Monday, 18 January 2010

Chipotle is coming to the UK

Just before Christmas, a painted sign on the old Turnkey Store on London Charing Cross Road (right) caught my eye. A quick search later and confirmation that American burrito giant Chipotle will be opening their first UK store in April this year.

Chipotle are a 900 strong chain of Burrito bars in the US. I've eaten in them a number of times whilst in the States, most recently in their branch in NYC just off Union Square. On the whole their restaurants are fast, clean; the burritos large and tasty. But they've also been mired in controversy - the company used investment from McDonalds to expand in the early noughties (Maccers have since offloaded their share in the company after the economic downturn hit the US fast food market) and an NBC report branded their burritos one of the 20 most unhealthy foods in America. But despite this their popularity is still high, and their wholesome, 'healthy' image - not unlike Innocent here in the UK - plays well with college kids and twenty something boho types.

So how will Chipotle fare in the UK? They certainly have the marketing resources to make a splash at launch (their usual tactic in the US is a free burrito day) but their location is nowhere need as attractive as the new Oxford Circus branch of Tortilla and UK market is a tricky one for Americans to operate in as Chilis recent retreat from Britain has shown. Ultimately though it comes down to how much demand for burritos there is in the UK, and if Chipotle's London branch is a success, it would never surprise me to see a Subway style roll out during 2011 . Interesting times for burrito lovers indeed.