Chipotle shares rise as comparable sales rebound sharply

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Chipotle’s comeback from a bruising food-safety crisis seems to be picking up steam, sending shares in the Mexican fast-casual eatery chain higher in after-hours trading on Tuesday.

The company said that revenue for the quarter came in at $1.08bn, a 28.1 per cent increase from its dismal first quarter last year — when it was still suffering the ill effects of its food-safety issues — and ahead of analysts’ expectations for $1.05bn in sales.

Comparable sales — a key industry metric — were up 17.8 per cent, better than the robust 15.4 per cent that Wall street had been looking for.

Net income for the quarter ending March 31 was $46.1m, compared to a net loss of $26.4m during the year-ago quarter, translating to earnings per diluted share of $1.60 versus a net loss of 88 cents last year. That compared to Wall Street’s expectations for $37.8m profit and earnings per share of $1.29.

The strong earnings initially sent Chipotle shares up 6.6 per cent in after-hours trading.

However, the company said in its analyst conference call that it had hired a cyber security group to investigate “unauthorized activity on a network that supports payment processing” that it believes has since stopped. Shares gave up most of their gains as investors parsed the news.

Steve Ells, the company’s founder, chairman and chief executive said:

“2017 is off to a strong start, as our restaurant managers and teams are energized by our renewed focus on the customer. By simplifying the focus in our restaurants to only those elements that lead to a great guest experience, our operations have improved every single month, which gives us confidence that we are on our way to achieve our mission to ensure that great food made with whole unprocessed ingredients is accessible to everyone.”

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