B-Dubs Earns Some Respect

Investors have been flapping their chicken wings over Buffalo Wild Wings' (Nasdaq: BWLD  ) spicy first-quarter results. With investors slowly regaining an appetite for restaurant stocks, the company's 22% jump in price today makes it appear that B-Dubs is finally getting the respect it deserves.

In the midst of a soggy casual-dining climate, along with inflationary pressures eating away at profits, B-Dubs posted a saucy 21.7% increase in sales and a 16% boost in earnings per share. The robust top-line trend was helped by the rapid opening of new establishments, in keeping with the company's long-term plan to grow units by 15% annually. More importantly, existing restaurants are proving to be increasingly popular with customers, as same-store sales increased 4.1% at company-owned restaurants and 2.1% at franchised restaurants.

Tasty and affordable food, along with the sports-bar theme, attracts a steady stream of loyal sports fans on both weeknights and weekends. During the conference call, management boasted of selling 4 million buffalo wings on Super Bowl Sunday and said the company also saw strong guest growth during NCAA basketball's March Madness.

What I found most impressive during the quarter was management's ability to contain costs. A wide array of restaurants -- from Darden Restaurants' (NYSE: DRI  ) Red Lobster and other chains, to Brinker's (NYSE: EAT  ) Chili's franchises, to the more moderately priced Steak n Shake (NYSE: SNS  ) -- continue to struggle as food and energy inflation pinch consumer pocketbooks and increase raw-material costs. B-Dubs had it slightly easier than the competition, as fresh wing prices fell $0.07 to $1.33 per pound from last year. It has also been proactive in increasing menu prices and making other modifications, such as charging extra for side items like french fries.

The company stated that it is on track to maintain its long-term 25% earnings growth this year. Even with the big jump in the share price today, B-dubs is still trading well below its 52-week high, meaning it has plenty of potential upside given the strong growth trends it is posting. 

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