Operations

Chipotle is preparing to open the new Farmesa concept as standalone restaurant

The healthful bowl concept has closed its test unit in a Kitchen United but says it is moving that test to the next stage. Yet officials are not revealing any details.
The Farmesa salmon bowl with roasted vegetables and golden beets.|Photo by Lisa Jennings

It looks like Chipotle is moving ahead with the new concept Farmesa Fresh Eatery.

The test unit at a Kitchen United Mix location in Santa Monica, Calif., has closed and operations have been moved down to Chipotle’s Cultivate Center in Irvine, Calif., which company officials described as the next step in the brand’s stage-gate process.

The plan is to continue refining operations prior to opening a standalone restaurant, said spokesperson Erin Wolford.

When, where and what the actual standalone might look like remains to be revealed, but Wolford said the company was happy with the results of the Kitchen United test. It remains unclear, however, why that test location was closed.

When it first opened at the Kitchen United location in March, Farmesa was operated as a digital concept, with guests ordering online, via app or kiosk. There was no consumer-facing ordering option, but guests could pick up their meals on site and dine at the food hall, or order for takeout or delivery.

Farmesa Fresh Eatery

The test location was on the second floor of a Kitchen United with no consumer entry. |Photo by Lisa Jennings

On the menu was an abbreviated selection of healthful, made-to-order bowls created by James Beard Award-winning chef Nate Appleman. Though there were some ingredients in common, nothing on the menu resembled what could be found at a Chipotle.

Dishes being tested included an Ora King salmon filet topped with Everything bagel seasoning that could be paired with roasted broccoli or sprouted cauliflower, for example, or marinated roasted golden beets.

Other protein options included grilled or crispy chicken or grilled tri-tip with healthful grain options like red jasmine rice or quinoa. Prices when it first opened ranged from about $12 to $17.

The new Farmesa concept was developed by Chipotle’s small New Ventures division, which had also included the Pizzeria Locale units that the company decided to close in July.

Nate Lawton, Chipotle’s vice president of new ventures, said in March that the company was planning to potentially develop, design and invest in new culinary spaces, outside the Mexican grill concept that Chipotle now dominates.

But he said the intention was not necessarily to recreate Chipotle, as previous leaders had tried in the past.

Back in 2011, Chipotle founder Steve Ells launched a concept called Shophouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, similar to a Chipotle but with Asian flavors. That concept grew to 15 units before being shuttered in 2017. Ells also attempted a burger concept called Tasty Made, which never moved beyond one unit and was short lived.

It may be some time before the next version of Farmesa sees the light of day. When the test first debuted, Lawton said the company planned to proceed cautiously.

“A big thing you’ll hear from me is that, in a new ventures/new concept space, it’s really important to get a lot of upfront learnings so that informs the right ways to move forward,” he said.

 

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