The road to Chipotle Mexican Grill’s comeback is sprinkled with bacon.
At least for now it is. The company is planning to expand a test of Applewood Smoked Bacon to eight locations in Orange County, Calif., next month following a successful introduction of bacon at its NEXT kitchen in New York.
The Orange County test would precede a full-market rollout of the item.
“Consumers have always said ‘everything tastes better with bacon’ and that is exactly what we confirmed in our New York test kitchen,” CMO Chris Brandt said in a statement. He said that consumers added to bowls, burritos, tacos and nachos. But they also had bacon on new items, like a BLT quesadilla with bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheese. The quesadillas are only available at the New York test kitchen.
The bacon is the latest in an aggressive move toward more menu news at the soon-to-be-California-based Chipotle, which hired former Taco Bell chief executive Brian Niccol earlier this year to be its CEO and added another Taco Bell alum in Brandt.
Taco Bell has long used aggressive menu innovation as part of its marketing strategy.
In addition to the bacon, Chipotle is expanding tests of nachos and $2 tacos to additional markets.
In October, Chipotle plans to expand a test of build-your-own nachos to two markets, Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Chipotle nachos have been a “top customer request,” the company said, and include corn tortilla chips topped with “all new genuine queso” and a choice of meat, beans, salsas and lettuce.
From now until September 30, meanwhile, customers in Miami and Dallas can get $2 tacos with the purchase of any drink after 8 p.m. And those locations will stay hopen until 11 p.m.
An additional test in Philadelphia and Indianapolis, meanwhile, enable customers to add regular sized chips and a fountain drink to their entrée order for $3.
“A cornerstone of our new strategy is to make Chipotle more culturally relevant, and to meet our customers where they are with flavorful food they can feel good about eating,” Brandt said.
The promotions are being tested using Chipotle’s new “stage-gate” process, which allows the company to test, learn, listen to customer feedback and repeat extensively before moving ahead with a national launch.