The coronavirus pandemic is making things difficult for PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP). The various degrees of restrictions being placed on restaurants worldwide is a major challenge. Still, the company is in a better position than it was a few months ago, when stay-at-home orders were common in more geographies. 

How much better is what investors want to know when the company reports earnings on Thursday. Here are three things to look for in the upcoming report.

Soda being poured in a glass.

PepsiCo is expecting a return to revenue growth. Image source: Getty Images.

How did PepsiCo perform amid the slowly reopening global economy? 

First and foremost, investors will be looking at PepsiCo's revenue growth. In its most recent quarter, that figure decreased by 3.1%. That quarter contained the most severe impacts of coronavirus-related economic shutdowns. Governments globally have started allowing restaurants to reopen, and that development is likely to positively affect PepsiCo's revenue. Indeed, management expects revenue to return to growth in the current quarter, increasing in the low-single-digit range.

Secondly, those who are watching the stock will also be interested in observing the growth in the company's Frito-Lay segment. That's because it's the most profitable in the business. Last quarter, the segment made up 55% of operating income, while making up 27% of sales. If overall revenue stays flat, but the portion consisting of Frito-Lay increases significantly, it will still be a win for shareholders.

Lastly, stakeholders will want to look at operating profits. The company expects its core operating margin to contract when it reports earnings on Thursday, in part because of COVID-19-related expenses. A portion of the increase is knowable, such as the purchases of sanitizer and personal protective equipment, and other expenditures to reduce workplace spread of the virus.

However, some costs are unknown, such as how many employees will come down with COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantining of workers who may have come in contact with the infected employee. Therefore, costs are expected to remain elevated and with higher uncertainty as long as the virus is around.

Looking ahead 

The company, like many others, is unlikely to provide detailed forward guidance when it reports on Thursday. However, investors will still be looking for some big picture thoughts on the outlook for the second half of the year.

It will be interesting to get commentary from management on one of the macroeconomic factors that drives growth for PepsiCo -- disposable income, which is becoming more important as localities emerge from lockdowns. The enhanced unemployment benefits that were part of the CARES Act expired in the U.S. at the end of July, and some governments outside of the U.S. don't have much spending power left to stimulate consumer spending.

The company may also provide updates to its dividend and stock buyback plans as it gets more comfortable with the cash flow dynamics of its business. All in all, the rapidly changing business environment around the world will make the earnings report of this consumer staple stock an interesting one to watch.