What to Watch for When Chipotle Mexican Grill Reports Q2 Earnings This Afternoon

Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) is slated to report its second-quarter financial results today after the closing bell sounds at 4:00 PM EST. At 4:30 PM, the company's conference call is scheduled to begin.

With all the excitement only hours away, here are some key things to watch for when the company finally does report.

What Wall Street is watching for
For the quarter, Wall Street is looking for Chipotle to earn $3.08 per share and generate a total of $989 million in revenue. If these figures are met, Chipotle would achieve 9.2% year-over-year EPS growth and 21.1% year-over-year revenue growth.

Looking back, such a performance would be historically weak for EPS, which over the past half-decade Chipotle has grown an average of 24.4% year-over-year in its second quarters, yet right in line in terms of revenue, which Chipotle has grown an average of 20.5% year-over-year.

What this Fool is watching for
While EPS and revenue figures do a tremendous job of showing investors how a company fared in the past quarter, there is so much more one can get out of an earnings report. Here are just three key things I'll be watching for.

Comparable Store Sales Growth
Chipotle is famous for the incredible comparable store sales growth figures it has been able to produce in past quarters. In the first-quarter of this year alone, Chipotle reported a 13.4% increase in this metric. Remember, comparable store sales does not even take into account the growth derived from the opening of new restaurants, just the increases in revenue generated at pre-existing locations.

Put simply, it is unheard for a company like Chipotle to be putting up double-digit to high single-digit comps as consistently as Chipotle has in the past. One of Chipotle's main competitors, Yum! Brands' Taco Bell, only managed -1% growth in the first quarter and 2% growth in the second quarter of this year.

Maintaining such an accelerated rate in comparable store sales is crucial to Chipotle's overall growth strategy, and is a key thing to watch.

Food Costs
Chipotle, like any other food company, has to deal with fluctuations in food prices. In the first quarter of this year, food costs made up 34.5% of overall revenue, a 150 basis point increase year-over-year. On their conference call, management cited "inflationary pressures in beef, avocados, and cheese prices" for the rise in commodity costs, and even went on to note that many of these products are expected to continuing rising in price.

Such is why Chipotle's management decided to implement a companywide price increase earlier this year, the first one in three years. The conference call, especially, will shed some light on to how Chipotle customers are reacting, if at all, to these price hikes.

New Restaurant Openings
For the year Chipotle expects to open 180-195 new restaurants. As new restaurants are crucial to Chipotle's overall growth, I will be watching to see how far along Chipotle is in reaching its goal for this year, something management is sure to comment on.

The countdown starts
I'm not going to sit here telling you I absolutely know that Chipotle is going to knock this quarter out of the park or completely drop the ball, that's a fool's game (no pun intended).

Instead, what we must do as investors is react and analyze earnings reports, and then, with that knowledge, make sound investment decisions based on actual results, not whims and whispers. Later today, we'll get those results for Chipotle and be able to get the latest information required to ascertain if Chipotle is a Foolish long-term investment. 

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