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Attention, guac fans: Chipotle Mexican Grill is introducing a loyalty program.
Chipotle Rewards goes live in three cities on Monday – Phoenix; Kansas City, Kansas; and Columbus – and will roll out nationally next year.
Enrollees in the program who order online or via the app earn 15 points for every $1 they spend, while those who order in person receive 10 points, according to the company. A free entrée requires 1,250 points. Customers in the three pilot markets will also get free chips and guac after their first Chipotle Rewards order.
Plenty of other fast-food restaurant have long had loyalty programs in place, but Chipotle wanted to be sure it could handle what it anticipates being a boost in business.
"We don't want digital orders coming in such a way that people have to stand in line to get them," said chief technology officer Curt Garner, citing a dedicated line of employees at restaurants to make the food and the supply chain to back it up.
A loyalty program is one of the things many customers ask for, according to chief marketing officer Chris Brandt. Future perks may include sneak previews of new menu items and the chance to earn points by watching videos about the company and its clean-eating philosophy.
The chain has been working on Chipotle Rewards for 10 months, but this isn't Chipotle's first stab at a loyalty program. In the summer of 2016, the chain had a three-month-long non-digital one called Chiptopia, which used punch cards, according to Garner.
This one is an attempt to draw up business from two distinct consumer groups, said Burt Flickinger III, managing director of the Strategic Resource Group, a New York-based retail and consumer goods consulting firm.
"It's trying to get existing customers to spend more," he said. "It's to get the people who lost faith in the company with really aggressive promotional pulses."
The loyalty program launch comes six weeks after Chipotle's announcement that it would retrain all its employees across the U.S. in food safety. In August, close to 650 people got sick from eating at the Powell, Ohio, location, but the chain has dealt with food safety concerns before, including two E. coli outbreaks in a total of 14 states and norovirus outbreaks in 2015 and a small norovirus in 2017.
Chipotle has more than 2,450 restaurants in the U.S., Canada and Europe.