Chipotle Mexican Grill, the national fast-food restaurant, may be coming to New Haven.
In an e-mail to a student obtained by the News, Chipotle founder and CEO Steven Ells said the restaurant chain was “starting to look for a location in New Haven,” for a potential opening in 2012. The student, who asked to have his name withheld for business reasons, had offered to help open a Chipotle store in the city to meet strong student demand, though Ells replied that his company did not franchise.
Chipotle Communications Director Chris Arnold said in an e-mail that Chipotle does not provide specifics on any project until they have sites under lease and construction is scheduled.
“Nothing in New Haven meets those criteria at this time,” he said, adding that the only project on the books in Connecticut at present is in Milford.
Ells could not be reached for comment by email or phone.
Still, students welcomed the prospect of Chipotle in the future. Of 30 students interviewed by the News, 26 said they would definitely visit if and when the restaurant opens.
“I think Chipotle is one of the utilities New Haven has been missing over the years,” said Alan Sage ’14. “Along with a grocery store, Chipotle will help turn New Haven into a world-class city.”
Eesan Balakumar ’12 said Chipotle, if it comes to the Elm City, would be a “delicious addition to New Haven cuisine.”
But a few students, such as Patricio Brito ’14 of Ecuador, said they were not enthused by the prospect of Chipotle coming to New Haven.
“There is no actual Mexican restaurant around campus,” he said. “So we ought to first have a real Mexican restaurant before another pseudo-Mexican fast food chain.”
There are already places to buy Mexican food in New Haven.
Jeannine McMillan, owner of Moe’s Southwest Grill on Whitney Avenue, which offers very similar menu options to Chipotle, said any restaurant, not just one with similar food offerings, is considered competition, though he added that competition is healthy.
But she was quick to say that while all of Moe’s food nationwide is natural and fresh, the same cannot be said of all Chipotle restaurants nationwide.
“And at Moe’s we always give our chips and salsa away free — something Chipotle doesn’t do,” McMillan said.
Jason Congdon, the owner of Bulldog Burrito on Elm Street, declined to comment.
Even the operator of a local burrito cart packing up on the corner of Elm and York streets, who declined to give his name, said Chipotle would be a “cool” addition to New Haven.
Chipotle currently has over 1000 stores in the United States, Canada and England.