What Ever Happened To ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen?

Don't call it a comeback! No really, don't. This noodle franchise was here and gone so quickly that you might have missed it altogether. Talk about a flash in the pan. Forever in our hearts, it's Chipotle's ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. 

On May 17, 2017, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. shut the doors to all 15-locations of their casual noodle-based spinoff chain. According to HuffPost, the first ShopHouse was established in 2011, just under two decades after mother company Chipotle hit the map in 1993. The vision for ShopHouse was to offer a selection of customizable Vietnamese, Thai, and Malaysian dishes via Chipotle's famous assembly-line service. Instead of white or brown rice, bowl or burrito, ShopHouse customers could select jasmine rice or rice noodles. Toppings included unique cultural fares such as grilled steak lamb, chicken satay, eggplant, Thai basil, and tamarind vinaigrette. The menu was a celebration of Southeast Asian cuisine, and a total departure from Chipotle's trademark offerings. It would have been a gamble under normal circumstances. 

As Yahoo! Finance reports, the fledgling franchise got derailed after Chipotle's infamous E. coli scandal, which bloomed into a nationwide epidemic of biological terror. In 2015, a batch of ingredients infected with E. coli bacteria was distributed to multiple Chipotle locations across the continental United States. Santorini Chicago reports widespread rumors that the outbreak came from a bad lettuce crop, but no conclusive studies have been able to pinpoint an exact source. The FDA investigated two separate outbreaks stemming from different Chipotle franchises.

The future of ShopHouse

In December 2015, during the initial outbreak, five people were reported to have contracted E. coli. By the second outbreak in January 2016, 55 people from 11 total states were infected, with 21 hospitalized. The CDC even issued a report in February 2016 grimly titled, "Multistate Outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 Infections Linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurants (Final Update)." Yikes.

If a roach in the dining room is bad publicity, then a nationwide health scandal is unsavory at best. Following public backlash, Chipotle founder and co-CEO Steve Ells issued a public statement saying, "As a result [of the outbreak], we have decided not to invest further in developing or growing the ShopHouse brand and will pursue strategic alternatives," according to Fox News. Luckily, although it looks like ShopHouse may only be a distant memory in 2022 (R.I.P. ShopHouse), so too is Chipotle's E. coli outbreak. 

The franchise has made an exhaustive 180-flip from its once-shaky credibility. Its comprehensive health safety practices have effectively restored public trust -– and the series of menu price raises has restored their financial stability. April 7th was National Burrito Day, and this year, the company expected to run out of promotional complimentary queso blanco before the day ended. As for offering a build-your-own noodle bowl via assembly-line service, BIBIBOP Asian Grill (est. 2013) has picked up the ShopHouse mantle and run with it.