In a note Tuesday, Mizuho analyst Jeremy Scott said: “While it is our view that Niccol is the best choice to lead Chipotle from here, in the absence of clear catalysts that can justify significant earnings upside, we're compelled to recommend investors reduce their risk. After an 80 percent run since Niccol's appointment as CEO, we believe the stock currently prices in an aggressive recovery in both comps and margins.”
Scott added that a ramp in innovation at Chipotle would raise concerns around long-term margins due to incremental investment in labor, training, marketing, and technology upgrades. For example, what cost will accompany the chain’s plan to test a loyalty program in the second half of the year, with a proposed national launch slated for 2019? On that note and in regards to other innovations, he gave Chipotle a “hall pass” on comp sales and profit margins at least through the end of this year. But after that? Also, some short-term downside catalysts could be counteracted with new announcements and refreshed marketing. That’s assuming these upticks are significant and results driving.
Chipotle earned $2.13 per share on $1.15 billion in revenue and posted same-store sales gains of 2.2 percent, year-over-year, in the first quarter. Both topped Wall Street expectations ($1.57 per share and 1.3 percent comps growth). The chain reports Q2 results on July 26.
So what changes are in store?
Other digital innovations on dock include in-app delivery of Chipotle’s food to 2,000 restaurants by the end of the year, and new digital-order pick up shelves. Chipotle is also adding flat screen TVs at some food prep lines to replace printed digital orders and improve employee productivity.
Among Chipotle’s biggest changes is the closure of its Denver headquarters and relocation to Newport Beach, California. This move is expected to impact 399 employees, according to The Denver Business Journal. Chipotle said it would move all of its 400 or so corporate employees out of Colorado in the next six months to Newport Beach and its existing office in Columbus, Ohio. Chipotle is also shutting down its New York office, a move that will affect 32 employees.