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Who's Brave Enough to Eat a Year’s Worth of Free Chipotle Burritos?

The chain is trying to lure more people to its new rewards program

Chipotle Burrito

Like a witch baiting Hansel and Gretel with a trail of candy, Chipotle is trying its hardest to lure people to its new rewards program. This time, the chain is enticing diners with the possibility of free burritos for a year.

That program, Chiptopia, launched in July. While somewhat confusing in its structure, the program rewards customers for eating at the burrito chain with merchandise, catering, and yes, more burritos. Now, the chain is taking the incentives a step further, offering members the chance to win a year’s worth of burritos.

According to Nation’s Restaurant News, three people who register for the program before the August 15 deadline "will be eligible to win 52 free burrito cards, with a value of $10 per card, or a total value of $520." An additional 30 runners up will win a "Burritos for 10" card.

Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold says the offer is "an incentive for people who didn’t sign up in July and missed the opportunity for the bonus rewards." He adds that those who signed up in July — when Chiptopia was first launched — will also have a chance to win free burritos for a year.

Of course the chain wants more people to sign up for Chiptopia but, perhaps more urgently, it’s simply looking to get more customers in the door. Though diners can accumulate a lot of free meals through the program, doing so requires eating at Chipotle multiple times a month (multiple times a week, if one wants to acquire catering for 20 people).

By my math, to achieve "Hot" level — the highest honor bestowed upon Chiptopia participants — one would need to purchase 24 burritos over the course of the summer (July-August) and consume 33 (since participants are rewarded in free food, some of the meals wind up being free). In other words, Chiptopia participants can expect to spend at least $144 if they want to accumulate nine free entrees and catering for 20 people.

So far, the program seems to be bringing once-loyal customers back, though it’s unclear just how effective it has been in mending the company’s bottom line, which took a major hit after a series of E. coli scares last year. In the second quarter of 2016, revenue fell 16.6 percent to $998.4 million (by comparison, Chipotle’s revenue was $1.2 billion in the second quarter of last year).

Chiptopia only launched July 1, but already nearly 30 percent of all transactions are currently "participating in Chiptopia," said CEO Steve Ells on an earnings call with analysts last week.

"We’ve seen a very regular engagement in those participating in the program," added Ells. "We have over 100,000 people added to the program every single day. And we’ve seen 28 percent of those enrolled in Chiptopia have come back a second time. So we’re seeing exactly the results we had hoped."

Ells said that it is "very, very likely" that some sort of loyalty program — likely a more permanent one — will take Chiptopia’s place once it ends in August.

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