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Can Tasty Made Help Chipotle Freshen Its Image?

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Tasty Made
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Tasty Made, Chipotle's first-ever burger restaurant, opened its doors in Lancaster, OH, on Thursday.

The burrito chain Chipotle is now betting on burgers.

Known for their massive burritos and trendy décor, the fast-casual restaurant is venturing into new territory with a new burger restaurant called Tasty Made. The first one in the nation opened Thursday in Lancaster.

WOSU's Sam Hendren talks to Deborah Mitchell, Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing at Ohio State University, about Chipotle's new venture.

 The below is an automated transcript. Please excuse minor typos and errors.

Sam Hendren: Chipotle made national headlines with some recent food safety scares. Do you think the company's diversification is an effort to win back customers?

Deborah Mitchell: In part, yes. Although it's also a very smart strategic move in general to diversify beyond just one type of cuisine and one real business line. So it has multiple benefits, but one of the nice side benefits or one of the major ones even, is that it will kind of give them another place to really demonstrate their excellence and without the kind of cloud or baggage associated with the food scandal.

Sam Hendren: Well as we know there's no shortage of burger chains, and you know they face competition from chains like Five Guys and Steak and Shake. What does Tasty Made, their burger franchise, need to do to stand out, do you think?

Deborah Mitchell: Well I think that they really need to leverage the great associations and beliefs that people have had with Chipotle for a very long time around things like the healthy, fresh, natural kinds of ingredients, the care and attention to detail about where the ingredients come from. I know that might seem strange given some of the troubles we've run into, but those beliefs are still there. I mean what they built the business on has not gone away.

And so, you know there are a lot of great tasting burgers out there. There are a lot of great kind of business models out there that are appealing to consumers right now. So it is a crowded market, but I believe Chipotle can be successful because they have some things that no one else has. And it really is about the quality, the natural, you know, very healthy approach to food and really their core values around their beliefs about food and what they want to give to consumers.

Sam Hendren: It's interesting they're opening their first store, the very first store, in Lancaster here in central Ohio. You know Columbus is home to Wendy's and White Castle. Do you think that's part of a Chipotle strategy?

Deborah Mitchell: Well you know central Ohio, or this area in general, we are known for being a great seed bed for innovation in food. And Lancaster is a great place for them to go. I mean they get access to this greater market. They get the attention that this market likes to kind of bestow upon new offerings, new kinds of restaurants and food.

But it's not, kind of, in the direct glare and directly up against some of the other burgers that we know are in Columbus. I think it's very important for Chipotle to have a success with Tasty Made. I think they have a great chance of success. But this will be a very interesting play on their part to watch unfold. And what happens with Tasty Made will have a lot of big implications for Chipotle in general.