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Fast Food

Chipotle trademarks 'Better Burger'

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Chipotle has applied for a trademark for "Better Burger" as part of a business diversification move. (AP)

Is Chipotle moving into burgers?

The Mexican Grill said Wednesday it has applied for a trademark for "Better Burger" as part of a business diversification move to open a burger restaurant chain.

"We have two non-Chipotle growth seeds open now ― ShopHouse and Pizzeria Locale ― and have noted before that the Chipotle model could be applied to a wide variety of foods," spokesman Chris Arnold told Bloomberg.

He added that “the Chipotle model could be applied to a wide variety of foods.”

ShopHouse, a Southeast Asian food chain, opened in 2013. Last year, Chipotle began expanding Pizzeria Locale, which specializes in wood-fired pizza, beyond its initial locations in Denver and Boulder, Colo.

A recent public filing from the company elaborates, saying its “fundamental principles” are “finding the very best sustainably raised ingredients, prepared and cooked using classical methods in front of the customer, and served in an interactive format.”

The move comes amid months of controversy as the chain struggles to recovery from its foodborne illness crisis, which has resulted in an on-going criminal investigation and what is expected to be its first-ever quarterly loss.

Chipotle didn't elaborate on its burger plans. But if it did get into the growing gourmet burger business, it would have to compete against market leaders such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Shake Shack.

U.S. burger restaurants generated about $73 billion in sales in 2014, according to trade publication Burger Business, citing data from food industry research firm CHD Expert. Burger joints account for 7.4% of all U.S. restaurants nationally, it said.