Chipotle ($CMG) had a successful 2019, as shares shot up 94% and the chain added 140 new locations. 2020 was predicted to be even better with 150 to 165 store openings. The Coronavirus pandemic threatened to throw a wrench in these optimistic plans, but the fast-casual Mexican grill has only grown stronger.
Robust delivery operations and curbside pick-up have allowed Chipotle to thrive despite lockdowns and store closings. Digital sales increased 81% in the first quarter, Market Insider reports. And as the company launched its new delivery-focused marketing campaigns, digital sales for March shot up more than 100%. On Monday, Chipotle's stock passed the $1,000 level for the first time ever.
But the convenience of delivery isn't the only factor driving Chipotle's sales. Chipotle's affordable eats are getting cheaper, while the number of menu items continues to increase with the relaunch of lifestyle bowls and the brand new "queso blanco". This is a dramatic shift from last year's strategy when Chipotle's burrito prices jumped 12%.
It's also possible that Chipotle cut prices to distract from the $25 million fine for food poisoning-related crimes, which the company paid out in April. The charges cover food poisoning outbreaks that affected over 1,100 people from 2015 to 2018. CEO Brian Niccol emphasized food safety as a major priority during Chipotle's earnings call.