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Chipotle earnings top estimates, but chain warns omicron variant will hit next quarter’s sales

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A customer carries a Chipotle bag in front of a restaurant in Santa Clara, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Tuesday reported quarterly earnings that topped analyst expectations as menu price hikes helped offset inflation without hurting customer demand.

However, the burrito chain expects same-store sales growth to slow next quarter due to the omicron variant.

Here’s what the company reported compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

Earnings per share: $5.58 adjusted vs. $5.25 expected
Revenue: $1.96 billion vs. $1.96 billion expected

The company reported fourth-quarter net income of $133.48 million, or $4.69 per share, down from $190.96 million, or $6.69 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding legal expenses, closure costs and other items, Chipotle earned $5.58 per share, beating the $5.25 per share expected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Net sales rose 22% to $1.96 billion, meeting expectations. Same-store sales climbed 15.2%, surpassing StreetAccount estimates of 14.8%. Chipotle credited menu price hikes, strong online sales and demand for its limited-time smoked brisket for its sales growth in the quarter.

Digital sales ticked up 3.8%, accounting for 41.6% of the company’s sales during the quarter.

In the back half of December, the chain started seeing an impact on sales from the omicron variant, a trend that accelerated in January. The first month of the year also included winter storms that hurt demand in some regions.

Looking to next quarter, Chipotle is forecasting same-store sales growth in the mid- to high-single digits. Analysts are expecting same-store sales to rise 8.9% during the first three months of the year, according to StreetAccount estimates.

For 2022, Chipotle is forecasting between 235 to 250 new restaurant openings, assuming permitting and construction delays due to the pandemic don’t worsen. It opened 78 new locations in the fourth quarter. The company didn’t share an outlook for its full-year earnings or revenue.

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