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Why BJ's Restaurants Inc. Stock Surged Today

By Jeremy Bowman - Feb 23, 2018 at 4:17PM

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Shares jumped after the casual-dining chain reported a return to comparable-sales growth in its fourth quarter.

What happened

Shares of BJ's Restaurants Inc. (BJRI 6.40%) were moving higher today after the casual-dining chain posted its first quarterly comparable-sales growth in the seven quarters and beat analyst estimates on the top and bottom lines. As a result, the stock was up 12.4% as of 2:46 p.m. EST.

A selection of five BJ's beers lined up from light to dark, from left to right

Image source: BJ's Restaurants.

So what

The brewhouse chain said same-store sales increased 1.6% as initiatives like delivery, its new slow-roasted menu, and daily brewhouse specials resonated with its customers. Total revenue declined 1.7% to $261.1 million, but adjusting for an extra week in the year-ago period, it increased 6.9%. That figure still beat the Wall Street view of $259.8 million. 

Increasing labor costs cut into the bottom line as adjusted earnings per share fell from $0.55 a year ago to $0.37, though that also topped expectations at $0.32. Including a benefit from the new tax law, BJ's EPS was $1.12.

CEO Greg Trojan touted the "sales-driving initiatives" the company launched at the beginning of the year like delivery, handheld tablets, and its slow-roasted menu for the return to same-store sales growth, and said a slowdown in new store openings also allowed the company to better focus on its operations.

Now what 

Management did not give guidance on the top or bottom lines for the current quarter or full year, but did note that comparable sales had accelerated to mid-3% in the first seven weeks of the first quarter and said it expects its corporate tax rate to fall from 27% to 15%, which should also help boost profits. 

After today's gains, the stock is trading at a P/E of around 30, making it pricier than most casual-dining chains, but the company should return to earnings growth this year with the benefit of a lower tax rate and comparable sales growth.

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