Chipotle switches up its massively popular loyalty program

The fast casual’s new Rewards Exchange allows customers to redeem points for guacamole, drinks and even branded merchandise, instead of just burritos and bowls.
Chipotle Rewards
Photo courtesy Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle Mexican Grill is tinkering with its wildly popular rewards program, the fast-casual chain announced Tuesday.

Chipotle’s new Rewards Exchange, the biggest update to the program since it launched in 2019, shakes up the redemption portion and allows customers to cash in their points for free guacamole, drinks and Chipotle merchandise. Diners can also redeem their points to support nonprofit organizations that support farmers, communities and more.

Under the earlier Chipotle Rewards program, members could only exchange points for free entrees.

“The new Rewards Exchange aims to increase member engagement and expand access to the program,” Jason Scoggins, director of loyalty and CRM for Chipotle, said in an email to Restaurant Business. “Through consumer insights, we found that Chipotle guests want more control over their Chipotle Rewards experience and to see the variety of rewards upfront. Our members are highly receptive to the flexibility to cash out points for early add-ons.”

Chipotle Rewards members get 10 points for every $1 spent in the restaurant, online or on the app. A free entrée is 1,250 points.

Under the new Rewards Exchange, an order of chips is just 250 points, a side of guacamole is 400 points and a bottled drink is 600 points.

Other options include a kids meal (900 points), a quesadilla (1,350 points), and $20 worth of Chipotle merchandise (5,000). Customers who save up 8,750 points can get $35 in Chipotle merchandise.

Since its inception, Chipotle Rewards has been a powerful marketing tool and traffic driver for the Newport Beach, Calif.-based chain.

In February 2020, just before the pandemic began, Chipotle had 8.5 million rewards members. The chain had just entered into new partnerships that allowed it to use its rewards club data for personalized marketing efforts. And it had just launched Guac Mode, a promotion that gave out free guacamole to rewards members at limited times to incentivize ordering.

During the pandemic, though, Chipotle nearly doubled its rewards members. The chain has said about 80% of its digital business is holding steady even as its dining rooms reopen.

Chipotle hopes the updated loyalty program will drive even more engagement.

“The Rewards Exchange gives us a new tool to encourage engagement with Chipotle Rewards,” Scoggins said. “When this new platform is coupled with our CRM program and the power of the data behind it, we have the ability to target offers and send reminders within the Exchange that are based on what works for the business, and more importantly, what our customer wants.”

To promote the update, Chipotle is launching a video game called "Race to Rewards Exchange" on Wednesday. The game will be available on mobile and desktop devices, only for Chipotle Rewards members.

Players can earn 10 points per second they drive and can collect extra points during the game.

The top scorer will win a 2021 Tesla Model 3. Up to 500,000 game players each day will receive 250 points in their Rewards account, enough for an order of chips.

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