Chipotle announces Accelerator Program

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Chipotle Mexican Grill has developed an incubator for food and agriculture businesses despite grappling with continued foodborne illness outbreaks and plummeting stocks, as Amelia Levin reports

The Chipotle Aluminaries Project, sponsored by the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, is a seven-month-long accelerator program “designed to help growth-stage ventures with a shared vision to cultivate a better world take their businesses to the next level” the chain said in a release.

Since September 2017, the chain has accepted applications from food-focused businesses as well as companies in the area of alternative farming and growing systems, farming and agriculture technology, food waste and recovery, and plant and alternative products. Accepted businesses receive mentorship and direct coaching from industry leaders like Richard Blais, a successful chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality; Kimbal Musk, an entrepreneur and restaurateur who sits on the boards of directors of Chipotle Mexican Grill, and a series of Chipotle execs. The program also includes a five-day boot camp in Newport Beach, Calif., all while fueled by Chipotle catering.

The future of food

“Chipotle has been committed to the future of food with integrity since opening our first restaurant 25 years ago,” Brian Niccol, Chipotle’s new chief executive officer said. “By sponsoring the Chipotle Aluminaries Project, we’re looking to advance the work of the next generation of entrepreneurs who are disrupting the food landscape. Are you using technology to make an impact? Are you dreaming up the next sustainable food innovation? If so, we want to support you and help share your story.”

Uncharted, a Denver-based accelerator non-profit focused on tackling major social problems like food deserts and urban poverty, was selected by the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation to host and run it’s program.

News of the accelerator comes on the heels of yet another foodborne illness outbreak associated with the chain. Health officials in Ohio noted that clostridium perfringens was responsible for sickening a reported 647 people between July 26 and July 30 at a Chipotle restaurant in Powell, Ohio. The common foodborne illness, typically found on raw meat and poultry, occurs when cooked food is not held at safe temperatures for an extended period.

Niccol said in a statement that all employees would be retrained on safety and wellness protocols starting next week and all restaurants remained open. The chain also said it will add a recurring, online employee knowledge assessment of food safety standards to its training protocol.

Amelia Levin