Bernstein analyst Sara Senatore has become the biggest Wall Street bull on Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG). The analyst has maintained an outperform rating on the fast-casual restaurant chain, while raising her price target to $1,600 per share. That price would represent almost a 30% gain from the stock's closing price yesterday.
Chipotle has already been one of the big winners of 2020 with more than a 50% gain year to date, and a 173% rebound from its March lows. But the business continues to expand and there remain growth drivers ahead.
The company announced it was planning to hire 10,000 new workers over the next several months, as growth in digital sales has escalated. Online orders grew 81% in the first quarter of 2020, but rocketed 216% in the second quarter, as the COVID-19 pandemic drove a surge in delivery and pickup. For the second quarter, digital sales accounted for almost 61% of total sales.
As with most restaurants, Chipotle's second-quarter sales were heavily impacted by closures and stay-at-home restrictions. Comparable sales bottomed in April with a 24% drop, but were up by 2% in June versus the year ago period. The company said that improvement continued in July as comp sales were up 6.4% three weeks into the month.
New hirings will support the "Chipotlane" online ordering and pickup experience. Of 37 new restaurants opened in the second quarter, 21 had a Chipotlane drive-thru. In its second-quarter earnings release at the end of July, the company said these "are helping enhance guest access and convenience, as well as increase new restaurant sales, margins, and returns." It also continues to believe the total store count can double in the U.S. from here, providing even more opportunity for investors.