Chipotle is thinking about getting into the burger business

Chipotle’s future?
Chipotle’s future?
Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
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The Chipotle-McDonald’s convergence is really happening.

It started with changes to food safety and prep that Chipotle made after a series of health scares late last year. It’s continued with Chipotle’s efforts to bring customers back to stores, which have involved the sort of traditional advertising that the company long eschewed.

And now Chipotle is thinking about getting into the burger business.

Chipotle on March 11 filed a trademark application for the name “Better Burger.” The filing was first spotted by Bloomberg, which reported that Chipotle is contemplating a hamburger-focused restaurant concept. “It’s a growth seed idea we are exploring,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told Bloomberg.

Shares of Chipotle were flat in extended trading on Wednesday, after ending the day up a modest 1.3%.

Chipotle has two other “growth seed” ideas: ShopHouse, a Chipotle for Southeast Asian food, and Pizzeria Locale, a restaurant that uses ultra-hot gas ovens to bake customized pizzas in under two minutes. Arnold tells Bloomberg that Chipotle has “noted before that the Chipotle model could be applied to a wide variety of foods.”

That’s definitely true of burgers, and there are already several chains that are considered, well, “better burger” restaurants. They’re a subset of the broader fast-casual movement, i.e., nicer than what you’d expect from McDonald’s, but served faster and at a lower price than in a traditional sit-down restaurant. Five Guys, for instance, lets customers choose from a couple different burger options and then customize their toppings. And Shake Shack anyone?

It’s a little weird to think of Chipotle opening up a burger shop—especially since the chain was once owned by McDonald’s. But maybe it is time to take a bigger page from McDonald’s playbook. After all, same-store sales at the Golden Arches are soaring, while for Chipotle they’ve been nothing but ugly.