One of the most popular (and most traded) fast food restaurants, the Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG), reported that its same-store sales (defined on a Y/Y basis) missed analyst expectations for Q1 2015 by 1.4%, thereby offsetting the company's otherwise impressive earnings results of $3.88/share on revenue of $1.09 billion. Although Chipotle’s same-store sales rose 10.4%, this metric fell far short of Wall Street’s expected 11.8% growth rate. While both of these figures are impressive, especially considering the stronger dollar, they nonetheless pale in comparison to Q1 2014 same-store sales growth of 16.1%. As a result, Chipotle’s stock price fell 7.4%, or $51.30, as of Wednesday’s market close.
One accepted reason for why Chipotle’s same-store sales fell 1.4% pertains to the high cost of its ingredients. Especially given California’s historic 4-year drought, vegetable expenses, specifically avocado prices, have skyrocketed. Moreover, Chipotle’s decision to suspend certain pork suppliers, because of their subpar cattle raising techniques, further strained same-store sales growth. By voluntarily limiting its meat selection, Chipotle forcibly limited consumer decisions, thereby constraining sales figures. In this instance, Chipotle placed corporate social responsibility (or CSR) ahead of its shareholders, which is either a reason to buy, or immediately sell, Chipotle stock.
Although Chipotle’s earnings report appears extremely negative, the company did manage to release some positive data. As was earlier emphasized, Chipotle’s EPS came in at $3.88, which is $0.23 higher than analyst predictions. Additionally, Chipotle posted quarterly revenues of over $1 billion. However, in order to compensate for rising food costs, Chipotle will also (once again) raise its steak and barbacoa prices. This will not only test the loyalty of Chipotle’s customers, but will also generate share price movement, depending on how consumers respond. If, as a result of higher prices, customers decide not to frequent Chipotle, the company’s stock will inevitably fall; Q2 results could also disappoint.
As of now, investors are trying to gauge Chipotle’s prospects. More often than not, after lackluster results, Chipotle’s share price climbs back to its prior level. It is evident that Chipotle is one of fast food’s quickest growing companies, but the fact its growth fell short of expectations in consecutive quarters is quite concerning. If Chipotle suffers another earnings disappointment, the company’s stock could easily dip below $600.