The company provided guidance of $0.47 to $0.50 per share, and even intimated those forecasts might be optimistic. It made it clear its earnings would be unimpressive because of dismal weather in its primary markets, which would negatively impact its comps.
As predicted, Panera's first-quarter earnings were a repeat of last year. It earned $15 million, or $0.47 per diluted share, while comps were also flat. So what do we take away from these results? Should investors be relieved that Panera was able to match last year's performance despite the treacherous weather? Or should investors be disappointed that a company that's supposed to be a leader in its industry, one that's been compared to the likes of Starbucks
My first instinct is to choose the second option. First, I think there was more to the lackluster performance than the weather. The company admitted comps were impacted by just 1% as a result of the weather. Would it really have been better to see comps growth of 1%? I don't think so. Second, this isn't the first quarter in which Panera has struggled. This is a company that's been extremely inconsistent for more than a year.
Then again, it did finish on a high note last year. Additionally, management sees improvements in earnings and comps ahead, and you have to admit management has been honest in its assessments. For the second quarter, it expects earnings per share of $0.47 to $0.51, which would be 7% to 16% higher than last year's second quarter and certainly better news for investors. However, analysts are expecting earnings of $0.51 per share, so if earnings come in at the low end of Panera's guidance, the Street will not be satisfied.
Investors looking to take a bite of Panera have a difficult decision to make. If they're relieved things weren't worse in the first quarter and are optimistic about the remainder of the year, the 25% drop in the stock's price over the past year certainly makes buying now tempting. If, however, they see Panera as just another competitor of McDonald's
For more on the tumultuous ride at Panera, check out: