Chipotle has been besieged since 2015, when a major E.coli outbreak managed to infect scores of customers. Since then, the company has hemorrhaged money, giving away free burritos in an attempt to sway its once faithful clientele back into the fold. And per a report in Fortune, the burrito-peddler’s fifth straight quarterly sales decline could very well cause prices on a number of menu items to increase, according to company CEO Steve Ells.
Earlier this week, Chipotle released its preliminary results for the fourth quarter, which were not good. The chain’s sales fell 4.8% overall during the quarter, proving an even larger slump than analysts were predicting. Accounting for the piddling returns, the company noted, were the exorbitant cost of TV ads and the avocados used to make everyone’s favorite burrito-condiment, guacamole.
"During the quarter we incurred higher expenses compared to our originally-forecasted amounts in other operating costs, driven by increased promotional spend and costs related to testing television advertising...We also incurred higher food costs compared to our originally-forecasted amounts as a result of increased market costs for avocados,” the company stated in the preliminary report.
This makes Ells “nervous,” according to the Fortune story. The company’s chief expressed dismay about the rising cost of food last month, noting that prices may have to rise in tandem with the minimum wage earned by employees. It’s unclear what menu items might eventually come at a premium, but if the high cost of avocados are any indication, it might result in a surcharge on guacamole, which already garners an extra $2.00 charge when purchased at the fast-food restaurant.
This isn't the first time Chipotle has raised the specter of a price hike: The company has grappled with the rising costs of beef before, initiating around a 5% price surge on steak and barbacoa burritos and bowls in 2015. (For perspective, that accounts for about 35 cents of your $7 burrito). In fact, the company has done this on an almost annual basis.
So enjoy the (relatively cheap) green delicacy while you can, friends. There will probably be more reason to complain the next time Chipotle's ailing financials put a minor dent in your wallet.