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Chipotle Begins Franchising, Launches in Middle East 

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG), Orange County’s most valuable publicly held company, is launching into franchising, with its first location in Kuwait City, which opened this month.

The Kuwait location is also the Newport Beach-based company’s first foray into the Middle East.

Its exclusive partner in franchising is Alshaya Group, a Kuwait-headquartered, family-owned franchise operator established in 1890. Alshaya’s portfolio of retailers and restaurants stretches across the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Turkey.

“Leveraging Alshaya’s market expertise will enable us to quickly gain access to these vibrant economies,” Chipotle Chief Executive Brian Niccol said in a statement.

Previously, Chipotle’s international footprint consisted of 41 restaurants in Canada, France, the United Kingdom and Germany. The chain has more than 3,400 locations in the U.S., with plans to open as many as 10% more each year, it said. Its last new location opening in Canada was in British Colombia in 2021.

“Together, we’ll continue to gather insights on regional preferences and adapt accordingly as we grow our presence in the region,” Chipotle’s Chief Business Development Officer Nate Lawton said.

Chipotle has a market cap of $79 billion and is the second largest restaurant company headquartered in OC, behind Taco Bell.

Chipotle and Alshaya said their plans call for also opening this year a restaurant in Dubai and one in the United Arab Emirates.

Chipotle’s Lawton leads the chain’s business development group, formed in May 2023.

Chipotle has also launched a new restaurant design in the Kuwait City outlet, featuring three different ordering methods for customers. They include QR codes on the tables that help people download the restaurant’s mobile app and a kiosk ordering system in-store.

The company’s revenue grew 14% to $9.9 billion in 2023 and analysts are expecting
another 14% growth this year to $11.3 billion.

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