Editor's note: This article originally ran on real money at 10 a.m. March 31.
That is exactly what I thought when seeing news that Chipotle trademarked the term "better burger." A stand-alone burger chain, perhaps in some urban zone overrun by beard-wearing hipsters? Are you kidding me here, guys?
Maybe my incredible level of personal exhaustion is clouding my thoughts, but I am getting tired of the continued arrogance on the part of the Chipotle executive team. Changes need to be made, bottom line.
I understand that executives are tasked with growing a company into the future. Hence, an ambitious company such as Chipotle trademarks a term such as better burger in a prelude to a possible new stand-alone concept.
There is also some basic marketing via this maneuver. Chipotle is trying to get back into the good graces of investors, so why not show them it's developing a portfolio of brands that will unlock currently unrecognized value? Dang gummit, best go out there right now and buy some Chipotle stock because the company is about to morph into a holding company of profound up-and-coming restaurant brands.
If Chipotle wants to do better burgers, leverage up the balance sheet and buy Shake Shack (SHAK) - Get Report . The stock of that better-burger chain has fallen a good deal since its initial public offering. The team at Shake Shack admires what Chipotle has done for the food business. And, above all else, Shake Shack has a team of take-no-prisoner go-getters that definitely could enhance the culture at Chipotle.
Here is why Chipotle will do a big disservice to investors if it goes ahead and launches a new concept before the year 2018.
Core brand is far from fixed: Chipotle should be 1,000% focused on returning its namesake brand to health. Giving free food away hasn't done the trick in restoring large amounts of goodwill among consumers. All the time and attention of what I believe is an already-thin Chipotle executive team must be centered on getting traffic back into the stores. That means introducing new menu items, which it hasn't done in years, and devising clever marketing tactics, not these goofy subway billboards I have seen in the past month.
Core supply chain is not fixed: I firmly believe Chipotle's supply chain still needs a ton of work. More suppliers have to be found. The company must prove that new food safety measures in the supply chain are the correct ones to take. And, the team must develop new layers of precautions to prevent even the slightest chance of food-borne illness.
Company has done nothing with its existing emerging brands: If I have learned anything about Chipotle through the years, it's that the company approaches the incubation of new brands very cautiously. The company only has 13 Asian-cuisine-inspired ShopHouse locations and three Pizzeria Locale spots. These brands were launched several years ago. Both of them had promise back then and still have promise now, but not as much given new entrants into the market. If Chipotle wants to find new sources of growth, it's sitting on two brands currently that deserve more capital investments and attention.
If you are a Chipotle investor, I think you must be concerned by the continued arrogance of Chipotle management when it comes to how The Street views the company at the moment. As I have written, Chipotle still has not hit that level of humbleness after one heck of an operational and financial setback. Trademarking "better burger" yet again shows a degree of cluelessness by people getting paid very well to run a restaurant company with more than 2,000 locations globally and a fierce opening scheduling.