Buffalo Mild Wings

Should Buffalo Wild Wings (Nasdaq: BWLD  ) change its name to Buffalo Mild Wings? It looks like some investors think so today, given the stock's major drop after its third-quarter earnings report.

Third-quarter net income increased 7.1% to $4.6 million, or $0.25 per share. Earnings missed analysts' expectations by $0.06 per share and are down significantly compared to the last few quarters. Revenue increased 28.8% to $106.1 million, and same-store sales jumped 6.8% at company-owned restaurants and 2.1% at franchised ones.

Granted, the sales figures don't look bad in this difficult economic climate; neither does guidance for 25% revenue growth and 20% to 25% earnings growth for 2008. Then again, are its projections too rosy?

After all, restaurants and recessions don't mix very well (and today's consumer confidence figure revealed that the metric's at a record pessimistic low). The tough climate has adversely affected many restaurant stocks. For example, Chipotle's (NYSE: CMG  ) (NYSE: CMG-B  ) shares have been on a downward trajectory recently, and Starbucks' (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) struggles are well known.

Then again, a few have risen to the challenge; think McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) and Panera (Nasdaq: PNRA  ) , both of which recently reported resilient quarters. (Although my Foolish colleague Kristin Graham pointed out that likely unsustainable menu price increases were a major driver at Panera.)

Personally, I'm not too high on Buffalo Wild Wings, at least for the near term. I'm just not convinced that super-nervous consumers are going to shell out for wings and beer on as regular a basis in tough times.

Furthermore, it's running negative in free cash flow, versus having generated $6.7 million in free cash flow this time last year. Also, a peek at its conference call reminded me of the old saying "spending like drunken sailors," since the company is still planning aggressive growth. It has bought Las Vegas franchises; remodeled and upgraded some locations with HDTV; and has been launching TV commercials to air during NFL, college football, and NASCAR broadcasts. Sure, these moves may turn out to be contrarian and brilliant, but in the current climate, investors have good reason to wonder if they're wise.  

Given very real concerns about consumer spending, and the fact that with the upcoming holiday season, slow spending will likely involve mostly gift shopping, I have to wonder if Buffalo Wild Wings might have an extremely difficult fourth quarter and near term. Therefore, I'm thinking investors with a hankering for Buffalo Wild Wings shares might want to wait a bit before diving in -- a trailing price-to-earnings ratio of 19 sounds steep compared to many restaurant peers, and I suspect a cheaper stock price will arrive on the menu in the near term.

Pull up a chair and enjoy some related Foolishness:

Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle Mexican Grill are Motley Fool Hidden Gems selections. Chipotle is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Panera Bread is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems Pay Dirt pick. Starbucks has been recommended by both Inside Value and Stock Advisor. The Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings and Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2009, at 11:14 AM, snootloop wrote:

    I couldn't disagree more with the article. Absolutely, BW3's is beholden to the fickle tastes and wallet clamping consumer. However, this sports fan and family friendly bar and eatery is geared for year-round crowds. I have yet to visit a store that wasn't doing brisk business and I think the company has already proven they have been rather recession resilient.

    Don't count them out during the holidays, either. College and pro football will be coming to their climax points and college basketball will be in full swing. And I don't know about most people, but after a long day of holiday shopping the last thing I have ever wanted to do is go home to make dinner. Usually, I (or we) hit a restautant and I don't think this season will be any different. BW3s will be right there to offer people like me good food, a beer and most likely some sporting event to watch.

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