NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has introduced Chipotlane, a drive-up window, at 10 restaurants with plans to add a few dozen more in the year ahead. So far, this addition is driving higher digital sales and total restaurant sales, said Brian R. Niccol, CEO.

“It really opens the door to, I think, additional convenience with less friction…” Niccol said during a Feb. 6 earnings call. “We’re still in the early days, though… and we’ll continue to test, learn, iterate throughout 2019.”

Digitizing the restaurant experience is a strategic focus for Chipotle, and efforts are gaining momentum. In the recent quarter, digital sales grew 66 percent year-over-year, an acceleration from the 48 percent seen in the previous quarter, Niccol noted.

“Digital sales totaled $158.6 million during the fourth quarter and represented 12.9 percent of sales,” he said. “For the full year, digital sales exceeded $0.5 billion and accounted for 10.9 percent of sales. App downloads increased 72 percent year-over-year in 2018, and we continue to see strong interest from new, infrequent, as well as frequent guests at Chipotle.”

Net income for the year ended Dec. 31, 2018, totaled $176,553,000, equal to $6.35 per share on the common stock, up from $176,253,000, or $6.19, in the prior year. Revenue for 2018 was $4,864,985,000, up 8.7 percent when compared with $4,476,412,000 in 2017.

Fourth-quarter net income was $32,019,000, or $1.15 per share, down from $43,793,000, or $1.56, in the comparable period. The company incurred unusual expenses in the recent quarter related to restaurant closing costs, corporate restructuring and certain other costs that affected comparability.

Revenue advanced more than 10 percent to $1,225,061,000 from $1,110,100,000.

Comparable restaurant sales increased 6.1 percent for the quarter and 4 percent for the year, benefitting from a bump in menu prices.

Shares of Chipotle on Nasdaq were up more than 14 percent on Feb. 7, hovering around $600 in mid-morning trading after closing the previous day at $526.06.

“We continue to hear the No. 1 reason consumers eat elsewhere is because they don’t have convenient access to Chipotle,” he said. “In 2018, we opened 137 new restaurants with industry-leading returns, and we’ll continue to be one of the leaders in developing new restaurants. For our existing restaurants, we completed the big fix and stayed focused on expanding the reach of our digital system to provide our guests easier access and greater convenience.”

More than 1,000 Chipotle restaurants include a “digitized make-line,” a dedicated line for assembling digital orders. Digital pick-up shelves are in approximately 1,000 restaurants. By the end of the year, all Chipotle restaurants will include digitized make-lines and digital pick-up shelves, Niccol said.

“Similar to last quarter, we saw a particularly strong traction in delivery,” he added. “Although off a relatively low base, delivery sales increased roughly 13-fold compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.”