No Dip For Blue Chip - February 3, 2012
Chipotle Mexican Grill keeps growing and growing–in sales, units and total stature. Per NRN.com, Chipotle’s same-store sales (SSS) for 4th-quarter ending Dec. 31, 2011, grew 11.1%, rolling over an amazing 12.4% in previous year’s 4th-quarter.
The chain’s full 2011 year experienced an 11.2% SSS gain, rolling over a nearly as impressive 9.4% gain in 2010–an almost 21% SSS growth over two years. Even in 2009, generally regarded as about the worst year in recent restaurant industry performance, the chain managed to grow 2.2%, when the restaurant industry was down an estimated 2% in sales.
2011’s revenue was nearly $2.3 billion, and Chipotle now has 1,230 locations with around 160 new units expected to open this year. Chipotle Founder Steve Ellis stated, “Our success is rooted in serving great tasting food, and it has been since day one. Our sourcing of food made from the finest ingredients, which is raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers, is at the heart of that effort.”
Chipotle’s positive messaging is a strong part of its in-store and external communication. However, the animals that are so strongly respected–the ones that “live happier, healthier lives”–still end up in a serving bin surrounded by a variety of sauces. And nutritionally, a fair number of the chain’s menu items are somewhat high in fat and sodium, like many chains that Chipotle distances itself from philosophically. Because customers have flexibility in how they build their Chipotle products, the chain doesn’t provide total product nutritional composition, just that of the components. It might be helpful if Chipotle’s website incorporated a nutritional calculator that would allow customers to build their products as they do in store, to determine the actual nutritional totals. This move would allow the chain to further respect and educate their health-conscious customers–respect for the total farm-to-table process is something Chipotle cares deeply about. One can’t argue with their spectacular, consistent success, however.