Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. reported strong earnings growth during the fourth quarter, as the restaurant chain continued to boost existing sales, opened locations and got more aggressive with enhancements to its digital growth strategy.
The restaurant chain reported adjusted earnings of $2.86 a share in the quarter, a 66% increase from year-ago earnings of $1.72 a share, beating consensus estimates.
“We had a strong ending to 2019 as Q4 marks the eighth consecutive quarter of accelerating comparable sales, which highlights that running great restaurants with the right leaders and the right culture delivers outstanding performance,” CEO Brian Niccol, told analysts on a quarterly conference call.
Comparable store sales rose more than 13% in the quarter, and showed no net impact from loyalty deferral, according to the company. The company also reported an 8% increase in comparable transactions and a 5.4% increase in average check size.
Digital sales grew 78% in the quarter from year-ago figures and made up about 20% of total sales.
The company completed the rollout of digital pickup shelves and expanded delivery to 98% of stores. The company reported digital sales of $282 million, a 78% increase from a year ago. The company has quadrupled its digital business overall in three years, Niccol told analysts.
The company has begun to test digital pickup formats, including a walkup window across from Wrigley Field in Chicago, he said.
Chipotle opened 80 restaurants, including one relocation, and closed three during the quarter. The openings included 46 Chipotlanes for a total of 66 by the end of 2019.
The company said it plans to open 150-165 restaurants in 2020, with about half including Chipotlanes. Management is also predicting mid single-digit comparable restaurant sales growth.
Revenue rose almost 18% in the quarter to $1.4 billion during the fourth-quarter, from year-ago figures.
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