Moe’s Southwest Grill has toppled Chipotle to become America’s new favorite Mexican-inspired fast casual restaurant chain, according to a new poll.
The 1,900-unit Chipotle Mexican Grill chain, which had topped the last three annual Harris polls, didn’t even finish in the top four. The Denver-based chain has been beset by a number of food-borne illnesses in the last year, including a norovirus outbreak that sickened 386 customers, a salmonella incident that sickened 64 people and e. coli episodes in 11 states that sickened 60 people.
As a result, sales have decline 30 percent and the company’s shares have dipped 33 percent, to $411.14, in early Friday trading.
For Moe’s, a 600-unit chain, the first place finish in the Harris poll was its first.
Moe’s showed the largest increase in brand equity (13 percent) among all restaurants measured, and demonstrates one of the largest equity increases across all brands assessed, which is significant given the tendency for equity to resist rapid movement.
If getting knocked out of the top position wasn’t bad enough for Chipotle executives, then the names of the chains that Americans love more than Chipotle should give them pause: Taco Bell finished No. 2 in the poll, with Qdoba Mexican Grill coming in third and Baja Fresh Mexican Grill coming in fourth.