ShopHouse Expansion Should Be In Chipotle Plans

| About: Chipotle Mexican (CMG)

Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) has transformed into one of the best performing stocks and most beloved fast casual restaurant chains in the United States. Shares have risen 319% over the last five years, as the chain has expanded to almost 1500 locations around the world. Despite a high share valuation, investors may want to get involved with the company before its newest additional restaurant concept takes off.

Chipotle's new concept ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen is expanding with several additional locations. ShopHouse has "recipes inspired by the flavor-forward and assertively-spiced cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore." Due to popular demand at its current Washington D.C. location, Chipotle is adding several ShopHouse locations in D.C. and California.

The company recently announced additional leases had been signed to bring one location to Washington D.C. and two locations to California. The locations will open in 2013 and 2014. In the press release, Chipotle said the new deals did not necessarily mean an acceleration of opening will happen. Chipotle remains confident in expanding its base of fast casual restaurants in the United States first, before fully expanding on this newer concept.

Chipotle founder and co-chief executive officer Steve Ellis had this to say of ShopHouse, "The response we have seen to ShopHouse reminds me very much of what I saw when I opened the very first Chipotle." While the addition of a couple of restaurants won't bring in billions of dollars of revenue, it does represent a significant growth opportunity for the company.

Chipotle had 1458 restaurants as of April 18th. That huge base has grown thanks to an early investment from McDonald's (NYSE:MCD). The large fast food chain took an equity stake in the company in 1998 and helped fund an expansion that gave the fast casual chain over 500 locations. McDonald's sold off its stake in 2006 as part of a plan to rid the company of non-core businesses. Thanks to McDonald's, Chipotle now has a presence in all of the major cities across the United States.

In the United States, Chipotle can easily support 1500 to 2000 restaurants. Rumors of Chipotle's unit goal calls for 3000 to 4000 units, which means huge bases in international markets as well. I would like to see Chipotle get more aggressive with its ShopHouse unit and expand that business at a rate of three to five stores, alongside opening 150+ Chipotle locations every year.

Currently, Chipotle is calling for opening 165-180 locations in fiscal 2013. In the first quarter, Chipotle opened 48 new restaurants. In the first quarter, revenue grew 13.4% to $726.8 million. Net income increased 22.2% to $76.6 million. The number that has caused shares to drop after the last few earnings reports is same store sales. This common restaurant metric is used to report how units that have been open for a specific time frame compare to the previous year. At Chipotle locations, same store sales increased only 1% in the first quarter. This number, which is a far cry from the double digit gains shareholders are used to, sent shares down.

To increase unit sales, Chipotle has invested in two programs since the start of 2013. The first is catering, which is a huge market that the company can gain a market share in, if customers are looking for their product. With Chipotle's cult-like following, I think catering sales can be strong. The only thing I worry about is the fact that some people go to a Chipotle location to watch an employee assemble their sandwich. This would be a far cry from the buffet style at a catered office party.

The other program Chipotle is attempting is new alcoholic drinks to boost store sales. Chipotle is offering Patron infused margaritas and other premium drinks. While often not seen as a restaurant where people buy a drink, Chipotle is hoping to boost sales with drinks that pair well with its food and also fun colorful drinks.

Chipotle does face strong competition in its Mexican style food offerings, but it has since the beginning. I profiled Qdoba owner Jack in the Box (NASDAQ:JACK) in an article talking about Qdoba's expansion plans. Taco Bell, owned by Yum Brands (NYSE:YUM) has also seen same store sales increase in the United States, possibly taking away market share from Chipotle with new fresh product offerings. Chipotle shareholders should also keep an eye on the upcoming Noodles and Company (NASDAQ:NDLS) IPO, which could send shares up depending on where the international fast casual chain prices. That restaurant concept is aggressively growing and looking to take a bit out of Chipotle as well. Chipotle can make up for any market share loss with unit growth, international expansion, and new products like catering and alcoholic beverages.

Analysts expect fiscal 2013 revenue to increase 16.0%. Revenue is expected to increase 15.7% the following year in fiscal 2014. Earnings per share are expected to grow to $10.62 in fiscal 2013 and $12.72 in fiscal 2014. Investors have been scared away by high multiples. However, new growth ideas like catering and increased alcohol sales could help Chipotle gain back its same store sales magic. Chipotle can also increase its revenue with additional ShopHouse locations. Consider buying shares of Chipotle for the long haul and holding through its continued aggressive unit growth.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in CMG, JACK over the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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