Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle is considering adding a burger concept to its portfolio.

DENVER – Chipotle Mexican Grill filed a trademark application for “Better Burger” on March 11, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office web site, hinting at a possible foray into the premium burger segment. Bloomberg reported the trademark application on March 30.

Chipotle already operates ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, and the company is a partner in Pizzeria Locale. ShopHouse offers gluten-free and dairy-free, Asian-inspired fare served in bowls, while Pizzeria Locale specializes in individual-size pizzas. Chipotle operates 14 ShopHouse restaurants across Los Angeles, Chicago, Maryland and Washington, D.C. 

Steven Ells, founder and co-chief executive officer of Chipotle, noted that both concepts resemble Chipotle but with different cuisines. 

Steve Ells, Chipotle
Steven Ells, founder and co-c.e.o. of Chipotle

“I think they’re both very exciting concepts, and while they seem to be very different from Chipotle and from each other, one Southeast Asian in ShopHouse, the other pizza in Pizzeria Locale — they share a lot of similarities with Chipotle, and that’s by design,” Mr. Ells said at the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in 2014.

“The thinking was a number of years ago that Chipotle wasn’t successful because we serve burritos and tacos,” Mr. Ells said, “but … because we source sustainably raised food and we cook that food according to classic cooking techniques and in open kitchens and serve in this interactive format. So people get exactly what they want, not only for taste but for dietary preference.

“But specifically about Pizzeria Locale and ShopHouse, the similarities are in the operating system,” he said. “If you think about size of restaurants, square footage, rent structure, investment costs, number of employees to staff, throughput potential, menu pricing — all these kinds of things are very similar.”

The buzz surrounding the possibility of Chipotle entering the burger space has been mixed. Some analysts covering the restaurant industry noted that Chipotle evolved from McDonald’s Corp. Also, timing favors Chipotle’s possible venture in that U.S. Dept. of Agriculture data indicate that prices for beef are falling.