Customers still aren't coming back to Chipotle Mexican Grill(NYSE: CMG) in acceptable numbers, so the out-of-favor eatery is ready to add new items to its menu. Chorizo is the first item that Chipotle is considering. It was being tested in Kansas City last year -- and as part of the breakfast menu at a pair of airport locations before that. It also gave chorizo a trial run in Manhattan five years ago.
Chipotle was ready to expand its test of chorizo last year when the E. coli and norovirus outbreaks sent the chain scrambling to fix things before broadening its menu offerings. However, with negative comps continuing even as the food-borne illness crisis is fading in the rearview mirror, this spicy pork and chicken sausage could be the protein that sparks renewed interest in the chain.
This will be the first new ingredient added to Chipotle's assembly line since the tofu-based Sofritas in 2013 if the struggling operator decides to expand chorizo across all of its eateries in the coming months. It could also be just the ticket to launch the chain into the promising, yet cutthroat, breakfast market.
Good morning, breakfast burrito
Chipotle fans have been clamoring for a push into breakfast for years, and they got a brief taste of it at two airport locations that were required to open during the morning hours. Egg-stuffed burritos and a protein slate limited to chorizo, carnitas, and barbacoa were offered until 10 a.m. A veggie frittata was also eventually added.
It didn't pan out. Chipotle eventually scrapped the unique breakfast offerings at Baltimore-Washington International and Dulles.
This doesn't mean that they wouldn't work. Chipotle had every reason to be cocky when it chose to stick to its core menu all day long, but now we're dealing with a mortal chain that has suffered through five-consecutive months of double-digit year-over-year declines in comps.
Chipotle has seen how important breakfast has been to its former parent, McDonald's(NYSE: MCD), a move so successful that the recent turnaround at McDonald's has been credited to offering select breakfast items all day long since late last year.
Breakfast will never be the needle mover at Chipotle that it is at McDonald's. Only diehard fans will pay $5 or $6 for a breakfast burrito in a world of dollar-menu offerings. Chipotle also lacks the drive-thru windows that are essential in wooing morning commuters who don't have the time to get out of the car.
However, once chorizo goes nationwide -- and it seems as if it will -- it will make it that much easier to see if it can open earlier in the day, and replace its rice-filled serving trays with scrambled eggs. There's no reason to think that "food with integrity" won't work in the morning, and at the very least, there will be a cult audience assuring Chipotle of incremental sales.
Chipotle needs a boost, and if it has to get up earlier to make it happen, then it may as well set the alarm clock. Coming off of its first quarterly loss as a public company, Chipotle needs the wake-up call.
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You can get more for your money if you request that the server split your serving of meat into two varieties.
“When you ask for ‘half and half,’ the server tends to be generous on measuring a half serving,” said Kyle James, founder of coupon site Rather-Be-Shopping.com and a regular Chipotle customer. The end result is a bigger, more delicious burrito.
If you really want to super-size your burrito, ask for both white and brown rice, as well as black and pinto beans.
Dylan Grosz, an intern for the website ApartmentList.com, conducted an experiment to see which strategies would net more burrito at no extra cost and wrote about his findings. After ordering five burritos a day for several days, he found that Chipotle customers could get double the rice and beans, simply by asking for both types of each. Best of all, there’s no extra charge for these added ingredients.
It costs extra — $1.95, according to Chipotle’s online menu — to add guacamole to your burrito. However, there are other fillings you can get for free, if you know enough to ask. Grosz found that servers rarely ask customers if they want to add fajita veggies or chili-corn salsa, but these extras are free and can round out a meat-heavy meal. They also increase the overall amount of food you get at no extra cost.
Rather than ordering your burrito wrapped in a tortilla, get it in a bowl to net more food, James said. Ask for “half and half” meat and then, as the server fills the bowl with your favorite toppings, politely ask for a little bit more of each.
“Before you know it, your bowl will be huge and can often feed two average adults for under $9,” said James, who eats at Chipotle at least five times a month.
You can even ask for a tortilla on the side. Create the burrito experience on your own, with an even bigger burrito than you’d get by ordering one.
To avoid overeating and overspending, order a kid’s meal, said Ashley Eneriz, a contributor to the personal finance blog MoneyNing.com. The portions are generous and include two tortillas, three sides (such as meat, cheese and rice), a drink and fruit or chips. If the server says you can’t order the this meal because you’re not a kid, just request something else.
“As long as you are nice about it, then there won’t ever be any issues,” Eneriz said.
Chipotle occasionally offers special promotions on gift cards — especially around the holidays, James said. For example, one of the more common offers is a free burrito with the purchase of a gift card worth $25 or more. So, if you frequently eat at Chipotle, you can use the gift card yourself.
Sometimes, Chipotle hands out free food to its customers. For example, on April 16, the chain offered youth soccer players under the age of 14 a “buy-one-get-one-free” deal on burritos, bowls, salads or tacos. All they had to do was show up in their team uniforms.
The restaurant also offered free burritos to people in the wake of closing its stores for a day to train employees on the new safety measures. Follow Chipotle on Facebook or Twitter to learn about its latest promotions.
You can score burritos at a discount if you’re willing to dress up — not in a coat and tie but a costume. James said that, every Halloween, Chipotle offers a burrito for only $3 if you come in wearing a costume.
Typically, Chipotle has a theme that customers must adhere to in order to get the discounted “boorito.” So, be sure to check the fast-food giant’s website or social media pages to find out what the theme is before creating your look.
If you regularly eat at Chipotle, go out of your way to be nice to the servers.
“Being friendly to the staff is a really great way to score some savings,” Eneriz said. “You’ll get a bigger portion most of the time, and you’ll not only make the server’s life more pleasant but yours, too.”