Is the Buffalo About to Become a Bull?

In contrast to the fourth quarter of last year when shares of Buffalo Wild Wings  (NASDAQ: BWLD  )  slipped on a slight revenue miss, the first quarter of this year saw the company's shares advancing more than 5% in after-hours trading. While Buffalo Wild Wings posted healthy results, Noodles & Company (NASDAQ: NDLS  )  blamed bad winter weather for its revenue miss. On the other hand, Panera Bread Company (NASDAQ: PNRA  ) beat revenue and earnings estimates, though its shares fell on account of its low guidance.

Quarterly earnings
In the first quarter, Buffalo Wild Wings reported earnings per share of $1.49 to beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.35 by 10.4%. Net earnings were also up 71.2% year-over-year. Total revenue increased 20.9% to $367.9 million, topping expectations of $363 million by 1.4%. Same-store sales at company-owned restaurants grew 6.6%.

Traditional wing prices were $1.36 per pound during the quarter, 35% lower than their price in last year's comparable quarter. As a result of this, Buffalo Wild Wings' cost of sales declined 440 basis points to 28.3%. Apart from this, higher menu prices also strengthened the company's margins. The NCAA basketball tournament and the Winter Olympics pushed guest count higher, which in turn shot up comparable sales.

Recent developments
In March, Buffalo Wild Wings announced that it is partnering with NTN Buzztime to bring the company's BEOND tablet-based entertainment platform to all of its restaurants by the end of next year. BEOND will allow guests to order food, play games, request songs and TV programs, and pay their bills. The tablets enable multi-player and multi-location gaming, and guests can also play trivia and poker games against other tables or even guests at other restaurants.

Buffalo Wild Wings has already made the tablets available at 150 corporate-owned restaurants. By the end of 2014, the company will roll out the tablets to approximately 500 Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants.

What's in store for the future?
According to CFO Mary Twinem, the cost of chicken wings for the first two months of the current quarter will average about $1.41 per pound. In the comparable quarter of last year, the wings cost around $1.61 per pound. Therefore, Buffalo Wild Wings' cost of sales should remain low in the second quarter as well.

With the baseball season under way, the company expects more customers to visit its restaurants in the current quarter. Moreover, the NBA and NHL playoffs will also add to its guest count. However, the FIFA World Cup, which is just a few weeks away, will be the biggest revenue driver for the company this year.

The company now believes that its full-year earnings will grow by 25%. Previously, it expected 20% earnings growth.

Panera Bread and Noodles & Company
Even after the company posted strong quarterly results, shares of Panera Bread fell as the company lowered its earnings guidance. Recently, the company launched Panera 2.0 -- a series of integrated technologies designed to improve the guest experience at its stores. Currently, the company has made the full Panera 2.0 experience available at 14 cafes. The company will add the full elements of Panera 2.0 to all of its cafes over the next three years. Panera has provided a year-over-year capital return of -12%.

Noodles & Company's first-quarter earnings met expectations but its revenue fell short of estimates, as severe winter weather took a toll on its sales.

In April, the company introduced a variety of seasonal dishes to attract customers. The company often introduces seasonal dishes as this allows the restaurant chain to use fresh ingredients in its products. Last month, it also announced the opening of its first Massachusetts restaurant in Shrewsbury with franchisee operator Hamra Enterprises. The company's shares have fallen 6% year-to-date.

Bottom line
As Buffalo Wild Wings is widely regarded as a sports bar rather than just a restaurant, sporting events directly relate to the company's revenue. Luckily, the FIFA World Cup is about to get under way in Brazil, which will surely bring incremental revenue to the company. Moreover, the introduction of NTN Buzztime tabletop tablets will ensure that the sports bar gets the most out of the World Cup, which is widely known as the biggest sporting event in the world. Given that the cost of chicken wings will remain low this quarter, the company should earn far more than it did in the second quarter of last year. This in turn means that Buffalo Wild Wings is on track to achieve a 25% growth rate this year. In short, buy Buffalo Wild Wings. 

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