It can’t be denied: The “Chipotle model” has become the new paradigm for businesses looking to make a play in the fast-casual field. With more than 1,700 locations worldwide and a “market cap of $40 billion,” they’ve set the bar for success in an unprecedented way.
“Chipotle didn’t invent the assembly line but they sure made a lot of dough off of it,” writes Korilla BBQ on a blog post. Restaurants like Korilla have embraced the simple ordering procedure, a choose-your-own protein, toppings, and vessel formula.
Recently, however, Chipotle has come under fire for not only selling tainted meat, but a disastrous apology that caused a media frenzy. With all the sour press, there’s never been a better moment for other competitors to grab the reigns and steal a share of the market. Here we look at seven different fast-casual concepts, from Indian to Lebanese, who are applying to the Chipotle formula to their own operations.
In a nutshell: Glutard-friendly Southeast Asian rice and noodle bowls
Region: California; Illinois; Maryland; Washington, D.C.
When Chipotle realized its counter-service model was raking in the dough, it decided to take the concept beyond burritos. In 2011, Chipotle launched ShopHouse, a chain dishing out customizable Southeast Asian-style bowls with toppings like grilled chicken satay, green papaya slaw, and spicy red curry. “Chipotle picked Southeast Asian fare because founder Steve Ells likes the big flavors of that cuisine,” a Chipotle representative tells AdWeek. And America seems to like those big flavors, too, considering there are now 14 ShopHouse locations, most of which are located near existing Chipotles and are meant to appeal to the same bro-y customer base. (Photo: ShopHouse)
In a nutshell: Indian fast-casual chain that’s super “fired up about flavor”
Do you sit at your desk each day dreaming of pulled-pork vindaloo, dal, and pineapple raita piled atop mountains of saffron rice? Well, Indikitch is the Chipotle clone for you. At the two existing Manhattan locations, you can order your choice of protein—from chicken tikka to saag paneer—plus rice, lentiils, kachumbar (salad), and naan for under $10. One McDonald’s investor reasons that Mickey D’s should consider acquiring Indikitch, given that the Indian-inspired chain has “the potential to go global.” (Photo: Instagram/@indikitch)
In a nutshell: Everyone calls it the Korean Chipotle
Overstuffed, gargantuan burritos filled with everything but the kitchen sink? Check. A variety of proteins ranging from bulgogi to spicy pulled pork? Check. Customizable bowls and an industrial-cool interior? Check. “The menu is simple, and it includes all my favorite dishes that can be mixed and matched, just the way Korean food is meant to be enjoyed,” says owner Eddie Song, who started the restaurant as a food truck back in 2010, and opened his first brick-and-mortar in 2014. Does Song have plans to expand? You bet ya. (Photo: Instagram/@korillabbq)
In a nutshell: “Bringing Seattle-style teriyake to the world”
Region: NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, Wisconsin
We bet you can’t name one person that dislikes grilled teriyaki chicken over rice. And a hell of a lot of people like Chipotle, too. So why not take burrito bowls and swap carnitas with charcoal-grilled teriyaki chicken, salmon, tofu, and the like? That being said, wtf is this fresh, local, gluten-free, “Seattle-style teriyake” that Glaze claims to serve? According to the chain’s website, “Seattle-style teriyaki combines the best flavors and ingredients of Korean- and Japanese-style teriyaki. It was born in the 1970s when Seattle had a boom in Korean immigration, and it’s been a way of life ever since.” We’re not hatin’ it. (Photo: Instagram/@glazeteriyake)
In a nutshell: Customizable Spanish sandwiches
Region: Florida, New York, Washington DC
In 2011, this Spanish import opened its first stateside restaurant in Miami. Now the sandwich chain has more than 350 restaurants around the globe. The chain sells 150,000 montaditos every day, which means people are really taking to the two-to-three-bite sandwiches on tiny baguettes made with ingredients like Serrano ham, manchego cheese, chorizo, and tortilla Española. (Photo: Instagram/@100montaditosus)
In a nutshell: Quick service Lebanese
Have you ever been to Zankou Chicken? It’s kind of the Chipotle of Middle Eastern food; well, at the very least, it’s cheap, filling, and tasty. Naya Express is bringing that same golden combination of falafel/shawarma/kebab, toppings, and sauce to NYC. Shout out to the made-in-house garlic whip, which Midtown Lunch’s Zach Brooks calls “out of control good.” Sahtayn! (Photo: Instagram/@fitfoodie_nyc)
In a nutshell: “Asian-style” restaurant concept that mashes both Bangkok Green Curry and Vietnamese Vermicelli into one menu
Region: Texas, Florida, Arkansas, U.A.E.
America is the land of endless opportunity, right? So why not have the opportunity to eat both Mongolian stir fry and a bulgogi steak wrap at the same dining establishment? According to Biz Journals, this Austin-based chain plans to open eight to 10 locations in Houston throughout 2016 and an additional five to seven locations in 2017. (Photo: Instagram/@mamafus)