Burrito chain Chipotle is now taking a look at the burger business.
The Denver-based company has filed to trademark "Better Burger" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing, which was first reported by Bloomberg News, suggests Chipotle could be considering founding or investing in a burger concept.
The company is already experimenting with other food offerings. In addition to operating 1,971 Chipotle restaurants in the U.S. and a few in Canada, England, France, and Germany, it has 13 ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen restaurants. In 2013, it invested in an upscale pizza restaurant called Pizzeria Locale that now has four locations.
All of them are focused on the fast-casual dining segment, which is a step above fast food in terms of ingredients, but still offer speedy service and a customizable menu.
"We have two non-Chipotle growth seeds open now ― ShopHouse and Pizzeria Locale ― and have noted before that the Chipotle model could be applied to a wide variety of foods," spokesman Chris Arnold told BuzzFeed News in an email. He declined to provide further details about "Better Burger."
This would not be Chipotle's first interaction with the burger business. Fast food giant McDonald's was once a major investor in Chipotle, and owned a 90% stake in the company before divesting in 2006.
For the last few months, Chipotle has been battling a dive in sales following a number of foodborne illnesses linked to its Mexican restaurants. In February, comparable restaurant sales declined 26.1% and the company expects a difficult year ahead. It has been offering promotions and discounts to incentivize customers to return. Wedbush Securities analyst Nick Setyan does not expect the chains sales to recover until 2018.