NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Finding a good growth story and trying to make a case for why it belongs in a value investor's portfolio has always been difficult.There's the excitement of growth, but more often than not that growth comes at an expensive premium and there are no guarantees the company will ever grow into that valuation.
The company posted just 3.8% growth in comps at the end of 2012. This is the metric that tracks the performance of restaurants opened at least one year. While that is on par with the 5% posted by Yum Brands (YUM) and the 3.1% posted by McDonald's (MCD), this comp number is still an example of what has been a disastrous year for Chipotle. Consider that its comps were at 11.1% in 2011 when the stock began trading around $360 in January 2012. However, comps dropped to 8% in the second quarter, and then to 4.8% in the third quarter before ending the year at that 3.8% figure. That the price-to-earnings ratio is twice the valuation of McDonald's (36 vs. 18) implies investors are still betting big that Chipotle can turn things around. But this quarter didn't prove anything other than to suggest Chipotle is still in trouble.