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For Its Next Trick, Chipotle Lets Kids Eat for Free

It’s the latest move in a long, long come-back plan


Want to build a long-lasting, devoted customer base — even after your millennial customers get older, richer, and wiser? Target their kids. Chipotle may not have Happy Meals, but that's not stopping it from wooing children in its latest bid to win back skeptical consumers after its recent public health crisis. Per a release from this morning, kids can eat free at Chipotle every Sunday, provided they order with an adult who purchases one regular-priced entrée.

Chipotle has also partnered with children's book Dragons Love Tacos on limited edition activity sheets to accompany each kid's meal, but let’s be honest: parents are probably more excited by the free tacos.


This move is Chipotle’s latest effort to win customers back after a rash of E. coli outbreaks in 2015; its sales numbers (and stock price) has plummeted since the beginning of 2016. This year, the chain has been hit by a slew of lawsuits — some concerning the aforementioned E. coli, others alleging wage fraud and discrimination.

The fast-casual giant has been working hard to get back on its feet. In July, it launched a loyalty program called Chiptopia, and, while the program was initially successful in driving traffic, executives have noted that participation has tapered off in the weeks since.

In an effort to get more customers to participate in Chiptopia (and, in effect, get more people to dine at its restaurants in general), the chain has promised free catering, merchandise, and a year’s worth of free burritos to participants. Yesterday, Chipotle announced that those with a high school or college ID would enjoy free fountain soft drinks or iced tea with any in-store entrée purchase — likely a move meant to entice more customers to join the Chiptopia program. Transactions that include the free kid's meal will also count toward Chiptopia’s complex rewards program.

Though it’s aimed at kids, this latest marketing tactic is likely meant for the chain’s most well-known customer block: millennials. The company has long worked to target the biggest generation in American history, many of whom now have children.

According to research conducted by Millennial Marketing, among the older half of millennials — those between ages 25 and 34 — there were 10.8 million households with children in 2013. And, because millennials now account for 80 percent of the U.S.’s four million annual births, that number stands to grow exponentially over the next decade.

Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold says the chain doesn’t share data regarding what percentage of its customers are children, but he does note that the company’s demographic “has been widening for some time,” He notes that the chain has “always skewed young, but that [its consumer base has] been broadening as long-time customers get older and others have children that they bring to our restaurants.”

Many parents, he adds, consider Chipotle a solid choice for children “because they can pick and choose exactly what their kids want.” According to the company’s nutrition information, a kid’s build-your-own taco plate with chicken, cheese, and chips clocks in at about 705 calories. The average, somewhat active, 9-to-13 year-old child needs anywhere from 1,600 to 2,200 calories per day, making lunch at Chipotle a decent choice among chain restaurant meals.

Chipotle Brings Families Together with Free Kid’s Meals on Sundays [Chipotle]

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