An Early Look at Panera's Earnings

On Tuesday, Panera Bread (NASDAQ: PNRA  ) will release its latest quarterly results. The key to making smart investment decisions on stocks reporting earnings is to anticipate how they'll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you'll be less likely to make an uninformed knee-jerk reaction to news that turns out to be exactly the wrong move.

Panera has benefited greatly from the trend toward healthier eating, with its corporate philosophy encouraging customers to treat its restaurants like a home away from home. So far, that strategy has produced impressive growth. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Panera over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report.

Stats on Panera

Analyst EPS Estimate

$1.65

Change From Year-Ago EPS

17.9%

Revenue Estimate

$566.1 million

Change From Year-Ago Revenue

13.5%

Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters

4

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Will Panera's earnings stay healthy this quarter?
Analysts in recent months have become slightly more optimistic about Panera's earnings prospects. They've raised their estimates for the just-ended quarter by $0.02 per share and ratcheted up their 2013 full-year consensus by twice that amount. The stock has done reasonably well, rising about 10% since mid-January.

Panera has thrived by selling healthy fare in an inviting bakery setting. Not content to allow Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX  ) to dominate the early morning coffee niche, Panera has used some of the same tactics as its rival, building out its restaurants to encourage customers to linger with Wi-Fi and comfortable furnishings. Starbucks has reupped its efforts to go beyond coffee with its purchase last year of bakery company La Boulange, but that hasn't stopped Panera from posting strong growth.

One way that Panera has successfully gone beyond its coffee rival is in offering catering services. The company saw its catering sales rise 19% last quarter, and Panera expects to continue to expand in the area as customers get familiar with its availability and convenience. Fellow healthy-eatery Chipotle (NYSE: CMG  ) announced at the beginning of the year that it would follow suit with its own catering service, seeking to keep up with its competitor's faster growth rate.

Panera has also sought to gain favor not just with customers and investors but with the communities it serves as well. With initiatives to help the hungry, like donating baked goods to community organizations and its "pay-what-you-can" experiment with certain specialty stores scattered around the country, Panera has built a strong reputation for doing good as well.

In Panera's quarterly report, look at Panera's sales and earnings growth not just compared with the company's previous results but also in comparison with the figures Chipotle just released last week. If Panera can keep staying ahead of its competitors, it should have a strong future ahead of it.

For Panera, there's reason to believe that the best is still yet to come. The stock has been on an absolute tear over the past five years, and you're invited to find out why -- and what else there is to look forward to -- in The Motley Fool's brand-new premium report on Panera. Included are key areas that investors must watch, as well as opportunities and threats facing the company both today and in the long term. Don't miss out on this invaluable investor's resource -- simply click here now to claim your copy today.

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