While many take the brand for granted now, when Chipotle first came to Cincinnati when I was a high school student, it was a very big deal. You could get lunch in fast-food time, but the ingredients were of noticeably higher quality than what you’d expect from the traditional fast food offerings. People were excited to take their friends there for the first time, and for a time, it was a young peoples’ hangout.
Subsequent years saw Chipotle’s brand favorability decline. Other fast casual restaurants appeared, some competing in the “Mexican grill” category, others offering ingredients of similar quality at a similar speed. Chipotle was no longer the only chain of its kind.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get better. In the mid-2010s, the brand became the subject of negative press following several bacterial outbreaks, most notably E. coli. The wow-factor that had been established was gone.
Still, Chipotle made some favorable decisions during this time. It was among the first chains to introduce online ordering, enabling customers to skip the line. That was an innovation in CX in the first decade of the 2000s.
As rewards programs became more prevalent within the QSR industry, Chipotle stayed the course without a loyalty program. Competitors rewarded customers via apps and punch-cards, but Chipotle’s only real promotions were coupons, and those only appeared amid the E. coli scare.
That has finally changed.
Chipotle Mexican Grill has launched its loyalty program, Chipotle Rewards. To promote the program, Chipotle is using Venmo payouts to give away up to a quarter-million dollars to approximately 25,000 Chipotle consumers per day until March 15, 2019.
This is the latest advancement in Chipotle’s efforts to make the brand more accessible and to strengthen the relationship with its community. The rewards structure is straight-forward. Those who enroll will earn 10 points for every dollar spent in the restaurant, online, or in the app, with 1,250 points resulting in a free entrée. There will also be various bonuses for additional points.
Chipotle Rewards offers free chips and guac after the first purchase as a member. This promotion should prove valuable, as the space is competitive and an immediately attainable reward will help get consumers immersed in the Chipotle Rewards ecosystem.
“Similar to how we build restaurants where people live and work, we want to have a presence in all of the places our customers spend time digitally,” says Curt Garner, the brand’s Chief Technology Officer. “Chipotle Rewards is another access point for consumers, a way for guests to engage with our promise of real ingredients prepared fresh daily, and a way for us to say thank you for joining our mission of cultivating a better world.”
Chipotle is one of the most mentioned brands on Venmo, and in an additional promotion for the loyalty program, consumers can submit the phone number associated with their Venmo account at chipotlerewardme.com for a chance to win up to $500. Venmo has also released a Chipotle pepper emoji, the first branded emoji to appear on the app.
“Chipotle is one of the first brands to utilize Venmo’s technology to engage with customers through this pay-out feature on the Venmo app,” says Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer at Chipotle. “Our customers have been asking for a loyalty program for a long time and we’re excited to partner with Venmo to reach their highly engaged network of digital-first customers to launch Chipotle Rewards, where the more you Chipotle, the more you can get free Chipotle!”
“Chipotle is a beloved brand with a loyal customer following who already split and share their Chipotle orders in the Venmo feed,” says Greg Fisher, Vice President of Global Brand and Integrated Marketing at PayPal. “It made perfect sense to connect our brands to reward customers with free money to celebrate the launch of Chipotle Rewards, and we look forward to partnering with Chipotle on future projects.”
The program has received significant press coverage. Either way, to me, this is exciting—great food, a great atmosphere, and a loyalty program to enhance the overall customer experience.

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