A Fool Looks Back

The dinner bell is ringing
Just my luck. A Panera (Nasdaq: PNRA  ) finally opens near my home this week and the bakery-cafe chain warns that it will come in at or slightly below its original first-quarter target. Try as I might, I know that I can't save Panera one bite at a time.

Bad weather is the culprit. It's not just Panera. P.F. Chang's (Nasdaq: PFCB  ) was another casual dining loser on Wednesday when it posted soft first-quarter comps. It's kind of scary to see the quality outfits get smacked down. Even higher menu prices can't lift the sluggish comps.

And maybe it's just me, but I figured that Panera would be an all-weather kind of company. It made it through the carb-free Atkins diet craze just fine, right? I understand how inclement weather will keep folks indoors. I'm not that dumb. But wouldn't a warm Panera soup or baked sandwich hit the spot on a cold, wet day?

As an investor with a soft spot for restaurant stocks -- picking Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG  ) for the Rule Breakers newsletter earlier this year was a natural call for me -- I'm starting to find the sector's price dips pretty appetizing.

Check out Panera. It's trading at 31 times this year's earnings and a little more than 20 times next year's projected profitability. That's certainly down from a year ago when the P/E was up in the 40s. It's still growing. And, more importantly, if weather really is to blame here, blue skies are never too far away.

S is for Sanjaya
There is more to winning American Idol than a hearty singing voice. Still, the fascination with the vocally deficient Sanjaya Malakar has taken on a life of its own. Whether it's a person on MySpace -- owned by the same News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) that airs the show on FOX -- threatening to fast or the active campaign by VoteForTheWorst.com to keep him on, everyone wants to take credit for Sanjaya's success on the show despite his clear talent deficiencies.

One of those beating the drum is Sirius (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) morning show star Howard Stern. While the media is claiming that Stern is saving Sanjaya, I see it differently. I believe that Sanjaya is saving Stern by giving the top jock an outlet to win over more satellite radio subscribers.

Stern fans would argue that Howie doesn't need saving. Stern critics would argue that Sanjaya stayed on this past week even as Stern took the week off. The reality lies somewhere in the middle.

It always does.

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz

Chipotle has been a recent pick in both the Hidden Gems and Motley Fool Rule Breakers research services. Dig in today for a free 30-day trial to either -- or both -- newsletters.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz recommends windshield wiper fluid when trying to look back. He is also part of theRule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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