“We continue to work hard to try and discover a dessert proposal” or other “extra” items like queso or guacamole, CEO Brian Niccol said during an analyst call Wednesday to discuss the chain’s first-quarter results.
New menu items are an important tool for restaurant chains, which they use to attract customers to stores and help create buzz around their brands. Chipotle typically releases two to three new menu items each year.
“We are constantly exploring new innovations in the menu, and desserts are an area where we see opportunity,” said Chris Brandt, the company’s chief marketing officer, in an emailed statement.
“Two items in this category have been tested over the past few years, however, we are not ready to push anything through the official stage portal process yet,” he added, referring to Chipotle’s official testing process.
Get new menu items right
Toppings in particular are a great way to increase the average size of your check, as customers who have lunch or dinner may decide to add a side like queso or guacamole.
Lately, the series has had better luck with the new items.
The company’s rewards program, which has nearly 28 million members, can help the chain see how menu items resonate with customers, Chipotle CTO Curt Garner told CNN Business.
“We have an ongoing challenge right now with our rewards program where we give people extra reward points for…trying all of our proteins,” he said. “Then we lean in and understand – did their behavior change after they tried the different proteins?” This insight helps inform the company of its thinking regarding the type of menu items that can work well with customers, he said.
In addition, the application helps in raising awareness of new items as well as existing ones that may attract specific customers.
Higher prices, better employment
Even without candy or other new additions, Chipotle’s sales are on the rise. In the three months ending March 31, sales at restaurants open for at least 13 months jumped 9% and total revenue grew 16% to $2 billion. Chipotle stock jumped about 5% before the market opened on Wednesday.
The tactics have paid off. “Employment levels at Chipotle are better today than they were in 2019,” said Nicholl. The company is also testing the automation of its kitchens to help speed up service and allow workers to spend more time on higher-priority tasks.
CNN Business’s Jordan Valinsky contributed to this report.