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Chipotle (NYSE: CMG ) gave investors something to cheer about with a highly appetizing third-quarter earnings report.
Third-quarter net income increased 39.9% to $48.2 million, or $1.52 per share. Revenue surged 23% to $476.9 million. Restaurant comparable-store sales increased an impressive 11.4%.
Here's another reason for investors to stand up and cheer for Chipotle. The company's strong growth largely resulted from increased customer traffic -- exactly what we want to see from a restaurant company right now. Those new customers helped drive restaurant-level operating margin up 220 basis points, to 27.7%.
Chipotle's former parent, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) , also reported an amazing quarter yesterday. You could argue that Chipotle and McDonald's both provide food for bargain-hungry consumers, even if the type of food they sell differs greatly in perception.
There's no guarantee that every restaurant will outperform right now. Take Sonic (Nasdaq: SONC ) , which reported a very disappointing quarter yesterday, complete with stomach-churning drops in earnings and revenue.
I'd also be wary of investing in pricier, sit-down restaurants in this penny-pinching consumer climate. Ruth's Hospitality (Nasdaq: RUTH ) and McCormick & Schmick (Nasdaq: MSSR ) both give me pause right now, as does online reservation company OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN ) . With restaurants facing an ever-tougher battle to lure in customers, and investors must choose their stocks in that sector carefully.
Chipotle gives little reason for such caution, thanks to its strong quarterly results and superb operations. That said, investors should note that its price-to-earnings ratio does look high at 34 times earnings; one can snap up McDonald's for a far cheaper 18 times earnings.
Still, Chipotle's spicy growth and appetizing business concept might give investors good reason to choke down that premium price and bite into this very tasty stock.