As part of its research into Chipotle‘s business — and any possible earnings boost from its new queso offering — BMO Capital Markets sent analysts to 20 locations across New York City to see just how many people were trying the cheesy new topping.
Their informal surveys painted a dire picture for the fast-casual chain that was largely counting on queso to help boost its bottom line and stock price, currently trading at just 58% of its all-time high back in 2015.
“Only 15% of orders we surveyed included queso, which is less than half of the approximately 40% of orders we observed that include guacamole,” analyst Andrew Strelzik said in a note.
It gets worse. Chipotle gets less money when customers opt to add queso instead of guacamole to their meal because it’s cheaper than guacamole: “Two-thirds of those orders included queso as a direct entrée add-on, which heightens risk of negative mix shift with guacamole limiting the same store sales contributions,” his note continued.
The bleak findings lead BMO to decrease its price target for shares of Chipotle to $US330 from $US350, while retiring its “market perform” rating for the stock.
So far, reviews of the new offering are dire. Natural ingredients — a hallmark of Chipotle’s rise to near-ubiquity — are also a big detractor for its queso, which has “textural flaws” that could be “disappointing to queso traditionalists,” according to Business Insider’s taste test.
“Expectations likely should be lowered on CMG’s ability to leverage product innovation as a sales-driving strategy going forward,” said BMO.
“CMG’s strategy has evolved over the last few years to increasingly incorporate new product introductions, but CMG has yet to establish a track record of developing and implementing successful new products.”