NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF. — In-restaurant sales at Chipotle Mexican Grill have recovered by nearly 80% when compared to pre-pandemic levels, Brian R. Niccol, chief executive officer, said in an Oct. 21 call to discuss third-quarter earnings.
“While COVID impacts will likely persist for a few more quarters, we are hopeful that the worst is behind us and society can shortly return to a more normal environment,” he said.
Digital orders, a Smoked Brisket introduction and Chipotlane sales also lifted the Newport Beach-based restaurant chain in the quarter ended Sept. 30. Net income of $204.4 million, or $7.26 per share on the common stock, compared with $80.24 million, or $2.87 per share, in the previous year’s third quarter. Revenue increased 22% to $1.95 billion from $1.6 billion. Comparable restaurant sales rose by 15%. Digital sales increased by 9% to $840.4 million and accounted for 43% of total sales.
“Currently, about 65% of our guests use in-restaurant as their main access point, nearly 20% use digital as their primary channel and the remaining 15% to 20% use both channels,” Niccol said. “We’re encouraged by this dynamic as it gives us several future opportunities, including the ability to convert more of our in-restaurant guests into higher frequency digital users.”
Thirty-six of 41 new restaurants opened in the quarter included a Chipotlane, a drive-thru digital order pick-up lane.
“Our marketing team, our digital team, they continue to drive customers to that access point because it's highly convenient,” Niccol said. “I think, actually, I just saw some numbers on this, where the time from your order to actually your food being ready is now less than 10 minutes in our business. So, we’ve gotten even faster at this space to make it even more convenient, and just to give you a perspective, a couple of quarters ago, that was in the 12-minute range.”
Chipotle in September introduced Smoked Brisket made with Responsibly Raised beef for use in bowls, burritos, quesadillas and tacos at US and Canada restaurants for a limited time.
“Early customer feedback on this entree, which is expected to last through November, has been very positive, and we're delighted to see an increase in both check size and transactions,” Niccol said.
Inflationary pressure in the quarter came from raw material shortages and labor costs, not only at Chipotle but at suppliers as well, said John R. Hartung, chief financial officer.
“I would say the inflation in the quarter was not that bad,” he said. “It was mid-single-digit-type inflation.”
When dining rooms reopened, Chipotle needed new workers to meet the demand.
“And that was harder than we had hoped, but luckily, I think we took a lot of the right actions where we've got a lot of our restaurants now on good footing,” Niccol said.
Over the nine months ended Sept. 30 Chipotle had net income of $519.5 million, or $18.46 per share on the common stock, which compared with $164.8 million, or $5.91 per share, in the same time of the previous year. Nine-month total revenue rose 28% to $5.59 billion from $4.38 billion.