DENVER-The Chipotle Mexican Grill chain is “well-positioned” to open 80 to 90 new stores this year, company officials said Monday on a day that included news of quarterly results and a new stock offering by existing holders of the company’s shares. In a conference call with financial analysts, the Chipotle execs talked of comparable store sales that approached 20% in the first fiscal quarter that ended March 31 and mentioned the potential to keep on opening new stores at a steady clip.

Chipotle “has never been better positioned from a long-term development perspective,” according to Jack Hartung, the company’s CFO and chief development officer. He said the company is “well-positioned to open 80-90 new restaurants this year,” including the 15 that it opened in the first quarter. The 15 company-owned restaurants that it opened during the first quarter included 12 in existing markets and three in new markets.

New restaurants were one of the drivers of increased revenues, which climbed 40.2% to $187 million in the first quarter, as comparable store sales climbed by 19.7%. Hartung commented that the company “benefited from a comparison to soft comparable restaurant sales in the first quarter of 2005,” so future comp-store sales comparisons “will become increasingly more challenging each quarter,” he said.

Steve Ells, the chain’s founder, chairman and CEO, credited more efficient operations, IPO-related publicity and mild weather as some of the factors boosting first-quarter performance. Monty Moran, president and COO, pointed out that average sales per restaurant surpassed $1.5 million for the first time during the first quarter.

Net income for the first quarter increased to $8 million, compared to $2.6 million in the first quarter of 2005. Chipotle, which opened its first restaurant in 1993, operates more than 500 locations.

Regarding the stock offering mentioned Monday, Chipotle said that it intends to file a registration statement today or later with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed public offering of more than 4.8 million shares of the company’s class A common stock that are held by current stockholders. The selling stockholders include McDonald’s Ventures LLC, which intends to sell 4.1 million shares in the offering.

In addition, McDonald’s expects to grant the underwriters of the offering an over-allotment option to purchase up to 629,299 shares of the company’s class A common stock. Chipotle expects that the offering will be completed in the second quarter of 2006. The company will not receive any proceeds from the offering.

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