Chipotle is giving out free burritos and $100,000 in bitcoin as a part of a “Burritos or Bitcoin” game on Thursday.
The event will launch Thursday morning and run for 12 hours as a part of National Burrito Day, which takes place every year on the first Thursday in April. While the event will take place on April 1, Chipotle told Insider that the event is not part of an April Fools’ prank.
The chain will be the first US restaurant to give away bitcoin, according to Chipotle’s press release.
No purchase is required to be eligible for the contest which will be hosted on BurritosOrBitcoin.com. In order to qualify for a prize, the player must correctly guess a six-digit code.
The game will give out burritos to 10,000 winners and as many as 53 people could win a bitcoin prize. The bitcoin prizes are distributed across two values: 50 fans can win $500 in bitcoin, and three can win $25,000 worth of the digital currency.
Based on Chipotle’s calculations, higher-value items, including the $25,000 bitcoin prize, have increasingly lower odds of winning.
10% of all restaurants have closed since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, including hundreds of locations of major chains, according to food industry research firm Dataessential’s new report.
No sector of the industry was safe. Closures affected fast food, fast casual, casual, and fine dining. Subway closed more stores than any other large chain examined by Dataessential, closing out the period with 1,557 fewer stores, a 6.6% loss. Dunkin’ lost a net 559 stores, the report said.
Even fast food staples were hit by the pandemic. Burger King closed 319 locations, while McDonald’s closed 173. However, that only amounts to a 1.2% loss for McDonald’s, which still has well over 13,000 locations. Baskin Robbin’s, Hardees, and Steak N Shake each closed restaurants, while Little Caesar’s bucked the positive trend for pizza chains this year, closing 120 locations.
Some restaurants did manage to open new locations. Domino’s came out on top, opening 358 new stores. This isn’t necessarily surprising: pizza and wings were hailed as early winners in the pandemic as Americans increasingly ordered from brands that were already set up to accommodate delivery, like Papa John’s and Wingstop.
The rest of the pizza industry saw huge losses, up to $30 billion in March and $50 billion in April. The trend doesn’t apply to all pizza chains, though, as Little Caesar’s shows.
Starbucks, Taco Bell, and Chipotle all also all ended the year with over 200 additional stores apiece. Each of these chains has invested in drive-thrus throughout the pandemic.
Starbucks is making efforts to improve drive-thru efficiency with digital drive-thru screens for ordering and handheld devices for baristas to input orders on. Taco Bell cut more than a dozen items in 2020 to make drive-thru lines move more quickly, and sales grew as a result. Chipotle is opening hundreds of Chipotlane drive-thru lanes, with plans to more than double locations.
Most restaurants that added locations have embraced drive-thrus and mobile ordering, while chains that didn’t suffered, though this doesn’t explain every chain.
It is unclear if Chipotle will use Nuro for its own deliveries. Chipotle didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment and Nuro didn’t disclose the terms of the investment when asked for details.
“Early investments in digital innovation have provided a competitive advantage operationally with digital kitchens and the brand’s Chipotlanes,” the company said in a statement. “Now the organization is exploring disruptive opportunities outside of traditional third-party partnerships.”
The deal marks the first “significant” investment that the food chain restaurant made in a third-party technology company since Brian Niccol became CEO in 2018, the company added.
“Nuro could change the traditional delivery model and we believe consumers are going to continue to seek options and additional access points for how and where they enjoy their food,” said Curt Garner, Chief Technology Officer at Chipotle.
“With financial and strategic support from world-class companies like Chipotle, we can continue to advance our industry-leading autonomous technology, grow our team and expand our delivery service,” said Dave Ferguson, Nuro Co-founder and President in the statement on Thursday.
Chipotle highlighted the importance of delivery to digital sales. The restaurant said on Thursday that its digital business increased 174% year over year in 2020, almost half of which came from delivery.
Chipotle has been looking for ways to expand its footprint in digital innovation. Earlier this month, Chipotle added a new customizable quesadilla to its menu that customers can order online only.
But, Chipotle isn’t the only chain serving quesadillas. As Credit Suisse analyst Lauren Silberman wrote in her weekly analysis on Friday, Taco Bell has served quesadillas for years and, last week, launched the return of the Quesalupa.
“Just hours after Chipotle announced it would launch quesadillas (on 3/9), Taco Bell sent email and app notifications reminding customers of its Chicken Quesadilla, and on 3/10, announced the nationwide return of the Quesalupa (Quesadilla + Chalupa) beginning on 3/11, with a marketing campaign titled, ‘Overhyped,'” Silberman wrote.
Silberman added: “Is this the start of the quesadilla wars?”
Why you should care about the ‘quesadilla wars’
The potential cheese-filled battle between Chipotle and Taco Bell is particularly interesting for a few reasons.
First, the quesadilla has long been Taco Bell’s turf, in large part because Chipotle did not think it was feasible to actually add the item to menus. Warming the quesadilla takes extra time, which disrupts Chipotle’s traditional assembly-line process.
Chipotle has been able to cut that time down to 30 seconds, from three minutes. By only allowing customers to order the menu item online or via app, all quesadilla orders are prepared on the “second-make line,” or an additional area dedicated to assembling off-premise orders.
“Pair [the digital lines] up with a great app experience, a great web experience, and then” you start to see an impact to the digital business, which includes mobile and delivery orders, Niccol recently told Insider’s Nancy Luna.
Second, analysts are extremely optimistic about how much the quesadilla can boost sales at Chipotle. Cowen analyst Andrew Charles told Insider last week that he expects the new menu item to boost sales 3% to 4%. Silberman estimates quesadillas can contribute 5% to 10% to same-store sales at the chain.
Finally, the quesadilla rollout reveals how Chipotle is thinking about new menu items.
Niccol helped create a new “stage-gate” program for testing new menu items at Chipotle. At the same time, the chain is open to new menu items and options that are only available on the app for a limited window, drawing from fast-food rivals strategy of limited-time offerings. Taco Bell is known for its limited-time offerings, a strategy that was developed partially by Niccol when he was CEO of the chain from 2015 to 2018.
“I’m really proud of how we’ve been disciplined in what we’ve done with the menu,” Niccol told Insider.
Chipotle Mexican Grill is adding a new customizable quesadilla to its menus Thursday in the US and Canada.
But customers can only order the quesadillas through the Chipotle app or Chipotle.com, a company spokesperson confirmed to Insider on Wednesday.
The quesadilla is the first customizable entrée added to the menu since the chain introduced a salad option 17 years ago, Chipotle said Tuesday in a press release.
Chipotle fans have been begging the chain for years to add quesadillas to its menu. Chipotle’s CEO Brian Niccol said in 2019 that quesadillas are customers’ top request.
“The hand-crafted quesadilla brings so many new possibilities to our menu, and fans will love exploring fresh flavor combinations through its sides and salsa options,” Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement.
Equity research firm Cowen expects the new quesadillas to boost Chipotle’s sales by 3% to 4%, analyst Andrew Charles told Insider.
The new quesadilla features Monterey Jack cheese, chicken, steak, carnitas, fajita veggies, and other ingredients.
Chipotle first tested the quesadilla in 2020 as a digital-only menu item in Cleveland, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana, the company said.
The firm believes that nachos will be Chipotle’s next digital menu innovation, according to a note it shared with Insider.
The brands will sell four limited edition makeup products, along with an “eyes chips face” bowl at Chipotle. The collection includes a $16 Chipotle eye shadow palette with 12 colors “inspired by classic Chipotle ingredients, including white rice, brown rice, pinto beans, black beans, sofritas, fajitas, mild salsa, green salsa, hot salsa, corn salsa, guac, and lettuce.”
The $8 Make It Hot Lip Gloss, $10 Extra Guac Face Sponge Set, and $ Eyes Chips Face Makeup Bag will also be available.
The line is designed to remind buyers of Chipotle, with an avocado-shaped makeup sponge and a makeup bag that looks like Chipotle’s bag of tortilla chips.
The collection won’t be available in stores. Instead, fans will be able to purchase it on elfcosmetics.com and chipotlegoods.com, along with on the virtual shopping platform NTWRK.
Chipotle and Elf have collaborated before. In the spring of 2020, they sold a 10-piece kit with eye shadows and lipsticks, along with a burrito-like makeup bag, but only 100 were created.
“Following our first launch with e.l.f., which sold out in less than four minutes last spring, we’ve taken our collab to the next level with beauty products celebrating our real ingredients in totally unexpected ways,” VP of digital marketing at Chipotle, Tressie Lieberman, said in a press release. “We’re always looking for opportunities to lead culture and make authentic connections with Gen-Z alongside brands that share similar values.”
Chipotle will also sell the “Eyes. Chips. Face.” bowl at locations through March 17. It comes with white rice, pinto beans, chili-corn salsa, tomatillo-red salsa, guac, lettuce, and a side of chips. The bowl is the first time Chipotle has sold a menu item as a collaboration with another brand.
Chipotle has fared well throughout the pandemic. With promising results from the fourth quarter of 2020 and plans to build more drive-thru “Chipotlanes,” the fast casual brand seems poised for success and continued expansion. CEO Brian Niccol said in an earnings call that Chipotle plans to more than double its locations in the near future.
Interest in Super Bowl related content is down 10% from last year, according to Amobee analysts.
“Recent interest in Super Bowl party-related content has barely risen above where it was throughout 2020, confirming that the much-loved American tradition of Super Bowl parties will be forfeited to maintain social distancing,” Amobee brand analyst Avalon Harder told Insider.
Despite the changes, some Super Bowl ads have already begun to pick up steam online. TV ad measurement company, iSpot tracked engagement around the digital content put out by brands ahead of the Super Bowl and compiled a list of the top 10 brands getting the most buzz on social media.
Many of the commercials that have been trending on the internet focus on nostalgia, whether for old songs, NFL players, or 90’s movies. Other brands captured people’s attention with their focus on social responsibility, as companies like General Motors and Chipotle look to increase sustainability.
Here are some of the brands that have been creating the most buzz, according to iSpot’s data.
The Cheetos commercial packs a punch.
The snack company released three Super Bowl teasers for their Crunch Pop Mix ahead of the big game. The saga follows actor Ashton Kutcher as he investigates the case of the missing Cheetos.
Kutcher searches the house for clues regarding the missing snack, while a revamped version of Shaggy ‘s hit song from the early 2000’s, “It Wasn’t Me” plays in the background.
The video ends with Kutcher’s wife, Mila Kunis, telling her husband Shaggy’s catchphrase – “It wasn’t me,” when he confronts her about the snack.
9. Jimmy John’s
Jimmy John’s ad takes on a mob theme.
The commercial features actor Brad Garrett as Tony Bologavich, a type of sandwhich mob boss, who calls himself the “King of Cold Cuts.”
The mob boss takes on the sandwhich giant with stale bread and cold cuts made out of a science laboratory.
The Doritos ad is star studded.
The commercial features, Hollywood heavy-hitters including Matthew McConaughey, Mindy Kaling, and Jimmy Kimmel.
The advertisement shows Matthew McConaughey as a two-dimensional character, struggling to lead his life until he eats the company’s 3D Crunch Chili Cheese Nachos.
Doritos has long been known for their Super Bowl commercials. The snack company, owned by Frito Lay, has been a part of game day for nearly 15 years.
7. General Motors
GM’s new commercial focuses on their move toward electric vehicles.
The ad features Will Ferrell, Kenan Thompson, and Awkwafina. It follows Ferrell’s antics as he decides to go after Norway for beating the US in electric vehicle sales.
The snack company’s nearly two minute commercial is jam-packed with NFL legends.
The ad “Twas the Night Before Super Bowl,” has football player, Marshawn Lynch narrating the night before the Big Game.
The video shows numerous Super Bowl legends preparing to watch, including Eli and Peyton Manning, as well as Joe Montana, and Deion Sanders.
4. Uber Eats
Uber Eats focuses on nostalgia and is one of the only commercials on the list to touch on the impact of 2020.
The Uber Eats ad stars Wayne and Garth from the 90’s hit “Wayne’s World.” The two characters reflect on the difficulties of 2020.
The video is the first in a series for Uber Eats featuring the two characters.
“High interest in the appearance of Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World in Uber Eats’ upcoming ad further indicates that audiences are especially in need of the familiar and nostalgic during a period of uncertainty in America,” Harder told Insider.
Cheetos’ top commercial focuses on Mila Kunis.
The ad sets up the longer commercial. Kunis gets advice from Shaggy, who tells her to “Just stick to the line I gave you.”
Chipotle Mexican Grill shares fell in early trading on Wednesday, pressured by fourth-quarter adjusted earnings that missed expectations, although digital sales jumped as customers ordered with COVID-19 protocols in mind.
Shares lost as much as 2.4% ahead of the opening bell, but pared some of those losses when shares began trading. So far this year, they have gained nearly 10% and have soared over the past 12 months by 78%.
The fast-food chain late Tuesday said adjusted earnings were $3.48 per share, falling short of the consensus estimate of $3.73 per share.
Total revenue rose to $1.61 billion, higher than $1.44 billion a year ago and in line with the $1.61 billion expected by analysts. Comparable restaurant sales increased by 5.7%, with the company noting there was “healthy demand” for its Carne Asada offering.
Digital sales, meanwhile, charged higher by 177% and accounted for 49% of sales.
“Expanding access and convenience through our digital ecosystem has kept the Chipotle brand relevant,” said Brian Niccol, chief executive of Chipotle, in the earnings report, adding that the company is “well prepared to emerge even stronger post-COVID.”
Chipotle said it has been following federal COVID-19 guidelines in having employees wear face masks and having tamper-evident packaging seals for all digital orders.
No guidance for growth in fiscal 2021 comparable restaurant sales was given by Chipotle because of the “on-going uncertainty surrounding the future impact of COVID-19 on the broader US economy and any specific impact to our company,” it said.
Chiptole stock traded at 1,488.00 as of 9:47AM E.T. on Wednesday.
This year, Chipotle will launch its first-ever Super Bowl commercial during the second quarter of the game.
The 60-second ad is titled “Can a Burrito Change the World?”
The commercial follows a young boy who asks the titular question, while showing the audience the potential impact that Chipotle standards could have on reducing carbon emissions, preserving water resources, and supporting local farmers.
“Our Super Bowl ad debut is a milestone moment for our brand,” said Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer in a press release. “We want to use this massive platform to help shift attention toward creating positive change for the challenges our food system faces and educate consumers on how they can make difference.”
Buying a commercial spot in the Super Bowl isn’t cheap. Advertisers will be spending a minimum of $5 million for a single 30-second spot this year.
Chipotle joins a handful of other restaurant and food-service companies that are launching Super Bowl advertisements for the first time. Little Caesars will debut a commercial during the game for the first time, according to CNBC. Food-delivery service DoorDash is also set to air a commercial during the Super Bowl for the first time, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Other companies that performed well during the pandemic and decided to air commercials during the big game for the first time include Fiverr International and Scott Miracle-Gro, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Chipotle’s resilience and ability to adapt throughout the pandemic has allowed the company’s business to boom during a time when many restaurants and chains struggled to stay open. Shares of Chipotle have gained 65% and Wedbush analysts expect the stock to surge 14% in 2021.
The chain has continually adapted throughout the pandemic and has even started to move toward taking drive-thru orders in an effort to make itself more accessible and competitive with other chains like McDonalds.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Chipotle customers will be able to purchase food without an added delivery price. The company will also be donating $1 from every delivery order on the app or website to the National Young Farmers Coalition.
A spokesperson told Insider the advertisement is meant to focus on how the pandemic has changed the role companies like Chipotle play in society.
“The company believes the global pandemic has shifted consumer behavior to lean towards a community-focused society, further igniting a passion inside of many for making purchasing decisions that drive difference in the world around them,” a spokesperson told Insider.
Chipotle will be using the commercial as a launchpad for new initiatives that focus on the future careers of young farmers. The company has pledged $5 million over the next five years to further their mission of supporting young farmers.
Chipotle’s resilience as a brand throughout the COVID-19 pandemic sets the company up well into the future for further gains in its business, according to a Tuesday note from Stifel.
The Wall Street firm upgraded shares of Chipotle to buy from hold and assigned a $1,500 price target, representing potential upside of 11% from Tuesday’s close.
Stifel expects Chipotle to benefit from increased consumer mobility in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes thanks to the rollout and administration of successful vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNtech and Moderna.
“In our proprietary consumer survey, over 18% of respondents were most excited to visit Chipotle once they felt safe,” Stifel said.
On top of that, Chipotle has “some of the most compelling unit growth prospects within the restaurant industry,” Stifel said. That could fuel growth in the company for years to come.
Chipotle is targeting at least 6,000 domestic restaurants, more than double its store count of just under 3,000. That would likely equate to annual unit growth of 5 to 7%, according to Stifel, which added that 70% of new locations would use the higher sales margin Chipotlane prototype, which includes drive-thru lanes for quick order and pickup.
“We project the new prototype to reach a meaningful share of its total footprint over the next few years, contributing to total margin expansion,” Stifel said.
Besides the addition of drive-thru lanes, new menu items could attract more customers and help drive sales higher, Stifel said. Chipotle is testing cilantro-lime cauliflower rice and smoked brisket in certain markets, along with a quesadilla offering only for those who order through the Chipotle smartphone app.
Shares of Chipotle are up 61% year to date and traded up as much as 6% to record highs in Wednesday trades.