Chipotle is courting young consumers through TikTok. Bernstein says it could result in 35% upside

Chipotle is focusing on speedily serving a customer base it’s growing through game-like rewards and TikTok engagement. That’s good news for shareholders, according to Bernstein. Analyst Danilo Gargiulo began research coverage of the Mexican grill chain with an outperform rating and a price target of $2,000, implying an upside of 35%. He said the chain is both cutting costs while finding new ways to increase base of consumers, meaning “the growth story is far from over.” “Chipotle is unlike any other company in the restaurant space,” Gargiulo wrote in a note to clients Monday. “Companies that can grow annual revenue at a sustained 15%+ over 15+ years are few and far in-between, let alone in the restaurant industry that is fragmented and highly competitive.” Chipotle should continue to expand top line revenue because only one out of every three Americans has one nearby, while 30% of the country has no Latin American limited-service food option. Chipotle has gained market share in recent years as demand for the cuisine increased, the analyst said. Chipotle’s consumer skews higher-income, educated and around the ages that would be part of the Millennial or Gen Z generations, Gargiulo said. This is a product of the brand advertising more on TikTok than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Wendy’s combined, he said. Chipotle also has what he called an “addictive” rewards program where spending resembles a game with special rewards and challenges. Meanwhile, Gargiulo said Chipotle could expand further by moving into breakfast or deserts. “Chipotlanes,” the term used for drive throughs at certain stores that mostly require ordering ahead on the app, open stores to a wider breadth of customers, he said. They have generated 10% to 15% higher sales than traditional stores and have a higher share of digital sales, which are more efficient than in-person orders. Gargiulo also believes Chipotle can reach historically high margins of 28% in an industry known for slim profits, as digital penetration increases and the chain further implements robotic in-store additions like “Chippy,” an automated tortilla chips maker. Chipotle is eventually expected to be able to produce about one-third more entrees during peak hours. Chipotle isn’t without challenges. It could be hurt by rising labor costs, an inability to boost prices or higher interest rates curbing its appeal to potential franchisees. But Chipotle is well positioned vs competitors because of a lack of debt, concentrated North American business and higher-income costumer base. — CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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