Monday, September 24th, 2018 pm30 4:16pm

Chipotle may be considering new chain with ‘Better Burger’ trademark

DENVER, March 31 (UPI) — Chipotle Mexican Grill could be considering entering the hamburger business after filing a trademark application for the name “Better Burger.”

The application for the potential restaurant chain’s name appeared on a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. Chipotle currently has two other non-Mexican specialty restaurants in its lineup, ShopHouse Southeastern Asian Kitchen and Pizzeria Locale.

A new burger chain would compete not only with McDonald’s and Burger King but with newer companies including Five Guys, Shake Shack and Smashburger, in a market considerably larger than that for Mexican-style food.

Burger chain sales in restaurants without wait staff rose to $76.9 billion in 2014, compared to $19.7 billion for Mexican food. Beef prices are currently falling and a U.S. Department of Agriculture study projects Americans will eat more beef in 2016.

A new chain could be a fresh start for a company specializing in fresh ingredients but still dealing with the effects of E.coli, salmonella and norovirus outbreaks at its restaurants in 2015, issues which prompted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigation. As customers abandoned Chipotle, its stock price fell. Same-store sales in February 2016 were 26 percent below the same period last year and a first-quarter loss is expected.

After the filing for the “Better Burger” name was acknowledged this week, Chipotle’s stock price rose 2.5 percent in after-hours trading and closed at $466.15 on Wednesday. Stock analysts Wedbush Securities downgraded Chipotle stock Tuesday, saying the company would not recover from its health scares until 2018.

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