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Here's how eating big burritos at Chipotle might be different after the coronavirus pandemic

·Anchor, Editor-at-Large
·3 min read
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Chipotle’s executive team is hard at work re-thinking how eating inside its restaurants should change after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The goal of any actions is to keep employees and consumers safe, said Chipotle’s veteran CFO Jack Hartung.

“The first thing we will do is follow what the governors and local jurisdictions are doing. They’re going to in some cases dictate how many people can be in your restaurant. Of course we will do things like make sure people are six feet away. We will probably have to take some of our tables out of commission. Maybe it’s every other table, for example, so that when people come in and sit down there is not a table within six feet of you,” Hartung explained on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.

Hartung continued, “Tabasco bottles, we talked about that at our senior meetings. We might keep those behind the cashier. If you want the bottle we will give it to you. When you’re done, we will get it, sanitize it and it’s ready for the next customer. Things like grabbing cutlery at the beverage station, we are not sure customers will want to do that. We are going to look at every single thing the customer will touch in the restaurant.”

While Chipotle has always done a good bit of business from people sitting down to eat in its restaurants, it has gained considerable momentum digitally in the past year. The burrito king hauled in more than $1 billion in digital sales last year. With the inside of its restaurants closed to diners right now, the trend toward digital ordering and takeout has accelerated.

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 25:  Diners eat at a Chipotle restaurant on October 25, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Chipotle stock fell more than 14 percent today after a weak 3Q earnings .  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Diners eat at a Chipotle restaurant. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Chipotle reported Tuesday evening that digital sales during the first quarter grew 80.8% and represented approximately 26.3% of revenue. During March, digital sales grew 102.6% year-over-year and represented 37.6% of sales.

That growth should give investors some form of comfort Chipotle doesn’t risk losing much business longer term by having a few less tables in its restaurants or asking people to inquire about tabasco sauce with the cashier. To Hartung’s point, it’s those restaurant chains that could up their safety procedures the most in the post coronavirus pandemic world that will be the market share gainers.

“We continue to view Chipotle as among the best growth stories in restaurants, with expectations for a return to strong SSS, margin expansion and 20-30% EPS growth,” said Credit Suisse analysts in a note Wednesday.

Yahoo Finance’s Heidi Chung contributed to this story.

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

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