Emerging in 1993, Chipotle was one of the first restaurants to serve healthy fast food. Being one of the first in the category of healthy fast food, Chipotle’s customer base grew rapidly, attracting many who had previously been deterred from fast food due to its lack of nutritional value. Opening new locations and growth of sales allowed Chipotle to reach a market cap of 23.41 Billion in late 2015.
For countless years, Chipotle seemed unstoppable in the fast food realm. After years of tremendous growth, Chipotle hit a massive roadblock in 2015 as illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella were reported by some of Chipotle’s customers. With hundreds victim to Chipotle’s sanitary issues, it’s stock took a turn for the worst. Reports regarding Chipotle’s sanitation continued, forcing Chipotle to temporarily close some stores. As their operating income plummeted from 764 million in 2015 to 35 million in 2016. When it finally solved its sanitary issues, the company was not the same. The huge customer base that it had built up was greatly diminished. The sanitary scandals put a bad taste in many of Chipotle’s customer’s mouths. Also, acknowledging the initial success of Chipotle, many other healthy fast food chains began to appear. These competitors capitalized on Chipotle’s sanitary issues by capturing some of their market shares.
Ever since their sanitary issues, Chipotle has struggled to return to its previous brand image and has seen decreases in same-store sales. This has caused the stock to sink from a high of $758 per share in in early August of 2015 to a low of $247 per share on February 9, 2018. Currently Chipotle has a market cap of 9 billion dollars with a P/E of 52. Looking at the P/E, it is clear that investors still believe that Chipotle will eventually return to its former self and start earning profits like it was. It is on the right track, as it’s revenue went from 3.9 billion in 2016 to 4.47 billion in 2017. Also, Chipotle recently hired a new CEO, Brian Niccol, former Taco Bell CEO. His great track record in the fast food realm has brought new life to the Chipotle stock. Since they released the news on its leadership, its stock has risen from $251.33 to $322.70 per share.
Although news of Chipotle’s new CEO has temporarily boosted its stock, Chipotle is going to need strong earnings reports in the upcoming quarters to justify the continuation of this trend. In order to achieve these sales, Chipotle will need to regain lost customers. Is it possible for Chipotle to regain these lost customers? The amount of time it will take for previous Chipotle customers to regain trust in the brand is unknown. Some may never eat there again and some have already returned. Chipotle in our eyes has done everything they need to do to gain customer confidence and make the overall brand trusted again. Because Chipotle has laid the groundwork with 2,400 locations and not a single dollar of debt; they need to and have been putting millions of dollars into food safety. It has invested in its food suppliers to help it grow safer foods along with investing in its restaurants by educating employees.
At the high of Chipotle’s stock, they were one of the only restaurants in the healthy fast food business. Now, in order to reach their previous sales and profitability, Chipotle will have to compete with the numerous other restaurants that have emerged in the same category. This being said, there may also be more demand for healthy fast food than ever before.
Our Point of View:
Chipotle was wildly popular when it first came out, with lines out the door in certain locations. When the news regarding the sanitary issues came out, we saw many people turn away from Chipotle. Despite the decrease in sales, we haven’t seen a decline in the food quality. We always thought that at some point these customers would slowly return as the news blew over. On a smaller scale, from looking at our friends and family we have seen them beginning to venture back into being a Chipotle consumer. Recently, Chipotle released a 0.9% increase in same-store sales, which could just be the beginning. Maintaining the high-quality food, opening new stores, and spending millions on food safety, is why we believe that Chipotle may be able to both regain and accumulate new customers, returning themselves to their prior sales and brand image.
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