Net income dipped 3.2% to $17 million, or $0.52 per share. Revenue looked more impressive, surging 19.5% to $345.3 million, and comparable restaurant sales ticked up by 3.5%. Restaurant level operating margin dropped 100 basis points to 21.1%.
Of course, there's more to the sales figures than meets the eye. Chipotle said its increase in comps growth was due to higher menu prices offset by a decline in customer visits -- we can look at that fact and say "hmm." Some restaurant chains are resorting to raising their prices -- my Foolish colleague Kristin Graham pointed out that last quarter, Panera (Nasdaq: PNRA ) was taking a similar tack -- and while that may help boost sales in the near term, it's not very heartening to realize customer traffic is actually down and that many customers may also get sticker shock from higher prices, since everybody's out to save a buck these days.
I think Chipotle's a great company for many reasons, but I'm less enthusiastic about it than I used to be. Its former parent, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) , is much hotter these days, and earlier today I saw that Buffalo Wild Wings (Nasdaq: BWLD ) managed a pretty impressive fourth quarter despite the economic headwinds. Months ago I assumed that it would do well even in penny-pinching times, but people just aren't flocking to the stores for some reason. Those price increases might not be helping, either.
Of course, temporary performance can be the perfect time for investors to load up on shares of any stock, but I think the stock seems awfully pricy when the business may need a bit of reheating. It's trading at 22 times earnings, which seems high compared to restaurant peers like McDonald's. Plus, Chipotle's 2007 full-year earnings only grew 10.8%. I'd say those with a craving for Chipotle should wait for a cheaper price -- and more signs of life -- to gobble up this stock.
Reheat some Foolishness about Chipotle: