Winning stocks with impressive long-term returns can do more than tantalize investors. They might also guide us to the next great stock. For example, coffee roaster and retailer Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) has enjoyed a more than 3,400% increase in its share price in the past 15 years. And while a sag in shares lately fuels the debate over whether Starbucks can continue to beat the market, it could lead investors to other, similarly promising stocks today -- provided we know where to look.

Finding the tail on this coat
From its earliest days as a regional coffee chain, investors and analysts have expressed doubts about whether Starbucks could convince customers to routinely pay premium prices for upscale coffee. But the company has proven that even a more reasonably priced cup of joe from ubiquitous competitors McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) or Dunkin' Donuts won't thin the lines at its outlets. Starbucks' success has come on the back of rapid expansion that has driven 27% annual revenue growth and nearly 30% growth in profit over the last decade.  

If we can nail down some companies profiting from, or outright mimicking, the premium brand model that Starbucks created, we might find a hidden treasure worthy of investment. With a giant like Starbucks, investors typically follow the conventional wisdom, looking only for direct suppliers or partners. Obvious choices here include partnerships with Sony (NYSE:SNE) and XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:XMSR) to supply exclusive tunes to latte-sipping patrons. However, investors who stick to these usual suspects risk missing opportunities less directly linked to Starbucks -- other firms similarly addressing overlooked specialty retail opportunities, for example.

Motley Fool CAPS can really help us here. The massive Foolish stock database has lots of tools for finding and researching stocks and the people who pick them.

Tagging along with CAPS
With CAPS, investors can look through Starbucks' tag list for other companies sporting similar attributes. For instance, Starbucks falls under tags such as Specialty Eateries, Top Brands 2006, and Rule Breakers Universe. In addition, the comments CAPS investors leave regarding rated companies can sometimes lead to similarly attractive investments, even those with little or no direct connection to Starbucks.

These CAPS resources could point investors to companies like burrito magnate Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) (NYSE:CMG-B). Like Starbucks, Chipotle came out of the IPO gate strong and hasn't looked back since, routinely blowing away analyst earnings projections quarter after quarter. At the core of Chipotle's amazing growth is expansion and impressive same-store sales (comps), which came in at 11.6% in the most recent quarter. While some investors with recollections of the sugar hangover at Krispy Kreme are waiting for the beans in this burrito to go soft, others in the CAPS community see plenty of opportunity. With a crack management team in place, some are even calling Chipotle the next Starbucks.

CAPS also turns up another interesting restaurant concept in Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA). In contrast to Chipotle's "nothing but up" operation, though, Panera has found some lumps in the dough lately with increasing costs and declining margins. The down trend has turned what was once a 10-bagger stock over the past decade into one that's shed roughly 30% of its value over the past six months. But with the forward P/E down to 20.4 -- more in line with the projected 21.8% growth rate -- many investors in CAPS are looking for a turnaround for Panera.

Of course, plenty of coattail investments have proved to be mere copycats, ultimately flopping for investors. That's why CAPS is best used as a research tool, not a device to pick stocks for you. Rather than taking anyone else's recommendation, investors should always perform their own due diligence. But you can't beat the information and resources for the price -- namely, 100% free.

Is there another stock you know about that has Starbucks' wind in its sail? Give your own opinion in Motley Fool CAPS.

Chipotle's burrito bravado led to its selection by the Motley Fool Hidden Gems newsletter (and the Rule Breakers newsletter, too). To see what other companies make up Hidden Gems' market-beating roster, check out a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dave Mock has never worn a coat with tails; he prefers the waiter style. He owns shares of Starbucks. Dave is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. Starbucks is a Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy is often imitated but never duplicated.