Chipotle shares fall 4% as surging digital orders ease from record pace, earnings fall short

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill said same-store sales grew 5.7% in its fourth quarter.
  • The company fell short of Wall Street estimates for its earnings but met expectations for revenue.
  • The company has rebounded from the coronavirus pandemic quickly, thanks to delivery and digital orders.

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Tuesday reported that its same-store sales rose more than 5% in its latest quarter, fueled by higher digital orders and the return of carne asada.

Citing the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the company declined to provide a forecast for same-store sales growth in fiscal 2021 but did say that it's expecting a strong first quarter.

Shares of Chipotle fell 4% in extended trading. The stock hit an all-time high of $1,553.55 during trading earlier on Tuesday.

Here's what the company reported for the quarter ended Dec. 31 compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $3.48, adjusted, vs. $3.73 expected
  • Revenue: $1.61 billion vs. $1.61 billion expected

Chipotle reported fourth-quarter net income of $190.9 million, or $6.69 per share, up from $72.4 million, or $2.55 per share, a year earlier. The company recorded an income tax benefit of $3.77 for the quarter.

Excluding an income tax benefit, corporate restructuring expenses and other items, Chipotle earned $3.48 cents per share, missing the $3.73 per share expected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Net sales rose 11.6% to $1.61 billion, meeting expectations.

Same-store sales rose 5.7%. The return of its carne asada in September boosted demand. Additionally, digital sales nearly tripled and accounted for almost half of the company's quarterly revenue. In Chipotle's second and third quarters, online sales more than tripled.

So far in January, same-store sales have climbed 11%. And if the pandemic doesn't worsen, the company is expecting same-store sales growth in the mid-to-high teens during the first quarter.

The company also said that it increased the menu prices for delivery orders. Third-party apps like DoorDash charge restaurants a commission fee, eating into their profits. Chipotle had said in previous quarters that the higher incidence of delivery orders fueled by the crisis had hurt its profit margins.

The company opened 61 new locations during the quarter, relocated two restaurants and closed one. In fiscal 2021, Chipotle expects to open around 200 new restaurants, assuming that it encounters few construction and permit delays related to the crisis.

Read the full earnings report here.

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