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Is Big Lots the Next Bed Bath & Beyond Disaster in the Making?
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3 Signs the Stock Market Outlook is Improving
S&P 500   3,998.84
DOW   33,947.10
QQQ   287.64
All the Cloud Storage You Need Is on Sale for the Holidays
The Safest Option in Trades! (Ad)pixel
Tesla Shares Are Sliding, Here’s Why
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World Cup fans find booze at hotels, Qatar's 1 liquor store
3 Signs the Stock Market Outlook is Improving
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3 Signs the Stock Market Outlook is Improving

Chipotle Mexican Grill Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript


Listen to Conference Call View Latest SEC 10-K Filing

Participants

Corporate Executives

  • Ashish Kohli
    Global Head of Investor Relations
  • Brian Niccol
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
  • John R. Hartung
    Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Presentation

Operator

Good day, and welcome to the Chipotle Mexican Grill's Third Quarter 2021 Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to turn the conference over to Ashish Kohli, Head of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Ashish Kohli
Global Head of Investor Relations at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our third quarter fiscal 2021 earnings call. By now, you should have access to our earnings press release. If not, it may be found on our Investor Relations website at ir.chipotle.com.

I will begin by reminding you that certain statements and projections made in this presentation about our future business and financial results constitute forward-looking statements. These statements are based on management's current business and market expectations, and our actual results could differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Please see the risk factors contained in our annual report on Form 10-K and in our Form 10-Qs for a discussion of risks that may cause our actual results to vary from these forward-looking statements.

Our discussions today will include non-GAAP financial measures. A reconciliation to GAAP measures can be found via the link included on the presentation page within the Investor Relations section of our website. We will start today's call with prepared remarks from Brian Niccol, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; and Jack Hartung, Chief Financial Officer; after which we will take your questions. Our entire executive leadership team is available during the Q&A session.

And with that, I'd like to turn the call over to Brian.

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Thanks, Ashish, and good afternoon everyone. Chipotle's third quarter results highlight strong momentum in our business, fueled by a multi-pronged growth strategy and a passionate team that's delighted to see more guests coming back into our restaurants. We continue to retain about 80% of digital sales but have now recovered nearly 80% of in-restaurant sales. While COVID impacts will likely persist for a few more quarters, we are hopeful that the worst is behind us and society can shortly return to a more normal environment.

Personally, I'm thrilled to welcome our restaurant support center leaders back to the office beginning in November, which will allow us to optimize creativity, camaraderie, and effectiveness, key elements that help make Chipotle unique and powerful brand.

For the quarter, we reported record quarterly sales of $2 billion, representing 21.9% year-over-year growth, which was fueled by a 15.1% increase in comparable restaurant sales. Restaurant level margin of 23.5% was 400 basis points higher than the 19.5% we reported last year. Earnings per share adjusted for unusual items of $7.02, representing an increase of 86.7% year-over-year. Digital sales growth of 8.6% year-over-year, representing 42.8% of sales and we opened 41 new restaurants, including 36 with a Chipotlane.

And I'm pleased to report that Q4 is off to a great start. These results highlight that our key strategies continue to resonate with guests and allow us to win today, while we create the future. While we regularly get asked, what's next, I believe our current growth drivers have plenty of runway and will be critical to us reaching our longer-term goal of 6,000 restaurants in North America with AUVs above $3 million and improving returns on invested capital.

To remind everyone, we're focusing on five key areas. Number one, opening and running successful restaurants with a strong culture that provides great food with integrity, while delivering exceptional in-restaurant and digital experiences. Number two, utilizing a disciplined approach to creativity and innovation. Number three, leveraging digital capabilities to drive productivity and expand access, convenience, and engagement. Number four, engaging with customers through our loyalty program to drive transactions in frequency. And last but certainly not least, number five, making the brand visible, relevant, and loved.

Let me now provide a brief update on each of these, starting with operations. Well-trained and supported employees consistently preparing delicious food and delivering excellent guest experiences are at the heart of our success. We're fortunate to have amazing employees at our restaurants who have stayed focused on safety, reliability, and excellent culinary, despite the dynamic and challenging environment. I've said it before and I'll say it again, our people are our greatest asset and I can't thank them enough for all their efforts. We are extremely proud of Chipotle's world-class employee value proposition that includes industry-leading benefits, attractive wages, specialized training and development, access to education, and a transparent pathway to significant career advancement opportunities.

We believe these efforts are helping to attract and retain great employees, which is more important than ever given the challenging labor environment we're all experiencing today. Over the past 18 months, we've made operational adjustments to adapt to our constantly changing environment in support of our in-restaurant business as well as our record-breaking digital business. As a result, we've had to allocate labor as needed among the different roles, including the DML and the frontline, depending on available staff to accommodate the needs of our customers and our restaurant teams. This flexibility has allowed us to keep our frontline open, given our ability to divert orders on the digital line as needed to overcome periodic staffing challenges. This is part of the normal business balancing that occurs at the discretion of on-site managers and has not had a material impact on our business in the past. This was through pre-pandemic and is more relevant now as dining room volumes recover.

The good news is that I believe we're finally getting back to pre-pandemic operations and I couldn't be more excited. We're fortunate to have a dedicated digital make line and a dedicated dining room serving line. Our frontline represented nearly 60% of our business or $1.1 billion of sales for the quarter. It is big and it is growing. We are committed to ensuring guests on the frontline get the customized meal they want, made with real ingredients, excellent culinary, and faster than anywhere else. We still have some work to do, but our goal is to provide exceptional throughput as speed of service is a foundational element of convenience that our guests truly value.

Therefore, we are committed to teaching, training, and validating the five pillars of throughput every day during every shift to ensure we meet our high standards and provide a great guest experience. While taking good care of guest is always a top priority, utilizing our stage gate process to continue innovating is critical to our growth. The great news is that Chipotle's delicious food that you feel good about eating, which creates an emotional connection with our customers and they love to see ongoing innovation from us. As a result, we introduced new menu items on a regular cadence as it helps bring in additional customers, drive frequency with existing users, and gives us an opportunity to create buzz around the brand.

Recently, we launched Smoked Brisket for limited time across all our U.S. and Canadian restaurants. Our culinary team spent the last two years developing the perfect Smoked Brisket recipe that is unique to our brand and pairs flawlessly with our fresh, real ingredients. This is our third new menu item this year, following on the success of our Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice and handcrafted Quesadilla. Early customer feedback on this entree, which is expected to last through November, has been very positive and we're delighted to see an increase in both check size and transactions.

Quesadillas, which we launched as a permanent digital exclusive offering in March, continues to perform well and is also helping attract new customers to Chipotle. By the way, if you haven't had a chance to try the brisket quesadilla, you really are missing out. And we're far from being done. Plant-Based Chorizo is currently being tested in a couple of markets and our talented culinary team is in the early stages of developing other exciting menu items.

All that being said, our stage gate process is not limited to new menu innovations. We use it for many parts of the business, including development. As you know, we validated a new restaurant expansion in Canada earlier this year, impressive unit economics with AUVs and margins, equal to or above those in the U.S. led us to accelerate development in this market. We've opened one new restaurant in Canada year-to-date and have several more planned before year-end, including our first ever Chipotlane that's scheduled to open next week.

Similarly, we are now in the early stages of using this process to learn, iterate, and eventually validate expansion in Western Europe. COVID slowed our ability to execute several critical initiatives, however, with restrictions easing, we're making nice progress and have implemented some of our digital assets as well as begun to test alternative formats and explore new trade areas. The recent openings have exceeded expectations. So while we continue to view international expansion as a medium to longer-term opportunity, I remain quite optimistic about its future contributions to the Chipotle story.

A more near-term pillar of growth has been our ongoing digital transformation, which is helping Chipotle become a real food-focused digital lifestyle brand. During the third quarter, digital sales grew nearly 9% year-over-year to $840 million and represented 43% of sales. We're not surprised to see the mix moderate as the world continues to reopen. However, we're pleased to see our digital sales dollars continue to grow despite lapping tough comparisons. In fact, our year-to-date digital sales of nearly $2.7 billion are just slightly below the $2.8 billion we achieved during all of last year.

Digital is proving to be sticky as it's a frictionless and convenient experience that has been aided by continuous technology investments to improve operational execution, innovation, and the customer value proposition. As a result of the pandemic, many new consumers were introduced to Chipotle via our digital channels and are now using us for alternative occasions. The thing I love about having two separate businesses is that they serve different needs that will likely prove to be incremental and complementary over the long run.

This is reinforced by the fact that different guests are accessing Chipotle through different channels. Currently, about 65% of our guest use in-restaurant as their main access point, nearly 20% use digital as their primary channel, and the remaining 15% to 20% use both channels. We're encouraged by this dynamic as it gives us several future opportunities, including the ability to convert more of our in-restaurant guests into higher frequency digital users.

Not only are we pleased with the level of digital sales and overall mix, but we're also delighted to see that our highest margin transaction, digital pickup orders, is gaining traction. This channel represented slightly more than half of digital sales in Q3. As always, we're not being complacent and continue to look for ways to enhance convenience and access through alternate restaurant formats, digital-only menu offerings, and leveraging our large and growing loyalty program.

Speaking of the loyalty program, we're excited to have more than 24.5 million members, many of whom are new to the brand. This gives us a large captive audience to engage with and distribute content that promotes our values, as well as motivates our super fans. We continue to leverage our CRM sophistication by focusing a lot more on personalization and using predictive modeling to trigger journeys, primarily for new and lapsed customers. These personalized messages are more brand-related as opposed to offers or discounts, which is allowing us to optimize program foundation and economics. All these efforts, along with the use of enhanced analytics, are allowing us to consistently attract more visits from loyalty members than non-members. No doubt the loyalty program has moved from a crawl to the walk stage, and we still have a lot of room to grow.

Offering new ways to engage with Chipotle is essential to the ongoing evolution of our digital business. Our first enhancement was Rewards Exchange, which provides greater customization and flexibility to redeem rewards and allows guests to earn rewards faster. More recently, we announced Extras, an exclusive feature that gamifies Chipotle rewards with personalized challenges to earn extra points and/or collect achievement badges in order to drive engagement. As the program grows, so does our ability to provide sophisticated and relevant communications to our guests, which will ultimately deepen the relationship between members and the brand.

We are pleased with our progress to-date, but believe with ongoing investments and further leveraging of data-driven insights, we can get even better. Amplifying all the growth initiatives I've mentioned thus far are the collective efforts of the marketing team, which are designed to make Chipotle more visible, more relevant, and more loved. We believe that real food has the power to change the world and using custom creative across a wide variety of media channels that allow us to drive culture, drive difference, and ultimately, drive a purchase.

For example, we use numerous campaigns to stay relevant via important sporting events such as the basketball championships, where we hit $1 million worth of free burritos in our TV advertising. We also utilize social media, including our website, to authentically highlight real food for real athletes during the broadcast from Tokyo. And, of course, to celebrate the launch of Smoked Brisket, we offered an exclusive peek to our loyalty members prior to a full launch, supported by a media plan across online video, digital, and social media platforms as well as traditional TV spots. All of these helped attract new guests into the Chipotle family as well as increase frequency of existing users.

We're fortunate to have an innovative marketing team that wants to be a leader, not a follower, and our marketing organization is built on a culture of accountability that encourages new ideas, that's committed to experimentation, and is ruthless on measuring returns, and isn't afraid to pivot to different opportunities if they don't perform to our high standards. Every day this team is focused on driving sales today, while enhancing our brand for tomorrow.

Chipotle is committed to fostering a culture that values and champions our diversity, while leveraging the individual talents of all team members to grow our business, elevate our brand, and cultivate a better world. Our team has proven their ability to be resilient and successfully execute against macro complexities. Again, a huge thank you to our nearly 95,000 employees for all their efforts. As a result, I believe, we are better positioned to drive sustainable, long-term growth than we were before the pandemic, which makes me even more excited about what we can accomplish in the years ahead.

With that, here's Jack to walk you through the financials.

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Thanks, Brian, and good afternoon, everyone. We're pleased to report solid third quarter results with sales growing 21.9% year-over-year to $2 billion as comp sales grew 15.1%. Restaurant level margin of 23.5% expanded 400 basis points over last year, and earnings per share adjusted for unusual items was $7.02, representing 86.7% year-over-year growth. The third quarter had a GAAP tax benefit that I'll discuss shortly, which is partially offset by expenses related to a previously disclosed modification to our 2018 performance share and transformation expenses, which netted to positively impact our earnings per share by $0.16 leading to GAAP EPS of $7.18.

As we look ahead to Q4, there remains uncertainty on several fronts, including COVID-related impacts as well as inflationary and staffing pressures. But given our strong underlying business momentum, we expect our comp to be in the low-to-mid double digits, which is encouraging considering that will be about 200 basis points less than pricing contribution during Q4 versus Q3 as we've lap some of our delivery menu price increases. And our brisket LTO will be for a partial quarter as compared to the full quarter of carne asada last year.

Let me now go through the P&L line items, beginning with cost of sales. Our supply chain team has done an outstanding job, navigating the numerous industry-wide disruption, which led to food costs being 30.3% in Q3, a decrease of 200 basis points from last year. This is due primarily to leverage from menu price increases, which were partially offset by higher costs associated with beef and freight that unfortunately are continuing to worsen. It's hard to predict how much of these headwinds will ultimately be temporary versus permanent but they are likely to persist for the foreseeable future.

In addition, Q4 will also include the higher cost brisket LTO, which collectively will result in our food costs being in the low-31% range for the quarter. Labor costs for the third quarter were 25.8%, an increase of about 40 basis points from last year. This increase was driven by our strategy to increase average nationwide wages to $15 per hour, which is partially offset by menu price increases, sales leverage, and a one-time employee retention credit. Given ongoing elevated wage inflation and greater new unit openings, we expect labor costs to be in the mid-26% range in Q4.

Other operating costs for the quarter were 15.1%, a decrease of 170 basis points from last year due primarily to price and sales leverage. Marketing and promo costs for the quarter were 2.4%, about 20 basis points lower than we spent last year. While Q3 tends to be a seasonally lower advertising quarter, the timing of some initiatives also shifted into Q4 this year. As a result, we anticipate marketing expense to be around 4% in Q4 to support Smoked Brisket and for the latest brand messaging under our Behind The Foil campaign. For the full year 2021, marketing expense is expected to remain right about 3% of sales. Overall, other operating costs are expected to be in the mid-16% range for the fourth quarter.

Looking at overall restaurant margins, we expect Q4 to be in the 20% to 21% range. Our Q4 underlying margin would be around 22% when you normalize marketing spend and remove the temporary headwind from the brisket LTO. And the remaining cost pressure will continue to evaluate and take appropriate actions on menu prices to offset any lasting impacts. Our value proposition remains strong, which we believe gives us a lot of pricing power. Despite these challenges, we remain confident in our ability to drive restaurant level margins higher as our average unit volumes increase.

G&A for the quarter was $146 million on a GAAP basis or $137 million on a non-GAAP basis, including $7.6 million for the previously mentioned modification for 2018 performance shares, and $1.6 million related to transformation and other expenses. G&A also includes about $100 million in underlying G&A, about $28 million related to non-cash stock compensation, about $8.5 million related to higher performance-based bonus accruals and payroll taxes and equity vesting, and stock option exercises, and roughly, $600,000 related to our upcoming all-manager conference.

Looking to Q4, we expect our underlying G&A to be right around $101 million as we continue to make investments primarily intact to support ongoing growth. We anticipate stock comp will likely be around $27 million in Q4, although this amount could move up or down based on our actual performance. We also expect to recognize around $5.5 million related to performance-based bonus expense and employer taxes associated with shares that vest during the quarter as well as about $1.5 million related to our all-manager conference.

Our effective tax rate for Q3 was 14.7% on a GAAP basis and 19.7% on a non-GAAP basis. Both rates benefited from our option exercises and share vesting at elevated stock prices. In addition, our GAAP tax rate included a return to provision benefit for additional NOL generated on our 2020 federal income tax return and carried back to prior years. For Q4, we continue to estimate our underlying effective tax rate to be in the 25% to 27% range, though it may vary based on discrete items.

Our balance sheet remains healthy as we ended Q3 with $1.2 billion in cash, restricted cash and investments with no debt along with a $500 million untapped revolver. During the quarter, we repurchased $99 million of our stock at average price of $1,813 and we expect to continue using excess free cash flow to opportunistically repurchase our stock. However, opening more Chipotles continues to be the best return we can generate.

During Q3, despite a few delays in opening timeline, we opened 41 new restaurants with 36 of these including a Chipotlane. While we're experiencing construction inflationary pressures, subcontractor labor shortages, critical equipment shortages and landlord delivery delays, our development team is doing an excellent job opening these new restaurants. In fact, we currently have more than 110 restaurants under construction, and while timing is somewhat unpredictable, this gives us confidence in ending the year at or slightly above the 200 new restaurants with now more than 75% including a Chipotlane versus our prior expectation of 70%. Also, the team has done a nice job building a robust new unit pipeline, which we believe will allow us to accelerate openings in 2022. But because of the challenges I just mentioned and how they could impact the timeline, we will provide 2022 opening guidance during our Q4 call.

As of September 30th, we had a total of 284 Chipotlanes, including 12 conversions and 8 relocations. They continue to enhance access and convenience for our guests, while demonstrating stellar performance. And while it's early days, Chipotlane conversions and relocations are yielding encouraging results. We will leverage our stage gate process to learn and refine our strategic approach to accelerating our Chipotlane portfolio.

I'd like to close today by thanking all of our Chipotle team members for the exceptional results we're reporting today as well as their hard work and dedication in helping sustain our long-term powerful economic model, maintaining a 40% pass through on incremental sales as we expand AUVs, will lead to higher margin and improving cash-on-cash restaurant returns. You can see why we remain optimistic about our future.

With that, we're happy to take your questions.


Questions and Answers

Operator

[Operator Instructions] And the first question will come from Andrew Charles with Cowen. Please go ahead.

Andrew Charles
Analyst at Cowen and Company

Great. Thanks. And Brian, just to vow [Phonetic] that brisket quesadilla sure is killer. Jack, you noted the 4Q food and labor challenges. If we think ahead, I think the more important question is that what is the business capable of achieving at $3 million sales volumes in terms of restaurant margins? Is 27% to 28%, is that still the right level or do you think the industry labor pressures, and to some degree, the freight challenges that you mentioned, does that make that margin level more aspirational? Thanks.

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Hey, Andrew. Listen, thanks for the question. No, we still believe that that kind of margin range of $3 million is still very much in play. Listen, it's very much of a labor challenge right now. There is food inflation as we talked about. We don't know how much of this is temporary, or transitional or is it permanent. But what we do know is we've got -- what we believe is great value, our customers continue to appreciate Chipotle, they love the convenience, they love the value, and so, we believe we got pricing power really better than almost anybody, if not everybody, in the industry.

So we'll be very patient. We're not going to cover inflation that hits in one quarter or another immediately, but we will carefully consider the fourth quarter, what action we will take. You know that it is about this time of year that we do consider what kind of pricing we will take, but we'll be patient and watch and see what happens with inflation, how much stays permanent. But we've got the pricing power to ensure those margins are in exactly the range you just talked about, Andrew.

Andrew Charles
Analyst at Cowen and Company

Got it. And then, just my other question is on brisket, is the issue, the fact that it's ending a little bit earlier in November versus what you saw at carne asada last year. Is that just due to the supply that you kind of just run out or was that kind of the case all along that November was probably targeted end date?

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

We're probably ending a little bit shorter than we originally planned, but that's just a direct result of degree response from the consumer and the great execution of our operators. So we got a great product, people have loved it and it's driven both incremental transactions in check or so. We're really happy with it. I guess and we'll probably do brisket again at some point in the future.

Andrew Charles
Analyst at Cowen and Company

We're looking forward to that. Thanks, Brian.

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah.

Operator

And the next question will come from Sharon Zackfia with William Blair. Please go ahead.

Sharon Zackfia
Analyst at William Blair & Company

Good noon. I guess, a question kind of building on brisket. I know you had indicated, Jack, that COGS would be up some sequentially. Can you kind of break that out into brisket versus just underlying inflation? And then, I'm curious with brisket, I think it's the highest priced protein you've ever had. I mean, what does that -- what has that taught you about where you can go on the menu?

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah, sure. Brisket, it's about a 50 basis point impact and inflation is probably another about 100 basis point impact and even got pushes and pulls beyond that, so.

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. And then, just to your question about the pricing, I think, it just demonstrates the value proposition and the pricing power that we have in our business, and I think Jack alluded to earlier. So we're really happy with the value proposition and the strength of our business. In the event, we feel like we need to pull that pricing lever, we have the ability to do it.

Operator

Thank you. And the next question will come from David Tarantino with Baird. Please go ahead.

David Tarantino
Analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.

Hi, good afternoon. Just a couple of questions. One, I wanted to clarify your fourth quarter comps guidance. So I guess if I look at the two-year comps performance you delivered in the third quarter and what you're projecting in the fourth quarter, it does imply a fairly meaningful step down in that metric. And Jack, I was just wondering if that's the right way to measure the business or I guess -- I know there's differences in comparisons if you look further back, but I guess how are you viewing the two-year comp metric as a guidepost for your business?

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah, David, I think you have to go back further because if you think about it, it was back two years ago. So it would be -- if you look at a three-year look now, when we first launched carne asada and that was a huge hit and then, we relaunched carne asada and it jumped over the original carne asada result and now we've got brisket, that's caught up, went on top of both of those years. And so, I think, a two-year doesn't take into account the strength and the strong comp we had in the fourth quarter back in 2019.

To go back to 2019, the fourth quarter comp was by far our IR comp. So I think a two-year doesn't quite look at the whole package. When we look at the underlying trends with the exception, David, of the pricing that rolls off, it's about 200 basis points related to delivery that we took last year. We think the trends are holding up nicely.

David Tarantino
Analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.

Great. Thank you for that. And then, Brian, I wanted to ask about Europe. Your commentary there sounded fairly optimistic. So you mentioned that you're seeing better than expected performance from some of the recent openings and I'm just wondering if you could elaborate on what change for the recent openings and what exactly are you testing in the stage gate process and how long will it be before you make a judgment on whether you have the model right for accelerated expansion?

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. So I would say the -- kind of the biggest differences since the first time we opened our restaurants with our digital make lines as part of the opening and also having the access point of delivery as well. So -- and then, we experimented with how big really the seats are, so all the restaurants have a nice dining room, but some of the dining rooms are more like the size of our restaurants in New York City versus the size of a dining room you might find in a traditional suburban outlet. And the good news is, we're seeing great results in both executions and it's great to see the power of our digital business with the great customized in-restaurant experience that you get.

So I would say that's been the biggest shift. And then, we've also gone back and put individual assets in all of our existing restaurants, and we're starting to see that take hold as well. So it's very early, a lot of these restaurants just opened in the last month or weeks and we're really happy though with the way that it started. Hopefully, we can continue to get learnings in a environmental room with the U.K. and ultimately, France where COVID is not putting restrictions on the business. So I think, you're right in interpreting, we're really excited about the results we've seen, but it's early days and we want to make sure it performs ongoing not just at the opening.

David Tarantino
Analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.

Great. Thank you very much.

Operator

And the next question is from Jeffrey Bernstein from Barclays. Please go ahead.

Jeffrey Bernstein
Analyst at Barclays Capital

Great. Thank you very much. Two questions as well. Just the first one in terms of specific cost outlook. It seems like a lots of attention on the commodity and labor front. Jack, I'm just wondering maybe you can share what it was maybe in the third quarter in terms of inflation and more importantly, as you look out, whether it's the fourth quarter or any kind of directional thoughts, I know you mentioned what's transitory, what's permanent but just your thoughts in terms of what it might be like as we look out into 2022. And then, I had one follow-up.

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. Jeff, I would say -- I mean, listen, we're dealing with the same inflationary environment that all restaurants and really all businesses are dealing with nowadays. Some of it come from labor, and I'm not talking about labor in our P&L, I'm talking about our supplier labor. Everyone's dealing with the same kind of challenge, some of it is raw material shortages as well. And so, it's very hard to predict. I would say, the inflation in the quarter was not that bad. It was mid-single-digit type inflation, but you've seen the same kind of list that we have seen that the forecast for some material, not necessarily what we're buying, that are into the double digits, sometimes well in the double digits.

Now, we're not really seeing that. I mean, we're seeing isolated spikes but most of our ingredients are okay. They're all pressure to the upside. And what we want to do is really take a look, be patient and see how much of this is really because of things like shipping, like things that come in from outside this country. The freight is astronomically high and the ability to get the supply we need is very, very challenging. So we want to see how that normalizes. There is materially shortages not just with our food and paper but also with our openings as well. Some of that is going to normalize as well.

So there is a lot for us to learn. Definitely, there is upward pressure and the thing that I would just tell you is, we feel very comfortable that any inflation that is affecting our margins today, we have the ability to offset it. It's just a matter of, let's be patient, let's wait and see what holds and what is transitory, and we'll make the right moves at the right time, but we'll be patient about it.

Jeffrey Bernstein
Analyst at Barclays Capital

Understood. And then, the follow-up was right on that topic in terms of menu pricing and the thought process in determining the right level. I'm just wondering whether your goal would be to fully protect the margin. Obviously, we're moving the transitory, but if you felt like there were more permanent pressures, is the goal to fully protect the margin or do you think about more of the long-term traffic trends and maybe don't necessarily take the full pricing that you could otherwise potentially do. I'm just wondering what's that thought process like? Maybe you've learned something with delivery. I know you took a very large increase there, wondering whether you're seeing the desired result of consumers shifting to more on the Chipotle site or any kind of learnings from that that you could apply to broader pricing decisions? Thanks.

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. Listen, Jeff, it's a great question and I would say that our ultimate goal -- so this is -- this would be over the long-term, maybe the medium-term, is to fully protect our margins. Okay. We have great value. When you look at our pricing versus other restaurant companies for the quality of the food, the quantity of the food, and the quality and convenience of the experience, we offer great value. So we believe, we have room to fully protect the margins, but we're not going to do it quarter-by-quarter, so we're not going to worry about pressure on a particular quarter on the margins. We're going to watch it for a few quarters and see what happens. But ultimately, our expectation -- and I think, it gets back to the first question about when we get to $3 million volumes, do we expect the margin to be that same kind of 27%, 28-ish percent? We absolutely do.

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah, the only thing I would add to that is, along those lines, the good news for us is, we still have tremendous growth. We still have a lot of work that I think can always be ongoing to drive more efficiencies and cost out of the business. And then, on top of that, we got this great value proposition that allows us to take advantage of pricing once we understand the combination of growth, cost efficiencies, and then, our value proposition. So that's why I think you're hearing Jack say, he's very confident in our ability to, at the end of the day, capture the full margin and earnings possibility out of our business as we grow beyond $3 million average unit volumes.

Jeffrey Bernstein
Analyst at Barclays Capital

But that's 17% increase you took on delivery that you mentioned in last quarter, I mean, I'm assuming something of that magnitude is having an impact in terms of shifting consumer preference or not necessarily?

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Well, first of all, I would just clarify. We didn't take it all one time, we took about 7% last August, we moved that up to 13% in the fourth quarter, and then, we moved it up to like 17%. So it was done in stages, Jeff, so we could see what the consumer response was and we just didn't see that much movement. You see a little bit of movement, we did see order ahead move up a little bit, but we were pleased with the way that our consumers responded and we felt strongly all along that that channel, it's a high convenience channel with a high cost and that channel really needs to bear those costs and we're really happy with the way it ended up.

Jeffrey Bernstein
Analyst at Barclays Capital

Thank you.

Operator

And the next question is from David Palmer from Evercore ISI. Please go ahead.

David Palmer
Analyst at Evercore ISI

Thanks. Just a quick follow-up on the price elasticity on delivery, particularly, what do you think that was? What do you think the volume trade-off was?

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

I don't know that there was one that I can measure that accurately, David, because we did see delivery ease, but we also saw dynamics open up as well during those periods. We didn't see much, if any resistance, back in the third quarter of last year when we took the 7%. When we took out 13%, COVID was starting to worsen as we moved into the holidays. So there was so much noise going on. It's hard to say we lost a specific amount of sales in delivery. So we saw some softness there, but there are other things going on as well.

And then, of course, our latest price action that was happening when the economy and restaurants were opening up again. But when we look at the net-net at the whole picture of what our overall sales were and then, between channels, we're really pleased with the overall sales trends and we're happy with the way the channels have shifted to the point where that shifting is moving back into our highest margin order ahead and our second highest margin come into the restaurant and orders. So the way we've ended up throughout the whole last year as we took these actions, we think we ended up in a really good spot.

David Palmer
Analyst at Evercore ISI

I was going to ask about that mobile order and pickup, it's got very high incremental margins. I would imagine the advantage and because of labor, efficiency would be quite large right now and growing because of the cost of labor. How -- it looks like mobile order and pickup mix may be moderated a little bit, could you talk about that mix and if there is any plans that you have you think levers that you can pull with the database that you have to encourage that behavior and possibly help your margins? Thanks.

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. Luckily, the order ahead business continues to make nice progress. And obviously, as we open more and more Chipotlanes, we see that business get even bigger. And you're right, David, the efficiency of that order or that transaction is the best margin transaction in our business. So we love opening more Chipotlanes.

Our marketing team, our digital team, they continue to drive customers to that access point because it's highly convenient. I think actually, I just saw some numbers on this, where the time from your order to actually your food being ready is now less than 10 minutes in our business. So we've gotten even faster at this stage to make it even more convenient. And just to give you perspective, a couple of quarters ago, that was in the 12-minute range. So we're getting better, and as we continue to provide, I think, more convenience, more speed, and get more Chipotlanes, you're going to continue to see that occasion continue to grow and, I mean, it's great for the business and it's great for our customers.

David Palmer
Analyst at Evercore ISI

Thank you.

Operator

The next question is from Nicole Miller with Piper Sandler. Please go ahead.

Nicole Miller Regan
Analyst at Piper Sandler

Thank you. Good afternoon. I want to ask a little bit about labor and how you're getting informed there. You're obviously ahead of the curve on benefits, but just thinking about some of the decisions you have to make. Let's say, if a digital make line or digital closes, what are you learning about the labor pool? When will you decide if some of those pressures are transitory or not? And if they're not, what would you do? Do wages go up? Do you have to overstaff to account for not enough bodies, or is it just simply so much demand?

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. Well, so the approach we are taking is, we're doing this team-by-team. So it's a restaurant-by-restaurant approach and we're fortunate that we've got great leadership throughout our organization. So when you go into a restaurant that is struggling with staffing, we seek out to understand why. Do we have the right leader? Do we have the right culture? Once we understand that, we make sure we've got the right wages, the right benefits, and people understand the true career opportunity to grow with Chipotle.

And what we find is, let's say, we know we got the right leader and people get recruited into a great culture, they understand the career growth opportunity. We do a really good job then of winning that hiring competition. And then, you'll obviously -- in each of these markets, we have to make sure that our wages continue to be competitive. And again, this is another opportunity that I think is unique to Chipotle that we've got the ability to move if we need to on a restaurant-by-restaurant basis and put ourselves always in a strong footing. So we never want to find ourselves falling behind, we always want to be leading when it comes to attracting and retaining the best people and that's our approach. It's really -- it's a simple approach. We want the best people, we want to reward them correctly, and then, want them to develop, so that they can grow with us.

Nicole Miller Regan
Analyst at Piper Sandler

Thank you for that. And then, I think I actually lost track of price. I think, it was 10% in the quarter, but if it's going to be like 200 basis points lower, I either had too much rolling off or maybe some more came on. So could you talk about price, maybe a little bit of color by month in 3Q and then 4Q? Thanks.

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah, I mean, I'll do it by quarter, Nicole, that's -- but it's -- it didn't change that much by month either. There is roughly about 10% in Q3, that's going to drop to about 7.5% or so in Q4. And just to remind you guys of the component, 10% sounds like a lot, it's the 4% that we took in June to support the higher wages, it's roughly 2.5% related to delivery and that's later based on our delivery business. There is our national pricing that we took last year, that's 2 or a little bit more than 2, and then, there is the final piece, miscellaneous, which we took some feedbacks in last year or early this year when beef prices started to spike. Now, beef has spiked again, so we're behind on that as well.

So those are the components. And I only break that out that way because all the action we have taken has been very targeted, very specific, and very, very purpose-driven. And then, we will move down to a -- that 7.5 in the fourth quarter because the -- a good part of the delivery pricing that we took in the third and fourth quarter of 2020 completely rolls off into the fourth quarter.

Nicole Miller Regan
Analyst at Piper Sandler

Thank you for that. Appreciate it.

Operator

And the next question will be from Lauren Silberman with Credit Suisse. Please go ahead.

Lauren Silberman
Analyst at Credit Suisse

Thanks for the question. On loyalty, can you share any metrics on how customer spend or frequency changes once customers join the Rewards program? And then, I know it's early but anything you can share on what you're seeing with Chipotle Exchange and Extras, and what cohorts you're seeing the greatest responses from?

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yes, sure. So what we have demonstrated over time is people that are in our Rewards program or our loyalty program, they come more often and they spend more. And what we've definitely seen is the Rewards program has also, I think, created another level of engagement where those that before weren't participating, now are being influenced with the opportunity of these different incentives, right, where -- I don't if you're enrolled in our program, but you'll see something like a streak where if you come X number of times, you get a bonus points. The thing that's attractive about that is, not everybody wants to wait to redeem for a full-size entree, and this opens the door for them to redeem faster, get kind of rewarded for taking action as we see people continue to engage in the Rewards program. So they continue to work really well, takes advantage of new users, medium users, or heavy users that want to engage with the brand, and then, were able to influence their behaviors, resulting in more frequency and higher ticket.

Lauren Silberman
Analyst at Credit Suisse

Thanks. I'm definitely enrolled in the program. One of the best.

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Okay.

Lauren Silberman
Analyst at Credit Suisse

On staffing, where are you seeing the greatest challenges? Do you see more in recruiting new staff or retention? And any differences that you can call out in the labor environment across the markets?

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. So I would say it kind of ebbs and flows. This is, unfortunately, the cycle when the restaurant gets understaffed becomes a much harder job for the individuals that are working there. So we work aggressively to go recruit, train so that we do retain those that are with us. And I would say the greatest challenge has been when kind of the dining rooms reopened, we needed to staff up quickly to catch up with the demand and that was harder than we had hoped, but luckily, I think we took a lot of the right actions where we've got a lot of our restaurants now in good footing.

And now, we have these scenarios where things pop up and you have to deal with it accordingly, whether it's exclusions as it relates to COVID, or kids going back to school. You're in kind of the normal course of having to make sure that you're always recruiting, and then, we got to make sure we're getting people trained up for being successful in their job, then, they stay with us and then, ultimately, they're able to hopefully get a General Manager job and progress into our organization to above store leadership as well. So our focus has been on making sure that we're getting these restaurants staffed and trained correctly because that's the best remedy for retention.

Lauren Silberman
Analyst at Credit Suisse

Thank you, guys.

Operator

And the next question is from Chris O'Cull with Stifel. Please go ahead.

Chris O'Cull
Analyst at Stifel Institutional

Thanks, good afternoon guys. My question relates to Chipotlanes. I was hoping you could provide some color on the average volumes, margin and investment in that format versus the traditional format. And my second question is, that given the Chipotlane format really unlocks the use of different real estate sites, how much does the format increase the domestic unit potential of the brand?

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. Listen, I'll start with the performance. The Chipotlanes typically open up somewhere in that 10% to 15% range higher on sales, their margin obviously is higher for two reasons. One, because the sales are higher and we know that our higher volume restaurants flow through a higher margin. And then, there's also the efficiency that we've talked about, where much more of the digital business -- first of all, the digital business is usually 10% to 15% higher. So if we're doing 45%, so say in a non-Chipotlane, we'd be doing 55% or higher in a Chipotlane and it skews towards order ahead, our highest margin transaction. So the return is much, much better.

The incremental investment cost generally is going to be about $75,000, $85,000, something like that. So with those kind of sales and those kind of higher margins, it's by far, a superior return. In terms of Chipotlane, the Chipotlane in the typical restaurant that you'll see open up, it's not any smaller than a typical restaurant, so it doesn't take a different footprint. What we are experimenting with though is a smaller footprint with a Chipotlane, where we might be able to go into a seen location. And the seen location would be where you've got two restaurants already. They could be very, very high volume restaurants and there just isn't really enough room to economically put a third restaurant in between those two.

Well, if you can reduce the footprint, which reduces the rent, reduces the investment cost and because we have higher margins with Chipotlane and because customers, more than 50% of them, want to go through the Chipotlane order ahead and pickup, well, it's mostly digital and almost half of that is order ahead and pickup. We do have an opportunity economically to drop in a restaurant in between those two high-volume restaurants. We're in the early days of that. We're just experimenting with that, but we think that that's got some legs going forward. And that, Chris, would be incremental. Those would be deals that we wouldn't have done without the Chipotlane format.

Chris O'Cull
Analyst at Stifel Institutional

Just one follow-up. I know digital-only Chipotlanes are still in the testing phase, but does that format potentially allow you to have a much broader menu with items more -- maybe more difficult to execute than you could in a traditional format?

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

I mean, it definitely allows for some additional innovation on the menu as evidenced by our Quesadilla. So that's something that I think our culinary team and our marketing team continue to take a look at. Regardless though, you want to -- the one thing that's great about Chipotle is, people can get the customization that they want and also that we can provide it at really exciting speed.

And so, we just -- we have to be careful that we don't create complexity that slows us down even in the digital channel, which -- but the digital channel gives us some additional flexibility, but I love the fact that we're now closing in on people being able to order off-premise, have their food ready to be there in less than 10 minutes. That's really exciting for us. So we're going to keep an eye on the throughput for digital just like we keep an eye on the throughput on our frontline. So it definitely opens the door for something, I just want to make sure you understand that at the end of the day, we still want to have great speed even in our digital business.

Chris O'Cull
Analyst at Stifel Institutional

Understood. Thank you.

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah.

Operator

And the next question comes from Jared Garber with Goldman Sachs. Please go ahead.

Jared Garber
Analyst at Goldman Sachs

Thanks. And appreciate all the commentary on top-line growth and margin specifically. I wanted to switch topics a little bit and think about unit growth here. It seems like the unit growth number in the quarter came in a bit lighter than some of the expectations, but you maintain that full year guide. Just wondering if you could comment on the construction in the permitting environment and what you're seeing from that perspective and if there is any risk that some of these new units need to get pushed out into next year.

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. Jared, I made a few comments in the prepared comments as well, but it's a challenge in all the areas you just mentioned. It's a labor challenge for our contractors and the subs. It's a material challenge and it's also permitting challenge. It's one reason why we mentioned that even though we've opened 137 restaurants so far. We've got about 110 or over 100 restaurants are under construction. There is not a risk that we won't get to 200 openings. I don't think there is a risk that we won't get to or beyond 200, but more than a previous year, more than a typical year, there is timing risk in that. And so, I think we'll get to that 200 plus. I think, it gives you an idea of how robust our pipeline was. Without these timing risk, we would have been well beyond 1,200 -- well beyond the 200.

For next year, I also mentioned that we've got a very robust pipeline. So the good news here is our pipeline is really, really, really strong. We're doing everything we can to try to work through the timing issues like we're pre-ordering supplies, for example, so that we're not going to run out because we're pre-ordering things. We're doing everything we can to work with our contractors, but if they have short labor or if they have exclusion because people are exposed to COVID, the construction site does shut down. Those are the things that are just unavoidable. We're navigating as best we can through that, but most important is the pipeline is really, really strong. The quality when we open up these restaurants is really, really good. So it gives us great optimism, and the timing issues, we're just going to navigate the best we can.

Jared Garber
Analyst at Goldman Sachs

Thanks. I really appreciate the color there. And then, just one more sort of on that. I know, you're kind of holding off on giving '22 guidance in terms of unit growth, which you typically do in the third quarter, but fully understand the volatile environment there. If you were to think about sort of a normalized environment without some of these timing issues and especially, as it relates to kind of the very healthy cash balance you have, is there any reason that outside of again, COVID-specific or supply chain impacts, we shouldn't be starting to think about accelerating levels of unit growth in '22 and maybe even '23 and beyond?

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. Listen, our pipeline will support that acceleration. So then, it really does come down to timing and it's not just about the capital. I mean, just because we have the capital, it doesn't mean we'll accelerate, but it's a combination of good sites are available, the openings are strong, we're getting now the 75% of our new openings are Chipotlane, which you heard us talk about the performance there. And so, there is every reason to continue to invest in the success. And so, you definitely will see some acceleration.

Jared Garber
Analyst at Goldman Sachs

Awesome. Thanks so much.

Operator

And the next question is from Jon Tower from Wells Fargo. Please go ahead.

Jon Tower
Analyst at Wells Fargo

Awesome. Thanks for taking the questions. I got a few. So just a clarification first on the fourth quarter same-store sales guidance. Right now, are you guys trending towards the higher end of that range given you're expecting some mix shift lower as well as some pricing rolling off?

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. October results are good so far, so we didn't see a fall off at all in October. But...

Jon Tower
Analyst at Wells Fargo

Okay.

John R. Hartung
Chief Financial Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

In terms of the range, there's a lot of uncertainty going on, we still have two and a half months to go. So I'd hate to want to be more specific at this point.

Jon Tower
Analyst at Wells Fargo

Got it. And then, just going to the, I think, question earlier or some of the labor challenges you alluded to in the press release and on the call. Did that impact same-store sales specifically throughput at all during the quarter?

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

I mean, look, obviously, a fully staffed restaurant outperforms an understaffed restaurant. One of the things that's terrific for our business though is the fact that we have both the digital make line and the frontline. We're able to flex that digital make line so that we can keep the integrity of our frontline experience. So we never have to close our restaurants.

And what we're able to do is then, allocate accordingly. The other thing that we learned, that's another benefit of this digital business is, we have restaurants within a couple of miles of each other and delivery doesn't get impacted if you ship from one restaurant to another. So we have to throttle back our digital business in one restaurant because we're a little light on staffing, so that we can keep the frontline running smoothly. The good news is we got another restaurant right around the corner that is able to fulfill that digital order. And so, we don't see a lot of drop-off in the business that way.

But at the end of the day, I wish all our restaurants were fully staffed and I know we're missing sales because not all of them are fully staffed. So there is still upside in getting our staffing solved every single restaurant. The good news is we're in really good shape for the majority of our restaurants. Our teams have done a phenomenal job and it's going to be something though that we're going to have to continue to work hard and it's one of those things where it's not going to get any easier.

So therefore, we have to continue to get better at recruiting, training and keeping these restaurants staffed. So we're fortunate that we've got these two businesses and we've got the flexibility, but I wish every restaurant was staffed, it'd be a better job for everybody and it'd be a better experience for every customer.

Jon Tower
Analyst at Wells Fargo

Got it. Thank you. And then, just one more follow-up on the pricing decision. Can you walk us through how you're thinking about the fourth quarter -- or maybe it's not even the fourth quarter, but in terms of taking incremental price from here, is it the belief that you're going to see protein inflation take well into '22 and therefore, it makes more sense for pricing to be taken now or -- I guess can you walk us through the thinking around why or why not to take any more pricing sooner rather than later?

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. I think, the one thing that Jack mentioned is, we traditionally always look at how we're want to approach pricing for the next year in the fourth quarter. One of the things we're obviously evaluating is where is labor going to land, not just in our restaurants, but across a lot of our suppliers. We don't see wages as one of those things that's temporary and going backwards.

Now there's other things like freight and some of those things, but we think those are more temporary. So we're -- we just want to understand where those things are. And the good news is, we got a great value proposition, so that if we realize we need to take a little more or take a little less, we have the flexibility to do it. And then, when you marry that up with all the growth that we have in this business, we don't want to get ahead of the pricing if we don't need to.

So we're not afraid to use our value proposition, but I want to use it when we really have to use it and we've demonstrated that if we need to take pricing, we will. The business has the pricing power to do it, but we want to make sure we're taking pricing because it's stuff that's permanent, not stuff that's temporary. And we also want to think about how we blend that with all the growth and other cost-saving initiatives we got going on.

Jon Tower
Analyst at Wells Fargo

Got it. Thank you.

Operator

And the final question today will be from Dennis Geiger with UBS. Please go ahead.

Dennis Geiger
Analyst at UBS

Great, thank you. Brian, just wanted to ask a little bit more on some of the key incremental drivers of sales growth over, maybe the coming months and quarters. Just curious, based on what you said, if it's kind of fair to think about incremental benefits from a few, I guess, including that dining room traffic goes from 80% to 100% at some point, digital sales remain incremental in that scenario, obviously, the additional pricing that you just spoke to, I guess staffing up and maybe the efficiency from the crews just getting better as dining room traffic comes back. Curious if it's kind of fair to think about all of those as incremental from here and then, if there's any others that you would call out kind of above and beyond everything that's been working and supporting momentum to-date. Thank you.

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah, sure. So look, I definitely think you touched on a lot of them, which is we still have opportunities for better throughput on our frontline. I just mentioned that we're continuing to get faster on our digital business. So just running the operation -- to your point, as we continue to get more fully staffed with more trained, well-developed people executing against the three pillars of throughput that we know we need to execute, there is upside in the business there.

There is also upside in the strategies that I outlined in the beginning of the conversation today, which is, we're going to continue to take advantage of our huge and growing Rewards program. We've got -- we're closing in on $25 million or $24.5 million. That's like a 40% increase versus where we were a year ago at this time. So obviously, not going to continue to grow at that clip, that database, but what we are growing is our capability in taking advantage of that database to drive behavior, engagement, commitment to our business.

Obviously, we'll continue to smartly use menu and culinary innovation. So that's not going to stop. And when you think about our access that we're providing to people, I think, our value proposition is going to really shine through going forward. So I just think that's another huge advantage. Even as I look around, I would put our chicken burritos up against a lot of food out there and when you start to look at where pricing is going on a lot of their menus, our value proposition, I think, looks even more compelling. So I don't know what that's worth, but what I do know is, I like being in a position of a really strong value proposition going forward, given the environment that I think we're all going to be facing.

Dennis Geiger
Analyst at UBS

Great, thank you.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Brian Niccol for any closing remarks.

Brian Niccol
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Yeah. Thank you, and thanks, everybody, for joining the call, and thank you for all the questions. Obviously, very proud of our results for the third quarter and I think it speaks volumes to our strategy, our culture and our ability to commit ourselves to great execution in a constantly evolving environment.

I continue to be very optimistic about our ability to get to $3 million-plus AUVs with really, I think, impressive earnings growth behind that. So I'm very confident that we are focused on the right strategies. There is a lot of growth in those strategies. And then, I love what our innovation pipeline is looking like, whether it's experimentation in new assets, cost opportunities, international. There's just a lot of growth in our business both in the U.S. from a new unit standpoint as well as average unit volumes.

And then, as you think about the model that we take outside the U.S. So very proud of the team. A huge thank you to them again. It's been a challenging environment, but I think, we are demonstrating the strength of the Chipotle culture, the Chipotle purpose. If you don't have those things, I don't think you get the results that our company were able to achieve in the most recent quarter. So thank you, again, for taking the time and we'll talk to you next quarter. Take care.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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