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Chipotle expects sales surge this quarter, builds on 17.2% first-quarter growth By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Customers order from a Chipotle restaurant at the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia

By Nivedita Balu and Hilary Russ

(Reuters) -Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc on Wednesday said its comparable sales this quarter could grow by as much as 30% as rapid COVID-19 vaccinations encourage consumers to return to its restaurants that offer quick service in a casual dining space.

Shares rose slightly in after hours trading after the burrito chain reported comparable sales rose 17.2% in the first quarter, helped by new menu items like quesadillas and consumers’ using federal pandemic relief funds to order tacos and salads online.

Digital sales surged nearly 134% in the first quarter and accounted for half of overall sales, the company said on Wednesday.

The company’s digital sales have grown rapidly during the pandemic, encouraging it to expand order-ahead lanes called “Chipotlanes” to a majority of its restaurants in the United States.

Revenue rose 23.4% to $1.74 billion, matching analyst estimates, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

While the company reiterated that it expects to open about 200 new restaurants in 2021, it continued to shy away from issuing full-year revenue and sales forecasts.

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