DENVER – Work on an Asian restaurant concept that follows the Chipotle Mexican Grill model is underway by a small team from Chipotle led by founder, chairman and co-CEO Steve Ells. The company plans to open one Asian-inspired restaurant in 2011.

“Since opening the first Chipotle some 17 years ago, I have often thought about how other types of food might fit the Chipotle model,” Ells said. “But my focus has always remained on perfecting and growing the Chipotle brand. Chipotle is not successful because we serve burritos and tacos. Our success comes from finding the very best sustainably raised ingredients, prepared and cooked using classical methods in front of the customer, and served in an interactive format by special people dedicated to providing a great dining experience. And while our Chipotle restaurants will of course remain our primary focus, we are also excited to see how this format works with other cuisines.”

“We are an industry leader because we have a special team of top performers, and a culture that empowers these top performers to become the future leaders of the company,” said Monty Moran, Chipotle’s co-CEO. “Our deep bench of leaders emerging from top performing crew members and restaurant managers allows us to continue to open Chipotle restaurants with superior customer service and operational excellence. This is the foundation to serving great food that is accessible, and doing it in a way that produces excellent financial results.”

“This Asian restaurant is just an opportunity to see how our model works when we use different ingredients and a different style of food,” Ells said. “This restaurant will allow us to take a look at that.”

Chipotle operates more than 1,000 restaurants.