An unexpected winner throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been none other than Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG -1.11%). The fast-casual restaurant pioneer was thriving before the health crisis, but thanks to its convenience, value proposition, and popularity, the business has performed tremendously well over the past couple years, quickly growing revenue and profits. 

Chipotle reports Q2 2022 financial results on Tuesday, July 26. If it can once again announce stellar numbers, then the stock, which is down 22% this year, should react positively. 

The business has a lot of momentum 

Chipotle is facing a difficult year-ago comparison for the just-ended quarter as sales jumped 38.7% in Q2 2021, the fastest growth rate in at least the past decade. According to consensus estimates from Wall Street analysts, Chipotle is expected to report revenue of just over $2.2 billion for the latest quarter, good for a year-over-year increase of 18.7%. Posting that type of gain would prove that Chipotle is firmly still a growth stock. 

The business has been able to continue doing extremely well thanks to its operational excellence and flexibility. For example, at the onset of the pandemic when in-store dining was restricted, Chipotle was able to lean on its robust digital infrastructure to keep serving its hungry customers. The company counts 28 million rewards members, who can order through the website or mobile app for delivery or pick-up orders. And now with restrictions lifted, diners are increasingly coming back to eat inside. 

Chipotle's drive-thru option, known as a Chipotlane, has become incredibly popular among customers because of its accessibility and convenience. And for the company, this is a financial boon. Chipotlanes produce higher new-restaurant returns on capital than regular stores. What's more, digital pick-up orders are the company's highest-margin transactions. Of the 235 to 250 new locations the business plans to open in 2022, at least 80% will come equipped with a Chipotlane. 

In the current macro environment, with inflation soaring and fears of a recession looming, a strong showing by Chipotle will give shareholders confidence. Like most other businesses, Chipotle is facing cost pressures, particularly for things like beef, avocados, and paper products, as well as increased wages. But the company has historically shown great success at raising menu prices without any drop-off in demand. 

Consensus estimates call for earnings per share (EPS) to grow 38.1% year over year to $9.11 in Q2. In each of the last four quarters, Chipotle has actually been able to exceed these forecasts when it comes to EPS. A continuation of this trend will almost certainly help the stock, especially at a time when rising costs, inflationary concerns, and macroeconomic worries are at the top of investors' minds. 

With each passing quarter, Chipotle continues to prove that it still very much belongs in the category of a growth stock. And although a solid financial report next week is fully expected, and could possibly push shares higher, I think investors should put this stock on their watch lists for now. The current price-to-earnings ratio of 57, which is higher than restaurant peers like Domino's Pizza, McDonald's, and Starbucks, leaves no margin of safety for investors. 

Even though Chipotle is a wonderful business, it's best to practice patience right now.