Steak 'n Shake Pours It On

There are two signs that the holidays are just around the corner. The first is that Steak 'n Shake (NYSE: SNS  ) rolls out its seasonal eggnog and white chocolate shakes. The second sign is that the company announces its fiscal-year results.

So it's only natural to slurp your way through a thick eggnog shake as you digested the company's latest annual showing last night. The chain's results were as dependable as its cheap yet filling grub -- the restaurateur grew revenues by 11% with comps climbing 7.7% higher.

Earnings came in at $1.00 a share. That's a healthy improvement over last year's reported $0.77 a share showing (which would have been $0.90 a share if not for a series of charges related to the closure of some poorly performing units). While this fiscal year in the company's reporting calendar did include an extra week, it's still a good performance.

While the company has been a steady grower on the heels of its hand-dipped shakes and signature burgers, the chain of 24-hour eateries has been mostly ignored by the market, which may not understand the chain's appeal.

The 425-unit chain isn't your typical fast-food burger joint with drive-thru combo meals and counter service like McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) , Wendy's (NYSE: WEN  ) , or Jack in the Box (NYSE: JBX  ) . This is a table service operation where you are waited on just as you would be at any other casual eatery. Yet despite having premium shakes as a lucrative upsell item, the 24-hour chain will never command the high check totals you would find at other casual chains like Applebee's (Nasdaq: APPB  ) or Outback Steakhouse (NYSE: OSI  ) .

So it's a tweener in a market that loves to pigeonhole. And that misunderstanding may suit investors just fine as they are able to buy into the established company's steady growth at an attractive price.

Steak 'n Shake is looking to earn between $1.08 to $1.11 a share as same-unit sales continue to grow, though at less than half of this past year's torrid pace. That finds the stock trading at just 16 times earnings. While the other chains I mentioned also trade in the high teens, they also come with more pronounced histories of the occasional hiccups.

With the stock trading essentially where it was a year ago -- when the eggnog and white chocolate concoctions were last being poured -- this is an appetizing opportunity to buy into a company that relishes its life in the shadows.

Find yourself eyeing the Steak 'n Shake salads over the steak burgers and the milkshakes? What about low-carb diets to get in shape for the holidays? All this and more -- in the Fools Fighting Fat discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz needs to drive a dozen miles to get his steak burger, but he'll do it gladly. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.


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