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Why Chipotle won't be battling Wendy's and McDonald's in the breakfast war

Brian Sozzi

Chipotle (CMG) has so many easier ways to unlock sales opportunities in 2020 that there isn’t a pressing need to dive into a risky breakfast launch.

Chipotle Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung tells Yahoo Finance there are no plans on the table to enter the fast-food breakfast wars in 2020. For years, whether Chipotle should get into the breakfast business to boost its sales has been hotly debated on Wall Street. Chipotle has resisted the calls repeatedly, as going into breakfast would require a major rethink on how it serves its trademark lunch and dinner food. The company’s employees arrive during the traditional fast-food breakfast hours to hand prep many of the ingredients that get used throughout a daily service.

So, without abandoning that hand-cooking method synonymous with the Chipotle brand and bringing in the machines typical to a Taco Bell, breakfast at Chipotle is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Hartung tells Yahoo Finance Chipotle — which also for years had been resistant to expanding its menu — will continue to bring menu innovation in 2020 following its success in 2019 with new keto bowls, queso and carne asada. Some of the things readying to go into test, Hartung says, include juice drinks, salads and a newly improved queso recipe.

Chipotle Restaurant for photos, to go with the round-up story, on area mex style fast food. Giant Burritos are the hottest thing in fastfood these days, Chipotle, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Panchero's Mexican Grill and Baja Sol Tortilla Grill just to name a few places marketing the style. Chipotle's huge burrito at the Maple Grove location. (Photo by DAVID BREWSTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Judging by the momentum in Chipotle’s business right now, executives are correct in pushing off distracting breakfast tests of any kind.

The burrito joint turned in another mouth-watering quarter this week, with same-store sales surging 11%. Wall Street expected same-store sales growth of 9.3%. Digital sales surged 87.9%, putting it on pace to reach $1 billion in digital sales this year.

Breakfast battle

While Chipotle is toiling with its new salads, the fast food breakfast wars will be taken up a notch or five. The goal of many: steal business from the popular and iconic McDonald’s Egg McMuffin.

Dunkin’ Brands said this week it will bring its Beyond Meat breakfast sandwich to 9,000 U.S. restaurants starting Nov. 6. The decision comes quickly after a July launch at Dunkin’ Manhattan restaurants. Dunkin’ says the sandwich quickly became one its top-selling sandwiches.

It marks the first national fast-food breakfast deal for Beyond Meat.

Meanwhile, Wendy’s is smack in the middle of hiring 20,000 people to drive a nationwide rollout of breakfast in early 2020. The menu will feature two premium-priced sandwiches dubbed the Breakfast Baconator and the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit.

But hey, good for Chipotle on staying focused on being Chipotle: the home of big burritos and sizzling carne asada. Leave the eggs and bacon to the fast-food chains with the quick cook ovens and heat lamps.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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