Is This the Time to Buy Panera?

Shares of Panera Bread Company  (NASDAQ: PNRA  )  fell in after-hours trading after the company posted a mixed bag of quarterly earnings. Noodles & Company (NASDAQ: NDLS  ) wasn't able to post strong numbers in its recent quarter amid harsh winter weather. However, Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ: BWLD  ) grabbed the bull by its horns and reported great quarterly results. 

Why have Panera's shares slipped after the earnings announcement, and what's in store for the company in the future?

Quarterly earnings
Panera reported $605 million in revenue, which beat the consensus estimate of $561.8 million. Its revenue was also up 8% from the year-ago period. Its earnings per share stood at $1.55 per share, $0.03 more than the Street's consensus. However, its net income came in at $42.4 million, which was 12% lower than the comparable quarter's net income of $48 million. The bakery chain's same-store sales ticked up 0.1%.

Severe winter weather had a negative impact of 150 to 200 basis points on Panera's comps. However, the shift of the Easter holiday from last year's first quarter to this year's second quarter had a positive impact of 50 basis points on Panera's comps.

Why Panera's shares fell
Though Panera's earnings beat expectations, the company lowered its earnings guidance for the current fiscal year. After the company narrowed its full-year 2014 earnings guidance to a range of $6.80-$7.00, its shares tumbled 5% in after-hours trading. Panera has based its new guidance on comparable-sales growth of 2%-3.5%. Previously, the company had guided for earnings of $6.80-$7.05 per share and it had expected 2%-4% comps growth.

The reason behind Panera's low earnings guidance
One of the major reasons why Panera gave a conservative outlook for this year is because the company is continuously investing in its future growth. This will increase its costs, which will reduce its margins in the next few quarters.

Recently, the company launched Panera 2.0 -- a series of integrated technologies designed to enhance the customer experience at its stores. Panera 2.0 features Advanced Ordering for To-Go, Order from Your Table for Dine-In, Fast Lane Kiosks for Dine-In and To-Go Orders, and Customized Ordering.

With Advanced Ordering for To-Go, a guest can use the ordering option called Rapid Pick-Up to place an online/mobile order from their car, office, work, or home to pick up food at a pre-determined time without waiting in a long queue. Order from Your Table for Dine-In allows a customer to order while inside the bakery and have the food delivered directly to their table. Fast Lane Kiosks for Dine-In and To-Go Orders is a new way to order through iPad kiosks available at the company's stores. Moreover, Customized Ordering allows customers to save their past orders and favorites at the company's kiosks for easy ordering on their next visits.

After several years of testing, the full Panera 2.0 experience is now available at 14 cafes. Panera expects to roll out Rapid Pick-Up to all of its cafes by the end of this year, while full elements of Panera 2.0 will be launched during the next 36 months.

Noodles & Company and Buffalo Wild Wings
Noodles & Company's share price has more than doubled since its IPO in June last year. However, the company didn't perform very well in the first quarter, missing on revenue by a slight margin. Its earnings came in at $0.05, in-line with the expectations. Like all major restaurant chains, Noodles blamed bad weather for its 1.4% decline in comparable sales.

Last month, the company announced the launch of four springtime dishes: Margherita Flatbread, Asparagus di Parma, Backyard Barbecue Chicken Salad, and Rustic Hummus. Noodles will have these dishes available for a limited time. As the company believes in using fresh ingredients in its food, it introduces seasonal dishes quite often.

Buffalo Wild Wings posted strong results in the latest quarter as it earned $1.49 per share, up 20% from the year-ago quarter. The company benefited from lower prices of chicken wings which reduced its cost of sales. It also raised its menu prices, which had a further positive impact on its margins. As Buffalo Wild Wings is known for televised sports, the Winter Olympics and NCAA basketball tournament also attracted lots of customers to its restaurants.

Bottom line
In recent times, Panera's earnings have taken a hit due to the costs associated with Panera 2.0. This is why the company hasn't given a strong outlook for this year. Also, Panera hasn't been a valuable investment in the last twelve months. A year-over-year return of -8% testifies to this fact.

As Panera 2.0 is still in its initial phase, it will continue to affect the company's earnings in the next few quarters; this suggests that Panera isn't a great short-run buy. However, in the long run, Panera 2.0 will definitely have an impact on the company's top- and bottom-line growth. This makes Panera a good long-run buy. In a nutshell, this isn't the perfect time to buy Panera.

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