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Duke Basketball Star Joins the Chipotle Queso Pile-On

Duke University’s Grayson Allen isn’t jazzed about Chipotle queso.

The college-basketball star told an ESPN reporter that he thought the new cheese dip was “a little underwhelming” -- criticism that comes on the heels of a disastrous quarterly report that sent the restaurant chain’s stock plunging.

In knocking queso, Allen joined a bevy of social-media detractors taking aim at Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.’s latest product. The dish, which was added to the menu nationally last month, has been called overly grainy and bland.

Chipotle still has high hopes for queso. Management said on Tuesday that the gooey item helped boost sales in September -- a bright spot in the face of weak overall results.

Chipotle executives mentioned queso about two dozen times on its earnings call, the second straight quarter that the Tex-Mex favorite has been the focus of management discussion. Queso also is the centerpiece of the company’s latest marketing blitz, which is the largest in its history.

But it’s hard to tell if customers will keep coming into Chipotle after they tried it -- and formed an opinion.

“Traffic looks increasingly vulnerable,” Credit Suisse Group AG analyst Jason West said in a note, “especially if the current lift from queso were to fade.”