Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Panera Bread: 3 Restaurants to Watch

These fast growing restaurants may add spice to your portfolio.

Mar 12, 2014 at 10:41AM

Investor great Philip A. Fisher, who pioneered the "growth stock school of investing," advocated investing in well-run growth companies over the long-term.  Restaurant chains Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD), Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG), and Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA) certainly possess at least some of these attributes and deserve more of your research time. 

People love chicken wings
Buffalo Wild Wings, which is mostly known for its chicken wings and sauces, also knows how to provide its guests with a fully immersed sports atmosphere "with wall-to-wall televisions and big screens" where people can gather and watch sports. Buffalo Wild Wings and its franchisees opened 102 restaurants in 2013 and currently operate over 1,000 restaurants. The fundamentals of this company would have made Philip Fisher's mouth water. In 2013, Buffalo Wild Wing's revenue, net income, and free cash flow all grew 22%, 25%, and 177%, respectively. The company sits on a fairly stable balance sheet with cash coming in at 14% of stockholder's equity. Buffalo Wild Wings also possesses no long-term debt, and as is typical with growth-oriented companies, Buffalo Wild Wings pays no dividend as it reinvests cash back into the business. 

"Food with integrity"
Mexican fast casual restaurant Chipotle Mexican Grill sells burrito bowls, tacos, burritos, and salads that source from farms without the use of hormones or antibiotics whenever it can. In 2013, Chipotle Mexican Grill opened 185 new stores. Also in 2013, Chipotle Mexican Grill saw its revenue and net income grow 18%, while its free cash flow grew 48% during the same time frame. Chipotle Mexican Grill's solid growth resulted in a decent balance sheet with cash amounting to 21% of stockholder's equity. The company possesses no long-term debt and pays no dividend. 

Manager and partner
Panera Bread and its franchisees operate over 1,700 bakery-café restaurants selling soup, bread, and salads. Its founder, chairman, and co-chief executive officer Ronald Shaich owns 11% of the company in terms of voting power, which means a significant portion of his wealth comes from Panera Bread.  This also means his interests are aligned with shareholders at large. Investing legends such as Warren Buffett prefer companies with owner-oriented management.  In 2013, the company opened over 133 restaurants. Panera Bread increased revenue, net income, and free cash flow 12%, 13%, and 14%, respectively. Panera Bread sports a decent balance sheet with cash to stockholder's equity clocking in at 18%, and it possesses no long-term debt and pays no dividend. 

Things to look for
Look for each of these three restaurant chains to open a number of new locations in 2014. Buffalo Wild Wings guided toward 22 new locations not including Mexico in the first quarter of 2014 alone. For the full year 2014, Chipotle Mexican Grill wants to open between 180-195 new restaurants while Panera wants to open 115 to 125 new bakery-cafes.

Finally, investing in growth stocks comes with a great deal of market risk meaning they typically take a greater walloping during a market correction. Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Panera Bread all come with price/earnings multiples of 39, 57, and 27, respectively, as of this writing. The P/E ratio for the S&P 500 is around 20, meaning that value investors would deem these companies overvalued. You should see a market correction as a chance to purchase shares in these fast growing businesses on the cheap. Feel free to add these companies to your Motley Fool Watch List.

Which of these companies makes the Fool's list of top growth stocks?
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William Bias has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Panera Bread. The Motley Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Panera Bread. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.

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