Chipotle Shares Drop On Same-store Sales Decline, Weak Outlook

By Markets MarketWatch Pulse

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. shares dropped 3.6% late Tuesday as the company, still reeling from recent outbreaks of E. coli and norovirus, said it expects a first-quarter loss. The company said same-store sales in February were down 26.1%, with the leap day adding 2.6% to the monthly result. Same-store sales declined 21.5% during the first week of March, the company said in a Tuesday filing, but slid to a 27.3% drop the second week of the month after a Boston-area restaurant was closed temporarily due to reports that workers became ill with norovirus. Chipotle sees a first-quarter loss of $1 per share or more. The FactSet consensus is earnings of 3 cents per share. "During the quarter we will incur higher expenses driven by increased marketing and promotions spend in other operating costs, which are anticipated to be significantly higher in the first half of 2016 compared to historic reporting periods," the filing said. The company anticipates higher food costs due to additional safety protocols, more food waste, and higher food rejection rates due to the high-resolution DNA testing that has been put into place. The company said there will also be higher legal expenses associated with the Department of Justice investigation. And Chipotle incurred higher labor costs after increasing staff for free burrito redemptions. Chipotle said it hired James Marsden as executive director of food safety. Chipotle shares closed Tuesday down 2.5%, but are up 4.8% for the year to date. The S&P 500 is down 1.4% for the year so far.

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