2 to Watch and 1 to Buy Right Now

In my interviews with Fool analysts to find the companies on their watchlists, some come armed with well-considered thoughts, some jot down a few tickers on a napkin, and then there's Joe Tenebruso. When we sat down for our chat, Joe pulled out a two-page printout with every salient point of the two companies he's watching now and one he's ready to buy now. "Hope this helps," the Fool analyst said modestly. Suffice it to say, Joe's not a guy who skimps on his research.

One to watch
According to Joe's notes, first up is Panera Bread (Nasdaq: PNRA  ) , which with its consistent high quality, relatively quick service, and ubiquity feels a little like the Starbucks of sandwiches. Joe thinks this is a great play on the trend toward healthier living, delivering the more nutritious and higher-quality food that more consumers are demanding.

The company has a strong balance sheet, with about $230 million in cash and less than $2 million in debt. It's brought in 16% earnings growth (CAGR) over the past five years, and it's been profitable growth. In fact, according to Joe's notes, return on capital has improved from 12% in 2007 to more than 19% in 2010.

"I believe that this trend will continue," say Joe's notes. "Panera has years of profitable growth ahead of it." Perhaps others got a peek at that printout, because shares are a little pricey. With a pullback of 10% to 15%, Joe would be a buyer.

Two to watch
Joe's notes are also watching Buffalo Wild Wings (Nasdaq: BWLD  ) , another well-run restaurant chain that's growing even faster than Panera, with earnings CAGR of 34% over the past five years. And the company is becoming more profitable, with ROIC rising from 13% in 2006 to more than 15% in 2010.

"Shares are more attractively priced than Panera's shares, but there's a factor that's keeping me on the sidelines for now," state Joe's notes. "The NFL labor negotiations do not appear to be going well, and should a lockout occur and part of -- or even worse, all of -- the NFL season is lost, BWLD's revenue could take a major hit. I think they sold something like 6 million chicken wings during this year's Super Bowl." Joe is watching to see how the labor strife unfolds ... at least that's what his notes say.

One to buy right now
Joe's notes don't include any exclamation points, but you still get the clear sense he's enthusiastic about McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) . Since the company's "Plan to Win" initiative debuted in 2003, Mickey D's profit margins increased from less than 6% in 2002 to more than 20% in 2010, and ROIC has leapt from 8.5% to 18%. The business performed well even as other stocks were hammered beginning in 2008 because cash-strapped diners traded down to the more cost-effective offerings during the recession, demonstrating McDonald's defensive allure.

"McDonald's is a stock that can anchor your portfolio," say the notes. "It offers a little bit of everything -- growth (via its international expansion), income (via its solid 3.2% dividend yield), and a defensive nature that will allow you to sleep well at night."

And that's something to take note of. If you want to track any of these noteworthy companies, just click any of the links below and you'll automatically create a free watchlist from the Fool automatically loaded up with that stock. It'll let you get to know these companies better and determine if they're right for you, plus you'll also get instant access to "6 Stocks to Watch from David and Tom Gardner," a free report on a handful of companies the Fool's co-founding brothers think you should be watching. The watchlist service and the report are free when you click any of the following links or just enter your email in the box below:

Roger Friedman owns none of the companies listed above. Panera Bread is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Buffalo Wild Wings is a Motley Fool H idden Gems recommendation. McDonald's is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On March 14, 2011, at 5:17 PM, midnightmoney wrote:

    The other side of the coin:

    --horrible labour practices

    --horrible environmental record

    --horribly unhealthy

    Mcdonald's: not lovin it.

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