Chipotle giving away free burritos again.
The company is sending out 21 million direct-mail coupons for free food in the next couple of weeks, Chipotle executives said Wednesday at a conference in New York. The coupons are expected to expire on May 15th.
The chain said it had great success with the last free burrito promotion. About 5.3 million people downloaded the mobile coupon in February, but only 2.5 million people actually bought a burrito.
“We fully expected that [offer] to go viral,” Chipotle Chief Creative Officer Mark Crumpacker said. “That was our first test to see how much people really wanted to come back to Chipotle.”
In addition to direct-mail coupons, Chipotle will also send out more mobile promotions for free burritos.
“If we don’t see the number of customers that we would like to see returning to restaurants, we may do more like the [February mobile offer] in regional places around the country,” Crumpacker said.
Fewer people have purchased burritos in the East and West coasts, so those regions will be targeted the most for mobile coupons. IN addition, in the summer the chain may shift to buy-one, get one offers.
Chipotle is offering free food to combat falling traffic, sales and earnings, following two E. coli outbreaks linked to its restaurants and affecting more than 50 people in 14 states.
“Free burritos — turns out it works. It brings people into the restaurants,” Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung said.
Chipotle sales fell 26.1% in February following a 36.4% drop in January, the company said.
In the first half of March, same-store sales were down about 22%. After it was reported that a store in Boston closed due to sick employees, the declines dropped to 27%.