Is It Game Over for Chipotle?

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Source: Chipotle

After shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill dropped 6% on April 17, investors might be thinking that the stock has finally run out of steam . The fall in the company's share price follows its first-quarter earnings release and points to a picture that some analysts see as very bearish for the business.


However, this is unlikely to be the case. If anything, the situation at Chipotle looks to be better than even Mr. Market anticipated, which could extend the company's lead over Panera Bread  and Yum! Brands .

Chipotle posted strong growth, but terrible price movements hurt!
For the quarter, Chipotle reported revenue of $904.2 million. This represented a 24% gain compared to the $726.8 million reported in the year-ago quarter and was more than 3% above the $873.8 million investors hoped to see.

According to the company's earnings release, the jump in sales was driven by a variety of factors. Chief among these was the 13.4% increase in comparable-store sales the business reported compared to the first quarter of 2013. This was due, for the most part, to increased traffic but was also favorably affected by an increase in average ticket.

Source: Chipotle

Another significant driver behind the company's growth compared to last year was an increase in restaurant count. During the quarter, the company added 44 new restaurants and -- over the past year -- increased its number of locations in operation by 12% from 1,458 to 1,637.

From a revenue perspective, it's hard to deny that Chipotle's growth has been anything short of stupendous. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the company's rise in profits. For the quarter, management reported that earnings per share came in at $2.64. Although this was 8% higher than the $2.45 the business reported in the year-ago quarter, it fell a good level shy of the $2.87 Mr. Market anticipated.

Despite benefiting from higher revenue, Chipotle's bottom line failed to keep up primarily due to rising in costs. The main contributor to the company's lackluster profits was its cost of food, which rose from 33% of sales to 34.5% mostly because of soaring beef, cheese, and avocado prices. In response to this, management stated that the prices it charges customers will rise by summer, probably in the range of 3% to 5%.

Is Chipotle out cold?
Out of fear that price increases will cause Chipotle's customer base to feel disenfranchised, investors pushed the company's stock price down. If the company had been experiencing poor revenue growth or small profits over an extended period of time, it's probable that this decision by management could indeed harm the business. However, the company's long-term performance seems to indicate that Chipotle is quite healthy.

Source: Chipotle

Over the past few years, Chipotle has been a true growth machine. Between 2009 and 2013, the company saw its revenue skyrocket 112% from $1.5 billion to $3.2 billion. Panera, one of Chipotle's biggest rivals, saw its top line increase only 76% from $1.4 billion to $2.4 billion during that same time frame; Yum!, the parent of Taco Bell, saw its revenue climb just 21% from $10.8 billion to $13.1 billion.

In its annual report, Chipotle attributes its sales jump to a nice mix between higher store count and comparable-store sales. During this time period, the company's number of locations in operation increased 71% from 956 to 1,637, while its aggregate comparable-store sales rose 41%.

CMG Revenue (Annual) Chart

Chipotle revenue (annual) data by YCharts

Both of these metrics far outpaced Panera's performance over the same period of time. During the past five years, Panera's revenue grew because of a 29% increase in store count from 1,380 to 1,777. However, the aggregate 29% rise in comparable-store sales has helped the business immensely as well.

Meanwhile, Yum! has been unable to compete with fast-casual competitors, particularly in the U.S. Between 2009 and 2013, the company's U.S. comparable- store sales have been nearly flat. However, management has seen some positive results coming from China, India, and most of its remaining international operations. This, combined with the 9% improvement in store count from 37,080 locations to 40,311 the company enjoyed, helped push its revenue up a bit.

Foolish takeaway
Based on the data provided, it's easy to see why investors are concerned about Chipotle's ability to grow earnings as quickly as it grows revenue. However, with strong revenue growth over an extended period of time, it's unlikely that the business will be adversely affected. Yes, there is a chance that its comparable-store sales growth might slow if prices rise too high. But with a strong and growing presence in America's dining industry, the company's future probably hasn't looked brighter.

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The article Is It Game Over for Chipotle? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Daniel Jones has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread. 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.

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