To help get back to its “food with integrity” roots, Chipotle Mexican Grill has unveiled an accelerator program. The effort, in conjunction with Uncharted and called the Chipotle Aluminaries Project, will work with up to eight ventures in areas such as agriculture technology and alternative products, BuzzFeed reported.
“Chipotle has been committed to the future of food with integrity since opening our first restaurant 25 years ago,” Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said in an announcement. “By sponsoring the Chipotle Aluminaries Project, we’re looking to advance the work of the next generation of entrepreneurs who are disrupting the food landscape.”
The project will also include mentors such as Richard Blais from Top Chef and the entrepreneur Kimbal Musk. Those who belong to the venture teams will receive Chipotle “celebrity cards” that allow them to receive a free burrito each day along with free catering for their offices each month. And, while Chipotle is not explicitly seeking to acquire or invest in any of the ventures, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed that “it’s certainly a possibility that we would consider the companies as future suppliers, if it’s the right fit.”
The news comes as the quick service restaurant (QSR) chain is gearing up for some big changes. It’s revamping its menu, adding new items like quesadillas and nachos, purchasing new grills and reworking assembly lines, The New York Times reported.
“We’re not built right now to make a great quesadilla,” Niccol told the Times in June. “The worst-case scenario is the person in front of you orders a quesadilla.”
Chipotle’s stores are designed to make a basic menu of burritos, salads, bowls and tacos. Its grills can warm tortillas in a matter of seconds, but take much longer — two and a half minutes — to cook quesadillas. As a result, the QSR will experiment by rolling out five menu items at its New York City-based NEXT test kitchen to make adjustments before bringing the items to more stores. The challenge will be how to bring in the new items without slowing down the assembly line.