Leave it to Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) to guac and roll when the general market's still reeling. Shares of the fast-growing chain of fast-casual restaurants got a tip of the hat from Wall Street this morning, and the market darling is also announcing a national hiring day at a time when many corporations are apprehensive about bringing on new help.
Let's start with the analyst move. Wedbush is boosting its price target on the stock from $640 to $720, encouraged by the way that comps are trending halfway through the current quarter.
Analyst Nick Setyan isn't necessarily bullish on the popular burrito roller. He is sticking to his neutral hold rating on the stock. Tweaking his firm's price goal would seem to be merely catching up to the buoyant share price, since a $640 target when the stock began the week north of $700 would seem to be something far more pessimistic than neutral.
However, Setyan is juicing up some aspects of his projections.
- He sees year-over-year comps climbing 3.5% for the current quarter, up from his earlier forecast of 2.5%.
- He sees Chipotle earning $17.42 a share this year. He was previously perched at $17.34 a share.
- Setyan's outlook for 2016 is getting an even bigger adjustment. He now expects Chipotle to earn $20.67 a share next year, up from his previous assumption of $20.04 a share.
The move wasn't enough to spare Chipotle from joining the rest of the market in the Monday morning swoon, but it probably kept the drop in check.
Some may argue that even 3.5% may be too low for comps at Chipotle, but keep in mind that the chain has benefited over the past year from a menu price hike last May that was the largest that the chain had rolled out in three years. Pricier burritos kept year-over-year comps in the double digits for five straight quarters before its more pedestrian showing of 4.3% during the second quarter. The third quarter will be the first period where we're on an apples to apples -- or carnitas to carnitas -- basis. A 3.5% uptick in comps is better than you think.
The other big news out of Chipotle this morning is that it will conduct its first-ever National Career Day in two weeks. It's taking online reservations at NationalCareerDay.com for up to 60 applicants per store that will take place on the morning of Sept. 9 before the eateries open for lunch.
The goal here is to walk away with 4,000 new hires, adding to its existing pool north of 60,000 workers. Many fast food concepts have turned to automation or even selling company-owned stores to franchisees to free themselves of the burden of paying new employees in this climate of rising labor costs, but that's not Chipotle. It even points out that 10,000 of its hourly wage employees were promoted to management positions last year.
The new employees will benefit Chipotle's workforce, but there's no denying that hosting a National Career Day -- promoting thousands of new hires -- will also give the chain some welcome free publicity. Chipotle gets it, even on an otherwise dark and dreary trading day.