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Chipotle CEO on BeReal app success: ‘We’ve maxed out’ followers

Chipotle said it's maxed out the total number of followers it can have on the latest app gaining popularity, BeReal.

"That's something that has just really taken off lately, my understanding is we've maxed out all our followers," on the social media app, CEO Brian Niccol said at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit."We have to continue to figure out how we evolve that platform."

Yahoo Finance reached out to BeReal for comment, but the company was not able to provide clarity about just how many followers the maximum amount is.

The app was founded by former GoPro employees Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Per, and launched in December 2019. Gaining popularity in the spring of 2022, the app reached 53 million downloads worldwide with 14.7 million in September 2022 alone, according to Consumer Intelligence data platform Sensor Tower.

What's keeping BeReal users on the edge of their seats is that they don't know what time of day the social media platform will prompt them to take a photo, only allowing a 2-minute window to be realistic with limited time to prepare and somewhat difficult for companies to navigate.

In May, Chipotle launched a promotion on its BeReal account for customers to use the promo code FORREAL to access a free entrée for the first 100 people who entered it. It was reportedly gone in nearly 30 minutes.

For its annual Boorito celebration on Halloween, fans are encouraged to take a BeReal photo in costume at a Chipotle restaurant on October 31 and post it on BeReal with the hashtag #booritosweepstakes for a chance to win free burritos for a year.

Niccol sees BeReal along with other social media platforms, as a key way to connect with consumers, especially younger ones, and be a part of the current trends, adding that Chipotle customers typically "skew younger."

"We want to be a brand that's visible, we want to be a brand that's leading culture and then also in culture, social media applications, like BeReal, are part of that."

The need to stay 'ahead of' and listen to where customers are headed: CEO

Courtesy: Chipotle
Courtesy: Chipotle

BeReal is only a small portion of Chipotle's social media operation. The fast-casual chain touts 2 million followers on TikTok, lagging behind some of its competitors including Taco Bell and McDonald's, both with 2.3 million followers, but ahead of Wendy's with 1.3 million.

On Instagram and Twitter, Chipotle has 1.1 million followers.

The brand was also named the "most preferred at Hispanic cuisine levels across both upper-income and average-income teens" in Piper Sandler's semi-annal survey. Piper Sandler Managing Director Nicole Miller Regan called this a big opportunity for market share gains overall.

Niccol admits it's important to not only try to stay ahead but have an ear on the ground to see what's next.

"We're very fortunate to have, I think, one of the best groups of leaders running our social media efforts, our digital efforts, and just really researching where young people are headed, so that hopefully sometimes we're ahead of them and then other times they lead us to where we need to be," Niccol said.

Roblox is another tactic Chipotle is using to capture its audience and help them experience the brand in a different way virtually like the Chipotle Grill Stimulator for the launch of Garlic Guajillo Steak. Niccol says using the platform is part of a larger experiment to see what works.

"Look, we're going to always experiment and that's partly what we're doing with Roblox, this is more about experimenting, so that we can understand where potentially future sales may come from and at a minimum right now, it's definitely the right place to be to communicate with young people," he explains.

The direct correlation between the metaverse on the company's bottom line is largely unknown right now.

"It's hard to like put it into dollars and actual sales, it's much more to do with brand relevance...being visible and then playing a role in people every day," Niccol emphasized.

Cowen Sr. Research Analyst Doug Creutz concurred in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, noting that he is not sure if Roblox is the right place for major brands like Chipotle or Walmart to be in if they're looking for profitable returns.

"I don't know that kids are really that excited about going to a virtual Chipotle or a virtual Walmart. I think they'd rather play games," Creutz said.

Chipotle is expected to report its third quarter 2022 results on October 25 after the bell. Year-to-date shares are down nearly 12%.

Brooke DiPalma is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at bdipalma@yahoofinance.com.

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