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There always seems to be restaurant news on the menu. As I do every week, let's take a look at some of this week's more appetizing stories.
1. Putting the hop back in IHOP
Who says you can't make money on the long side of restaurant stocks these days? DineEquity (NYSE: DIN ) shares more than doubled on Tuesday, and that comes on top of a 53% surge on Monday. Why is the market all giddy about the parent company of IHOP and Applebee's? It's not the new coffee-cake pancakes at IHOP. It wasn't the wider quarterly deficit that the company posted this week, either.
The market warmed up to DineEquity after the company announced the sale of 66 company-owned Applebee's restaurants. The company has made no bones about its plan to refranchise its casual dining chain, but investors feared that buyers would be hard to come by in this tight credit market.
The amount raised isn't much. DineEquity stands to receive just $63 million in after-tax proceeds on the resale of a total of 110 Applebee's locations announced to date. However, it creates a more attractive scenario for investors who have grown to appreciate the steady trickle of franchisee royalties at IHOP.
2. These wings don't fly
DineEquity shareholders may be partying this week, but the same can't be said for investors in Buffalo Wild Wings (Nasdaq: BWLD ) . The stock was a rare decliner in yesterday's buoyant market, falling 14% after the company posted lower-than-expected quarterly results.
The bright side for shareholders of the popular chicken-wings chain is that Buffalo is still growing. It's one of the rare casual dining concepts to be posting positive comps in this "eat at home" environment. Heady expansion fueled a 29% advance on the top line. Yes, it's hard to stomach a mere 7% uptick in earnings to $0.25 a share when Wall Street was holding out for $0.31 a share. No one is suggesting that the company shouldn't have had its wings clipped yesterday. However, near-term margin hiccups are easier to tackle than waning popularity (which clearly is not a problem here).
3. Hand me a burrito. Stat!
Fans of Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG ) (NYSE: CMG-B ) love the fast-moving lines at their favorite burrito joint, but now they can make things go even faster. Chipotle is now offering online ordering through its website. Carnitas-craving patrons can simply click away their order from home or the office and then go straight to the cashier.
Plenty of casual-dining chains are hopping on the cyberspace trend for takeout orders. All of the major pizza-delivery chains are on board. Quick-service and fast-food chains have been slower to come around, but it's inevitable.
4. It's not Lenny's anymore
Shares of Denny's (Nasdaq: DENN ) opened sharply higher this morning after a Merriman Curhan Ford analyst upgraded the value-minded eatery. Like DineEquity, Denny's is in the process of selling company-owned locations to franchisees in a move to lower its operating costs.
5. Not so big in Texas
Things aren't going so well for Texas Roadhouse (Nasdaq: TXRH ) , one of the few casual steakhouses that continue to trade publicly.
The once high-flying chain posted disappointing quarterly results as comps fell a sharp 4.5% during the period. The worst part of the company's report is that it now sees flat earnings growth in 2008 and 2009. There are things far worse than a stagnant steakhouse with delicious yeast rolls, but investors aren't buying it.
6. Where the boys are
Big Boy parent Frisch's Restaurants (NYSE: FRS ) posted its fiscal first-quarter results this week. Revenue clocked in essentially flat at $89.9 million as earnings fell 11% to $0.42 a share. Asset sales actually kept the bottom-line carnage in check.
Frisch's prides itself on its consistent profitability on an annual basis since going public in 1960. In other words, the company -- which also operates a few licensed Golden Corral buffets -- is built to last.
Check out this week's dessert specials: