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Chipotle Mexican Grill Beats Estimates, Digital Sales Grow

Chipotle Mexican Grill's revenue rises 23% to meet analyst expectations in the first quarter. Chipotle earned $4.45 a share compared with $2.70 a share in the year-earlier quarter.
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Chipotle Mexican Grill  (CMG) - Get Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. Report reported first-quarter net income per share leaped 65%, as the burrito giant's digital sales doubled to account for half of the total sales.

The adjusted earnings for the Newport Beach, Calif., chain exceeded Wall Street analysts' expectations.

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In the first quarter, Chipotle earned $4.45 a share compared with $2.70 a share in the year-earlier quarter. 

The latest adjusted earnings were $5.36 a share. That's before 91 cents of expenses tied to "the unplanned effects of COVID-19, restaurant-asset impairment and closure costs, and corporate restructuring," Chipotle said in a statement.

Revenue rose 23% to $1.74 billion from $1.41 billion in line with estimates. Same-store sales rose 17.2%.

New menu items, "effective marketing," strength in digital sales and "a tailwind from government stimulus payments to consumers contributed to first-quarter revenue growth," Chipotle said in a statement.

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A survey of analysts by FactSet produced consensus estimates of net income of $4.89 a share, or an adjusted $4.92 a share, on revenue of $1.75 billion.

FactSet's same-store sales estimate was 17.6%.

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Chipotle shares edged up in after-hours trading Wednesday, gaining $6.63, or 0.4%, to $1,514.25. They closed the regular Wednesday trading session off 1.6% at $1,507.62.

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"As vaccines roll out and we get closer to moving past this pandemic, ... Chipotle is well-positioned for growth,” Chairman and CEO Brian Niccol said in a statement.

Digital sales more than doubled (up 134%) to $869.8 million. "A little more than half" the digital sales were from order-ahead transactions, Chipotle said. 

On the cost front, the company pared its food, beverage and packaging expenses to 30% of revenue from 32.8% a year earlier. 

Menu-price increases; customers shifting to proteins, which carry fatter profit margins, and less waste accounted for the drop in costs.

Those benefits were offset in part by higher-cost sales of cauliflower rice and fewer sales of high-margin beverages, Chipotle said.

The company ended the quarter by operating 2,803 restaurants, having opened 40 and closed five. Of the 40 new restaurants, 26 had drive-throughs, called Chipotlanes.

As of Mar. 31, Chipotle had zero debt and $1.2 billion of cash, investments and restricted cash. 

Looking ahead, Chipotle expects second-quarter comparable restaurant sales gains to range from the high twenties percent to 30%. FactSet's call: 28.3%.

The company declined to provide a full-year outlook, citing the continued economic murk created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early in April, Barron's reported that Wedbush analyst Nick Setyan affirmed an outperform rating on Chipotle with a $1,800 price target on the shares.

The analyst saw Chipotle’s online ordering and delivery platform, as well as new menu items, resonating with consumers, Barron's reported.

As of a week ago, Chipotle began offering its employees the opportunity to pursue degrees in agriculture, culinary and hospitality at no cost to the staffers.

Employees who have at least 120 days on the job can pursue degrees at a variety of nonprofit universities and finish the programs debt-free.