Is Red Robin Gourmet Burgers a Good Buy After Dropping Significantly?

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (NASDAQ: RRGB  ) has been rewarding its shareholders substantially. Its stock price jumped from $34 per share at the end of 2012 to $81 per share in November 2013. However, Red Robin has plunged back to $67 per share at the time of writing. Should investors consider the recent dive a good opportunity to invest in this casual-dining restaurant chain, or are Burger King Worldwide (NYSE: BKW  ) and McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  )  better stocks for investors now?

Red Robin Gourmet is a casual-dining restaurant chain which has 350 company-owned and 135 franchised restaurants in the U.S. Its restaurant's signature product is the gourmet burger, which is made from premium quality ground beef, and it sells several other sandwiches that contain turkey patties and chicken breasts. In the past 25 years, the company has grown significantly from only 57 restaurants in 1989 to around 485 restaurants at the time of writing.

In the third quarter, the company performed well. Red Robin generated revenue of $230.7 million, 8.1% more than its revenue in the same period last year. The increase in sales was driven by a 5.7% rise in comps, including a 4.6% increase in average guest check and a 1.1% rise in guest count. The company reported that its same-store sales growth in the past five quarters was much higher than it expected. 

Looking forward, Red Robin will continue to deliver shareholder value with three main strategies: enhancing guest engagement, expanding the restaurants' footprint, and increasing the business' operating efficiency. The company is rolling out food innovations to create unique burgers for customers in fun and new ways. Recently, Red Robin has introduced the new Finest Smoke & Pepper Signature burger which features a half-pound Black Angus burger. The new burger, inspired by the world-renowned chef Laurent Tourondel, will be topped with black-peppered bacon, cheeses, and sauces. Chef Laurent Tourondel commented:

This new burger at Red Robin is an upscale take on a classic bacon cheeseburger. The sweet, smoky and peppery flavors of the sauce blend perfectly with the high quality seasoned beef and bite of peppery bacon on this burger. I am pleased to see their version of my award-winning recipe available in almost 500 locations

Burger King Worldwide also relies on food innovations to drive its operating performance. Recently, its Satisfries, healthier fries with 40% less fat and 30% fewer calories than McDonald's fries, were introduced to customers. The firm believes that this new food innovation can enhance the total guest experience as well as its overall profitability. Moreover, it also brought back the Big King sandwich, which is similar to McDonald's "Big Mac" but contains fewer calories. 

McDonald's has also been pushing its innovations to attract customers into the stores. Not long ago, McDonald's announced that it would offer a variety of healthier side dishes such as salads, vegetables and fruits. Moreover, it committed to fixing its complicated menu and improving its kitchens for better service and order customization. The company is testing a new, upscale "build-your-own burgers" concept in two restaurants in California and Illinois. McDonald's estimated that the preparation table, which can hold a wide range of fresh sandwich ingredients, will be available in more than 14,000 locations in the U.S. next year. 

My Foolish take
The recent market drop has dragged Red Robin to around McDonald's valuation level. At a market cap of $961 million, Red Robin has an EV/EBITDA, or enterprise value/earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, ratio of 9.8. McDonald's is just a bit more expensive at 10.5 times its EV/EBITDA. Burger King Worldwide has the highest EBITDA multiple at 16.2. With a decent valuation and ongoing food innovations, Red Robin could fit well into investors' long-term portfolios. However, among the three, McDonald's could also be a decent choice because of its reasonable valuation, global footprint, and juicy dividend yield at 3.40%. 

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Global long-term value investor. CFA level 3 candidate. His US portfolio is up 43.60% in 2013, beating S&P 500's total return of 32.4%.

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