Chipotle announced Wednesday that it’s launching a new virtual concept in partnership with Kitchen United in Santa Monica, California. 

Called Farmesa, the brand features proteins, greens, grains, and vegetables inspired by Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” standards. It will serve bowls ranging from $11.95 to $16.95, with each one comprising a protein, green or grain, two sides, a choice of five sauces, and a topping option. There will also be 100 percent certified organic and all-natural drinks from Tractor Beverage Co and sparkling water.

The menu was formulated by James Beard Award-winning chef Nate Appleman, who is also serving as directory of culinary innovation for Farmesa and led menu ideas for Chipotle in the mid-to-late 2000s. 

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Farmesa will start with a limited menu to help team members learn cooking techniques. At full power, there will be dishes like Classic Santa Maria-Style Grilled Tri-Tip Steak, Everything Spice-Crusted Ora King Salmon, Whipped Potatoes, Golden Beets, Sprouted Cauliflower, and Sweet Potato Chips.

“One of our strategic objectives is to create or invest in emerging culinary spaces and restaurant concepts that fit within Chipotle’s food with integrity mission and make fresh food daily,” CEO Brian Niccol said in a statement. “Our New Ventures team, which was created in 2022, developed a unique restaurant concept that uses classic culinary techniques with flavorful ingredients in a fast casual setting that we’re excited to test and learn on before we determine a broader rollout strategy.”

Guests will have multiple order options. They will either use an onsite kiosk at the Kitchen United space, order takeout from the company’s website, or schedule a delivery through third-party aggregators. 

“Launching Farmesa in the Kitchen United Mix food hall in Santa Monica and partnering with third-party partners for pickup or delivery will allow us to reach a large number of consumers, learn quickly, and evolve our concept and menu so that we can deliver on our goals before expanding,” Nate Lawton, vice president of new ventures, said in a statement. “We believe there’s an opportunity to serve premium, craveable food every day and we’re eager to bring this new concept to life.”

Chipotle is one of the largest restaurant chains to roll out a virtual concept, a sales channel that’s grown massively since COVID. Research firm Euromonitor International estimates that ghost kitchens could grow to a $1 trillion business by 2030 if significant automation and investments occur. 

While Farmesa is the first secondary concept under Niccol’s tenure, it’s not Chipotle’s first attempt, said William Blair analyst Sharon Zackfia in a note. The fast casual previously tried ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen in 2011 and shuttered it in 2017. It also launched burger concept Tasty Made in 2016, but closed it two years later. 

“While we do not expect Farmesa to be a material contributor to Chipotle’s financial results in the near term, we believe the concept does have the potential to resonate with consumers, given consumer appetite for healthy bowls as evidenced by sweetgreen’s success in both urban and suburban settings,” Zackfia said. 

Fast Casual, Food, Growth, Marketing & Promotions, Menu Innovations, Story, Chipotle