The announcement Tuesday that Chipotle is pulling the plug on its sister Southeast Asian concept ShopHouse, only to venture into an over-saturated pizza and burger market, comes at a tough time for its fans.
The real victim of ShopHouse’s demise may be California’s Huy Fong Foods, the maker of what may be the most popular brand of sriracha sauce. With much of the ShopHouse menu tasting more or less the same when blended together, the bowls required copious amounts of the hot sauce. After years of eating ShopHouse bowls, I assure you that the rows and rows of sriracha displayed at the end of each location weren’t there for decoration.
For its fans, there’s a fundamental unfairness to the ShopHouse collapse. In part, the nascent chain is being killed off because Chipotle, facing a 22 percent year-over-year sales drop after its burrito E. coli scare, can no longer afford to float the ShopHouse’s 15 locations, eight of them in the D.C. area. According to the Washington Business Journal, Chipotle experienced a 14.8 percent decrease in revenue during the third quarter of 2016 compared to the same time last year.
Absent those pesky bacteria, perhaps ShopHouse could have stumbled on for a while. But it’s hard to imagine ShopHouse going national. The truth is that the fast casual market has left ShopHouse, and in many ways Chipotle, behind.
Think about the current stars of the fast casual industry locally. They’re either novel (Buredo’s sushi burritos), attached to a celebrity chef (José Andrés’ Beefsteak), or they’re considered more than your average bowl pushers (Cava Grill), as evidenced by rapid and successful expansion. Many are said to be the “Chipotle of fill-in-the-blank,” yet when Chipotle tried its own spin-off, it didn’t stack up.
While local ShopHouse locations are still open today (a rep informs us via Twitter) there’s no telling how quickly they’ll shutter or reopen as something new. So goodbye, Shophouse, headed to fast casual valhalla and a table with Lime Fresh Mexican Grill. I just wish I had known about the meatballs sooner.
Because I have always felt that ShopHouse can fill any room with the smell of broccoli farts, I have avoided the chainlet and am not fit to pen a love letter. So, I took to Twitter to ask for obits, tributes, or eulogies from adoring fans.