Chipotle's potential breakfast push could be a costly mistake

  • Chipotle recently detailed new performance-based financial targets, which it hopes to reach by driving same-store sales and improving margins in the next three years.

  • The chain's new CEO Brian Niccol could push to expand its menu, including adding breakfast options, to spur a turnaround.

  • Though Chipotle has not made any announcement on adding breakfast, analysts at Oppenheimer believe such a move could cost the restaurant chain in the long run.

  • You can view Chipotle's stock in real time here.

Breakfast on the menu would not keep Chipotle on track to reaching its financial goals, two Oppenheimer analysts said.

There are a range of possible outcomes for breakfast at Chipotle, but Oppenheimer analysts Brian Bittner and Michael Tamas wrote in a note to clients that they believe it could hurt the restaurant chain in the long run. The company has made no announcement on breakfast plans yet, but it has expressed interest in expanding its menu options, particularly under its new ex-Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol.

Breakfast carries a risk of derailing the chain from its ambitious financial goals detailed in an 8-K filing this week, the analysts said. The company hopes to boost performance by incentivizing managers to drive more traffic to its locations and improve restaurant margins over the next three years.

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"Our work suggests breakfast expansion likely would be margin-dilutive, creating a difficult path to achieving the margin improvement targets above," Bittner and Tamas wrote.

The analysts reiterated their "Perform" rating though they stayed mum on a price target, which they haven't given since January 2016.

The duo said that a breakfast expansion could add to costs and cannibalize some of the chain's existing strong lunch traffic. Moreover, the lack of drive-thrus at its locations limit the potential upside from expanding into breakfast options.

Wall Street has been optimistic over the hiring of Niccol, tapped from Yum Brands' Taco Bell. Niccol has been known for elevating Taco Bell's brand, improving its social media presence, and introducing successful new options to its menus.

His appointment comes at a time when Chipotle has contended with a series of challenges after multiple cases of customers falling ill and failed attempts to introduce new items on the menu that would resonate with consumers, such as its queso.

A recent report by UBS found that most customers were still concerned about food safety at Chipotle's stores.

Chipotle's stock was trading at $331.02 a share, and was up 13.83% for the year.

Read more about the easiest ways Chipotle can spark a turnaround.

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