The New Year doesn't necessarily signal a fresh start for Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) , Deutsche Bank contended in a note today.
The firm reiterated its "sell" rating on shares of the Mexican-style food chain, claiming the company still faces "an uphill battle to regain its prior sales, profits, valuation levels."
Chipotle's stock price and sales took a beating after a string of food-borne illnesses were linked to its restaurants starting in late 2015.
The Denver-based company reported a same-store sales decline of 14.6% for the 2015 fourth quarter. The following period, Chipotle recorded its first-ever quarterly loss and a same-store sales decline of 29.7%.
Despite initiatives including free-burrito coupons, executive changes and new board members, the stock ended 2016 down nearly $50, a loss of 11.6%.
"The recovery has taken longer than management, industry experts and the investment community had expected and while recent strategic changes can help results, we believe some bullish investors may be overestimating the near-term impact," Deutsche Bank analyst Brett Levy said in today's note.
Chipotle management is scheduled to speak at the ICR Conference on Tuesday. They will likely be optimistic about strategy but conservative with any numbers since the company's sales have rebounded slower than expected since 2015, Levy noted.
Going forward, Chipotle plans to increase its focus on technology through improved digital ordering, the introduction of tablet ordering and an emphasis on mobile, according to Deutsche Bank.
"We believe tech is the right move for the company longer-term, but admit there may be some disruptions in the more immediate timeframe," Levy said.