Jeremy Bowman owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill. The Motley Fool recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill, McDonald's, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
Dec 1, 2014 at 9:00AM
Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) has certainly been one of the more exciting growth stocks since the recession. Shares of the burrito chain have returned more than 1,000% since 2009, and while it's hard to doubt the quality of the company, which pioneered the fast casual restaurant industry that's sweeping the nation, many observers have called the stock too frothy, claiming it's bound for a pullback. Is Chipotle a buy? We posed that question to two of the Motley Fool's top contributors to shed some light on the subject.
Jeremy Bowman: Chipotle shares are certainly expensive at a P/E of 51, but that valuation is warranted if the company's future growth can justify its valuation. Around the time of its IPO, management said it expected to build 4,000 restaurants nationwide. Today, the company is nearing 2,000 locations and with comparable sales soaring, it seems likely that the U.S. has capacity for many more than 4,000 Chipotles.
Considering that there are over 25,000 Subway restaurants in the country, and nearly 15,000 McDonald's, I would expect Chipotle to be targeting a range closer 10,000 rather than 4,000. However, the burrito chain does not have the benefit of franchising as McDonald's and Subway do so growth will be slower.
Investors have also balked at management's same-store sales guidance next year, which was in the low to mid-single digits. However, management provided the same guidance for this year, which proved to drastically underestimate the actual growth so I'd consider next year's guidance to conservative. Comps are likely to moderate as they won't have the benefit of the price increase but I don't expect them to crash.
Investors must also remember that the market itself is overvalued on a historical basis as the S&P 500 is trading at a P/E of 20, compared with average valuation of 15.5. Also, while multiple compression is likely in the future, Starbucks has shown that large restaurant chains can continue to deliver solid growth and command high valuations. The coffee chain expects 16% revenue growth this year, is now worth $60 billion, and trades at a P/E of 30. With its popularity and ample growth opportunities, Chipotle could become a similar stock over the years.
I wouldn't expect the kind of growth from the stock we've seen over the next five years, but I still expect it to outperform the market over the long run.
Andres Cardenal: I agree with Jeremy on this one, Chipotle is an extraordinary growth company, but it's trading at a remarkably demanding valuation, so I would be patient and try to slowly build a position over time, seizing the opportunity to buy on pullbacks.
On the other hand, it's important to keep in mind that superior companies deserve a premium valuation, and Chipotle is clearly a unique player in its industry. Chipotle's "food with integrity" approach to Mexican cuisine is a boom among customers. While health and sustainability implications are important for many clients, the fact that fresh and more natural ingredients have a better taste is clearly a big plus, too.
The company announced a jaw-dropping increase in sales of 31.1% during the third quarter, on the back of 19.8% jump in comparable-store sales during the period. That kind of performance is nothing short of amazing, especially in a very challenging and competitive industry such as restaurants.
Chipotle has a unique culture, the company offers salaries and other benefits substantially above those of the competition to attract more talented employees and keep them better motivated. This generates considerable advantages in terms of efficiency and speed, some Chipotle restaurants can serve 350 transactions per hour during peak hours. This has important implications in terms of customer experience and financial performance.
Considering demand strength in the U.S., the company still has a lot of room for expansion in its home market. Besides, Chipotle has barely scratched the surface in global markets, so investors have solid reasons to expect mouthwatering growth from Chipotle in the years ahead.
- Dec 1, 2014 at 9:00AM
- Consumer Goods