Chipotle Will Begin Testing Quesadilas And Milkshakes As It Expands Its Menu

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Critically-panned queso wasn’t enough to fix sagging sales, so Chipotle is shaking things up once again. The fast casual giant is expanding its menu to include to include new entrees and drink options in an effort to combat a long series of errors and PR disasters they’ve experienced in recent years.

According to the New York Times, the company will introduce a number of new items in its New York City text kitchen, with the goal to bring them nationwide in the near future. The Times said five items — quesadillas, nachos, chocolate milkshakes, avocado tostadas and an “updated” salad — will be available in New York while Chipotle works out the kinks.

Whether one of those items is the new big idea that the company needs to stop its slide remains to be seen, but Chipotle is committed to figuring quesadillas out no matter how long it takes. That means bringing in new equipment to make the new items.

Quesadillas, for example, are an off-menu item you can get at some Chipotles if you ask nicely, but the problem is that they take far too long to make. That means the chain needs to make some infrastructure changes before it can become a full-time menu item.

New grills must be purchased. The assembly line must be re-choreographed. When those quesadillas finally hit the market, Chipotle simply must get them right. A string of food-borne illnesses and a crop of new restaurants have driven many of Chipotle’s customers toward its competitors, and now the company is retooling its menu to win them back.

Chipotle’s 2,500 stores aren’t set up to make foods that deviate wildly from the basic menu of burritos, bowls, salads and tacos. The grills, for instance, are designed to warm up tortillas in a few seconds. But they take two and a half minutes to cook a quesadilla, which some stores already offer as an off-menu item. That’s an eternity for a restaurant like Chipotle, which falls within the “quick-service” category that includes fast food and its slightly more upscale cousin, fast casual.

The Times interviewed Chipotle’s chief executive, Brian Niccol, who said “the worst-case scenario is the person in front of you orders a quesadilla” right now. Fixing that will be key to making the item a hit while keeping people moving through the stores quickly. Chipotle plans to offer “one or two” promotional items a year as well, which means the Chipotle menu is about to get even bigger. The story didn’t mention much more about the tostatas or milkshakes, or what an “updated” salad entails, but we’ll find out more about them once they escape the test kitchen.

(via New York Times)