Barbecue restaurants feel the pain of soaring meat prices

Pitmasters worry for the future of their barbecue restaurants as beef, pork and poultry prices continue to rise.

Posted: Oct 23, 2021 8:54 AM

Chipotle's smoked brisket was always intended to be a limited-time menu item. But it's been so popular that the offering is ending earlier than planned.

The company revealed in Thursday's earnings call that the brisket promotion will end in November, meaning it will just be on sale for partial quarter. Usually Chipotle's limited-time offerings, such as last year's carne asada, are on sale for a full quarter.

In a call with financial analysts, CEO Brian Niccol said the strong brisket sales are a "direct result of degree response from the consumer" that helped bolster its third-quarter sales.

"We're really happy with it," remarked Niccol, adding Chipotle will "probably do brisket again at some point in the future." He also said that the company is in the "early stages of developing other exciting menu items."

Brisket was tested in November 2020 using the company's "stage-gate process" across more than 60 restaurants in Ohio and California. Chipotle adds new items to its menu at select restaurants and evaluates their performance before launching them nationwide.

Chipotle has been performing well over the past few months, despite raising its menu prices to cover the costs of higher wages for employees and ingredients. In the third quarter, revenue grew 22% to $2 billion. Sales at restaurants open at least 13 months spiked 15%.

However, like other companies, Chipotle said "uncertainty remains on several fronts" that could affect its fourth-quarter earnings including staffing issues and inflation.

Chipotle's stock was flat in premarket trading.

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