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Chipotle kills its burger restaurant

The burrito chain closed Tasty Made just months after it hired a celebrity chef to lead it.

Chipotle is getting out of the burger business.

The Denver-based burrito chain this week closed its one Tasty Made location, in Ohio, just months after bringing aboard a chef to spruce up the menu.

The Lancaster Eagle-Gazette first reported the closure on Wednesday, saying that the location in a Columbus, Ohio, suburb was to close at the end of the day, and the Tasty Made website now goes directly to Chipotle.

The company blamed the location’s economics for the closure. “The economics were not what we wanted them to be in Lancaster, Ohio, so we have decided to close that restaurant,” company spokeswoman Quinn Kelsey said in an email. The location was opened in 2016 as its parent company was reeling from a series of foodborne illness outbreaks the previous year.

Tasty Made grew out of Chipotle founder Steve Ells’ belief that the “Chipotle model” could be adapted to other menu items.

The company soon opened an Asian concept called ShopHouse. And it made an investment in a pizza concept, Pizzeria Locale.

Chipotle shuttered ShopHouse last year and sold all of its locations to the Korean concept Bibibop Asian Grill.

Ells believed that a focused menu and higher-quality ingredients, along with his own company’s reputation, could lift Tasty Made.

“I have long believed that there was an opportunity to make the fast-food burger a great burger using better-quality ingredients,” Ells said last year.

But Tasty struggled with mediocre reviews. It received three stars on Yelp, for instance.

And the chain was stepping late into an intense, competitive market for better burgers. Chains such as Five Guys, Smashburger, Shake Shack, Habit and others had emerged and grown in previous years to join the likes of Texas-based Whataburger and California-based In-N-Out.

Many of those chains also boasted simple menus and better ingredients, which were supposed to be Tasty Made’s hallmarks.

Indeed, by the time Tasty Made opened its first location, some of those better-burger chains had started to show some sales challenges amid all the competition.

In September, Chipotle hired celebrity chef and restaurateur Richard Blais to lead the chain and develop new food items.

Kelsey said that the closure “is in no way a reflection on chef Richard Blais,” and the company “would certainly consider working with him again if there was a good opportunity to do so.”

“Richard Blais has been a great partner in this venture, and his talents quickly elevated the quality of the food at Tasty Made,” Kelsey said.

The closure of Tasty Made comes amid numerous changes at Chipotle, which recently hired former Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol to succeed Ells, who is stepping into an executive chairman role.

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