Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Chipotle at 20: Burrito Boom Expands to Asian Fare

Chipotle at 20: Burrito Boom Expands to Asian Fare
Photograph by RGA/REA/Redux

On Saturday, assembler of oversized burritos Chipotle will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Having led the establishment of 1,445 Mexican grill restaurants in the U.S., founder and co-Chief Executive Officer Steve Ells now credits the chain less for commodifying a Mexican-American staple than for pioneering a “new fast food system”—dishes prepared with better ingredients in front of the customer. As more people embrace it, he said at a recent conference, “traditional fast food becomes irrelevant.”

In fact, Chipotle’s executives are so keen on the “system” that, amid the chain’s two-decade birthday, they’re diverting attention to a younger sibling: the new Asian fast-casual brand, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. “When I think about ShopHouse, in so many ways it’s exactly the same as Chipotle,” Ells said at the event. “It’s about showing that maybe Chipotle wasn’t successful because of burritos and tacos, but because of this new fast food system that we’ve invented.”