Chipotle Mexican Grill provided ASU students and faculty with complimentary food and drinks Monday night for a pre-opening party at the restaurant’s new CityScape location, set to officially open today.
Around 300 people participated in the promotional event from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., some arriving as early as 4:30 p.m. to wait in a line that eventually grew to reach the stoplight at the corner of Washington Street and First Avenue.
“The turn-out was surprising,” said Kennedy Turner, a marketing consultant for Chipotle restaurants in Arizona. “It was huge and we’re super thankful for that.”
Chipotle hosts pre-opening parties as a way to train workers and establish early community partnerships, said Turner, who helped coordinate the event after collaborating with Antonio-Javier Montes, the student activity advisor for the Downtown campus.
“Obviously the ASU students will be a big part of our night business, so it kind of made sense to invite them,” Turner said.
Megan Leuthmers, an exercise and wellness freshman, was one of the many Downtown campus students that capitalized on the chance to get a free dinner courtesy of Chipotle.
Leuthmers said she heard about the event after her residential floor at Taylor Place promoted it. She waited in line for half an hour with a group of friends before Chipotle opened its doors.
“Everyone has been waiting for it to open,” she said. “I know people who have been literally waiting since they found out that there was (going to be) a Chipotle. They couldn’t wait until it opened to go and eat there.”
The pre-opening event attracted people that were not affiliated with ASU and ineligible to receive free food, such as Eric Nuhfer, an Arizona Diamondbacks employee.
“I like Chipotle,” Nuhfer said. “Who doesn’t?”
Even though Nuhfer said Chipotle’s new location will keep him coming to CityScape about three times per week instead of just once, he said the new business won’t make much of a difference in increasing traffic at CityScape.
“It’s a new business, so it’ll add something to it, but it’s not going to be groundbreaking,” Nuhfer said. “Five Guys died out quick. Jimmy Johns kind of slowed down a little bit. Chipotle will slow down after a bit too.”
David Roderique, president of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, said Chipotle is expected to have a positive effect on overall business at CityScape because it has been highly anticipated by students.
“As with any new business, there’s always an initial rush and hype that goes with it, but I think what this is going to help do is create CityScape as a stronger destination overall,” Roderique said.
Chipotle had been looking to expand to downtown Phoenix for years, Turner said, but the company was concerned about attracting enough business beyond the lunchtime crowd that has proved popular at the restaurant’s nearest location at 16th Street and Camelback Road.
Despite initial concerns, Turner said Chipotle is confident that business will be consistent and students will help drive sales.
“We’re fortunate because our customers are fans,” Turner said. “Our customers have specifically asked for us to come downtown, so even though we’re located by other restaurants, we’re not so worried.”
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