Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) had a difficult year in 2020, to say the least. The coronavirus pandemic led it to close its doors to in-person dining and make a quick pivot to meal delivery and pick-up options. Fortunately for shareholders, Chipotle did this incredibly well. 

The new year is here, and 2021 will bring with it a host of its own challenges. The biggest of them is getting enough of the population vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease to return to normalcy. In case the rollout of vaccinations takes longer than expected, Chipotle will need to move forward in a way that prepares for a mixed scenario. Here are three things investors can look for from Chipotle in 2021. 

A burrito bowl with lettuce, steak, tomatoes, and beans.

Image source: Getty images.

1. New locations 

Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, Chipotle plans to add more locations in 2021. Most of these new restaurants will include the new Chipotlane feature that management says is leading to increased performance for the stores that already have them. Importantly for investors, CFO John R. Hartung said, "Opening more Chipotlanes will not only enhance customer access and convenience, but it also increases new store restaurant sales, margins, and returns."

Overall, Chipotle is guiding investors that in the long run, it will more than double its current store base of 2,700. That fact, along with continued comparable restaurant sales growth (comps), should fuel increasing overall revenue for Chipotle.

2. Revenue growth

Speaking of revenue growth, the combination of comps growth, new store openings, and a rebound of in-person dining may lead to double-digit increases in revenue in 2021.

More than 2 million people in the U.S. have received the first dose of the required two-dose regimen as of this writing. Chipotle is currently offering limited in-person dining at about 85% of its locations, and the rest are open only for orders to be picked up and taken home. If enough of the population is inoculated and restrictions are removed by the second half of 2021, it will boost revenue from those who wish to dine in.

In the most recent quarter, comparable restaurant sales growth was 8.3%. Further, if Chipotle can open the estimated 200 new locations in 2021, that will be a roughly 7% increase from its existing store base. Combined, new stores and comps increases could lead the company to report double-digit overall revenue growth in 2021. In fact, in the company's third-quarter conference call, CEO Brian Niccol said, "Beginning mid-September, comparable restaurant sales impressively delivered mid-single digits, and this trend has continued in October."

A plate with a quesadilla, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.

Image source: Getty images.

3. A new menu item

Finally, Chipotle may add a new menu item in 2021. The quesadilla was its most requested item and is currently being tested in several markets. If all goes well, the company may introduce the item nationally, which could boost sales in 2021 and beyond.

Investors looking for a quality consumer goods stock with years of growth potential to add to their portfolio should put Chipotle on their watch lists for 2021.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.