Chipotle has signed its first development agreement to open restaurants in the Middle East, starting in Dubai and Kuwait in early 2024. In partnership with franchisee Alshaya Group, the agreement also targets additional markets across the region.
The news marks the first time Chipotle has partnered with a local franchise operator as it expands its footprint. Currently, Chipotle’s international presence includes 33 locations in Canada, 15 in the United Kingdom with three more planned this summer, six locations in France and two in Germany. In North America, Chipotle operates over 3,200 locations with a target of 8-to-10% growth per year, and a long-term target of 7,000 restaurants.
Alshaya Group, first established in Kuwait in 1890, has a presence across MENA, Türkiye and Europe, and a foodservice portfolio that includes Starbucks, P.F. Chang’s, Pinkberry, Shake Shack, and the Cheesecake Factory. It also operates in the fashion, healthy and beauty, pharmacy, home furnishings, and leisure and entertainment sectors.
“Leveraging Alshaya’s market expertise will enable us to quickly gain access to these vibrant economies,” CEO Brian Niccol said in a statement. “We are excited to offer guests in the Middle East our responsibly sourced, classically-cooked real food, and look forward to furthering our purpose to cultivate a better world in this new territory.”
In a statement, Mohammed Alshaya, executive chairman of Alshaya Group said, “In announcing this exclusive partnership across the Middle East, we are proud to be Chipotle’s first and only franchise partner, as we continue to enhance our portfolio by bringing world leading brands to our customers across our markets.”
According to a release, Chipotle is exploring additional opportunities for growth through such partnerships through the company’s newly formed business development group, led by Chief Business Development Officer Nate Lawton. During Chipotle Q4 call in February, Niccol said the company is taking its time with international expansion but signaled optimism for demand.
“The good news is we’ve got tremendous growth runway in the United States that we can be very patient with how we approach our international expansion. The early signs are people like burritos and bowls and they like our culinary and they like the convenience and the speed, so that’s a recipe for a lot of opportunity down the road,” he said.
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]