Financing

Chipotle’s stock appears to have no ceiling

The fast casual, which reports its Q1 earnings next week, notched a record per share price Monday of more than $1,567.
Photo courtesy of Chipotle

It seems like only yesterday that Chipotle Mexican Grill cleared $1,000 per share for the first time.

It was, in fact, less than a year ago. But Chipotle, which releases its Q1 earnings next week, has long since blown past that number, setting a new record Monday of more than $1,567 a share.

Chipotle’s stock has more than doubled during the past 12 months and shows no signs of slowing.

The Newport Beach, Calif.-based chain has been a clear winner during the pandemic thanks to its robust digital operations that had been put in place well before the crisis began.

On Friday, Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung told CNBC that the chain was seeing about 80% of its digital business remain even as dining rooms reopen at greater capacities. On-premise dining has picked up to about 60% of pre-pandemic levels, Hartung said.

“The pandemic, of course, really put some turbocharge behind our digital business, but as we’re starting to see COVID move behind us—and we still have a ways to go—we’re keeping most of that digital business,” he said. “So, really, we’re going to end up being ahead of the game when the pandemic is fully behind us. We’re very optimistic about where we go from here.”

Hartung’s comments echo those of CEO Brian Niccol during the chain’s Q4 earnings release in February. Niccol said digital business remained “very sticky” as dining rooms reopen.

During the pandemic, Chipotle nearly doubled its digital rewards membership, to about 20 million users.

The company has been creative about how it engages with those digital users. Last month, it added customizable quesadillas as a digital-exclusive menu item.

And on Monday, Chipotle announced a limited-time Quesodragon as another offering available only via the chain’s app or website. The item, inspired by an off-menu hack, features a choice of quesadilla with sour cream, tomatillo red-chili salsa and guacamole. Diners can then create their Dragon Sauce by mixing the salsa and sour cream in the compostable packaging.

 

Photo courtesy: Chipotle Mexican Grill

Last quarter, Chipotle reported 174% growth in digital sales year over year, with digital business making up 46% of the chain’s total sales, or $2.8 billion.

The chain continues to expand its order-ahead-pickup Chipotlanes, which have been copied by many restaurant brands. Stores with the pickup lanes generate 10% more revenue than those without, the company has said, and more than 70% of new restaurants this year will include Chipotlanes.

Chipotle is also testing a curbside pickup program.

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