NEW YORK -- Chipotle restaurants are ringing up more sales than ever before.
The chain said that sales at established locations rose 13.4 percent in the first quarter as it saw an increase in customer visits. Sales at established locations are an important indicator of a company's financial health because the metric strips out the volatility of newly opened and closed locations.
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In a call with analysts, Chipotle's Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung said the strong performance pushed the company's average annual sales to more than $2.2 million per restaurant for the first time. That's compared with less than $1.5 million in 2006.
Exactly how much money a restaurant pulls in each year varies depending on several factors. Aside from its popularity and the prices it charges, a big differentiator can be how long it's open throughout the day. McDonald's, for instance, has long outpaced Burger King and Wendy's in part because of the popularity of its breakfast menu. It's why Taco Bell recently decided to start opening its stores a few hours earlier to offer items like a waffle taco.
As long as companies are paying for fixed costs like rent, the idea is that they want to do as much business as possible.
Maximizing sales is also why companies talk so much about improving "throughput" -- how quickly they can ring up orders so people aren't waiting in line (and potentially walking away). In the first quarter, Chipotle said it increased the number of transactions it handles during the peak lunch hour of noon to 1 p.m. on Fridays, one of its busiest days.
Here's a look at the average annual sales per restaurant for 2013, according to restaurant industry tracker Technomic:
• Panera $2.52 million
• McDonald's -- $2.5 million
• Chipotle -- $2.17 million
• Wendy's -- $1.51 million
• Taco Bell -- $1.41 million
• Starbucks -- $1.31 million
• Burger King -- $1.2 million