July 22, 2020 / 8:34 PM / 21 days ago

Chipotle beats quarterly estimates as digital sales more than triple

(Reuters) - Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG.N) beat Wall Street expectations for second-quarter earnings on Wednesday, as soaring digital sales helped it recover amid the coronavirus crisis and continue the performance that boosted its share price 40% so far this year.

An empty Chipotle restaurant is seen in the financial district in lower Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 3, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Digital sales for the quarter - including customers who order ahead through Chipotle’s mobile app to pick up in special drive-thru “Chipotlanes” - grew 216% to nearly 61% of total sales.

Overall comparable sales were 9.8% lower for the quarter ended June 30 but have turned positive, up 6.4% so far in July. In the third quarter, margins and earnings per share will likely remain bumpy, executives said during a conference call.

With more Americans staying home due to the coronavirus health crisis, Chipotle has relied heavily on online orders in recent weeks.

Shares of the Mexican fast-casual chain, which features bowls and burritos, fell slightly in after-market trading but are still 40% higher year-to-date, closing at $1,185.27 on Wednesday.

Chipotle has also partnered with Uber Eats (UBER.N) and Grubhub Inc (GRUB.N) to bolster deliveries.

Chief Technology Officer Curt Garner said in a phone interview that because Chipotle locations are company owned, it was easier to rethink and build out digital operations, including separate kitchens just for preparing online orders.

“Having all of that in place as we came into these unprecedented times gave us the ability to quickly meet the changing customer need,” he said.

The company expects to accelerate plans in 2021 to open new locations and now has 15 million people enrolled in its rewards program, up from 11.5 million reported in April.

Total revenue fell 4.8% to $1.36 billion, its first decline in at least 14 quarters but still beating Wall Street estimates of $1.34 billion.

Excluding one-time items, the fast-casual chain earned 40 cents per share, beating average analysts’ estimates of 35 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru and Hilary Russ in New York; Editing by Ramakrishnan M., Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker

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