollout of queso, we opted to replace chorizo on the line with queso, so chorizo is going away," Chris Arnold, spokesman for Chipotle, told CNBC via email at the time. "While we really liked the chorizo [and many customers did too], the efficiency of our model has always been rooted in part, in doing just a few things so we can do them really well."

    The product is prepared with a blend of pork and white-meat chicken, and seasoned with paprika, toasted cumin, and chipotle peppers. It’s then seared on a hot grill.

    This is the latest change for CEO Brian Niccol and Chipotle’s new leadership team. Niccol has spoken extensively about Chipotle’s new stage-gate process, which allows the company to test, learn, listen to customer feedback, and iterate extensively before deciding on a national launch. Queso, for example, struggled out the gate before the recipe was revamped.

    The chain announced August 9 that it’s piloting two new menu items and promotions in select cities nationwide “as part of its overall commitment to make the brand more accessible and give fans the food they love when they want it.” The first was Applewood Smoked Bacon, a product Chipotle said received “a tremendous response” from customers at its NEXT kitchen in New York City. In September, bacon is expanding to an eight-restaurant operations test in Orange County, California, before being considered for a full-market test.

    Second was nachos. Following positive results in a 10-unit test, the product is expanding to full-market tests in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul this October. These include corn tortilla chips topped with a revamped, “genuine” queso, and choice of meat, beans, salsas, and lettuce.

    Chipotle is also offering new late-night deals, such as a test at participating Miami and Dallas locations where guests can order $2 tacos with the purchase of any drink after 8 p.m.

    Chipotle’s same-store sales lifted 3.3 percent this past quarter. Revenue upped 8 percent to 2.4 billion thanks to the opening of 34 new restaurants. Price hikes and queso add-ons helped drive comp sales, the company said.