Bob Evans Farms
Comparable same-store sales at Bob Evans Restaurants were up 1% compared to the same period a year ago. The primary concern here is that this number was driven by menu price increases, while customer traffic declined; menu prices were up 2.2% compared to the same period a year ago.
The company's Mimi's Cafe suffered from the same problem. Here comps rose by 1.2%, but only because average menu prices were up by almost 5%, suggesting customer traffic declined even further at Mimi's.
These problems are persisting into next quarter. Mimi's comps in the month of May were down 0.4% despite a 4% increase in average menu prices. Bob Evans does have a sound reason for the price increases, as the company was heavily affected by minimum-wage increases -- two-thirds of Bob Evans Restaurants were affected, as well as three-quarters of Mimi's Cafes. Still, you never like to see customer traffic suffer as a result.
Even in light of this challenge, management remains optimistic about Mimi's long-term growth prospects, and is putting its money where its mouth is by focusing on Mimi's expansion this year. Look for the company to add 14 to 16 Mimi's Cafes, compared to only four new Bob Evans Restaurants, in fiscal 2008.
During the conference call, management expressed its excitement over its food products division, and it is planning to continue broadening its food products distribution channels. My Foolish colleague Rich Duprey noted that one important partner in expanding this part of its business is Wal-Mart
Rich also noted that Bob Evans' stock isn't exactly cheap in comparison to some of its competitors, like CBRL Group
But I am not convinced that these are reasons enough to stake an investment with Bob Evans. Management believes the company's turnaround efforts are "building momentum," but also warned that it has "a long way to go." My recommendation to prospective investors is to heed the latter, and look for a deep discount opportunity before becoming an owner in Bob Evans.
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