The chain known for its build-your-own burrito model—and, more recently, E. coli scares—has announced a new plan for winning back customers and upping sales: burgers. Following rumors that the Chipotle would enter the burger arena, co-CEO Steve Ells unveiled on Thursday the company's new concept, which will open this fall.
The first location of the potential chain, called Tasty Made, will set up shop in Lancaster, Ohio, and will serve a limited menu including burgers, fries, and milkshakes. According to ABC News, the chain—whose sales were down 24 percent in the second quarter of this year following the E. coli scare—hopes this new restaurant venture will help improve profits and earn back customers and investors. Due to its decline in overall sales, the chain is taking a more limited approach to how many new locations in the future; this year, 220-235 new Chipotles will be added to the company's 2,000 current locations.
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The limited offerings are meant to reflect the early fast-food burger chains, which had "focused menus," as Ells called them, as opposed to the more crowded fast food selections of today. Competitors Shake Shack and Five Guys have notably already adopted this model. "We think we can appeal to peoples' timeless love of burgers, but in a way that is consistent with our long-term vision," Ells said in a statement. Chef Nate Appleman (a Food & Wine Best New Chef 2009, when he was cooking at San Francisco's A16 and SPQR) was brought on to develop the Tasty Made concept and menu, which will use only high-quality ingredients, like hormone-free meat and freshly-baked buns made without preservatives, according to the brand.
While burgers might seem a random choice for the guac makers, this isn't their first time experimenting with other fast-casual concepts. On top of the Mexican mega chain, the brand also owns a five-location pizza concept called Pizeria Locale, and a 15-location chain called ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. There's no saying what kind of cuisine will be Chipotle-fied next, but the brand is undoubtedly hoping these new concepts can help turn their profitability back around.