- Associated Press - Thursday, May 15, 2014

DENVER (AP) - Shareholders sent a strong rebuke to Chipotle on Thursday over how much the chain pays its top executives.

During the Mexican food chain’s annual meeting in Denver, 77 percent voted against its executive pay plan. The vote is advisory and non-binding but could persuade Chipotle to rethink compensation going forward.

Last year, co-CEOs Steve Ellis and Montgomery Moran were paid $25.1 million and $24.4 million, respectively.

A group that advises union pensions, CtW Investment, led the shareholder campaign to try to rein in compensation. CtW noted that the say-on-pay vote failed by the largest margin seen this year.

Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold says the company takes the vote very seriously. He said having a compensation program that drives shareholder value has always been a “top priority.”

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., which has more than 1,600 locations, has been enjoying strong sales growth by positioning itself as a higher quality alternative to traditional fast-food chains. The company is hiking prices this year to keep up with rising costs for ingredients such as beef and avocados. Executives have also noted that customers would be willing to pay more, given the “experience” the company provides.

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