Chipotle is expanding its format into the pizza business.
Following sky-high growth in its core business, Chipotle Mexican Grill detailed plans Wednesday to expand into a pizza concept with a model emphasizing service and speed.
The company launched Pizzeria Locale in Denver in May with two partners and is exploring options for two more stores in the city, it said. Like Chipotle, Pizzeria Locale lets customers customize their meals. With a bake time of less than two minutes, the pies are ready more quickly than it takes to bake a standard frozen pizza.
"Opening Pizzeria Locale using a model similar to Chipotle allows us to make extraordinary pizza, made with high-quality ingredients accessible to everyone," Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle, said in a statement release.
Since opening two decades ago, Chipotle has pioneered a different type of restaurant — one that features premium ingredients and tailored orders at fast-food speeds. Called fast casual, the segment is one of the few growth spots in an otherwise stagnant restaurant industry.
In earnings conference calls, executives have said that Chipotle's success isn't tied to tacos or burritos but can convey to other segments.
The company tested this theory in 2011 by developing ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, its first foray into other cuisines using the Chipotle formula. It has opened six ShopHouse locations, with plans for more in the coming months.
Other pizza chains feature similar fast-cooking, make-your-own concepts, including Pasadena, Calif.-based Blaze Pizza.
Chipotle stressed that it plans to grow Pizzeria Locale slowly.
"While both Pizzeria Locale and ShopHouse are exciting concepts, it's important to remember that our growth will continue to be driven for the foreseeable future by expanding the Chipotle brand within the U.S.," Ells said.
—By CNBC's Katie Little. Follow her on Twitter @KatieLittle. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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First published December 18 2013, 12:11 PM