Chipotle’s digital sales remain strong as dining rooms reopen: CFO

Chipotle Mexican Grill is encouraged by the strength of its digital sales even as its dining rooms open up from coronavirus-related closures, Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung told CNBC on Friday.

“The pandemic, of course, really put some turbocharge behind our digital business, but as we’re starting to see Covid move behind us — and we still have a ways to go — we’re keeping most of that digital business, about 80%,” Hartung said in an interview on “Closing Bell.”

“Then, as the dinings reopen, we … regained about 60% of what we lost when the pandemic started,” added Hartung, who joined Chipotle nearly two decades ago. “So, really, we’re going to end up being ahead of the game when [the] pandemic is fully behind us. We’re very optimistic about where we go from here.”

Customers flocked to Chipotle’s online ordering options during the Covid crisis. The fast-casual chain saw a 174% year-over-year increase in digital sales in 2020, helping power a 7.1% rise in total revenue. Digital sales accounted for 46.2% of the California-based company’s sales last year, compared with 18% of sales in 2019.

In November, Chipotle opened its first-ever digital-only restaurant. More recently, it put quesadillas on its menu, but the long-awaited addition is only available for online orders.

Earlier this week, Chipotle announced an expansion of its debt-free college degree program for employees. It now includes degrees in agriculture, culinary and hospitality.

Hartung said Chipotle has seen positive results since it introduced the education initiative almost two years ago.

“When our folks take advantage of these debt-free programs, they’re 3½ times more likely to stay with us and they’re seven times more likely to move into management ranks, so we see this as an investment in our people,” Hartung said.

Shares of Chipotle closed Friday’s session up modestly at roughly $1,531 apiece. The stock has risen 10.4% year to date and almost 100% in the past 12 months.

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