Bridge is expanding its borrower network through a new partnership with Chipotle Mexican Grill, the small-business loan marketplace announced Thursday.
Through the partnership, the fintech will provide funding options to the small- and medium-sized businesses in the restaurant chain's supplier network.
The partnership aims to help Chipotle’s suppliers, which includes farmers, dairy, beef and pork suppliers, scale and grow their businesses by linking them to the more than 75 lenders that use Bridge’s platform.
“Chipotle is constantly looking at how they can improve their supply chain and get the best suppliers,” Bridge CEO Rohit Mathur said. “And so, if you’re a new supplier in the ecosystem at Chipotle, you’re looking at scaling up. How do you get that working capital to do that?”
Chipotle is the first food chain to partner with Bridge, which has existing corporate partnerships with retailers like Walmart, Best Buy and Dollar General.
“Our goal is focused on SMBs,” Mathur said. “We believe in finding those SMBs at their place of need and at their point of need, which is through their corporate partners.”
The partnership comes as Chipotle looks to grow from more than 3,300 to 7,000 restaurants in North America.
"The Bridge platform provides our suppliers with crucial access to the capital they need to expand their operations,” Jack Hartung, chief financial and administrative officer at Chipotle, said in a statement. “To achieve our long-term target of 7,000 restaurants in North America, we’ll need our partners to be able to scale and continue growing, harvesting and supplying the high-quality real ingredients that Chipotle serves.”
Mathur said Bridge’s partnership with the Newport Beach, California-based food chain came about through a mutual connection: Citi.
It was Chipotle’s banker at Citi who introduced Bridge, a Citi spinout, to the restaurant chain.
“We started talking to the supplier finance team as well as the managers of the suppliers,” Mathur said. "They had learned on their own that their suppliers needed access to capital.”
The next step, Mathur said, was to reach out to Bridge’s lender network of more than 75 banks.
“We had a call between all of the lending partners and Chipotle for them to hear directly from Chipotle and learn what their supplier ecosystem is, how they send purchase orders and how they ship,” he said. “The goal is to help our members understand the kind of deals that would come to them.”
As part of the partnership, Mathur said Bridge also plans to host webinars for Chipotle’s supplier network.
“While a huge piece of this is just providing access to capital, it’s also about providing educational opportunities and resources to suppliers to learn about the options available to them,” he said.
Bridge, which was spun out from Citi and sold to Charlotte, North Carolina-based Foro in September, was launched by Mathur, a 10-year Citi veteran, and Harte Thompson in 2021.
Following the Foro transaction, Citi became a minority shareholder in Bridge, and Foro, the fintech’s holding company.