Beyond Meat (BYND -3.18%) has been struggling mightily amid inflation. Shares of the fake-meat company plunged 81% last year because its growth was nonexistent and profitability looked like nothing more than a pipe dream. But after the company's most recent earnings results, investors appear to have some renewed hope. Beyond Meat beat expectations for the fourth quarter.

Shares of Beyond Meat have rallied 47% this year. But will this prove to be short-lived optimism, or has the stock really turned a corner, and is now the time to buy?

Revenue better than expected but still down 21%

For the period ended December 31, 2022, Beyond Meat's sales came in at $79.9 million -- higher than the $75.7 million that analysts were expecting from the business. But this was still a year-over-year decline of 21%; a year ago, the company's revenue totaled $100.7 million. And this, unfortunately, is part of a downward trend that has persisted for several quarters.

BYND Revenue (Quarterly YoY Growth) Chart

BYND Revenue (Quarterly YoY Growth) data by YCharts.

Analysts might have simply set softer expectations for the food company given its propensity to underperform. A revenue beat in isolation is nothing to get too excited about when the company's sales were down double digits in both U.S. and international markets and in food service as well as retail.

Beyond Meat's margins still look awful

Even more concerning than a slowdown in sales is that the company's gross margin isn't showing enough improvement. It came in at negative 3.7% for the quarter, indicating that this was yet another period in which the company was in the red after factoring in cost of sales. Management blamed higher costs on inventory reserves, materials, and logistics.

BYND Gross Profit Margin (Quarterly) Chart

BYND Gross Profit Margin (Quarterly) data by YCharts.

One positive was that operating expenses were leaner at $62.8 million versus $91.9 million because Beyond Meat cut expenses in research and development as well as in selling, general, and administrative expenses. But that's slim consolation for a business that still is hugely unprofitable, incurring a loss of $66.9 million for the period. Although that's an improvement from a loss of $80.4 million in the year-ago period, this business still isn't in good shape.

But the company did beat expectations on the bottom line -- its per-share net loss of $1.05 wasn't as bad as the $1.18 loss that analysts were projecting.

During the past 12 months, the company has also used up $320 million in cash on its day-to-day operating activities, which is now more than the cash and cash equivalents it reported as of the end of 2022 -- $309.9 million. For investors, this could mean that it might only be a matter of time before the company needs to raise money through either debt or the equity markets (i.e., dilution).

Beyond Meat still isn't a buy

Investors shouldn't give much weight to an earnings beat. Inflation is sticking around, which can make it difficult for Beyond Meat to avoid incurring negative gross margins. Things could still get worse for Beyond this year, and I'm not sure if they'll get better in the long run. This is a stock that investors are better off staying far away from now.