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Chipotle's infamous long lines are back: CEO Brian Niccol

·Anchor, Editor-at-Large
·2 min read

Chipotle (CMG) Chairman and CEO Brian Niccol could add a few more feathers to his cap.

On Wednesday, the burrito and salad bowl giant was added to the hallowed Fortune 500 list for the first time. The addition is the byproduct of work by Niccol and his team to bolster menu innovation (see the recent introductions of quesadillas and cauliflower rice to the menu) and make it easier to order online. Both have served Chipotle well throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed a lot of diners to ordering food online and either picking it up or having it delivered. 

Investors have rewarded Chipotle and Niccol handsomely for their operational efforts that have led to impressive sales gains during the pandemic. The company's market cap stands at $38.2 billion, up more than $14 billion over the past year.

Shares of Chipotle have surged 345% since Niccol was named CEO on Feb. 13, 2018, according to Yahoo Finance Plus data

The queue inside Chipotle in Miami. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The queue inside Chipotle in Miami. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

But, perhaps more important to Chipotle investors than the company joining Fortune's closely watched list of large corporations is that the chain's infamous line inside its restaurants is returning (this journalist has noticed on several dinner visits) as people become more mobile after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Niccol told Yahoo Finance Live he has seen lines returning in his visits to Chipotle restaurants, too. 

"We are seeing people coming back to the dining rooms," Niccol said. "It's great to see the line back. It's great to see people back in the restaurant."

Even without its infamous long line, Chipotle had an otherwise delicious first quarter as diners continued to order food online. Price increases for digital orders also boosted results.

First quarter digital sales surged 133.9% and represented approximately 50.1% of revenue. Same-store sales rose 17.2%. Chipotle's second quarter same-store sales are seen rising by high 20% to 30%, powered by growth in digital and more mobile diners.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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