ShopHouse, Chipotle? Really?

Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG  ) appears to have a name for the quick-service Asian concept that it plans to test out later this year.

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.

ShopHouse?

Really?

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.

Country Style Cooking Restaurant Chain and Chipotle are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Chipotle is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. The Fool owns shares of Chipotle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can walk to a Salsarita or jog to a Baja Fresh or a Qdoba, but prefers the short drive to his local Chipotle. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story, except for Country Style Cooking. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2011, at 3:17 PM, reidwt wrote:
  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2011, at 3:23 PM, asgiacoppo wrote:

    Shophouses are buildings with a specific colonial era architectural style, found primarily in Singapore and across Malaysia. They were used for both housing and commercial purposes, often times both. Now, they house many casual residences, double as offices, and have restaurants/cafes in them.

    Still a meaningless name to anyone in the U.S...would do better with Shophizzo

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2011, at 4:03 PM, GreenPhotog wrote:

    Wow, that's about as mundane a name as I can fathom. Not to be confused with slop house or ChopHouse-style dog food (Alpo, yum). Little ShopHouse of Horrors: serving organically grown cabbage over fresh hormone-free canine.

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2011, at 6:20 PM, gambatteimasu wrote:

    How bout "Pagoda Asian Grill"

    gambatte imasu

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2011, at 9:41 AM, CapturingPenang wrote:

    I like the name. Since Penang, Malaysia has the most shophouses in Southeast Asia, and is famous for Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Nyonya dishes, maybe the new chain will focus on these flavors.

    Can't wait to give it a try.

    Here are Penang "shophouses" if anyone is curious:

    http://capturingpenang.blogspot.com/2010_06_24_archive.html

    Thanks,

    Reese & Mark

    Capturing Penang

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2011, at 12:49 PM, bobucks wrote:

    Exactly, when I think of Chipotle, I think slightly better in quality and pricier than Taco Bell but not as convenient. Therefore, I'd imagine "ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen" as another Panda Express with the exact same menu only the sauce made with mild curry or peanuts.

    So why wait around and pay more at a chain store trying to sell something as exotic when you can go to an independent food cart around the corner that is truly authentic, affordable, and fast?

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