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Chipotle Goes East as Its Stock Goes North

By Rick Munarriz - Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 10:26PM

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Chipotle eyes the capital for a new way to make capital.

Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) is going to Washington!

The fast-growing burrito roller will be launching its new Asian concept in Washington, D.C., this summer, far away from its Colorado headquarters.

ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen -- named after the multilevel residential buildings with street-level storefronts found in Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam -- isn't a surprise. Chipotle announced that it would be launching an Asian concept five months ago.

It also isn't really a shock to see Chipotle introduce the concept somewhere far removed from its Denver base. You want to have an unbiased audience kick the tires. Locals might warm up too easily to the home team.

Is it too soon for Chipotle to be thinking about a sister concept?

It obviously doesn't need a second growth engine at this point. Chipotle is coming off a stellar quarter where revenue and earnings climbed by 25% and 47%, respectively. It's not showing any signs of peaking. It may have more than 1,000 restaurants open, but former parent McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) -- as well as Subway and Burger King -- can tally up units in the tens of thousands.

It's never too early to begin thinking about the future. Shares of Chipotle hit a fresh all-time high this morning of $282.76, overcoming rising commodity prices, an undocumented-worker scandal, and valuation fears.

The time is also ripe to go Asian.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI) had to shutter its China Coast chain in the 1990s, but the success of Benihana (Nasdaq: BNHNA) (Nasdaq: BNHN) and P.F. Chang's (Nasdaq: PFCB) namesake and Pei Wei Asian Diner concepts open the door for a Chipotle-esque spin on Southeastern Asian cuisine.

Investor appetite for Asian dining even paved the way for China's own Country Style Cooking (Nasdaq: CCSC) -- a fast-growing chain of Sichuan-style eats in China itself -- to go public last year, though the IPO has had a rocky reception after its initial spurt.

The beauty of breaking in a new concept now rather than later is that the company can quickly recover if ShopHouse proves to be a dud. Again, it doesn't need a second growth engine -- and that's the point.

Can Chipotle make a second concept in an unrelated niche pan out or is it a dim sum? Check in on either side of the argument in the comment box below.

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Stocks Mentioned

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Stock Quote
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.
$1,306.58 (-1.89%) $-25.13
McDonald's Corporation Stock Quote
McDonald's Corporation
$244.81 (-0.90%) $-2.22
Darden Restaurants, Inc. Stock Quote
Darden Restaurants, Inc.
$116.92 (-4.11%) $-5.01

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