Restaurants

Chipotle earnings top estimates as diners shifted orders online, driving its digital sales up 81%

Key Points
  • Chipotle reported adjusted first-quarter earnings per share of $3.08 on revenue of $1.41 billion.
  • Same-store sales rose 3.3%, although overall transactions fell 1.4%.
  • Chipotle responded to the Covid-19 outbreak by increasing hourly employee pay by 10% and handing out first-quarter bonuses, despite weaker sales in March.
An employee prepares a burrito bowl at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Tuesday said digital sales more than doubled in March, helping the company report positive same-store sales growth even as social-distancing measures roil the restaurant industry.

Shares of the company rose 3.6% in extended trading.

Here's what the company reported compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $3.08, adjusted, vs. $2.90 expected
  • Revenue: $1.41 billion vs. $1.41 billion expected

The burrito chain reported fiscal first-quarter net income of $76.39 million, or $2.70 per share, down from $88.13 million, or $3.13 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Chipotle earned $3.08 per share.

Net sales rose 7.8% to $1.41 billion. Same-store sales rose 3.3%, although overall transactions fell 1.4%.

Wall Street anticipated earnings per share of $2.90 on revenue of $1.42 billion, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv. 

Under CEO Brian Niccol, the company has focused on growing its digital sales by upgrading the mobile app and exclusively partnering with DoorDash for delivery. In March, Chipotle added Uber Eats as a delivery partner. 

The strategy is paying off for Chipotle. Its digital sales grew 81% during the quarter, with March digital sales more than doubling as the company shifted its marketing once states began advising residents to stay at home. The company has been offering free delivery since March 15. It also shifted advertising spending from live sports to more online and streaming platforms. Online sales accounted for 26.3% of the company's quarterly revenue.

Still, Chipotle's digital sales did not insulate the company from the crisis. March same-store sales plunged 16% after two months of double-digit growth. The chain hit its low point during the week ended March 29, with same-store sales plummeting 35%. The company said that sales have improved in April, adjusting for the Easter holiday.

Roughly 100 Chipotle restaurants are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. The majority of those locations are inside malls and shopping centers, as well as 17 European locations.

Chipotle has also responded to the outbreak by increasing hourly employee pay by 10% and handing out first-quarter bonuses, despite weaker sales in March. The company delivered 100,000 free burritos to health-care workers and is matching 10% of e-gift card purchases and donating the proceeds.

The company withdrew its outlook for 2020, citing the volatility and uncertainty of Covid-19 on the U.S. economy. In February, the burrito chain said it was forecasting same-store sales growth in the mid-single digits for the full-year 2020. The company also planned to add between 150 to 165 new restaurants, about half of which will include a drive-thru lane for only digital orders.

The company suspended its share buyback program on March 20 to preserve liquidity. CFO Jack Hartung said that the company has been in contact with landlords about rent deferrals. It has $500.32 million in cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet, as of March 31. The company does not plan on applying for loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Read the full earnings release here.

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