When Chipotle (CMG) added organic tofu to its line of burrito ingredients in a test in the San Francisco area last February, skeptics scrunched their noses. “Gross, tofu has no place in a burrito,” a reader wrote on Eater.com. But the tofu experiment took off, gradually expanding in 2013 from just seven locations in the Bay Area to about 40 percent of Chipotle locations today. Now, the chain says, its tofu, which it calls “Sofritas,” is coming to all 1,572 U.S. restaurants—becoming the first item to be added permanently to Chipotle’s menu since 2005, when it started serving salads.
“We have not set a timeline yet, but we do hope to have it in all of our restaurants by the end of the year,” spokeswoman Danielle Winslow wrote in an e-mail. Sofritas will be offered in its New York and Boston restaurants starting Monday.
The tofu—made from soybeans that contain no genetically modified organisms—now accounts for about 3 percent of sales at restaurants that serve them. The item comes from a product developed for Chipotle’s Asian concept, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, reported Nation’s Restaurant News. While Sofritas cater to vegan and vegetarian diners, about half of sales go to meat eaters simply looking for a meatless meal.
“If customers can’t find something on the menu that’s quite what they’re after, we encourage them to let us know. If we can make it from the ingredients we have, we’ll do it,” Chipotle stated in its recent 10-K filing. Still, don’t expect it to follow in the footsteps of its many fast-food competitors, which rely on a continuing rollout of limited-time offers to draw customers into stores. The chain also noted that it plans to keep its menu simple.