With restaurants and bars reopened, dating doesn't have to be done just virtually anymore. You can actually meet a real person face-to-face again.
Expecting such venues to be the preferred option, female-oriented dating app Bumble (BMBL 3.25%) is opening its own restaurant to facilitate meetups. Bumble Brew will offer "the convenience of a casual all-day cafe by day with the ambiance of an intimate restaurant and wine bar at night." It will open its doors in New York City on July 24.
Investors, though, might wonder: What's a dating app doing running a restaurant?
Creating unique experiences
There's a certain sense to the project. Because Bumble is a female-focused brand where it's up to women to make contact first with a potential partner, a branded cafe could offer women a greater sense of security and safety in meeting with someone new.
Bumble has some experience with this sort of thing. A few years ago it launched Bumble Hive, a series of pop-up spaces in cities like New York, London, and Los Angeles where guests received complimentary entertainment, drinks, and snacks while participating in a live seminar.
Bumble Brew was originally supposed to open in 2019 and offer "date-friendly" food, meaning you wouldn't make a mess of yourself while eating. That concept was postponed and the menu was eventually reimagined under the tutelage of Delicious Hospitality Group, the operator of several intimate cafes in New York's upscale neighborhoods of SoHo, Nolita ("northern Little Italy"), and Hudson Yards. Bumble Brew will now serve Italian food. Mangia!
Not the buzz it expected to generate
Bumble, though, has been struggling as a publicly traded company. Despite shares currently trading some 26% above their February initial public offering price, the stock opened at $76 per share that day. This means that initial investors have lost 28% since first buying in.
It reported first-quarter earnings of $1.69 per share on revenue of $171 million compared to Wall Street's expectations of $165 million in revenue generating a net loss of $0.03 per share.
Even on an adjusted basis, Bumble was doing much better than forecast, but analysts weren't moved by the beat or by its rosy outlook for the current quarter and the full year. Bumble and its Badoo sister brand didn't move the needle nearly as much as they should have, and valuation remains a concern.
Bumble regained a lot of the ground lost after its tumble, which means its valuation isn't much better than it was. The stock trades at nosebleed levels compared to future earnings expectations (not unheard of for a company transitioning from losses to profits), and also at more than 10 times sales, and it still isn't producing any free cash flow yet, which opening a restaurant likely won't help.
Staying in its lane
The restaurant itself shouldn't be a deal breaker for investors, since it's just a single location. The risk, of course, comes if Bumble decides to scale up its culinary ambitions and run a chain of cafes.
Bumble at its heart is a tech stock, which is a very different from a restaurant chain. Similar concerns arose when rival Match Group launched a video miniseries for its Tinder service.
At least with Bumble Brew, the situation is more like that of mall operator Simon Property Group acquiring bankrupt retailers, but handing off operations to brand management firm Authentic Brands Group, because running a retail store is not the same as owning a mall.
It's smart that Bumble is partnering with a company that specializes in creating unique dining experiences, though replicating them is not easy; Delicious Hospitality has built only a handful of locations.
Bumble could still sting
Investing legend Peter Lynch had a term for when companies pursue dreams far afield from their circle of competence. He called it "deworsification," meaning the business is not diversifying to build strength but is instead engaging in empire building, a pursuit that could bring the whole enterprise down.
Bumble hasn't entered diworsification territory yet, but investors should keep an eye on whether it tries to roll out this concept to more locations or if it goes off on other tangents, undertaking projects that have little to do with its core virtual matchmaking business.