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Today's jobless-claims report from the Labor Department revealed a weekly increase of 14,000, putting the seasonally adjusted rate at 348,000 and the four-week average at 338,250. That's not much worse than we saw before the financial crisis, though of course it isn't great news. And although most economic data doesn't have a big effect on food and beverage stocks, job reports certainly can. High unemployment typically means the lower end of the industry will see less traffic.

Could that be the reason McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) ended today's session flat? Maybe, but the nation's largest fast-food chain did have other news coming out today: It's rolling out its bone-in Mighty Wings product nationwide. Last year, McDonald's introduced Mighty Wings at $1 apiece, and they didn't do well, except in a few markets, including Atlanta and Chicago. The new price will be around $0.60 per wing. All investors can do is sit back and see whether this concept flies.  

Another food-and-beverage headliner today was Noodles & Company (NASDAQ:NDLS). Shares fell 2.3% despite Wednesday night's earnings release, in which the company announced a 54% year-over-year jump in fourth-quarter profit, thanks to new locations and higher same-store sales. The problem was, those results fell short of analysts' targets. Revenue of $91.5 million and earnings per share of $0.08 missed expectations of $107.5 million and $0.14. A lot of fast-casual concepts have come to the market as hot IPOs that promised growth for years to come. Noodles & Company was one of them, and it may be feeling the pressure of those high expectations.  

Potbelly (NASDAQ:PBPB) is a similar story. It managed to gain back 0.95% today after its own disappointing earnings report last week sent its shares on an 11% nosedive.

What we saw today in the food and beverage space, then, didn't have much to so with the latest job report as it did with expectations, either for new products or for companies relatively new to the market. As for Noodles & Company and Potbelly, they have a lot of growth remaining, but also a long road ahead. These are long-term plays, if investors choose to play them at all. Don't worry about the results from one quarter to the next, as so many on Wall Street often do.  

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Matt Thalman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of McDonald's. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.