Chipotle Leverages Video Game Rewards for Deeper Connection With Diners


As Chipotle looks to build deeper relationships with its customers, the restaurant is tapping cross-brand rewards to connect with gamers.

The Newport Beach, California-based fast-casual chain, which has more than 3,200 locations across five countries, announced Wednesday (May 24) that it is partnering with video game company Capcom to offer customers in-game currency as a reward for restaurant purchases. On June 2, when Street Fighter 6 is released, Chipotle Rewards members can receive so-called Fighter Coins with food purchases through the restaurant’s digital platforms.

“Our FGC [Fighting Game Community] partnerships closely align Chipotle to a passionate and competitive community of gamers who are looking for convenient, delicious, and healthy options while playing titles like Street Fighter 6,” Chris Brandt, the restaurant’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be able to enhance gameplay and unlock fun experiences for gamers.”

The move comes as part of an overarching, years-long effort on the fast-casual brand’s part to establish a presence in more parts of consumers’ day-to-day routines outside of the restaurant dining occasion. For instance, back 2021, Chipotle partnered with cosmetics brand e.l.f. to create burrito-inspired makeup, and the year before that, the restaurant launched a merchandise line, Chipotle Goods, which today includes products ranging from jackets to jewelry to beach towels.

In a 2021 interview with PYMNTS, Scott Boatwright, Chipotle’s chief restaurant officer, said in discussing the restaurant’s cross-promotions with popular video game Fortnite that the brand lends itself well to partnerships with gaming companies.

“I don’t know that there’s a better consumer to really target. It’s a growing universe of people who are fanatic about the things that they want in their life,” Boatwright said. “I think Chipotle has a natural extension to the gamer that is …. looking for brands that they can engage with. … This is just a natural extension for us to reach a consumer that has a lot of a lot of affinity for the Chipotle brand already.”

PYMNTS research shows that brands and retailers that can engage consumers across as many pillars of the ConnectedEconomy™ as possible — how they eat, shop, pay, live, travel, bank, work, communicate, have fun and stay well — build deeper customer relationships than those that stay limited to just one.

Engaging diners outside of the restaurant sphere can be especially crucial for brands right now, as consumers’ digital engagement with restaurants falls even as their digital engagement across all other parts of their lives increases, according to data from PYMNTS’ recent study, “How the World Does Digital: Daily Digital Engagement Hits New Heights,” which draws from a survey of more than 17,500 U.S. consumers.

Chipotle is not the only fast-casual brand partnering with gaming companies to leverage consumers’ video game loyalty to drive restaurant engagement. Take, for instance, Barberitos and Zoup Eatery, which last month announced a partnership with metaverse game ATLAS: EARTH to offer in-game currency for restaurant purchases.

In a conversation with PYMNTS, Lauriena Borstein, chief brand officer for Saladworks, Frutta Bowls and Zoup Eatery, explained that, by partnering with the game, Zoup is able to reach customers who otherwise likely would not have engaged with the brand.

“This is just really a different audience, quite honestly, for us that we have not tapped into where it’s really in that digital space with gamers,” Borstein said. “You’re going to get a different demographic. You’re going to get slightly different ages — usually younger. It’s a new platform for us to gain awareness within that demographic within that market.”