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Chipotle Franchise Cost, Revenue & Profit Potential

chipotle
Written By Hae-Jung Kim
Last Updated October, 21, 2021

Have you ever thought about running your own Chipotle franchise? In recent years, Chipotle has emerged as a beacon of “healthier” alternatives to fast food, serving Mexican dishes like burritos, tacos, salads, and bowls under a customizable, build your own plate model. Chipotle is labeled as a fast casual restaurant — a blend of both the fast food and casual dining business model.

They are more upscale and refined than traditional fast food establishments such as McDonalds, but offer less seating and a more moderate prep time than casual dining. As the health and wellness movement grows in the U.S. and more consumers become increasingly aware of their diet, there is likely to be a bright future ahead for restaurants like Chipotle, which offer a choice for consumers who want the convenience of fast food but a healthier alternative.

Does Chipotle Franchise?

Want to open a chipotle franchise but don’t know how? Unfortunately, Chipotle is currently NOT available for franchising. Almost all of their units are company owned, with a few exceptions. This means that the money stays within the company and does not go to outside franchise operators.

Oftentimes, upper level management is in charge of overseeing the units, and ownership is internal as a result. The following article analyzes Chipotle’s most recent annual report, their 10-K, and examines the financial health and viability of the Chipotle business, their strengths, weaknesses, and their future in the ever changing Food and Beverage industry. 

 

chipotle

How much is a Chipotle Franchise?

If Chipotle were a franchise, the estimate Chipotle franchise cost would range from $800,000 to $2,000,000. The variation in franchise cost would be due to leasehold improvements, square footage and what type of space. A drive-thru would be significantly more expenses to open and operate than a in-line unit in a strip mall.
 
You might be wondering how much a Chipotle franchise costs in a airport or other non-traditional location. We estimate the franchise costs to be significantly less ranging from $400k to $800k.
 
The following tables are samples of estimated initial investment costs based on a concept that does franchise, Taco John´s:

Estimated Chipotle Franchise Cost

ExpendituresEstimated Amount
or Estimated Low-High
Range
Method of
Payment
When PayableTo Whom Paid
Chipotle Franchise Fee (if they franchised)$20,000 to $25,000CashIn full on signing the
Franchise Agreement
Them
Real Estate Purchase or Lease (may vary
substantially based upon the location)
As arrangedAs arrangedSeller or landlord
Site Preparation and
Completion Costs
$150,000 to $400,000As arrangedAs scheduledContractors
Construction Costs$550,000 to $700,000As arrangedAs scheduledContractors
Operating Equipment$150,000 to $160,000As arrangedAs arrangedSuppliers
Furniture, Fixtures and
Decor
$ 25,000 to $35,000As arrangedAs arrangedSuppliers
Signage and Installation$25,000 to $45,000As arrangedAs arrangedManufacturers and
installers
Point of Sale System$40,000 to $55,000As arrangedAs arrangedSuppliers
Initial Inventory$15,000 to $22,000As arrangedAs arrangedSuppliers
Grand Opening Marketing$8,000 to $12,000As incurredAs arrangedSuppliers
Pre-Opening Training
(Travel and Living
Expenses)
$32,000 to $45,000As incurredBefore openingSuppliers
Miscellaneous Opening Costs$20,000 to $65,000As incurredAs arrangedGovernmental
authorities, providers,
and other third parties
Additional Funds$25,000 to $35,000As incurredAs arrangedVarious suppliers and
providers
TOTAL ESTIMATED
INITIAL INVESTMENT
(without real estate costs)
$1,060,000 to $1,599,000   

Estimated Chipotle Franchise Cost (Airport or Food Court)

ExpendituresEstimated Amount
or Estimated Low-High
Range
Method of
Payment
When PayableTo Whom Paid
Initial Franchise Fee$10,000CashIn full on signing the
Franchise Agreement
Them
Real Estate Lease (may vary
substantially based upon the location)
As arrangedAs arrangedSeller or landlord
Leasehold Improvements$125,000 to $450,000As arrangedAs scheduledContractors
Operating Equipment$140,000 to $150,000As arrangedAs arrangedSuppliers
Furniture, Fixtures and Decor$15,000 to $30,000As arrangedAs arrangedSuppliers
Signage and Installation$5,000 to $25,000As arrangedAs arrangedManufacturers and
installers
Point of Sale System$24,000 to $36,000As arrangedAs arrangedSuppliers
Initial Inventory$15,000 to $22,000As arrangedAs arrangedSuppliers
Grand Opening
Marketing
$5,000 to $10,000As incurredSet asideSuppliers
Pre-Opening Training (Travel and Living
Expenses)
$32,000 to $45,000As incurredBefore openingSuppliers
Miscellaneous Opening Costs$10,000 to $30,000As incurredAs arrangedGovernmental
authorities, providers,
and other third parties
Additional Funds$25,000 to $35,000As incurredAs arrangedVarious suppliers
and providers
TOTAL ESTIMATED
INITIAL INVESTMENT
(without real estate costs)
$406,000 to $843,000   


How did Chipotle start?

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. was founded in 1993 by Steve Ells as a single restaurant in Denver, Colorado. After an initial minority investment from McDonalds in 1998, Chipotle was able to rapidly expand, and in January of 2006, they became a publicly traded company. The current CEO of Chipotle is Brian Niccol, who has been serving in his position since 2018. As of December 31rst, 2020, there are 2,768 Chipotle restaurants, with 2,724 restaurants operating in the United States, 40 international restaurants, and four non-Chipotle restaurants. Although Chipotle operates in eight distinct segments, they consolidated reports to one segment. Their reported revenue comes from company owned restaurant sales

2020 FY Annual Report (10-K): Revenue, Costs, and Number of Units

1. Number of Chipotle Restaurants

As mentioned above, Chipotle Inc. has a total of 2,768 restaurants, and only four of them are not under the Chipotle name. These subsidiaries, as listed above, are Pizzeria Locale and TastyMade. In the year 2020, they opened 160 Chipotle restaurants, 1 Pizzeria Locale restaurant, permanently closed 9 Chipotle restaurants, and relocated 6 Chipotle restaurants. There were no closures of Pizzeria Locale or TastyMade during this time. In total, this amounts to a net gain of +146 restaurants under the Chipotle brand and subsidiaries. 

                      Chipotle Units

Year Ended December 31
2020 2019 2018
Beginning of period2,6222,4912,408
Chipotle openings160139137
Pizzeria Locale Openings11—-
Chipotle permanent closures(9)(7)(43)
Chipotle relocations(6)(2)(5)
Pizzeria Locale closures—-—-(5)
TastyMade closures—-—-(1)
Total Restaurants at end of period2,7682,6222,491

2. Risk Factors 

Chipotle lists their business risks in extensive detail in their 10-K report, dividing it into 7 major categories. Not all of the risks mentioned in the report are expanded upon in the below analysis, but it does include the ones that were the most pertinent to Chipotle. 

The following are risks that come with all business operations in the Food and Beverage industry, although there are some that are more pertinent to Chipotle than others.

Food Safety and Food-borne illnesses

Although Chipotle claims to have food safety as their number one priority, like many other restaurants, they are still susceptible to falling short of proper health and safety and general FDA regulations. Food related controversies are particularly pertinent to Chipotle because from 2015 to 2017, E. coli and the norovirus were connected to a number of Chipotle restaurants, and in 2018, illnesses caused by the c. perfringens bacteria, which is linked to food poisoning, was linked to one of the Chipotle restaurants. This severely impacted their reputation, which in turn had a damaging effect on their restaurant sales and profitability from the years of 2016 to 2018. As a result, even minor infractions that might pass for other restaurants will likely have a larger effect on Chipotle. 

Highly competitive industry

Risks of operating a digital business

Digital sales (orders made through their website and mobile app) account for nearly half of their total revenue in 2020, compared to less than 20% in the previous year. As at-home delivery becomes an increasingly popular option for consumers, problems with third party delivery apps pose a risk to Chipotle business operations. 

Inability to keep up with accelerated growth of social media

Higher prices than other competitors: One of Chipotle’s trademarks is “Food with Integrity”, meaning that they only source ingredients from farms and animals that were responsibly raised. However, this also means that the cost of products is higher than their competitors in the fast casual industry, putting them at a disadvantage unless they are able to continue to successfully market their higher prices as being associated with a higher quality of food. 

Risks Related to the COVID-19 pandemic

Like many other restaurants, Chipotle was adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of ways, including forced shutdowns in accordance with lockdown procedures, modified service hours and customer capacity, and a loss in workers due to their unwillingness and inability to work due to the health risks of COVID-19. Their suppliers were also affected by the pandemic, which in turn had a negative impact on their operations. 

Risks Related to Labor and Supply Chains 

Like many other restaurants, Chipotle was adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of ways, including forced shutdowns in accordance with lockdown procedures, modified service hours and customer capacity, and a loss in workers due to their unwillingness and inability to work due to the health risks of COVID-19. Their suppliers were also affected by the pandemic, which in turn had a negative impact on their operations.

Increase in ingredients and other operating costs

The markets for beef, chicken, and pork, a key component of most of their menu items, are particularly vulnerable to increased prices as their markets are heavily affected by changing global weather and climate patterns.

Shortages in ingredients

Chipotle is limited in suppliers for their ingredients due to their “Food with Integrity” principle. This leaves them particularly subject to delays, interruptions, and other disruptions to their ingredient supply, which would then impact their financial results.

Failure to adhere to labor laws and regulations

Potential inability to hire qualified workers: COVID-19 and outside economic pressures has made the labor market for food service workers very competitive, a challenge as the high quality of Chipotle service is dependent on the quality of their labor. However, Chipotle recently announced that they were raising their wage to $15 per hour, and even proposed a path to 6 figure compensation in three or more years. These higher wages will likely give them an edge over their competitors in hiring talent for their restaurants.

Risks Related to IT Systems, Cybersecurity, and Data Privacy 

Like many other businesses in the food service industry, Chipotle is heavily reliant on computer systems for everyday business operations, especially with the launch and subsequent success of their mobile app. As a result, Chipotle is susceptible to data breaches, and there currently stands two known data breaches where consumer information was stolen, once in 2004 and another time in 2017. Data breaches remain a significant risk for Chipotle restaurants, and if they happen again they will likely impact the reputation of the Chipotle brand.

Legal and Regulatory Risks

Besides the typical legal procedures and regulations that all U.S. based companies are subject to, Chipotle signed a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in April of 2020 in order to settle an official criminal investigation conducted by the Central District of California and the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations into food safety violations dating back to January 2013. Violations of this agreement would bring serious legal consequences to the Chipotle brand, hurting their brand and reputation. 

Risks Related to Growth and Business Strategy

One key takeaway is that a substantial number of Chipotle restaurants operate on leased properties, which means that they are subject to contracts with third party leasing companies and securing a favorable lease contract. This is different from their competitors like McDonald’s, who own the land that their businesses operate on. It also means that an inability to secure a favorable lease contract could hurt their profitability and potentially even close or transfer restaurants. 

General Risk Factors

The main point of this risk category is the unpredictability of consumer behavior. In general, consumer dining is dependent on discretionary income, but continued health scares with COVID-19 could impact the future of Chipotle’s casual dining model. This would in turn affect profitability, although increased vaccination rates are likely to mitigate this risk. 

3. Chipotle Sales, Profits and More

Chipotle Income Statement (thousands of dollars)

Year ended Decmeber 31
202020192018
Food and beverage revenue$ 5,920,545$ 5,561,036$ 4,860,626
Delivery service revenue64,08925,3334,359
Restaurant operating costs (exclusive of depreciation and amortization show separately below):   
Food, beverage and packaging1,932,7661,847,9161,600,760
Labor1,593,0131,472,0601,326,079
Occupancy387,762363,072347,123
Other operating costs1,030,012760,831680,031
General and administrative expenses466,291451,552375,460
Depreciation and amortization238,534212,778201,979
Pre-opening costs15,51511,1088,546
Impairment, closure costs, and asset disposals30,57723,09466,639
Total operating expenses5,694,4705,142,4114,606,617
Income from operations290,164443,958258,368
Income and other income, net3,61714,32710,068
Income before income taxes293,781458,285268,436
Benefit/(provision) for income taxes61,985(108,127)(91,883)
Net income$ 355,766$ 350,158$ 176,553
Earnings per share   
Basic$ 12.74$ 12.62$ 6.35
Diluted$ 12.52$ 12.38$ 6.31
Weighted-average common shares outstanding   
Basic27,91727,74027,823
Diluted28,41628,29527,962
Net income$355,766$350,158$176,553
Other comprehensive income (loss), net of income taxes   
Foreign currency translation adjustments1,134726(2,736)
Unrealized gain on available for sale securities, net of income taxes—-147159
Other comprehensive income (loss), net of income taxes1,134873(2,577)
Comprehensive income$356,900$351,031$173,976

Chipotle Cash Flows Statement (thousands of dollars)

Year ended December 31
202020192018
Operating activities   
Net income$ 355,766$ 350,158$ 176,553
Adjustments to reconcile net income to net cash provided by operating activities   
Depreciation and amortization238,534212,778201,979
Amortization of operating lease assets184,538163,952—-
Deferred income tax provision108,35029,96210,585
Impairment, closure costs, and asset disposals28,87415,40261,987
Provision for credit losses16433125
Stock based compensation expense82,62691,39669,164
Other3,643(10,592)(2,918)
Changes in operating assets and liabilities   
Accounts receivable3,010(2,630)(8,298)
Inventory(394)(4,530)(1,722)
Prepaid expenses and other current assets(11,442)(23,066)(3,811)
Other assets(26,577)2,818(2,005)
Accounts payable(3,859)(973)32,080
Accrued payroll and benefits76,68311,75929,568
Accrued liabilities5,59636,54314,831
Unearned revenue36,95830,4006,829
Income tax payable/receivable(255,251)(32,083)14,439
Deferred rent—-—-21,297
Operating lease liabilities(165,154)(151,557)—-
Other long term liabilities1,7821,862869
Net cash provided by operating activities663,847721,632621,552
Investing activities   
Purchases of leasehold improvements, property and equipment(373,352)(333,912)(287,390)
Purchases of investments(468,418)(448,754)(485,188)
Maturities of investments419,078476,723385,000
Proceeds from sale of equipment—-13,969—-
Acquisitions of equity method investments(10,025)—-—-
Net cash used in investing activities(432,717)(291,974)(387,578)
Financing activities   
Acquisition of treasury stock(54,401)(190,617)(160,937)
Tax withholding on stock based compensation awards(48,555)(10,420)(5,411)
Other financing activities(1,895)(698)(187)
Net cash used in financing activities(104,851)(201,735)(166,535)
Effect of exchange rate changes on cash, cash equivalents, and restricted cash1,076406(1,457)
Net change in cash, cash equivalents, and restricted cash127,355228,32965,982
Cash, cash equivalents, and restricted cash at beginning of year508,481280,152214,170
Cash, cash equivalents, and restricted cash at end of year$ 635,836$ 508,481$ 280,152
Supplemental disclosures of cash flow information   
Income taxes paid$ 85,010$ 109,571$ 67,053
Purchases of leasehold improvements, property, and equipment accrued in accounts payable and accrued liabilities$ 46,975$ 36,866$ 30,870
Acquisition of treasury stock accrued in accounts payable and accrued liabilities—-—-$ 2,474
Payments on finance lease liabilities(1,617)(2,170)(1,811)
Proceeds from lease financing obligations—-—-2,692
Costs associated with financing long-term debt(3,303)(11,516)(154)
Purchase of treasury shares(10,053)(4,017)(—-)
Net cash provided by financing activities5,902168,297727
Net increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents61,990(1,040)(25,398)
Cash and cash equivalents, beginning of period$ 2,974$ 4,014$ 29,412
Cash and cash equivalents, end of period$ 64,964$ 2,974$ 4,014
Supplemental disclosures   
Interest paid on long-term debt$ 24,714$ 29,055$ 23,098
Interest paid on lease financing obligations$ 104$ 104$ 105
Accruals for capital expenditures$ 1,241$ 15,062$ 7,605
Common stock issued for consideration in acquisition(—-)($ 145,333)(—-)
Non-cash reduction of lease financing obligations—-—-$ 2,538
Income taxes paid (refunded) net$ 153$ 144$270

Chipotle Restaurant Key Takeaways from Income Statement

Surprisingly, the net income for 2020 actually increased from the previous year, despite the economic hardships brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing by about $5 million from $350,158,000 in 2019 to $355,766,000 in 2020. The majority of their revenue comes from sale of food and beverage products, but they also experienced a large increase in revenue from delivery service revenue, making more than double from this avenue than in 2019.

 

Chipotle Cash Flow Statement Insights

The cash flow statement is considered the most important document out of the three financial statements because it is supposed to give the most accurate overview of a company’s financial health. Companies can go to great lengths to manipulate their earnings, but the amount of cash it has demonstrates its true ability to meet expenses and repay investors. Chipotle holds a significant amount of cash, which increased from the previous fiscal year (2019). By the end of 2020, they held over $600 million in cash, about a $100 million increase from the previous year.

Chipotle Quarterly Earnings (Q1 2021)

        Quarterly Earnings (dollars in millions)

For the three months ended
March 31, 2021December 31, 2020September 30, 2020June 30, 2020March 31, 2020
Number of restaurants opened4061443719
Restaurant closures(5)(1)(3)(3)(2)
Restaurant relocations—-(2)—-(3)(1)
Number of restaurants at end of period2,8032,7682,7102,6692,638
Average restaurant sales$ 2,313$ 2,223$ 2,199$ 2,161$ 2,217
Average restaurant sales, excluding delivery MPI$ 2,273$ 2,200$ 2,192$ 2,161$ 2,217
Comparable restaurant sales increase (decrease)17.2%5.7%8.3%(9.8%)3.3%
Restaurant Rent Expense$ 118,444$ 107,147$ 81,409

Quarterly earnings

While the annual report measures the financial performance of a company as a whole in the last fiscal year, the quarterly earnings provide a much more recent, up to date, but less comprehensive outlook on company financials. Overall, Q1 for Chipotle proved to be much stronger than the previous quarter, exceeding Wall Street estimates and digital sales driving most of these gains. Total revenue amounted to $1.7 billion, a 23.4% increase from Q1 of 2020. While comparable restaurant sales increased 17.2%, digital sales surged with a 133.9% increase and accounting for 50.1% of sales. Their operating margin also increased, to 22.3%. Chipotle opened 40 new restaurants while closing down 5, for a net increase of 35 units and bringing the total count to 2,803 establishments. A little more than half of these newly restaurants featured “Chipotlanes”, Chipotle’s new drivethru concept that emerged as a response to the pandemic. 

During Q1

Chipotle introduced two new products: cauliflower rice and quesadillas, which were a “digital exclusive”. CEO Brian Niccols claims that approximately 1 of every 10 customers purchased the quesadillas, and therefore a likely contributor to Chipotle’s growth in digital sales. The below graph illustrates the number of restaurant openings and closures, as well as the average restaurant sales, both including and excluding delivery service revenue. There was a +35 unit increase to the number of restaurants, and average restaurant sales increased from 2,223 to 2,313, which is approximately a 4% increase, while comparable restaurant sales increased dramatically, from 5.7% to 17.2%

Conclusion

Despite past controversies, Chipotle remains a strong contender in the Food and Beverage industry. They were able to offset most of the detrimental effects of COVID-19 with increased consumer activity on their online delivery service, and as a result they were able to retain their status as a profitable business, even increasing their revenue from the past fiscal year (2019). While Chipotle subsidiaries are not as successful or well-known, their main brand continues to thrive, especially as they make a name for themselves in the “healthier” fast food and casual dining industry. 
Although Chipotle does not offer franchises, there are plenty of other restaurants that you can explore on the Vetted Biz website, along with other successful franchises in the Food and Beverage industry.

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