Perhaps the most talked about concept, though, is one on a deliberately slow growth path. Pizzeria Locale opened in Denver last May, a joint venture between two award-winning fine dining restaurateurs and Chipotle. Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson and Bobby Stuckey moved from The French Laundry in Napa, Calif., to Boulder, Colo., a decade ago so they could open Frasca Food and Wine. In 2011, they opened the first Pizzeria Locale next door, a full service restaurant. Chipotle co-founder Steve Ells was a fan, according to the owners, and told them, "Guys, I think this is something we could work on together."
Two years later, the new Pizzeria Locale in Denver opened, looking and feeling very much like a Chipotle: There's an assembly line making customers' pizza. They pick the ingredients, and watch the food being prepared and going into the oven. It's all done in a few minutes.
(Read more: Cramer says this pizza maker is a stealth technology play)
"We're going full circle on pizza," said Stuckey. Back over 100 years ago, he said, "Pizza was a healthy way to eat, something that was inexpensive but with great ingredients, in Naples, Italy. Then post-World War II, we created the disaster of pizza. … We're trying to turn that Titanic back around."
The two men have no plans to franchise, though they are looking to expand to two more locations in Denver. Their partners at Chipotle apparently don't mind.
(Read more: Mamma mia! Chipotle to expand into pizza)
"The nice thing about the relationship is we get to run the restaurant like we want to run it," said MacKinnon-Patterson. "This is our pizzeria. "Both men say Chipotle has brought in better supply chain sourcing, as well as knowledge about real estate and financing.
"I actually have learned so much great hospitality and service and team-building techniques from Chipotle," said Stuckey, who, like his partner, has won a James Beard award, a high honor in the restaurant industry.