- Chipotle will pilot a fast casual concept called Farmesa Fresh Eatery at a Kitchen United Mix food hall in Santa Monica, California, the company announced Wednesday. The concept will operate with limited hours and a limited menu of customizable bowls before a full opening in March.
- The chain plans to use the Kitchen United Mix location to test ingredients, techniques and other aspects of operations before plotting a broader rollout of the concept.
- Chipotle has tested secondary brands in the past, but none have seen widespread expansion.
The company intends for Farmesa to be a proving ground for future concepts, Chipotle wrote in an email to Restaurant Dive.
“One of our strategic objectives is to create or invest in emerging culinary spaces and restaurant concepts,” CEO Brian Niccol said in a statement. “Our New Ventures team, which was created in 2022, developed a unique restaurant concept that uses classic culinary techniques with flavorful ingredients in a fast casual setting.”
Chipotle did not clarify if it intended for Farmesa to operate as standalone concept or a virtual brand served from existing Chipotle units.
Nate Lawton, VP of new ventures at Chipotle, said the Kitchen United Mix location offered a chance to rapidly test consumer responses to the brand’s menu. Partnering with third-party delivery providers for pickup and delivery will also allow the brand to reach a large number of consumers.
Like many fast casual brands, the concept’s menu is based around bowls containing a protein, greens or a grain, two sides, a choice of five sauces and a topping option. Farmesa will launch with a small menu to keep throughput high and reduce training burdens, and its menu will feature ingredients like steak, salmon, whipped potatoes, beets, cauliflower and sweet potato chips. The bowls will cost between $11.95 and $16.95, according to the press release.
Chipotle has been experimenting with a number of techniques to boost sales, from focusing on drive-thru units to strengthening its loyalty program and testing automated makelines.
Kitchen United, since securing $100 million in Series C funding in July, has been growing at a time when some ghost kitchen companies have abandoned initial concepts or retreated from some markets. Kitchen United has focused on partnerships with retailers and malls. But Kitchen United is also working with national brands in addition to Chipotle. According to its website, Kitchen United has relationships with The Halal Guys, White Castle, Hawaiian Bros and other brands, and it offers Saladworks’ menu from two of its Kroger units.