Chipotle's first international franchised location officially opens in Kuwait

Franchisee Alshaya Group plans to open four Chipotle units in the Middle East this year.
The unit is in Kuwait's largest shopping mall, which sees about 1 million visitors a week. | Photo courtesy of Chipotle.

Chipotle’s first franchised international location is scheduled to officially open on Tuesday in Kuwait City.

It’s a milestone for the nearly 3,500-unit fast-casual chain, which has 68 international units in Canada, the U.K., France and Germany, but all of those are company owned and operated.

Last year, however, Chipotle announced its first-ever development agreement to open in the Middle East with mega franchisee Alshaya Group, which has a long history of working with U.S.-based restaurant brands throughout the Middle East.

The unit in Kuwait, which marks the chain’s first entry into a new country in a decade, has actually been soft-open with adjusted hours since the beginning of the month for training and to account for holidays, but the official grand opening is scheduled for Tuesday.

As part of what is described as an exclusive partnership, Alshaya Group plans to open a total of four Chipotle units this year, including the first in Dubai.

Chipotle Kuwait

The unit has kiosk ordering as an option. | Photo courtesy of Chipotle.

The Kuwait City location also unveils a new design for the brand. Guests can order from digital kiosks in the unit, for example, as well as walking the makeline to build their meal. Tables also have QR codes directing guests to the app for mobile orders, which is designed to help larger families ordering multiple entrees.

There are other more aesthetic new design elements, like wood tile floors, rather than the traditional concrete; wall art featuring the brand’s iconic Chipotle pepper; new lighting elements and wall finishes.

This video gives a sneak peek.

It’s in a high-volume location. The unit is in The Avenues, Kuwait’s largest shopping mall, which sees about 1 million visitors per week.

“In partnership with Alshaya Group, we worked tirelessly to ensure that we delivered an exceptional first impression in Kuwait with our freshly prepared menu of real ingedients and we are encouraged by the early results,” said Nate Lawton, Chipotle’s chief business development officer, in a statement. “Together, we’ll continue to gather insights on regional preferences and adapt accordingly as we grow our presence in the region and expand upon our mission to Cultivate a Better World.”

Chipotle Kuwait Interior

Wall art features the iconic Chipotle pepper.| Photo courtesy of Chipotle.

Chipotle expects to open between 285 to 315 new restaurants this year as the chain pushes to reach 7,000 units across North America.


Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content

Emerging Brands

5 pre-emerging restaurant brands ready for takeoff

These small concepts are still proving out their ideas, but each shows promise as a potential candidate for the next generation of emerging chains.


This little-known iPhone feature could change restaurant ordering

Tech Check: Almost every customer has a POS in their pocket. Can mini mobile apps get them to actually use it?


Red Lobster gives private equity another black eye

The Bottom Line: The role a giant sale-leaseback had in the bankruptcy filing of the seafood chain has drawn more criticism of the investment firms' financial engineering. The criticism is well-earned.


More from our partners