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At ShopHouse, the menu is based on three primary platforms: Guests can select rice (jasmine or brown), chilled rice noodles or salad, then add grilled chicken satay, steak laab, pork and chicken meatballs or organic tofu — the latter the same product used for the new sofritas served in Chipotle units in California, though the tofu is seasoned with Asian spices.

Next, they have the choice of various wok-cooked vegetable dishes, such as green beans with roasted chili jam and shallots or eggplant with Thai basil. Sauces include green curry, spicy red curry or tamarind vinaigrette, and the final dish could be garnished with fresh cilantro, green papaya slaw or picked vegetables, along with toasted rice, crushed peanuts or crispy garlic.

The menu, which is entirely gluten- and dairy-free, is “really concise,” said Wildin. “We just do a few things, but that helps us do them really well.”

Los Angeles was seen as the ideal second market in part because of the availability of strong crew members, Wildin said. “Working at Chipotle is like going to culinary school, the level of skill that’s required is higher than most fast food outlets out there,” he said.

ShopHouse proteins: Chicken satay, steak laab, pork and chicken meatballs and organic tofu.Like Chipotle, all dishes at ShopHouse are made in house, from the red chile curry to the green papaya slaw.

Los Angeles also offers the availability of fresh produce, which Wildin said is one of ShopHouse’s strengths. “It’s amazing the amount of fresh produce we’re giving people here,” he said. “In fast food, I don’t think that happens anywhere else.”

The vegetable options may change with produce in season, he noted. “The eggplant might become Brussels sprouts in winter,” said Wildin.

Chipotle operates more than 1,450 units of its namesake restaurants in North America and Europe, and another 165 to 180 units are scheduled to open this year.

Wall Street analysts are optimistic that ShopHouse will offer the company a new growth vehicle.

Stephen Anderson of Miller Tabak + Co. LLC predicted there is room for 300 to 400 ShopHouse locations in urban areas and college campuses over the next 10 years, pointing to cities like Denver, Chicago and San Francisco as next in line.

Wildin declined to comment on next potential markets, saying Chipotle remains the company’s focus for growth.

“This is an experiment,” said Wildin. “We’re still planting the seeds.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout