Long-time Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung is pushing back a little on the notion that inflation-driven price increases is making his food too pricey.
"As perspective, in most parts of the country, you can still get a chicken burrito — and that's what more than half of our customers get — for less than $8. It's really hard to go find a meal of this caliber in terms of the real ingredients, the real cooking, full customization to really get that all for less than $10," Hartung said on Yahoo Finance Live.
Price increases Chipotle took in 2021(the last one being in December) did their collective part to drive another quarter of strong sales and profits for the restaurant giant.
Fourth quarter same-store sales rose 15.2%, beating analyst estimates for 14.8% growth as Chipotle saw a positive customer response to new smoked brisket. Earnings per share clobbered analyst estimates by 30 cents.
Shares of Chipotle gained 9% to $1,585 in Wednesday's session.
The stock arguably would be higher if Chipotle was seeing a touch better trends in the first quarter. Executives told analysts on a conference call same-store sales rose 5% in January, held back by the Omicron variant.
Same-store sales for the first quarter are seen rising by a mid- to high-single digit percentage.
As for further price hikes to combat continued inflation in beef, labor, transportation and avocados, Hartung said the company is hesitant to push through more increases. But, he believes Chipotle could do so successfully if push came to shove seeing as ingredient costs may not retreat until "the earliest, the end of 2022, maybe even into 2023."
"We still feel like we have a lot of room [to raise prices]. What I mean by that is we hope to never find out. We have never had resistance when we raise prices, and we hope to never find out we went a little too far," Hartung said, adding that he sees raising prices as "more of a last resort."