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Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski unearthed a trademark for ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen that Chipotle registered last month. It may be one of the many names under consideration by the master burrito rollers as their culinary palates take a turn to the East, but it appears to be the only name that Chipotle has registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for now.
This sounds like some pre-bubble 1990s e-tailer, a bricks-and-mortar chain of home furnishings, or what Fox execs do in selling ad space on Hugh Laurie's medical show.
A chophouse is a fancy steakhouse. How does ShopHouse convey Asian? It is, after all, chop suey and not shop suey. Why not follow the Chipotle road map and drum up a spice or ingredient that is prominent in Eastern cuisine?
Frankly my dear, I do give an edamame.
I do like Chipotle's timing. It's coming off yet another monster quarter with stellar 12.6% comps. Why wait until its flagship concept begins showing wear and tear to break in a second growth vehicle?
The timing is also right to go Asian. Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI ) had to fold its China Coast chain in the 1990s, but the marketplace is far more accommodating these days.
Between Benihana (Nasdaq: BNHNA ) (Nasdaq: BNHN ) growing its chain of moderately upscale Japanese teppanyaki restaurants and P.F. Chang's (Nasdaq: PFCB ) exploiting both its namesake and Pei Wei Asian Diner concepts, the market demand exists. There's also Pick Up Stix, Panda Express, and several other quick-service eateries coming soon to a suburban strip mall near you.
The market for Asian dining is going so well that China's own Country Style Cooking (Nasdaq: CCSC ) -- a fast-growing chain of Sichuan-style eats in China itself -- went public last year.
Chipotle's decision to go with "Southeast Asian" in the name also implies that this won't simply be cuisine dedicated to one particular Asian country the way that the leading chains typically do. I like that, too.
I'm just left scratching my head over the name. ShopHouse? Will take-out orders be called ShopLifts?
When it comes to picking out a name for what may be a very important expansion vehicle for a company that recently passed 1,000 restaurants of its namesake, my advice is clear: Shop around!
What do you think of the name ShopHouse? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.