It's been a good week to loosen your belt by a few notches. That's what some patrons are bound to do as they shuffle off after heavy meals at their local Bob Evans
See, despite all the fears in the restaurant industry, some comfort-food specialists are doing just fine. Higher fuel prices and higher meal prices driving customers away? Health concerns steering you toward a head of lettuce instead of pot roast hash or a greasy bacon and cheddar steakburger ?
It's just not happening, at least not universally.
Bob Evans came through with solid results earlier this week. Earnings climbed 22% higher from last year to $0.45 share, as comps at the namesake casual-dining chain climbed for the fifth consecutive quarter. Operating profits soared 79%, proving that Bob Evans is having no problem in passing off increasing costs to its customers.
Bob Evans is sticking to its guidance, calling for earnings this fiscal year to come in between $1.77 a share and $1.84 a share. That prices the chain at a reasonable 16 times earnings.
Like most comfort-food havens, Bob Evans is popular through all three meal segments. During its conference call, the company broke it down at its namesake concept as breakfast (32% of total revenues), lunch (36%), and dinner (32%).
This is not a surprise. Drive past a Cracker Barrel
That doesn't mean comfort foods are spiking like red lipstick sales during World War II, though. Last night's Steak n Shake report was a killjoy. A 3.9% dip in comps led to a slight top-line decline. Its pre-charge profit of $0.07 a share is well below last year's $0.27-per-share showing.
So which one is the comfort-food bellwether? Bob Evans and Steak n Shake are going in different directions. Thankfully, you don't need to pick a bellwether, only an investment. For now, it's hard to bet against going with a winner like Bob Evans. Times are tight. Disposable income isn't plentiful. It's going to be OK. Dig into the Sunshine Skillet at Bob Evans. You'll feel better. There's a reason they call it comfort food.
For more comforting Foolishness:
If you want even meatier returns than the comfort food purveyors, there is one fast-growing quick-service eatery chain that has more than doubled since it was recommended in both the Rule Breakers and Hidden Gems. Read all about it with a free trial subscription to either service.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves comfort food and his waistline hates him for it. He does not own shares in Cracker Barrel parent CBRL Group. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.