Chipotle's Burger Venture Isn't Likely to Prompt a Stock Rebound

With a stock that's down more than 36% over the last 12 months, Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) is in desperate need of a big boost. Last year's food-borne illness scandal all but destroyed consumer confidence in the company. Struggling to lure back customers, the company is now adding another concept to its business.

But the latest initiative, a potential burger chain, is not a reason to buy the stock. Chipotle shares fell 2.70% in Tuesday trading.

Nearly two weeks ago, Chipotle opened its first Tasty Made restaurant in Ohio. Tasty Made aims to bring the Chipotle concept of fresh, wholesome ingredients to the burger space. The restaurant offers a limited menu of burgers (made from responsibly raised beef), French fries, soda and milkshakes.

Given its current situation, it's understandable that Chipotle would look for new growth avenues, and the venture is off to a promising start.

According to Chipotle reports, The Tasty Made offshoot is already reportedly relishing strong sales. Yelp reviews, which were initially run-of-the-mill, have been improving.

But Chipotle head Steve Ells has an arduous battle ahead as he enters a new part of the increasingly complex fast and fast casual food segment. Huge investments necessary to fuel initiatives may be hard to come by. Pershing Square Capital's Bill Ackman who has taken a nearly 10% stake in CMG, may not agree with the creation of a burger chain.

The burger market has little room for meteoric growth, at this point because of the competition.

The burger segment is dominated by "old guard" chains like McDonald's, Burger King (owned by Restaurant Brands ), and Wendy's. Habit Restaurants and Shake Shack are among the newer burger stocks whose long-term growth prospects are uncertain but who also formidable players.

Bigger, more established chains armed with efficient sourcing techniques and large-scale procurement can command unbeatable prices.

A customer review has even mentioned how Chipotle's double burgers are pricier but smaller than McDonald's Quarter Pounders.

It's a tough road ahead for Chipotle; since the E. coli scare, the company's been attempting a variety of maneuvers, including free food and drinks, to get people back in the door, but to little avail.

Chipotle has experimented with a number of formats in recent months. It's abandoning its efforts to establish an Asian-food spinoff restaurant.

Plus, its stake in Pizzeria Locale seems exciting, but it's doubtful that the pizza space will provide a significant growth avenue, given Domino's Pizza and Papa John's dominance.

At best, Chipotle is an investment that will require patience. Investors are better off staying away.


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The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.

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