Chipotle Drops as Sales Growth Falls Short of Estimates

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. reported fourth-quarter sales that trailed estimates amid a resurgence of Covid-19 infections in the U.S.

Same-store sales advanced 5.7% in the period ended Dec. 31, the company said in a statement Tuesday. That’s just below the average analyst projection of 5.9% growth, according to Consensus Metrix. Revenue, which was boosted by higher menu prices, was in line with projections.

The burrito chain has largely maintained its pace and kept up growth amid the pandemic, but it hasn’t been easy. The company added air filtration systems, sanitizer stations, wellness protocol checks and new handwashing policies. The company is in the process of adding more drive-thrus to its stores, and the latest quarter’s data reinforces that to-go is where the growth is: Chipotle’s digital sales jumped 177% in the period -- accounting for nearly half of sales.

In the current quarter, comparable sales should be in the mid- to high-teens range if things don’t get worse, the company said, though that’s compared to a first quarter last year when the emerging pandemic was starting to hurt sales. It’s not giving a full-year outlook, given uncertainty around the virus, but it did say it’s targeting about 200 new restaurant openings.

The chain continues to open more restaurants despite the pandemic, with a particular focus on locations with a drive-up window option. Chipotle opened 61 new restaurants during the period.

Chipotle shares fell 3.5% at 4:44 p.m. after the close of regular trading.

The company said there was healthy demand for its Carne Asada menu item in the fourth quarter. Speaking on a call with analysts, Chief Executive Officer Brian Niccol said the item will stay until March. Chipotle is currently testing quesadillas and smoked brisket in its restaurants.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.