logo-chipotleNote: This is the third in a series of four posts about how leading multi-unit restaurant brands can use social media analysis as a fast and cost-effective way to do market research, analyze promotions, get immediate feedback on product launches and more.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is the most-talked-about brand in our survey of four fast casual restaurants, with nearly 10 million mentions. Their Positive Net Sentiment is an extremely favorable 70 percent with a Passion Intensity of 50. While Chipotle is often cited as the originator of the fast casual segment and burrito, the Net Sentiment about that product (59 percent) is actually slightly lower than that of the brand as a whole.

So how does Chipotle generate all that buzz and stay top of mind with consumers? They introduce popular, innovative new menu items like their vegan Sofritas, available only in select locations at this time.

“We’re certainly thrilled when people use words like ‘love’ and ‘awesome’ and ‘amazing’ when people talk about anything we do. Sofritas is a very different kind of menu item, not just for Chipotle but for fast food in general. It’s made with an amazing artisan, organic tofu that’s made for us by Hodo Soy in Oakland, California. What we wanted to create with Sofritas was a menu item that would appeal to vegetarian and vegan customers, but would be delicious enough that it would have crossover appeal for other customers as well. We think that we’ve really hit that right on the mark.”

— Chris Arnold, Communications Director, Chipotle


Lots of Love for Sofritas


Isolating the Social Media Conversation in Test Markets

At about 20,000 mentions to date, the buzz about Chipotle’s new vegan Sofritas is relatively small when compared to the overall conversation that surrounds the brand. That said, a Net Sentiment of 86 percent with a Passion Intensity score of 65 seem to indicate that Chipotle’s new Sofritas menu item is testing very well.

Note that online conversational data is being collected without any compromise to the sample. In other words, each consumer is posting updates with his or her uninhibited reactions to an experience with Chipotle’s Sofritas, with absolutely no influence from a more-traditional survey or facilitated focus group.

Where Are People Talking About Sofritas?


The scale at bottom measures “percent of conversation.” California represents approximately 30 percent of the total online conversation about Sofritas, which indicates that this is a test market for the brand and that this product is on limited roll out.

Analysis of conversation volume by region is especially useful to brands testing items in specific markets. They can find out quickly if the item isn’t popular and let it fail quickly, or, if it is popular, they can accelerate plans for rolling it out nationally to maximize the impact on sales and revenue.

What Chipotle Might Do Next

Sofritas have been designed to target a niche audience within the brand’s already-raving customer base—consumers who prefer vegetarian or vegan menu items. As a next step, Chipotle might work to identify and segment these vegan-oriented customers in order to design a “VeganIP” club that would entice them to become specialized brand ambassadors, helping to spread the word about this new menu innovation to family and friends who live outside the designated test markets where Sofritas have already been released.

Chipotle might go further by designing a contest to determine the order of markets where Sofritas will be released next, based on additional buzz in other markets that can be generated as a result of these new, niche brand ambassadors.

You can download our complete eBook, “Social’s Favorite Multi-Unit Restaurants,” here.

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