Who is gaining from Chipotle’s loss?

NOTE: Bloomberg Second Measure launched a new and exclusive transaction dataset in July 2022. Our data continues to be broadly representative of U.S. consumers. As a result of this panel change, however, we recommend using only the latest posts in assessing metrics, and do not support referring to historical blog posts to infer period-over-period comparisons.

Chipotle’s business has been sliding ever since some of its locations were linked to E.coli and norovirus outbreaks. While news of the outbreaks peaked, sales[1] dipped.

  • 45% of people who transacted with Chipotle between August and October 2015 have not returned since the outbreaks.
  • These churned consumers tend to dine out about 4 times per week, on average.

This begs the question: Who is gaining from Chipotle’s loss?

We compared weekly dining patterns of two groups of consumers: those who churned from Chipotle after eating there between August and October 2015; and everyone else (whether they had dined at Chipotle recently or not). Specifically, we examined:

  1. the share of weekly meal-related transactions at specific eateries and categories for weeks before and after the outbreaks[2] (Pre vs. Post outbreaks)
  2. the growth within an eatery or category from Pre to Post weeks for Chipotle’s churned diners and for all other consumers
  3. whether that growth differed between Chipotle’s churned diners and everyone else

The chart below shows some big gainers from Chipotle’s loss – i.e., those eateries/categories where Chipotle’s churned diners showed a greater gain than everyone else.

  • Chipotle’s churned diners are eating at home more.
  • Meal delivery (e.g., Munchery) and meal kits (e.g., Blue Apron) gained the most from Chipotle’s loss. Both had stronger gains with Chipotle’s churned customers than with other diners.
  • Groceries also showed stronger gains among Chipotle’s churned customers.
  • Mexican-themed eateries and taquerias are benefitting.
  • Close comparables, like Qdoba and Freebirds, saw strong gains among Chipotle’s churned diners. Local taquerias and Mexican-themed restaurants also increased their share.
  • Among non-churned diners, Chipotle’s share of weekly meal-related transactions, on average, did not change.
  • Some eateries’ gains were not associated with Chipotle’s churn (e.g., Panda Express).

Whether these gains hold remains to be seen, especially as Chipotle attempts to win back their customers with free burrito offers. To see how diners respond, request a demo.

  1. Number of transactions and customers followed the same trend as sales. ↩︎
  2. We excluded the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years because they are not representative of typical weekly dining patterns. ↩︎