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Often these days it can seem almost painful to open up an earnings report from a casual-dining restaurant. While the economy continues to struggle one of the first and easiest places for consumers to cut back is on dining. After digesting reports from Brinker International (NYSE: EAT ) , Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG ) , and now Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ: BWLD ) , it's becoming easier to decide where to park your long-term restaurant investing dollars.
Buffalo Wild Wings results
On Feb. 4, Buffalo Wild Wings reported fiscal fourth-quarter results. Total revenue climbed 12.4% to $341.5 million. Same-store sales popped 5.2% at company-owned locations and 3.1% at franchise locations. Net earnings rocketed 24.9% to $20.8 million or $1.10 per share.
This was a 13-week quarter compared to a 14-week quarter, or the numbers get otherwise even more pronounced. Excluding the extra week, revenue and earnings soared 22% and 59.6%, respectively. Same-store sales were up near 4.7% across the board. You could have sworn you were reading the growth report of a hot social media site instead of a restaurant chain.
Chief executive Sally Smith credited the success with new portion sizes, new design, new beer, and new locations. The success didn't end with Christmas at the wing chain. Smith mentioned that the company-owned stores tacked on another 4.8% in comparable sales growth in the first five weeks of 2014 whereas they slipped back by 0.2% last year. She expects this same-store sales momentum to continue throughout the year and is calling for a 20% increase in earnings per share for 2014 to $4.55 per share.
Where it starts getting wild
The individual restaurants on average and the entire chain are doing very well. That much is obvious. What's particularly wild, though, is the chain only has barely more than 1,000 very popular locations. That comes out to on average only 20 per state and even less when you consider that a few are international. In short, there appears to be ample room for vast expansion.
During the conference call, the company reiterated its plan to build out 1,700 locations in the U.S. and Canada alone. This doesn't even include international locations, and Buffalo Wild Wings opened its first location in Mexico two months ago. Smith mentioned about Mexico, "Sales are robust, which gives us confidence that the brand travels well." The company plans to open a location in Dubai this year. Don't be surprised to see growth continue well passed 1,700 locations domestically as well. Let's face it: beer, wings, and football represent a local experience with friends. There has got to be many more than 1,700 local regions filled with people who would enjoy the experience.
Chipotle Mexican Grill and Brinker International
Chipotle Mexican Grill's results remind us that Buffalo Wild Wings' quarter wasn't necessarily a fluke in an otherwise weak dining market. At this chain, sales took off by 20.7%, same-store sales rose an eye-popping 9.3%, and net income exploded 29.8% while seeing a decent increase in guest traffic. CEO Steve Ells stated, "For the foreseeable future, however, our growth will be driven primarily by opening Chipotle restaurants in the United States." Customers are still willing to open their purses and wallets in increasing numbers at the right places such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Buffalo Wild Wings.
Meanwhile, at Brinker International, its report was more in-line with what's more common lately among restaurant chains. Its sales inched up 2.3%, while systemwide domestic sales ticked up an anemic 0.3%. For December alone, things at Brinker International turned much worse. Same-store sales fell 4.9%, while guest traffic plunged 6.8% for the chain. Brinker International blamed "more severe weather" for the shortfall. Was it that or was everybody ditching Chili's and heading over to Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle Mexican Grill instead?
Foolish final thoughts
Fools looking for a rapid growth story that still has much of its growth should consider taking a peek at Buffalo Wild Wings. Between growing locations and growing sales and profits at each location, the majority of its long-term annual earnings growth is likely ahead of it. Buffalo Wild Wings has 2014 P/E of roughly 30, which doesn't seem bad considering the opportunity for expansion. It might be worth waiting to see if the stock price gets a decent pullback for a long-term entry.
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