Chipotle Mexican Grill, following through on a plan it discussed in March, will open its first burger restaurant this fall, opening up a potential new growth opportunity for a company reeling from a food-safety crisis.
The new restaurant will open in Lancaster, Ohio, under the name Tasty Made, the Denver-based company said in a statement Thursday. Chipotle had previously attempted to trademark the name "Better Burger," but that effort has been abandoned.
Tasty Made will have a limited menu -- only hamburgers, French fries and milkshakes -- and the beef will come from cows raised without antibiotics or added hormones. The buns will be made without preservatives, dough conditioners or other artificial ingredients, the company said in the statement.
"Early fast-food burger restaurants generally had focused menus," said Steve Ells, founder and co-chief executive officer of Chipotle. "We think there's great strength in that original fast-food model and wanted to create a restaurant built around that."
Selling burgers is a first for the company that is still struggling to get diners back after a string of food-borne illness outbreaks. A different restaurant concept will give Chipotle a way to seek growth under a name that doesn't carry any baggage. It also will allow the company to apply its fast-casual model -- fresh ingredients and customized menu items -- to different fare.
In 2011, Chipotle opened its first ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen in Washington. It's also invested in Pizzeria Locale, a restaurant that started in Colorado.
The first Tasty Made will be in Ohio because Chipotle culinary manager Nate Appleman and David Chrisman, national training director, are both from the state. Appleman and Chrisman worked with Ells to create the burger concept and will oversee the new restaurant.
Chipotle has been trying to lure back customers with coupons and a new loyalty program that allows customers to earn free food. Still, it's been an uphill battle: Same-store sales tumbled 24% in the second quarter, missing analysts' projections.
-- Bloomberg News