I’m not Chris, but my thoughts on CMG being a mature concept are as follows:
I actually think Chipotle is quite small in the grand scheme of things. At 1,600 locations, it is true that they are much larger than Shake Shack, Zoe’s, Chuy’s, or any of the other “up and coming” fast casual chains.
However…1,600 isn’t all that many when you look closely.
In 2013: Subway had 25,000 locations in the US, McDonalds has 14,000, Burger King had 7,200, and Wendy’s had 6,100 (http://ezlocal.com/blog/post/10-largest-fast-food-chains-201…) - Chipotle is #21 on that list! Obviously these are not perfect comparisons. However, it gives a sense of the enormity of the addressable market. I believe Chipotle could double their store count with relative ease. They do not franchise, and have been very careful and deliberate in their expansion.
In addition, Chipotle is cultivating two other concepts which have a similar QSR design. One is called Shophouse, which is currently being marketed as an “Southeast Asian Kitchen”, which is being very gradually expanded and currently has 9 locations between LA and DC. The other is Pizzeria Locale, a recent partnership with a lone restaurant in Denver that has a similar vibe to Chipotle and is about to open a 2nd location (http://www.kansascity.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/ci…). If either of these concepts reach even a fraction of the success of the original Chipotle concept, then the stock could have a long way to run - I could certainly see it surpassing MCD in market cap someday.
A (lengthy) personal anecdote for anyone interested: I recently graduated from Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school in rural Ohio. A Chipotle just opened in the neighboring town 2 or so years ago, and it is constantly packed, primarily with local residents (and a good number of college students as well). Prior to that, the nearest Chipotle had been 45 minutes away, and students would organize carpools in order to go pick up large orders for groups of friends. Chipotle only just opened locations in Amherst, Massachusetts and Boone, North Carolina - both well known college towns where I have friends. They were simply ecstatic at the fact that Chipotle finally opened up in their areas, and they report that they are as packed as every other Chipotle they have ever been to. That is a kind of brand power that is difficult to find, particularly in the restaurant industry, and I think all of these things make CMG worth a premium multiple.
Very long CMG + Steve Ells