Earlier this year, Chipotle launched its very first rewards program, Chiptopia, in the hopes of winning back the loyalty of its customers. At this point, the company had already doled out millions of dollars worth of free burritos, and had seen a sharp decline in sales following a series of heavily publicized E. coli outbreaks.
Though in the past the benefits of these give-a-ways have been dubious at best ("Promotional offers of free food do not directly impact revenue," company admitted in August), it appears people are eating lots of Chipotle again, and the burrito behemoth is still dead-set on handing out free Tex-Mex.
According to CNBC, 85,000 customers are expected to receive free catering from Chipotle through its rewards program, totally a $20.4 million bill for the company.
Launched in July, and concluding this Friday, the Chiptopia rewards program was based on how often customers visited the restaurant chain each month. Based on how often they were willing to roll the dice and bite into a Chipotle burrito, customers designated to one of three: Mild, Medium, and Hot. Those who reached the “Hot” status purchased a Chipotle entree at least 11 times a month for the entirety of the program.
The prize for these fearless Chipotle fanatatics is free catering for 20 people—a value of roughly $240—and now it’s time for the company to pay up.
While $20.4 million sounds like a hell of a lot of money (especially when you add it to the $70 million the company has already dropped on free food), apparently the plan is starting to have some positive effects. Chipotle CEO Steve Ells told CNBC that in July sales had improved by 200 to 300 basis points because of Chiptopia and its some 3.6 million loyalists.
Between free catering and the company’s newest protein option, chorizo, going nationwide on Tuesday, maybe things are finally starting to look up for Chipotle diehards.