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Chipotle profits heat up

Oct. 18, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

NEW YORK -- Chipotle says its profit rose 15 percent in the third quarter as more customers flocked to its restaurants for burritos, tacos and bowls.

The Denver-based company, which is building a location in Huntington, said sales at restaurants open at least a year, a key metric, rose 6.2 percent in the period, driven by higher customer traffic. The sales jump follows a 4.8 percent increase a year ago.

Chipotle, which has more than 1,500 locations, has surged in popularity because customers see it as being a step up from traditional fast-food chains such as Burger King and Wendy's. People also like that they can customize their orders, dictating which ingredients they want on their orders.

The company's healthy sales performance is in contrast to the performance of several major food companies including McDonald's in recent quarters, which have cited the challenging economy for underwhelming sales results.

But some companies seem from insulated from such outside factors. Starbucks, for instance reported a surprisingly strong 9 percent sales increase at locations open at least a year in its most recent quarter.

As for Chipotle, the chain's "Food With Integrity" ethos has also helped it cultivate a powerful marketing message. It recently generated buzz online with a cartoon video depicting a dystopian world where big food companies fatten chickens with injections and keep cows stuffed in crates. By contrast, the video depicted Chipotle's food as being homemade from fresh ingredients.

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