Chips and queso go together like peanut butter and jelly, but Chipotle has refused to sell the Tex-Mex favorite — until now.
Chipotle Mexican Grill debuted several new menu items Monday, including queso, two kinds of frozen margaritas, and a salad at their public test kitchen in New York City, the NEXT Kitchen.
“Queso is something that’s been requested from us for many, many years. Pretty much since we started,” said Chief Marketing Officer Mark Crumpacker.
Each item is different but, if all goes well, Crumpacker expects queso will run in the test kitchen for about a month and then move to multiple markets across the country.
California and Colorado could potentially be the first locations to get queso, according to Crumpacker.
New menu items are rare. Chipotle has historically refused to sell queso because of the additives required to keep the food stable on the line.
The burrito chain has branded itself on making “food with integrity.” Their whole menu requires just 60, all-natural ingredients.
Two of those ingredients — potato starch and tapioca starch — were the key to making all-natural queso, albeit a slightly more grainy version than that of its competitors.
“When you compare it to the more synthetic ones, it’s got a different texture. But it’s melted cheese, and that’s what actual cheese taste like,” said Crumpacker.
The new menu items are part of a larger effort to push the popular Mexican chain out of the slump that began two years ago after an E. coli outbreak. Chipotle’s profit plummeted 95% in 2016 as a result of the health scare.
Adding new menu items, queso in particular, is intended to help Chipotle stave off competition from other chains.
“It’s something that all our competitors have done for many years, and we know it’s one of the reasons people choose to go to other Mexican chains,” said Crumpacker.