Chipotle adds new ingredient to its menus nationwide

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Chipotle is adding chorizo, a spicy chicken-and-pork sausage, to its menu at restaurants nationwide.

The new menu item is rolling out Wednesday at select restaurants in in Columbus, Ohio, New York City, Sacramento, San Diego, Denver, and DC.

It will be offered at Chipotle's restaurants nationwide by the fall.

The chorizo is made with a blend of pork and white-meat chicken and is seasoned with paprika, toasted cumin and chipotle peppers, the company said. Restaurants will cook the meat by searing it on a hot grill to give it a "perfect char."

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Chipotle executives hinted at adding chorizo earlier this year in a call with analysts. The company is hoping that the new menu addition will draw back its most loyal customers following an E. coli outbreak that sent the company's sales plunging.

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"Since we opened the first Chipotle 23 years ago, our menu has changed very little, and our focus has been on constantly improving the quality and taste of the food we serve," said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. "While we have never been opposed to changing our menu, we only do so when we think there's an opportunity to add something that is really unique but that fits within our overall menu, and where we can find ingredients that meet our high standards."

A test of chorizo in Kansas City last year was "very, very popular with our loyal customers," Chipotle co-CEO Monty Moran said earlier this year.

Chipotle's revenue dropped 23.4% to $834.5 million in the first quarter of the year. Same-store sales dropped nearly 30%.

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The decision to add menu items goes against one of Chipotle's core business strategies.

The company has deliberately left its menu virtually unchanged since it was founded more than two decades ago. The only major change in the past 23 years has been the addition of tofu sofritas in 2014.

The chain prides itself on the simplicity of its menu and boasts that customers can create thousands of combinations from the ingredients offered.

"Chipotle restaurants serve only a few things: burritos, burrito bowls, tacos and salads," the company wrote in its 2014 annual report. "But because customers can choose from four different meats or tofu, two types of beans and a variety of extras such as salsas, guacamole, cheese and lettuce, there's enough variety to extend our menu to provide countless choices."

Ells said that the company is being mindful of keeping things simple with the addition of new menu items.

"When we think about adding something to Chipotle, we are very, very mindful of our overall efficiencies in the kitchen, in cooking, in throughout and in ease of ordering for the customer," Ells said.

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