Chipotle's latest attempt to get customers to bite

Chipotle adding chorizo to menu lineup
Chipotle adding chorizo to menu lineup

Chipotle Mexican Grill is doing something it's only done once before in an attempt to win back diners. It's adding a new menu item: chorizo.

While other fast-casual restaurants thrive on wacky limited-time offers, Chipotle has made few changes to its menu in its 23-year history.

The company revealed on Wednesday that it would be adding chorizo — a spicy chicken and pork sausage — at select restaurants in Ohio, New York, California, Colorado and Washington, D.C., before rolling out the product nationwide this fall.

Chipotle had previously tested the new product in several markets last year and it was positively received by customers. Steve Ells, the company's founder and co-CEO, called the new menu item "very popular" and a "favorite protein" of customers.

"Since we opened the first Chipotle 23 years ago, our menu has changed very little, and our focus has been on constantly improving the quality and taste of the food we serve," Ells said in a statement. "While we have never been opposed to changing our menu, we only do so when we think there's an opportunity to add something that is really unique but that fits within our overall menu."

Sluggish sales and foot traffic likely prompted the burrito chain to amp up its offerings. Customers have been reluctant to return to Chipotle after a string of high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks last year.

The company's first-quarter same-store sales plunged nearly 30 percent. Chipotle reported it had a loss for that quarter, the first in its history.

Chipotle's new menu item isn't the only way the chain is trying to entice customers; it revealed on Tuesday that it is launching a summer loyalty program called "Chiptopia."

The promotion, which has three tiers: mild, medium and hot, will reward customers who frequent the restaurant between July and September. Burrito-lovers who maintain "hot" status — purchasing 11 or more entrees each month — for all three months could earn up to nine free meals and receive catering for 20 people, a value of around $240.