Oct 23, 2023

Chipotle ($CMG) – More Burritos or ‘Guac is Extra’?

This article delves into Chipotle’s strategic shift towards improving throughput, assessing its viability and efficacy as a pivotal growth lever in the fast-casual space in the three months ended September 30, 2023. In the last two quarterly earnings calls, Chipotle’s management has been focused on pricing and throughput, stating that as prices roll off into the third quarter, an emphasis on throughput and increasing traffic in stores will result in improving the company’s performance into year-end. This analysis synthesizes insights from a few alternative data sources, demonstrating their value in building a robust investment thesis. Specifically, Facteus Pulse transaction data, Verbatim survey data, and Sensor Tower app engagement data will be examined via the Exabel platform.

Facteus – Transaction Data

Looking at credit and debit card transaction data from Facteus’ Pulse Data Panel, growth in ATV continued to decelerate sequentially, dropping below 2.5% YoY in the unreported period. This trend indicated that management did not pull on pricing to improve performance in the period.

Turning to throughput, Facteus data showed a second sequential period of YoY increase in transaction count. Transaction count growth remained relatively flat through the end of the summer.

With a modest increase in transaction volume and little change in pricing versus the same period last year, CMG seemed to improve throughput.

Verbatim – Survey Data

Survey data from Verbatim showed that CMG managers’ net sentiment was broadly expected to be at management’s plan or slightly better for the unreported period. Verbatim’s Performance vs. Plan metric asks managers how their store performance is versus projected performance, where below is counted as -1, even is a zero, and above is counted as +1. While net sentiment is still above zero, at under 20% it’s the lowest level seen since March 2020.

This survey data leads to the conclusion that improving throughput has been a harder target than previous initiatives.

Sensor Tower – App Engagement Data

Lastly from Sensor Tower, CMG’s Average Weekly Active Users for the Quarter versus last year saw a significant YoY acceleration to nearly 14% growth versus the same period last year. Management called out that loyalty program members return more frequently and spend more than non-members.

Increasing app usage indicated that membership was fairly strong and likely improved penetration in the unreported period.

Conclusion

CMG’s throughput strategy seems to have weathered the third quarter, but is not accelerating growth in and of itself. Perhaps this performance explains management’s decision to raise prices at the top of 4Q, despite describing price increases as ‘the last lever [they] want to pull’ in the 2Q earnings call.

Facteus Pulse transaction data, Verbatim surveys, and Sensor Tower app engagement data each contribute distinct, yet complementary, perspectives that enrich analysis of Chipotle’s tactics. Utilizing the Exabel platform, this synthesized analysis fosters a more cohesive and informed investment perspective, underscoring the importance of diverse data integration in crafting a sophisticated investment thesis.

Harness the full potential of alternative data with Exabel. Discover how you can find untapped alpha by combining alternative data from multiple sources. Request your demo of the Exabel platform by clicking below.

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About the data vendors

Facteus

Pulse is defining the next stage for Facteus’ credit and debit card transaction data and the Alternative Data industry. Facteus continues to lead the industry in directly acquiring exclusive transaction datasets to build the most holistic and stable view of consumer spending across income cohorts and demographics. Pulse now incorporates more debit and credit card data than any other offering today, enabling Pulse to deliver the most accurate company KPI forecasts. Pulse offers investors the authoritative view into consumer discretionary names, with insights that research analysts can rely on when forecasting company performance and examining underlying business drivers.

Verbatim

Verbatim Advisory Group is an alternative research firm serving institutional investors. Our quantamental approach to channel surveys delivers unique and proprietary insights from a global dataset. Our primary research spans Business Services, Consumer Products & Services, Retail & Restaurants, Healthcare, Industrials & Energy, and TMT.

Sensor Tower

Sensor Tower cultivates rich market insights into the trends shaping businesses in the global digital economy. Their data scientists and algorithms process trillions of aggregated data points that people contribute to Sensor Tower from millions of devices, making up their one-of-a-kind data estate.

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Exabel is a financial technology company based in Oslo, London, and New York.

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