At times, I have been one of Ruby Tuesday's
The first concern that stands out for the quarter was same-store sales, which saw a decrease of 0.5% at its company-owned units. Comps from its franchised sites, meanwhile, posted a gain of 1.4%. The weakness wasn't unexpected, however, as management indicated in its fiscal 2006 fourth-quarter conference call that it anticipated some short-term "softness" in the casual dining market.
So with comps of little help, how did the restaurateur manage to pull off top-line growth of 9.9% over the same period a year ago? The revenue growth was driven almost entirely by the addition of new units. The company opened up 17 new sites in the first quarter alone, and added another 17 by buying out an Orlando-based franchisee. Additionally, franchisees opened up 10 more Ruby Tuesday restaurants during the quarter.
Beyond revenues, the other item worth commenting on is its net income of $21.6 million, down slightly from its year-ago level. Again, management provided fair warning a quarter ago, indicating that increased costs associated with ramping up some of its labor initiatives would weigh on profits. Despite a flat bottom line, Ruby Tuesday's EPS increased to $0.37, up from $0.34 a year ago, as it continues to buy back chunks of its own stock. Shares outstanding on a diluted basis are down almost 9% from a year ago.
At first glance one might characterize the results as bland, and while they are a far cry from spicy, in light of the challenging macro environment I do not see too much to become overly concerned about, yet. Looking down the rest of fiscal 2007, Ruby Tuesday is projecting positive comps for company-owned units, and given recent trends, one might expect comps from franchised sites to continue to outpace with even greater gains. Ruby Tuesday will also continue expanding aggressively, adding another 45 to 50 company-owned units over the year, which should bring the company total to a little over 700 by year's end. And, despite the short-term consumer softness, long-term, management is still holding fast to low double-digit earnings growth.
In summary, Ruby Tuesday still remains a viable turnaround play, and worthy of a closer look for any investor considering nibbling in the restaurant segment of the market.
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Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy has no financial interest in any company mentioned.