Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Looks Tasty After a Pullback

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. shares fell after its earnings report last week, but the company's long-term growth trajectory remains intact.

Apr 21, 2014 at 7:20PM

Investors weren't too pleased with Chipotle Mexican Grill's (NYSE:CMG) recent earnings report. While earnings per share grew 7.8% to $2.64, that fell short of the average analyst estimate of $2.86. As a result, shares fell about 6%. However, while Chipotle stock is up 50% year over year, this drop seems like a great buying opportunity.

CMG Chart

Chipotle Mexican Grill 1-Year Stock Chart. Source: YCharts.

First of all, Chipotle generated unbelievable comparable-restaurant sales growth of 13.4% last quarter, in spite of bad weather. Second, the company is still growing its restaurant count by more than 10% annually, pushing revenue growth even higher. Third, Chipotle has the pricing power to win back the margins it lost due to cost inflation last quarter -- and it plans to implement a price increase very soon.

Efficiency hits a peak
A good portion of Chipotle's comparable-restaurant sales gain can be attributed to improvements in throughput -- the number of customers who can be served per hour. (An easy comparison to Q1 2013 also helped.) This allowed Chipotle restaurants to serve about seven extra customers during the peak lunch and dinner hours.

Chipotle's strong throughput performance bodes well for the next two quarters, which tend to be busier due to the favorable weather. Most Chipotle restaurants have long lines for several hours a day during the peak season, so faster throughput means that each restaurant can ultimately serve more customers.

Images

Faster throughput helps Chipotle serve more customers at peak hours.

Comparable-restaurant sales gains are obviously good for revenue, but they also help Chipotle's profit margin by making better use of labor, occupancy, and capital expenses. Last quarter, labor costs fell from 23.6% to 23% of Chipotle's revenue; occupancy costs fell from 6.6% to 6.1% of revenue, and depreciation and amortization expense fell from 3.2% to 2.8% of revenue.

Margin worries
Despite the good sales leverage on labor, occupancy, and depreciation/amortization costs, Chipotle's operating margin fell by 150 basis points last quarter. Food costs were the main culprit. Rapid cost increases for beef and dairy caused food, beverage, and packaging costs to move from 33% of sales to 34.5% of sales.

Furthermore, corporate general and administrative expenses soared more than 50% year over year, increasing from 6.1% of sales to 7.4% of sales. This was primarily caused by higher stock compensation expense.

Last week, many investors appeared to be spooked by Chipotle's margin issues. This was due in part to the rise in food costs last quarter, but management's forecast that food costs would rise even further in Q2 compounded these concerns. Investors seem to be worried that Chipotle can't raise prices fast enough to keep up with food cost inflation.

No reason to fear
These worries seem overblown to me. On the earnings call, Chipotle announced that it will implement mid-single-digit menu price increases starting later this quarter.

This alone will not move food costs back under 33%, a level seen as recently as 2012. However, the rapid price increases seen for items like beef (up 25% in just a few months) are likely to reverse eventually.

Images

Chipotle plans to raise its prices starting later this quarter.

Moreover, the increase in menu prices should improve Chipotle's ability to leverage non-food costs, which represent about 50% of revenue. Obviously, it takes the same amount of labor and store overhead to serve the same burrito after its price goes up by 5%.

Lastly, the rise in G&A costs will slow dramatically later this year, largely because stock compensation expense is disproportionately weighted toward the first half of 2014. For the full year, G&A costs will increase by just 50 to 60 basis points over 2013. Part of this increase is due to the biennial All-Manager conference, which is held in even-numbered years and will therefore become a tailwind in 2015.

In sum, while Chipotle will probably have a tough Q2 margin-wise, it could see solid margin expansion in the second half of 2014 and 2015. It will benefit from higher prices, lower stock compensation expense, and potentially also from easing commodity costs. This will boost Chipotle's already-strong margin growth.

Foolish conclusion
For much of the past year, I have been wary of Chipotle stock, which seemed overpriced as it rose past $400, $500, and eventually $600. However, the company's ability to keep posting strong comparable-restaurant sales growth while adding nearly 200 restaurants a year -- and the recent stock price correction -- have changed my mind.

Chipotle stock is still pricey at more than 30 times forward earnings. This seems like a price worth paying, though. Chipotle has tremendous long-term growth prospects and enough pricing power to maintain or even improve its already-stellar profit margin over time. This is a recipe for great long-term investing returns.

Your credit card may soon be completely worthless
The plastic in your wallet is about to go the way of the typewriter, the VCR, and the 8-track tape player. When it does, a handful of investors could stand to get very rich. You can join them -- but you must act now. An eye-opening new presentation reveals the full story on why your credit card is about to be worthless -- and highlights one little-known company sitting at the epicenter of an earth-shaking movement that could hand early investors the kind of profits we haven't seen since the dot-com days. Click here to watch this stunning video.

Adam Levine-Weinberg has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.


Compare Brokers