Operations

Chipotle appears to be testing a new concept

A new Kitchen United Mix location scheduled to open in Santa Monica, Calif., this month will include a concept called Farmesa that appears to have ties to Chipotle.
Chipotle sign
Questions remain but it wouldn't be the first time Chipotle has tried expanding other concepts./Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

A new concept called Farmesa is scheduled to open as part of a Kitchen United Mix food hall coming to Santa Monica, Calif., this month. The outlet is rumored to be a new brand from Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Is it true? It appears so.

Clue No. 1: The trademark for Farmesa was filed last year by SP Kitchens LLC, including names like “Farmesa Fresh Ingredient Kitchen” and “Farmesa, a Fresh Eatery.”

Clue No. 2: State business listings indicate SP Kitchens has the same principal address as Chipotle’s headquarters in Newport Beach, Calif.

Chipotle officials did not immediately respond to questions about Farmesa or the new food hall.

Kitchen United said  14 “incredible independently operated” restaurant brands will be in the food hall, which is in a prime location on Santa Monica’s popular promenade, just blocks from the ocean. The site was previously a food hall called The Gallery and reports indicate there are signs outside listing what’s coming, including the new Farmesa, Duck Donuts, Santa Monica Brew Works and Mad Scientist Ice Cream.

Kitchen United CMO Katie Wollrich said there will be a bar onsite, which will be operated by Santa Monica Brew Works. Other concepts include Burger & Sons, Mr Roni Cups, Ms. Clucks Deluxe and WhatTheFarm.

Kitchen United Mix

The Kitchen United Mix will have 14 concepts, including the new Farmesa./Photo courtesy of Kitchen United.

Like other Kitchen United Mix locations, “guests can mix and match food from all the restaurant brands on a single order for dine-in, pickup or delivery,” she said.

Slapfish founder Andrew Gruel, who is growing several concepts under American Gravy Restaurant Group, confirmed that his company has three concepts coming to the food hall, including a fast-casual spin off of his new Calico Fish House to be called Calico Mini, 101 Burger and Lolo’s Tacos. Another two from American Gravy will be added down the road, he said.

He mentioned the Chipotle concept as one of several others going into the food hall.

And, given the food hall is scheduled to open in a few weeks, Farmesa is hiring.

In job listings, Farmesa describes its promise “to deliver fresh California bowls made with real, simple and wholesome ingredients you want to eat every day.”

Like Chipotle, Farmesa says it “takes pride in the quality of our ingredients — where they are sourced, how they are prepared, and how they are served.” Chipotle has a long history of supporting farmers and use of local ingredients.

And, also like Chipotle, Farmesa offers benefits like tuition assistance, including 100% for select degrees or up to $5,250 per year, as well as healthcare coverage, paid time off and more—language identical to that used on job postings for Chipotle units nearby.

Pay is listed as starting at $17.50 per hour.

This would not be the first time Chipotle has attempted other concepts.

The chain debuted ShopHouse Asian Kitchen in 2011 and grew it to 15 units, only to pull the plug on the brand in 2017. Chipotle also tested a burger concept called Tasty Made that year in Ohio, which was also short-lived.

The chain, however, remains invested in Colorado-based Pizzeria Locale, which has five units. That concept is a spinoff of the full-service Frasca Food & Wine founded by Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson.

After reporting a “tough” fourth quarter earlier this week, Chipotle said transactions were on the upswing in January and the nearly 3,200-unit chain remains committed to its push to reach 7,000 units. The company opened 236 restaurants last year, including 202 units with a drive-thru Chipotlane, and Chipotle plans to open between 255 to 286 units in fiscal 2023.

UPDATE: This article has been updated with new information from Kitchen United.

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