The recently resurgent Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) is reporting fresh financials this week, and expectations are high heading into Thursday afternoon's third-quarter report. Shares of the burrito roller have soared nearly 70% since bottoming out in February, rattling off six consecutive monthly gains before proving mortal last month.
Armed with momentum and a long overdue customer loyalty rewards program that it's been testing in a few markets, Chipotle and its swagger seem to be back. Even news of a potential food-borne illness outbreak this summer -- the same thing that tripped up Chipotle nearly three years ago -- hasn't held the stock back from trouncing the market in 2018. It's going to need to come through with a blowout quarter shortly after tomorrow's market close to get there, and thankfully for the longs, that's exactly what analysts see happening.
Okay so far, oh queso...far
Analysts are modeling $1.23 billion in revenue for the third quarter, 9.4% ahead of where it was a year earlier. This may not be the same kind of growth spurt that investors saw during the stock's glory days, but after four consecutive quarters of top-line gains clocking in between 7% and 9%, it's a good sign to see Chipotle possibly cracking the ceiling instead of the floor of that tight revenue-growth range.
The bottom line should also show off strong growth. Wall Street pros are targeting a profit of $2 per share, well ahead of the $1.33 per share it posted a year earlier. We shouldn't be shooting carnitas confetti in the air to celebrate, even if Chipotle has beaten analyst earnings expectations in each of the three previous reports. The fast-casual chain is still working off of depressed 2016 and 2017 financial results, when it was generating more misses than hits. As great as $2 per share may seem this time around, it's shockingly less than half of what Chipotle earned during the same third quarter in 2015.
Chipotle isn't back. It's nowhere close to performing with the kind of margins the burrito and bowl specialist was brandishing when it was in peak form circa 2014 and 2015. If we're going to be realistic, it may never get there. The marketplace has changed, crowded with concepts taking Chipotle's assembly-line style and even "food with integrity" mantra and running with it across more than just Mexican cuisine. However, what is clear is that Chipotle is taking steps in the right direction, and that's enough -- for now.