One Small Restaurant Company Is Primed for Big Success

In the current investing landscape, Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ: BWLD  ) stands alone in the restaurant industry. A public company for over a decade, the owner, operator, and franchisor of sports, wings, and beer-infused restaurants remains the only major national sports-bar chain for investors to consider.

In comparison with more popular investments in the restaurant space like Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG  ) and Panera Bread (NASDAQ: PNRA  ) , Buffalo Wild Wings appears to be a more aggressive long-term play.

Source: Company Facebook Page 

Atmosphere is everything
While Buffalo Wild Wings may not have many direct competitors on a national level, the company constantly competes with local sports bars. However, sheer size allows Buffalo Wild Wings to maintain an edge.

The company maintains approximately 50 big screen televisions in each restaurant and favors wide-open seating arrangements, which allows each of its locations to cater to large groups of viewers. Since the restaurants can seat more people than your average local bar can, Buffalo Wild Wings' locations rarely struggle to find patrons during popular sporting events.

For this reason, shares of Buffalo Wild Wings are appealing, since the company is just as popular for beer and sports as it is for its food. In this way, the company is a more diverse investment than traditional fast-casual companies like Chipotle and Panera.

In order to differentiate the company's lineup of stores even more, however, management has taken on several initiatives in 2013, which are expected to continue going forward. The first, Stadia, is the company's general rebranding of restaurants. Each restaurant that undergoes the Stadia transition will feature a redesigned central bar area littered with big-screen televisions. 

Buffalo Wild Wings President and Chief Executive Officer Sally Smith explained in the company's most recent earnings conference, "14 Stadia restaurants opened in 2013 and guests feedback has been tremendous. We continue to roll out the guest experience business model to our restaurants, which we believe enhances guest engagement and differentiates our restaurants further." 

Another way in which management has been making Buffalo Wild Wings locations stand out is through various customer enhancement experiences such as holding fantasy football draft parties and the Bick Kick Challenge, a contest in which the company sent six winners to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Arizona. 

Since the popularity of the NFL in recent years seems to have only been on the rise, Buffalo Wild Wings has done well to capitalize on the sport's popularity. However, with the 2013 football season having just ended, what's next for Buffalo Wild Wings?

The answer is basketball! The company does very well with college basketball, particularly March Madness. In a deal announced last year, Buffalo Wild Wings partnered with the NCAA to become the "Official Hangout of March Madness." To capitalize on this, the company hosts bracket challenges in which customers can compete online to win prizes. 

Industry-leading growth
Buffalo Wild Wings is still very small in comparison with aforementioned peers Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread. Not only is the company's market capitalization of $2.7 billion minuscule in comparison with Chipotle's $17.2 billion and Panera's $4.9 billion, the company's current store count is much smaller as well.

Just in January, Buffalo Wild Wings opened its 1,000th store. At the end of each of their recently reported quarters, Chipotle had 1,595 locations and Panera had 1,777. In the company's recent earnings release, CEO Sally Smith stated that Buffalo Wild Wings could achieve 1,700 stores in North American markets alone. 

Not surprisingly, the company's small stature means more robust growth for the most part in comparison with larger peers like Chipotle and Panera. The following table breaks down all three companies' projected growth for 2014: 

Company Revenue Growth 2014 EPS Growth 2014
Buffalo Wild Wings 16.7% 26.9%
Chipotle Mexican Grill 18% 23.3%
Panera Bread 7.4% 4%

Aside from Chipotle's impressive projected revenue growth of 18% this year, Buffalo Wild Wings is expected to lead its larger peers in 2014.

Bottom line
While still small in comparison with industry peers like Chipotle and Panera, Buffalo Wild Wings is growing in a big way. The company's growth has come as a direct result of management's successful approach of catering directly to sports fanatics.

As long as sporting events remain popular, which is almost assured, Buffalo Wild Wings seems like an ideal candidate for continued expansion and robust shareholder returns going forward.

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Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 8:27 AM, sparbd wrote:

    I really don't see how BWW is a direct peer of Chipotle or Panera. This is a fast casual, yet sit-down restaurant whereas the others are not. BWW is more akin to a TGIF Fridays or Applebee's.

    The comparison here beyond size and revenue is misleading almost as if the writer has never actually stepped foot in one.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 1:30 PM, PhilipS wrote:

    Here is the problem with your statement; never, NOT ONCE, in the article did I claim BWLD to be a direct competitor to CMG or PNRA. Thank you for the comment but please read more carefully next time.

    The point was to compare it to popular investments in the space to let investors know there are other options. None are more popular currently then CMG or PNRA.

  • Report this Comment On March 09, 2014, at 1:47 PM, countryjoe29 wrote:

    Yeah you do call them peers. They are not. If the point is to compare popular investments in "the space" then compare the same "space" which is, as spardb pointed out above, more akin to those occupied by TGIFridays or Applebees. You could add Cheesecake Factory and Quaker Steak and Lube to that list of like-type sit-down restaurants too.

    Panera Bread and Chipotle are clearly not the same kind of restaurant as BWLD. If the point was to compare popular investments that are NOT in the same space then fine, throw in CMG and could also throw in FB, TWTR, NFLX and a few others that have that much in common too

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2014, at 8:25 AM, PhilipS wrote:

    Let's see here . . . the sector for CMG, PNRA and BWLD is 'Services' and the industry is 'Restaurants.' If you think a comparison between the three of those companies is too out there then I don't know what else to say.

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Philip Saglimbeni

Philip is an avid investor and writer. He contributes to The Motley Fool and Seeking Alpha. You can follow Philip on Twitter @philsags.

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8/27/2015 4:00 PM
BWLD $195.64 Up +2.55 +1.32%
Buffalo Wild Wings CAPS Rating: ****
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PNRA $180.50 Up +3.30 +1.86%
Panera Bread CAPS Rating: ****