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Chipotle's free queso deal is a bid to win over hesitant customers

Customers have been disappointed – here's how Chipotle thinks it can win more people over.

Chipotle's hyped rollout of a new, all-natural queso didn't go as the company probably hoped.

Customers didn't like it, as you can see in this (pretty entertaining) collection of tweet complaints by Consumerist. Investors weren't thrilled with the response either.

But Chipotle insisted things were better than they looked. Business Insider in October cited figures showing about half of the restaurant's customers thought Chipotle queso was better than competitors' – but a whopping 93 percent said they liked the queso as a topping (so on a burrito or tacos).

"In other words, customers love the chain's queso as a flavor — just not necessarily as a dip," Business Insider wrote.

All of that background is important for understanding this upcoming Chipotle promotion.

On Dec. 12, Chipotle will give customers free queso on an entree.

You have to be wearing a cheesy sweater (what exactly that means is being left up to you), and of course you have to buy the entree (burrito bowl, salad or tacos). 

It also doesn't sound like the free queso is being offered as a side, only as a topping.

This deal seems to play right into the strengths the cheesy menu item has: People really like it added to their main course, not with chips on the side. But Chipotle has a perception problem it needs to address.

Offering it up for free as a topping one day could hook customers who were on the fence – meaning maybe they pay the extra $1.25 for queso on future trips.

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