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Chipotle adds carne asada to its menus nationwide

Heidi Chung
Reporter

Sorry non-meaters, Chipotle ( CMG ) is adding another protein to its menu, and it’s not a veggie burger — it’s carne asada.

After a successful test run at Chipotle stores in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Fresno, California, the burrito giant is rolling out its newest menu addition nationwide beginning Thursday, for a limited time only. Carne asada is the newest protein to hit Chipotle menus since the return of chorizo in September 2018.

“Our Carne Asada steak is amazingly tender, hand cut, and grilled fresh every day. It performed incredibly well in the test markets and we’re excited to be introducing this terrific, new steak nationwide for a limited time,” Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

The innovation process for carne asada took about one year, Chipotle’s Vice President of Marketing Stephanie Perdue told Yahoo Finance. Chipotle began testing the item in the two markets back in May.

On Chipotle’s second-quarter earnings conference call, CEO Brian Niccol teased the dish, as well as a dessert and nacho menu items. Chipotle already has a steak on its menu, but the carne asada was highly requested by both Chipotle customers and non-customers, according to Executive Chef Nevielle Panthaky. Panthaky joined Chipotle one year ago from IHOP parent company Dine Brands ( DIN ), where he was the mastermind behind the launch of Ultimate Steakburgers. The carne asada was his first culinary project at Chipotle.

Chipotle's new carne asada (Courtesy of Chipotle)

The new dish is from the same supplier as the steak, and Panthaky told Yahoo Finance that no additional kitchen equipment or employee training was required for the rollout. Though prices across the U.S. will vary because it is a more premium cut of steak, the carne asada will cost an average of $8.50.

Yahoo Finance got a chance to try the new dish, and true to Chipotle’s marketing, it was extremely tender. Chipotle’s original steak item is from six different cuts and is cooked with an adobo seasoning, but its carne asada is a cut of top sirloin and features a simpler seasoning. It is first cooked sous vide and then grilled and is both Whole30 and Paleo friendly. The lighter seasoning on the carne asada is to highlight the quality of beef and to retain the natural steak flavor, Panthaky said.

In a tough restaurant environment with intense competition, Chipotle has been crushing it lately. Same-stores sales, a key industry metric, continue to grow at a strong pace. The burrito chain reported 10% same-store sales growth in its second quarter , beating Wall Street estimates for 8.4% growth. The stock has soared 85% so far in 2019 and is the best-performing stock in the S&P 500. Shares are about 7% off from their all-time highs, as of Monday’s closing price.

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Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung .

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