Chipotle, it seems, is making some serious plans in case this whole burrito thing doesn’t work out in the long run: Earlier this month, the company applied for a trademark for the name “Better Burger,” which hopefully will be the farm-to-fast-food version of Good Burger and which also — it would seem — lays the groundwork for a Batman v Superman–style showdown with that other titan of the fast-casual world, Shake Shack.
Chipotle’s move, of course, comes on the heels of months upon months of bad news for the chain, which, after experiencing its first-ever quarterly loss, undergoing a criminal investigation, and having its net income plummet 44 percent during the fourth quarter, may not, according to experts, see its sales bounce back until 2018. It’s also, clearly, just the next stage in Chipotle’s attempt at a total takeover of the fast food market, as the planned burger brand will join Chipotle’s other ventures, the vaguely Southeast Asian ShopHouse and self-explanatory Pizzeria Locale.
The timing is curious, since hamburger-mania has largely fallen by the wayside and customers have increasingly gravitated toward healthier options including Sweetgreen and vegan-friendly By Chloe, which are both in serious expansion mode. But therein might be an actual clue as to what Chipotle has lined up, and its advantage over Danny Meyer’s ever-growing burger chain. “Better burger,” after all, might just be code for “veggie burger,” which is a concept that many have been working hard to perfect but which has largely gone unnoticed by Shake Shack, since their deep-fried mushroom “burgers” definitely don’t count.