"We don't want to rely on a continuing basis on discounting. Obviously, that cheapens the brand, and creates a sense of entitlement ultimately such that people just begin to expect it," Ells told analysts on a conference call last week.
From Feb. 8 to May 15, Chipotle reached out to consumers with deals on food via direct mail, mobile and social media. Chipotle kicked things off on Feb. 8 by offering a "rain check" free food promotion on mobile devices for people who showed up while its stores were closed for several hours during a company-wide employee meeting. It also sent out about 21 million direct-mail pieces containing free-food offers during the period.
Then, Chipotle launched Chiptopia Summer Rewards, a limited-time loyalty rewards program that gave customers free food for making multiple visits in a month. The three-month promotion started July 1 and ran through Sept. 30. Chipotle said it had roughly 6 million participants in the reward program, with more than 2.5 million people earning rewards.
And last but not least, in October Chipotle debuted an online game called "Love Story" that gave anyone who plays a buy-one-get-one-free entree offer. More than 3 million buy-one-get-one rewards were earned by people playing the game, says Chipotle.
Despite the free food giveaways, new loyalty program and stepped-up marketing, Chipotle still hasn't managed to recover.