Chipotle just rolled out its new Pollo Asado across the US.
The new chicken item costs 65 cents more than regular chicken, the most popular protein.
An analyst says adding slightly pricier items is a clever way to get around raising prices.
Chipotle just released its new Pollo Asado protein option across the US and Canada, and it gives customers a peek into the chain's clever pricing strategy.
Chipotle already had a chicken option on menus, and it is "easily" the chain's most popular protein, Chief Marketing Officer Chris Brandt said in a statement. The new addition costs 65 cents more than the traditional adobe chicken.
That might not seem like a lot, but that's 65 additional cents spent on the same protein that customers wouldn't have spent otherwise, Kalinowski Equity Research CEO and President Mark Kalinowski told Insider.
He told Insider adding this menu item is a smart addition as an extension of Chipotle's best-selling item. A chicken burrito is something customers already know the chain does well, he says, so it's a relatively easily upsell, with a price that wouldn't strike the average customer as outrageous, Kalinowski says.
Chipotle has been upfront about raising prices as labor and ingredient costs go up and other chains are forced to do the same. The chain raised prices 4% in December, and CEO Brian Niccol says further increases this year are likely.
Increasing prices on customers' favorite menu items is a partial solution to inflation, but too much too fast can leave customers upset. Chipotle has quietly taken on a few other strategies to increase the average customer's check.
In late 2020, the fast-casual chain began charging 25 cents for extra tortillas, eliminating a well-known hack used by many customers to get free food.
Chipotle has also added other menu items that are slightly pricier than its staples, including limited-time offers like the Pollo Asado. In September, the chain added brisket, which was priced higher than other beef proteins. Chipotle also added cauliflower rice to menus for a period last year, charging an extra $2 for the low carb substitute.
The chain added quesadillas as a permanent at the behest of customers in 2021, and they're about 50 cents more expensive than a burrito with the same protein at a location in Rochester, New York.
As Kalinowski said, Chipotle is not afraid to level with customers about price increases on classic dishes, it's also taking advantage of other ways to make the average order cost a bit more.
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