Chipotle's most desirable customers are ditching the brand

Teenagers love Chipotle — but not as much as they once did.

Teens’ adoration for Chipotle is on the decline, with young consumers reporting a decreased popularity (measured by mindshare percentage) and preference for the brand, according to Piper Jaffray’s survey of 6,500 teens.

“While Chipotle remained the second most preferred brand among upper income teens and ties for top five among average income teens… it did cede share sequentially across both gender and geography categories,” analyst Nicole Miller Regan writes in the report.

The largest negative impact was seen among upper-income females and teens in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region.

Teens tend to be the most desirable customers for brands because they can turn into lifelong fans.

Chipotle’s teen struggles are representative of the chain’s issues with customers of all ages. Sales at locations open for at least a year have dropped more than 30% following two E. coli outbreaks at restaurants in more than 14 states.

As Chipotle struggles, other chains are on the rise. Starbucks’ maintained its No. 1 spot as the most preferred brand by both upper and average income teens.

McDonald’s brand preference scores increased, with the chain ranking as the No. 2 preferred brand for average income and No. 5 for upper income teens. Piper Jaffray predicts continued improvement thanks to the chain’s “operation, culinary, and technology initiatives.”

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