Editors Note:

There is a lesser-known competitor to Chipotle Mexican Grill and they are gaining ground fast. The competitor is Qdoba Mexican Eats and they are part of Jack in the Box, which has been around since 1951.



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JACK - Jack in the Box - Company Description

Jack in the Box Inc. operates and franchises Jack in the Box quick-service restaurants and Qdoba Mexican Eats fast-casual restaurants primarily in the United States. As of February 17, 2016, it operated and franchised approximately 2,200 Jack in the Box restaurants in 21 states and Guam; and approximately 600 Qdoba Mexican Eats restaurants in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.

Jack in the Box bought Qdoba from ACI Capital, Western Growth Capital and other private investors in 2003. That chain started with the Zuma Fresh Mexican grill in Denver Colorado in 1995. The chain became famous because of the fresh food and fast service even though lines often stretched well out the door. Their claim to fame was the fresh food. They replaced the traditional animal fats with vegetable oils and used fresh vegetables whenever they were available. The name was changed to Z-Teca in 1997 because of trademark claims and then changed to Qdoba in 1999 for the same reason.

They captured another segment of fans in 2014 when they changed the price structure to a fixed price based on the protein and everything else was included. A chicken burrito cost $7.80 and steak burrito $8.49. You can add anything you want for no additional charge.

Qdoba also serves breakfast and some locations are open 24 hours.

Chipotle Mexican (CMG) also started in Denver two years before Qdoba. Chipotle has had multiple food issues over the last three years and business is falling fast. Same store sales have routinely declined more than 10% per quarter. Morgan Stanley penned a brutal downgrade last week and cut the price target from $500 to $405. Maxim Group reiterated a sell with a target of $300. DB is targeting $350. Morgan Stanley surveyed 2,000 customers in June and 13% of those questioned said they would not go back to Chipotle. Another 13% said they have returned rarely compared to frequently before the food problems started. Some 45% said they are eating there less often and 26% said they had not eaten there since the food problems.

Morgan said customers had found alternate dining locations during their abstinence from Chipotle. One of those locations is Qdoba where business has been increasing rapidly.

In their Q1 earnings, the company said they were going to open more Qdoba stores with 50-60 in 2016 and 20 additional Jack in the Box stores. They reported a 39% increase in earnings to 85 cents that beat estimates for 70 cents. Same store sales (SSS) at Qdoba rose 2.1% for company owned stores and 3.1% for franchised stores. The number of transactions increased 3.7%. They guided to SSS at 1.5% to 2.5% for the full year.

Shares popped 12% on the earnings news to $87. Since then they consolidated for a month and are back at a 52-week high at $88.50, which is also resistance. A break over that level could retest the 2015 high at $99.99.

With a trade at $89.25

Buy September $95 call, currently $2.15, initial stop loss $86.25.


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