Chipotle wanted its loyalty program to boost app downloads. Barclays says it's working

Key Points
  • The nationwide launch of Chipotle Rewards has prompted a soaring number downloads of the restaurant's app, according to a research note from Barclays.
  • Barclays analyst Jeffrey Bernstein wrote that the program could boost same-store sales by low-single digits.
  • "With that said, we remain prudently cautious until we see stabilization in digital metric trends," he wrote in the note.
A employee sprinkles cheese on a burrito at a Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Hollywood, California.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chipotle Mexican Grill rolled out its loyalty program nationwide last month. It's too early to tell if it will succeed at bringing customers back to the restaurant, but mobile app downloads have already soared, according to a Barclays research note.

Restaurants have increasingly turned to loyalty programs as a way to encourage customers to use their apps and order their food digitally. Consulting firm Deloitte found that customers who order online at casual and fast casual restaurants tend to spend 13 percent more.

Chipotle Rewards gives customers 10 points for every dollar that they spend. To get a free entree, Chipotle fans need to rack up 1,250 points.

Chipotle, up 65% this year, is about to run out of steam

Barclays analyst Jeffrey Bernstein said that he believes that incremental visits from active users could turn boost same-store sales by low-single digits.

"With that said, we remain prudently cautious until we see stabilization in digital metric trends," he wrote in the note. "We have already observed a slowdown in trends in the days immediately following the launch, though this is to be expected."

Using SimilarWeb data, Bernstein found that Chipotle has averaged about 14,400 daily app downloads and 25,700 daily active users. Compared to averages over the last 12 months, that's an increase of 480 percent for daily app downloads and of 273 percent for daily active users. SimilarWeb data only represents Android users, but Barclays expects the trends for Apple users to be similar.

The company promoted the launch by teaming up with Venmo, the digital wallet company, to give away money. Barclays found that the website created for the Venmo partnership hit about 80,000 visits on its first day. Chipotle's website averaged about 105,000 visits per day over the last 12 months.

Less than a week after the launch, the company surpassed its one millionth member, who won a year's worth of Chipotle.

The company's stock recently surpassed $700 per share for the first time since 2015, when it hit an all-time high before plunging after an E. coli outbreak traced back to its restaurants. The share price is a sign of investors' trust in CEO Brian Niccol, who has been pushing digital investments since he took over last year.

Chipotle spokeswoman Laurie Schalow declined to comment, saying that the company would not share any results from its loyalty program until April 24, when it announces its fiscal first-quarter earnings.

WATCH: Chipotle teams with Venmo to encourage loyalty plan sign-ups

Chipotle teams up with Venmo to encourage loyalty program sign-ups