NEW YORK (AP) -- Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. will soon open a restaurant in London and launch a more aggressive marketing campaign, the restaurant chain's chief executive said Monday at an investor conference.
In a webcast of the 7th Annual Cowen & Co. Consumer Conference, Steve Ells said the company is close to signing a lease on its first London location. Ells said Chipotle will enter the market with just one restaurant and one restaurateur and will then add more locations if the first is successful.
"We're building this from a small team of leaders who will create their own leadership team and grow from that base," he said.
The company's first move outside the U.S. was in Toronto, where it opened one restaurant in its fiscal third quarter. As of the end of September, there were more than 800 Chipotle restaurants in the U.S.
Ells said the Toronto location is performing well so far although he did not offer details.
Ells also told investors the chain has not effectively communicated what makes it different from the competition. The new marketing campaign aims to remedy that.
Ells said Chipotle was convening consumer focus groups and even looking into what people eat at home to understand its customers' eating habits.
"We're in the process now of doing some very intensive research that we've never done before," he said.
The company reiterated its forecast that same-store sales -- sales at locations open at least a year -- will rise by a percentage in the middle to low single digits in fiscal 2008, which ended at the end of December and in the low single digits in fiscal 2009.
Chipotle shares fell 28 cents to $53.13 in midday trading.