A survey released late Thursday appears to show the worst may be over for Chipotle, with consumers showing more willingness to eat at the chain as negative sentiment from the company's E. coli scare fades.
"It appears that sentiment bottomed in January, with willingness to eat at Chipotle increasing after the company's digital coupon for a free entrée spurred improved traffic in the latter half of February," William Blair & Co. analyst Sharon Zackfia said in a research note.
William Blair has conducted monthly surveys of about 800 adults since November 2015, when the E. coli outbreak and food-safety concerns were impacting traffic. Chipotle's stock is down 18 percent since November, although it has retraced some of its losses, with the stock up 9 percent so far this year.
Last month, Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill reported revenue for the fourth quarter fell nearly 7 percent from a year ago. It said the downturn reflected a nearly 15 percent decline in comparable restaurant sales due to publicity during the quarter surrounding the food-borne illness incidents at a number of Chipotle restaurants.