There aren't many places investors can hide in a bear market. Look across Wall Street, and you'll see an ocean of stocks that have fallen 25%, 50%, and even 80% from their highs. Fears of a recession could worsen. Companies are lowering guidance and, as Jeff Bezos recently tweeted, they should be ready to "batten down the hatches."

But what if I told you there's a stock that isn't just growing, but the products it sells could thrive in a recession? That company is Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG -0.30%), the quick-service restaurant chain with a cult-like following. I'll break down the company's financials and explore why the stock offers safety today and potential upside.

Recession food for thought

Chipotle is a Mexican restaurant chain that operates primarily in the United States. It has 3,090 stores and is opening roughly 40 to 50 new locations every quarter. The brand seems to have found a niche with consumers among all the burger chains, pizzerias, and the like. The company uses fresh ingredients, differentiating it from more-casual Mexican fast-food chains like Yum! Brands' Taco Bell.

And Chipotle's food is relatively affordable despite the quality of its ingredients. People can eat there for roughly the same price as most fast-food chains. You could argue that its revenue growth will remain durable even if consumer spending falls. People looking to cut back on eat-in dining might turn to more casual fresh-food options like Chipotle.

You can see below that revenue has been very stable; its only significant bump came from a food contamination fiasco in 2016.

CMG Revenue (TTM) Chart

CMG revenue (TTM); data by YCharts; TTM = trailing 12 months.

The company looks prepared to continue growing its business. Chipotle should end 2022 with between 235 and 250 new stores and is forecasting between 255 to 285 store openings next year. It's accelerating its expansion plans at a time when many companies are pulling back. Free cash flow has been $902 million over the past four quarters, leaving management with plenty of cash to repurchase shares if the stock price falls.

Rinse and repeat for long-term growth

A great starting point for investors is to buy what you know. In other words, you'll probably make better investment decisions if you fully understand the companies you own, and Chipotle's simplicity is one of its most attractive traits; it sells burritos that people love and uses the profits to open up more stores to sell more burritos.

So let's now look to the future. Chipotle has grown revenue by an average of 12% annually over the past decade, and consensus revenue estimates from analysts call for between 13% and 15% annual growth over the next several years. All it needs to do is maintain comparable-store sales and steadily bolster that with new store openings. It's a straightforward formula that has proved effective.

The long-term upside is still plentiful for investors looking further out. Sure, 3,090 stores sound like a lot, but Starbucks has more than 15,000 in the United States, and there are more than 7,600 Taco Bell locations. Is it a stretch for Chipotle to double its store count? It doesn't feel like it. The forecast for new stores next year would represent an increase of about 8%, so Chipotle could hold that pace and double its store count by roughly 2031.

Is Chipotle a buy today?

Chipotle gets respect from Wall Street. Even with the shares sliding 29% from their high, the stock commands a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 48, which values it at a hefty premium to the S&P 500's P/E of 19. But growth should be much more substantial, too; analyst estimates call for earnings-per-share (EPS) growth averaging 23% annually over the next three to five years.

You can see below how the stock's P/E is in line with its longer-term norms, which could position investors for capturing a lot of Chipotle's future growth as investment returns:

CMG PE Ratio Chart

CMG PE ratio; data by YCharts.

Chipotle is a boring but practical business that has proven its formula for steady growth. The prospect that it could thrive through a down economy makes it a compelling stock for investors trying to get through this bear market, as well as those looking for a long-term compounder. In my opinion, Chipotle's stock looks reasonably valued here, and further price declines would only create more long-term opportunities.