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Chipotle's ghost kitchen spinoff could add new revenue streams

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Feb 22, 2023
Farmesa logo on a take out bag. Photo: Chipotle

Farmesa logo on a take out bag. Photo: Farmesa

Farmesa, the ghost kitchen concept spawned from Chipotle's new ventures group, will open next month.

Why it matters: Chipotle is one of the more notable food chains to pursue a ghost kitchen concept, a growing market Euromonitor International says is on track to becoming a $1 trillion industry by 2030.

Driving the news: Farmesa will soft open in Santa Monica, California's Third Street Promenade with a small menu and limited hours at the start.

  • Farmesa will officially launch in March, offering healthy food bowls in ghost kitchen startup Kitchen United Mix's food hall.
  • The company has tapped James Beard award-winning chef Nate Appleman as director of culinary innovation to curate the menu, which includes fresh proteins, greens, grains and vegetables.

Flashback: Kitchen United raised a whopping $100 million in Series C financing last year.

  • NFL Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning is a backer, as is Circle K's parent, Alimentation Couche Tard, Kroger, and Burger King's parent, Restaurant Brands International.

How it works: Customers order at a kiosk on location, through Kitchen United’s website, or through delivery apps, giving eaters an option to dine in, pick up or request food delivery.

  • Chipotle operates the kitchen, while the consumer-facing experience is left to Kitchen United, Nate Lawton, VP of new ventures, tells Axios.
  • This allows the company to focus on its culinary quality and operational throughput, he adds.

What they’re saying: “We wanted to find a way to learn and adapt quickly, which is what led us to the model of Kitchen United,” Lawton says.

  • “There's still very much a restaurant experience, even though not a full, four-walls, brick-and-mortar-owned restaurant experience.”
  • The location also sees significant foot traffic and digital traffic from deliveries.
  • “It just gave us access to a lot of consumers very quickly,” he says.

Zoom in: Farmesa started in Chipotle’s new ventures group in 2022 and is led by Lawton.

  • The new ventures team is a small, dedicated group that’s outside of the core Chipotle team, enabling more room for experimentation, Lawton says.
  • This is just a way to make “the brand more accessible, and more culturally relevant in a variety of ways,” he says.

The bottom line: Farmesa is a learning opportunity to understand what consumers want, Lawton says.

  • “Assuming consumers love it and want to eat it frequently, we expect to generate revenue off that,” he adds.
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