ORLANDO, FLA. — For Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., entering the piping-hot pizza market wasn’t much of a stretch.
Last month, the Denver-based burrito chain announced a partnership to launch a fast-casual pizza concept combining Chipotle’s operational style with Neapolitan-style pizza. Based on a full-service restaurant of the same name, Pizzeria Locale opened its first fast-casual location in Denver in May and is exploring options for additional locations in Denver.
“Certainly, pizza is a favorite in this country,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-chief executive officer of Chipotle, during a Jan. 14 presentation at the Integrated Corporate Relations XChange in Orlando. “It’s a big, big opportunity. But a lot of the pizza out there, most of it, is pizza that is cheaper ingredients, all based on the same model, heavily discounted, very much a fast-food kind of model.”
The difference is in the dough, he said. Made with Italy-milled flour, Pizzeria Locale’s dough is fermented for 24 hours, “which develops incredible flavor and incredible texture,” Mr. Ells said.
The made-to-order pizzas are baked in two minutes.
“And while that pizza is baking, customers are then going down the salad line, getting salad, sides of meatballs, prosciutto, and then beverages and by the time they pay, their pizza’s ready and they sit down.”
Pizzeria Locale founders Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson opened the original full-service location in Boulder, Colo. in 2011.
“I’ve been working with Bobby and Lachlan and have been associated with them for over 10 years,” Mr. Ells said. “And when they opened up this pizzeria, I knew that this had the makings for a pizzeria that could fit into the Chipotle format so that you could have delicious food prepared individually for the customer with a high throughput model that would have similar economics to Chipotle.”
Pizzeria Locale’s menu includes eight Naples-inspired pizzas in addition to build-your-own pies from a selection of ingredients on an interactive service line. Toppings include broccolini, capers, eggplant, gorgonzola and smoked prosciutto. A gluten-free crust also is offered.
“So I see an extraordinary opportunity to offer this very, very high-quality Neapolitan-style pizza within the Chipotle format and also economic model,” Mr. Ells said.
Chipotle also operates a fast-casual concept called ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, which serves noodles and rice bowls at six locations with additional units opening in the coming months.
“…the key to Chipotle and ShopHouse and now Pizzeria Locale is that these are highly customizable experiences that people get not only what they want for taste, but also for diet and to be able to be highly customized and very, very fast, I think, is the special combination,” Mr. Ells said.