What do you do when your burrito chain has been responsible for multiple outbreaks of E. coli and norovirus that sickened dozens of customers over the past six months? If you're Chipotle, you get into the burger business. Chipotle filed a trademark application for the name "Better Burger" this month, with a spokesperson noting the restaurant chain's "model could be applied to a wide variety of foods," Bloomberg reports. Chipotle has already started expanding two other restaurant concepts: ShopHouse and Pizzeria Locale. CNN quotes a public filing that states the Better Burger concept would be based on Chipotle's principles of "finding the very best sustainably raised ingredients, prepared and cooked using classical methods in front of the customer, and served in an interactive format."
An expert tells Bloomberg the US market isn't yet saturated with burger chains. But beef prices are going down, beef consumption is going up, and sales at burger chains are outpacing those at Mexican chains, meaning Better Burger could be a profitable endeavor for Chipotle. And that's something the restaurant desperately needs. USA Today reports E. coli outbreaks in October and December sickened more than 50 people across multiple states. And a Boston Chipotle was linked to a norovirus outbreak that sickened 80 or so college students. Those cases led to a CDC investigation and the temporary closing of Chipotle locations. As a result, Chipotle stock has fallen 30% over the past 12 months, and sales dropped 26% in February alone. (Read more Chipotle stories.)