Chipotle is doubling down on free food offers to lure customers back to its restaurants.
The company is sending out 21 million direct-mail coupons for free food in the coming weeks, Chipotle executives said Wednesday at a conference in New York. The coupons will expire on May 15.
The chain said it had success with its last free burrito promotion. About 5.3 million people downloaded the mobile coupon in February, but only 2.5 million actually redeemed the offer.
“We fully expected that [offer] to go viral,” Chipotle Chief Creative Officer Mark Crumpacker said. “That was our first test to see how much people really wanted to come back to Chipotle.”
In addition to the direct-mail coupons, Chipotle will also likely send out more mobile promotions for free burritos.
“If we don’t see the number of customers that we would like to see returning to restaurants, we may do more like the [February mobile offer] in regional places around the country,” Crumpacker said.
Traffic has been lagging particularly on the East and West coasts, so those regions will likely be targeted for mobile coupons.
In the summer, the chain may shift to buy-on, get-one offers, executives said.
Chipotle is offering free food to combat falling traffic and sales, following two E. coli outbreaks linked to its restaurants that sickened more than 50 people in 14 states.
“Free burritos — turns out it works. It brings people into the restaurants,” Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung said.
Chipotle’s same-store sales, or sales at restaurants open at least a year, fell 26.1% in February, following a 36.4% drop in January, the company said Tuesday.
In the first half of March, same-store sales were down about 22%. After it was reported that a store in Boston closed due to sick employees, the declines dropped to 27%.
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