Chipotle EVERYWHERE: Chipotle Wants To Open 4,000 Small Takeout Locations

Chipotle is king of the food service industry right now. It has revolutionized so-called “smart fast food” with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, is arguably more popular than McDonalds amongst millennials, and has 1,700 locations that are making oodles and oodles of cash. It’s business model inspired plenty of rip-offs (cough, cough… Moe’s, Qudoba) and its popularity and brand loyalty is unrivaled by very few other businesses in the restaurant industry.

But Chipotle’s quest for world domination, one burrito at a time, isn’t anywhere near being over yet. According to a new report, the company is planning on expanding the business by opening smaller, take-out only “mini-Chipotle” locations. Get ready for Chipotle’s in EVERY neighborhood over the next few years. Chipotle in food courts. Chipotle in strip malls. Chipotle in gas stations next to Dunkin Donuts. Via QZ:

Chipotle sees room for more than 4,000 of its prototype locations—and believes it can penetrate the market even further with a new, scaled-down format that puts some of the best aspects of its offering in a much smaller package.Inspired by extremely expensive occupancy costs in Europe and a growing preference for takeout among its American customers, Chipotle is gearing up to bring comparatively tiny, takeout-focused Chipotles to America’s small towns and strip malls. Co-CEO Montgomery Moran described the plan during Chipotle’s July 2014 earnings call:

“We’re looking at some sites right now in the United States as well where these stores will be really, really, really small and where we would have very, very little ceiling… There are a number of reasons why we think that that is a good idea, one of which is that where as we used to be a mostly a dining restaurant 14 years ago, and I’d say about eight years ago, we were 50/50 dining and take-out. Now we’re about two-thirds takeout.”

There’s good business reason for this, too: Chipotle locations are expensive to build and run, especially since they tend to target high traffic areas. But by going for low-rent, low-overhead locations that are take-out only, the expectation won’t be as high, but folks in the hood will still be able to get their fix:Smaller-format locations would require less investment upfront than the $800,000 that its regular stores require. Sales would be lower, too—an expected $1.4 million per location, versus a company-wide average of $2.5 million—but that doesn’t mean they would be any less successful than its standard-size locations.

“This ‘new A model’ will be much cheaper and more efficient and presumably could not handle the same volumes of bigger stores, but would allow development in many smaller footprints/markets to generate returns not feasible on the higher investment levels,” restaurant industry analysts at J.P. Morgan wrote in a December note to clients.The company, which already has put a handful of smaller-format locations in Europe, will try this in the US as a “separate, parallel path” as it continues to open full-size locations, according to the analyst report.

Until now, Chipotle mostly has stuck to high-traffic locations that are used to accommodating big crowds at lunch and dinner hours. But it takes a lot of real estate to house all those customers, not to mention all the staff needed to cook the food and keep the lines moving—and not every town can support a location with the kind of traffic Chipotle has grown used to at its full-size restaurants.

This is great news for Chipotle and its legions of fans who can’t stop stuffing burrito bowls in their faces during lunch. This is terrible news, however, for the local mom and pop Mexican food shops that thrive on neighborhood business and *probably* serve a superior homemade product.

And of course, the guac will still be extra.

[H/T: Thrillist]

Brandon Wenerd avatar
BroBible's publisher and a founding partner, circa 2009. Brandon is based in Los Angeles, where he oversees BroBible's partnership team and other business development activities. He still loves to write and create content, including subjects related to internet culture, food, live music, Phish, the Grateful Dead, Philly sports, and adventures of all kinds. Email: