What To Expect From Chipotle Mexican Grill In The Third Quarter?

by Trefis Team
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Chipotle Mexican Grill‘s (NYSE: CMG) new CEO, Brian Niccol, has had an upbeat start to his tenure as the company has posted strong revenue and earnings growth in his first two quarters, largely beating consensus expectations on both metrics. Sales improved by 7.9% in the first six months of FY 2018, driven by comparable sales growth of 2.8%, due to price increases, and new restaurant openings. This positive performance aided in the restaurant level margin expansion of 130 basis points. We expect these strong trends to continue in the third quarter as well, helping the company post a 10% improvement in sales and a massive 53% increase in its EPS. Based on the performance of the company in the first half and the expected showing in the remainder of the year, CMG raised its full-year comp sales guidance from low single-digits to the low-mid-single-digit comp range.

We have estimated CMG’s price to be $465 which is higher than the current market price. The charts have been made using our new, interactive platform. The various driver assumptions can be modified by clicking here for our interactive dashboard on Estimating Chipotle Mexican Grill’s Performance In Q3 And Its Fair Price, to gauge their impact on the earnings and price per share metric.

Factors That May Impact Future Performance

1. CEO Change: Brian Niccol joined CMG as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective from March 5, 2018. Niccol comes from Yum! Brands where he was the CEO of Taco Bell. He was instrumental in implementing a successful turnaround of that business. Niccol comes with strong expertise in digital technologies, restaurant operations, and brand building, and these skills are crucial for Chipotle’s turnaround. During the first quarter earnings call, Niccol mentioned the possibility of expanding to breakfast items, and incorporating drive-thrus, besides increasing the focus on the digital platform.

2. Accelerating Digital Sales: This is the fastest growing part of CMG’s business, with annualized digital sales totaling $0.5 billion. This segment reported a growth of 33% in the second quarter, and now represents 10.3% of the total sales of the company. By the end of 2018, CMG intends to accelerate the rollout of its digitally-enabled second make-lines to 1,000 restaurants, from 500 currently. These new lines enable a faster, and a more accurate experience for the digital customers, and allows CMG’s staff to more easily support the higher sales volumes. The company’s ‘Digital Pick Up Shelf’ initiative, which it is testing in 5 stores, not only provides a faster and a more convenient experience for mobile pick up orders, it also serves as an in-store marketing gimmick to raise awareness among its customers that they don’t have to go through the line to pick up their orders.

3. Adding Catering and Delivery: Catering forms roughly 1% of the total sales, and is a largely untapped opportunity for the company. CMG has expanded its delivery availability to 1,800 restaurants, and expects to reach 2,000 by the end of the year. The company has noted that mobile and delivery orders are in that $16 to $17 range, while the traditional check is roughly $12. Since the company’s delivery sales continue to grow at a fast pace, CMG intends to expand the number of delivery partners it works with.

4. New Restaurant Openings: CMG opened 34 new restaurants in Q2 and expects to be at the lower end of its 130 to 150 new openings guidance for the full year. Moreover, the company has plans for a similar number of openings for 2019 as well. New restaurant openings can have a significant positive impact on the company’s revenues. Meanwhile, the company is also in the process of closing 55 to 65 underperforming restaurants.

5. Positive Industry Environment: According to insights provided by TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence, year-over-year restaurant same-store sales increased 1.2% in September and for the third quarter. On the other hand, the guest count metric continued to be weak, with store traffic declining 1.4% during the month, and 1.3% in the quarter, although it is the best result for any quarter in the last three years. The quarter also represented the best restaurant sales in the past three years, aided by easier comparisons due to a poor quarter last year.

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