CareCredit - Women's Health April 2024

Chipotle: Rewards Partnerships Drive Visibility, Relevance and Brand Affinity

As restaurant brands turn to rewards partnerships to reach new audiences, Chipotle is seeing its efforts in the space keep its products top-of-mind for more consumers.  

In an interview with PYMNTS, Stephanie Perdue, vice president of brand marketing at the fast-casual brand, explained that the restaurant’s recent partnership with fitness app Strava, which includes exclusive offers for rewards program members, is driving digital adoption among consumers focused on health in the New Year.

“We always aim to be an early mover with emerging platforms and partners. Seeing the alignment between Strava’s highly engaged community of 120 million athletes and Chipotle’s passionate running community, Chipotle became the first major restaurant brand to partner with Strava,” Perdue said. “… These Rewards-specific offers help us drive awareness and member acquisition at a time where wellness is top of mind for consumers.”

The move to partner with Strava follows the fast-casual giant’s previous partnerships, such as last year’s collaboration with video game company Capcom to offer restaurant customers in-game currency as a reward for purchases made through Chipotle’s digital platforms. Outside of the rewards space, the restaurant has also tried other kinds of cross-brand partnerships, such as teaming up with with e.l.f. Cosmetics to create burrito-inspired makeup.

Perdue noted that the aim of these partnerships is not so much to drive long-term engagement but to surface the brand to the tops of consumers’ minds.

“From a marketing perspective, our goal with partnerships is to increase visibility, relevance, and build brand love,” she said.  

Many consumers are engaging with restaurant rewards program, as ongoing financial pressures drive demand for deals and discounts. According to the PYMNTS Intelligence study “Connected Dining: Consumers Like the Taste of Discount Meals,” based on a February survey of more than 1,800 U.S. consumers, 51% reported using a restaurant loyalty program, with 49% participating in these programs at quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and 34% at full-service restaurants (FSRs).

Overall, most restaurant customers are engaging with brands digitally. The PYMNTS Intelligence report “Consumer Interest in an Everyday App,” created in collaboration with PayPal, revealed that one in four restaurant customers each month exclusively orders food via connected devices, and another 36% do so both via connected devices and traditional channels.

Perdue explained that the brand’s partnership strategy is driven by data on its customers’ behaviors.

“Effective partnerships are rooted in insights and add value for fans,” she noted.

This most recent partnership combines two high-ranking players in their respective digital categories. PYMNTS’ Provider Rankings of Mobile Order-Ahead Apps, which compares top players based on a range of factors including loyalty integrations, active usership and ordering options, found that Chipotle has the fourth-best restaurant app, tied with Starbucks.

Meanwhile, the PYMNTS Provider Ranking of Fitness Apps, which accounts for channel coverage, downloads and usership, has Strava in the top spot by a wide margin, with its next-closest competitor trailing 22 points behind.

With the increasing popularity of restaurant rewards programs and the shift towards digital engagement, these partnerships play a crucial role in Chipotle’s omnichannel strategy.