Chipotle Mexican Grill hinted Wednesday that it’s going to try its hand at the hamburger-making sector of the food industry in the United States, according to USA TODAY. This, by the way, is pretty huge. Having suffered a hard blow due to the surprisingly long-lived and damaging food safety concerns including E. coli, salmonella and norovirus outbreaks in the second half of 2015, the company appears to be grasping at whatever it can to get the customers rolling back into its flagship chain of restaurants.
Chipotle tried the freebies path by handing out free burritos to get customers to fill the empty space that its restaurants had become after the food safety crisis. While the free burritos definitely caught eyeballs and improved the traffic at the fast-food chain, a 28 percent decline in stock prices, according to Mashable, is a large margin to cover up in a short span by just using gimmicks. Possibly feeding off of this agenda, Chipotle applied for a trademark for the term “Better Burger” and is now rumored to be opening a chain just for burgers.
This wouldn’t be Chipotle’s first time venturing into unchartered territory. According to Adweek, the popular Mexican flagship also owns the chains ShopHouse, a Southeast Asian eatery, and Pizzeria Locale. It’s safe to say I’m hearing about these other restaurants for the first time, which makes me think — is it a smart move for Chipotle to venture into a fourth branch of cuisine, especially at a time when it needs all the customers it can get to bring business back to its peak?
Chipotle is famously known and loved all over the United States for its Mexican fast food, so it makes me wonder why the company would want to expand to a completely new market that Mashable reported is already dominated by McDonalds in the lower sector and by Five Guys and Shake Shack in the more “gourmet” range.
Despite this concern, the opening would come at a strategic time. It is public knowledge that the once-booming Mexican restaurant now needs all the help it can get to get back on its feet. I, for one, definitely think the business model it uses is a fantastic structure to implement for different cuisines, but is that what we want as Chipotle customers?
Carving a niche for itself in the burger business might be a good business plan on paper, but it’s not a smart way for Chipotle to get its clientele back — especially not the already tapped market of the Mexican Grill. On the whole, it’s a bad move for Chipotle at this point because not only is it taking the attention away from its Mexican flagship, but it also means the company is spending more time and energy into differentiating itself from the already established burger joints around the United States.
Now, would it not just be easier and cheaper to work on rebuilding the image of Chipotle Mexican Grill? All of this, however, is secondary to whether the application for the “Better Burger” trademark works in Chipotle’s favor or not.