Who Owns Chipotle?

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / January 16, 2023
chipotle building

What’s your favorite place to get Mexican food? Is it Taco Bell? Qdoba’s? Del Taco? There are many choices out there, but one that always comes out on top is Chipotle. But, who owns Chipotle?

Fully known as Chipotle Mexican Grill, this Mexican fast-casual restaurant franchise is known for its specialty in bowls, tacos, and Mission burritos while being made specifically to the request of the customer who watches their meal get made. The restaurant chain operates in several countries besides the United States including the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and France.

A popular place for college kids and young adults, there is a good chance that an entrepreneur has eaten here before. But, how much do you know about the history of the successful restaurant chain? Do you even know who owns Chipotle? Those questions will be answered below. Let’s get started!

Before Chipotle

The founding of Chipotle belongs to Steven Ells. He was born in Indianapolis and went to the University of Colorado at Boulder. There, he got a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History. later, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He would graduate in 1990.

Ells, after graduation, went to San Francisco and was a sous chef for a couple of years. It was there that he was inspired by how popular the taquerias and the burritos were.

The Founding of Chipotle

Ells took the knowledge that had learned in San Francisco and opened up Chipotle in Denver, Colorado, on July 13, 1993. It cost him $85,000 with the help of friends and family.

In order to make money, Ells and his father did the math. They would have to sell over 100 burritos a day to make a profit. After just one month, Ells was selling over 1,000 a day.

Thanks to the boom in profits, Ells opened a second location in 1995. Later on, he opened a third Chipotle. In order to help with the growth of the restaurant chain, Ells’ father invested over a million into it. From there, Ells created a business plan and set up a board of directors.

Originally, Ells was going to use the money he made from Chipotle to create his own fine-dining restaurant. However, when he saw the popularity of his Mexican restaurant, he chose to stay with it.

The Continued Success of Chipotle

It was in 1998 that Kansas City, Missouri got the first Chipotle outside of Colorado. A year later in March, another one opened up in Minnesota near their state university.

McDonald’s became an investor and by 2001, they were the biggest investor for Chipotle. The additional resources from McDonald’s allowed over a dozen more Chipotle’s open. Then, in 2005, they were halfway to a thousand in restaurants.

In 2006, Chipotle made its initial public offering (IPO) and created the most successful IPO in years. That money then went toward building up the Chipotle empire.

McDonald’s would leave Chipotle, citing that it would rather focus on itself. There was an attempt by McDonald’s to add certain things to the restaurant chain such as a breakfast menu, and a drive-thru, but Ells refused it.

Starting in 2009, President and COO Monty Moran was made co-CEO with Ells. That year, Chipotle was one of the fastest-growing restaurants in the country. From eighth place, it jumped to third, and finally, in 2011 it was the number one Mexican fast-food chain. They serve a quarter of a million people every day.

Ells Steps Down

In December 2016, Monty Moran stepped down and retired. This led to Ells being the sole CEO again. But, just a year later, Ells also stepped down from CEO.

In February of 2018, Taco Bell’s CEO Brian Niccol took over as CEO. Ells was allowed to keep his chairman position. The move made a boost in their stocks, but it was met with mixed reviews.

Chipotle also moved its HQ twice, affecting hundreds of workers as well as closing dozens of restaurants due to poor performances. It was by March 2020 that Ells resigned and broke all ties with the company he created.

As of last year, Ells has moved on to the real estate business. He is also on the board of directors for The Land Institute. There, he works to address agriculture issues.


So, who owns Chipotle now? That is CEO Steve Ells. No doubt that you had seen the news about his restaurant and the various health violations they have received. Not to mention that he was subject to criticism in the past like how much he was making as CEO of Chipotle.

Regardless of these controversies, Ells made a name for himself by combing the skills he had with an innovative idea. Use his success story to motivate yourself to become a successful entrepreneur.

About The Author

Tristan Anderson

Hello! My name is Tristan Anderson and I live in Manhattan, Kansas. I enjoy being in nature and animals. I am also a huge geek who loves Star Wars and has a growing collection.