Chipotle is launching Farmesa, a spinoff selling 'California-inspired' bowls of salmon, whipped potatoes, quinoa, and more
- Chipotle is launching a virtual restaurant brand featuring "California-inspired" bowls.
- The chain tapped award-winning chef Nate Appleman to develop the concept, called Farmesa.
Chipotle is launching a new restaurant spinoff called Farmesa that features "California-inspired" bowls. The virtual restaurant makes its debut later this month in a ghost kitchen in Santa Monica, California.
The chain has failed to find success with previous spinoffs, including a burger concept called Tasty Made and ShopHouse, a bowl concept inspired by multiple Asian cuisines, but maybe the third time's a charm for Chipotle. The chain is hooking up for a second time with James Beard award-winning chef Nate Appleman to break in the new bowl concept.
Farmesa will operate at the Kitchen United Mix food hall at Third Street Promenade, a tourist-heavy outdoor retail center in Santa Monica. Kitchen United is a Pasadena, California-based ghost kitchen operator with locations all over the US.
Farmesa's bowls, which range in price from $11.95 to $16.95, will be available for delivery and takeout. Each entree features a protein, a choice of base (rice, whipped potatoes, greens or quinoa), five sauces, and a topping option, Chipotle said.
CEO Brian Niccol said Farmesa uses classic culinary techniques with flavorful ingredients. Proteins and sides include Santa Maria-style grilled tri-tip, Everything Spice-Crusted Ora King Salmon, golden beets, sprouted cauliflower, and sweet potato chips.
"One of our strategic objectives is to create or invest in emerging culinary spaces and restaurant concepts that fit within Chipotle's food with integrity mission that are made fresh daily," Niccol said.
Many chains create virtual restaurant brands or concepts for delivery and takeout only. Many are prepared in ghost kitchens. But a Chipotle spokesperson said Farmesa is not intended to be a permanent virtual brand.
"Our ultimate goal is to expand the concept beyond a virtual setting," spokeswoman Erin Wolford told Insider. "However, launching Farmesa in the Kitchen United Mix food hall and partnering with third-party partners for pickup or delivery will allow us to reach a large number of consumers, learn quickly, and adapt accordingly."
Niccol said Chipotle is excited to test and learn before determining a broader rollout strategy for Farmesa.
"Farmesa will help Chipotle test and learn on future restaurant concepts," the company said.
Unlike traditional ghost kitchens, which operate for delivery only, the Third Street Promenade location has seating and is open to the public for walk-in orders using kiosks. The ghost kitchen company operates other Kitchen United Mix locations, often called virtual food halls, in a handful of Kroger-owned grocery stores, as well.
Kitchen United CEO Michael Montagano said one of the advantages of opening a concept inside Kitchen United "is that restaurants have much lower start-up and operating costs, making it a perfect fit for entering new markets."
Nathaniel Lawton, vice president of New Ventures at Chipotle, joined the chain in February 2022 and hired Appleman to help create the Farmesa concept. Appleman, who led menu innovations for Chipotle in the mid-to-late 2000s, is the director of culinary innovation at Farmesa.
The menu, which took about six months to develop, also features still and sparkling water, and certified organic lemonades and agua fresca drinks from Tractor Beverage Company. Tractor drinks are sold at Chipotle.
Chipotle is not a newcomer when testing or investing in new restaurant concepts.
Chipotle is a backer of the Colorado fast-casual pizza chain Pizzeria Locale. In 2016, the company created the burger chain Tasty Made in Ohio but closed it two years later. In 2011, the company debuted ShopHouse Asian Kitchen. According to Nation's Restaurant News, it grew to 15 locations before shuttering all stores in 2017.
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