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When Will Chipotle Crack the $1,000 Ceiling?

By Rick Munarriz - Feb 5, 2020 at 10:35AM

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The fast-casual chain is booming, and analysts see the stock going as high as $1,050 this year.

Wall Street is once again applauding Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG 3.06%) after another blowout quarter this week, and that finds several analysts lifting their price targets into the four-figure range this time. Katherine Fogertey at Goldman Sachs has set the new Street high of $1,050, encouraged by the menu innovation that former Taco Bell chief Brian Niccol has brought to the table since coming aboard as Chipotle's new CEO two years ago.

It's hard to imagine a stock that was trading below $250 (as it was this month just two years ago) roughly quadrupling in value, but that's just the kind of meteoric ascent that Chipotle has had as a turnaround darling. Fogertey's goal may seem ambitious, but she's not the only one planting a finish line north of $1,000.

Chipotle employees training at a table in front of the counter before guests arrive.

Image source: Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Rolling like a burrito

Jake Bartlett at SunTrust is lifting his price goal from $940 to $1,010, impressed by same-store sales growth clocking in at 13.4% for the final three months of 2019. Chipotle has now come through with eight straight quarters of accelerating comps, and even if we're still below the peak unit levels from the summer of 2015, momentum is clearly in the chain's favor right now.

Lauren Silberman at Credit Suisse joined Bartlett at $1,010. Even if Chipotle's guidance for the new year calls for comps to decelerate to the mid single digits, it's an achievable goal that is stacked on top of 2019's monster double-digit comps jump. Silberman sees margins expanding, supporting a case for earnings per share growing at a compound annual rate of at least 25% to 30% through the next few years.

Andrew Charles at Cowen is boosting his price target on Chipotle to $1,000. He's the relative laggard among the founding members of the new Four Figure Club here, but he's naturally bullish on the chain's prospects. Charles believes that Chipotle's guidance for the year is conservative. 

The turnaround is real. Digital sales in the form of mobile pickup orders and (more importantly) the growing popularity of third-party delivery apps have fueled a surge in takeout at popular eateries. Digital sales soared 78% in the fourth quarter, and now account for nearly a fifth of total sales. 

Now that Chipotle isn't looking over its shoulder for the next foodborne illness to tarnish the brand, it can get back to aggressively expanding its footprint. It opened a record 80 new locations during the quarter, and more than half of them include the Chipotlanes drive-thru windows to woo commuters seeking to-go orders. 

With Chipotle now closing in on its peak 2015 form in terms of unit sales (Bartlett points out that we're just 12% away at this point), it's hard to get in the way of this turnaround. The bottom line is growing even faster.

The art of investing in restaurant stocks involves identifying brands that are ascending in popularity, and getting in at a good price. Chipotle stock may not seem cheap right now, but a lot of Wall Street pros think the shares will keep going higher, to the point where they break through that four-figure ceiling in 2020. 

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Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Stock Quote
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.
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