Chipotle opens first Vancouver restaurant

Fast-growing Denver-based restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) opened its first Western Canadian location December 13 at 818 Howe Street and the curiosity among Vancouverites was so large that lineups flowed out the door.

Fast-growing Denver-based restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) opened its first Western Canadian location December 13 at 818 Howe Street and the curiosity among Vancouverites was so large that lineups flowed out the door.

CMG spokesperson Chris Arnold told Business in Vancouver that the company does not discuss expansion plans before it has leased sites or launched construction.

“There is nothing that meets that criteria in Vancouver but it would be enormously unusual for us to have just one restaurant in a city the size of Vancouver,” he said.

CMG opened its first Canadian location in Toronto several years ago and now has five locations in that city.

The rest of the company’s more than 1,350 restaurants are in the U.S., except for five locations in London, England, and one new restaurant in Paris, France.

“There’s no trackable formula for how we expand within a city,” Arnold said.

That differs from coffee giant Starbucks Corp. (Nasdaq:SBUX), which opened its first stores outside Seattle in Vancouver. Starbucks similarly enjoyed long lineups that stretched out the door during the early 1990s in Vancouver.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. (TSX:LLL) CEO Christine Day, who previously headed Starbucks’ operations in Asia, told BIV in 2009 that the strategy for expansion within a metropolis at both Lululemon and Starbucks is:

•to first locate stores in a hip and funky neighbourhood;

•then locate in urban-affluent locations; and

•finally to expand to suburban-affluent locations.

CMG has opened about 160 restaurants this year and Arnold said that the chain plans to open between 165 and 180 restaurants next year.

The company launched a secondary restaurant chain that serves Asian food earlier this year in Washington D.C. That brand, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, is set to next expand to Los Angeles.

Arnold said no Asian-themed restaurants are yet slated to open in Vancouver

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom