Chipotle prices have always varied quite a bit by geography. But they’re starting to differ for a wider variety of reasons.
The restaurant chain said earlier this year that it might raise prices on steak and barbacoa, because beef prices were up so much. Then, earlier this month, it had to follow through on that warning, according to CFO Jack Hartung on the company’s earnings call Tuesday (July 21) .
Prices are up about 4%, or roughly 30 cents for every beef bowl, burrito, and taco order. These items make up around 30% of Chipotle orders.
Haven’t seen the price increase? That’s because you’re in the 40% of the country that still doesn’t have carnitas as the company works to bring on its new supplier. The company left prices in those areas alone so people weren’t forced to choose a different item from carnitas and pay more for it, Hartung said. But as carnitas returns over the summer and fall, those areas will see the increase, too.
In San Francisco, prices are up an extra 10% due to higher labor costs from a minimum wage increase and occupancy costs. The rest of the Bay saw a 7% price increase. The company is looking at other regions, but said these cost hikes were extraordinary cases.
By the end of the year, overall pricing should be a bit more consistent, depending on the meat you pick.
Chipotle is also facing a significant sales slowdown, which may have played into the decision to pass along those costs. In the second quarter, sales were up 14.1 % to $1.2 billion from the same period a year ago, while comparable store sales were up 4.3%. Those would be pretty solid numbers for, say, McDonald’s. But at Chipotle they reveal a marked slowdown:
Here’s year-over-year sales growth at stores open at least a year:
The return of pork should give the chain a boost, though it’s cautious about saying how much.
Asked about the company’s growth plans—and whether they included a new menu item (chorizo!) or breakfast—CEO Steve Ells said the priority remains expanding the company’s restauranteur program, the system meant to promote its best managers and improve restaurants.
Chipotle has said in the past that its sales growth tends to move in three year waves as customers discover its food. It needs to get back on a growth side of that cycle.