1. Strong comps
The company reported same-store sales were up 3.3% in the latest quarter and up more than 5% in April. While those figures were down from some of the high-single-digit gains we've seen from the company in recent quarters, they're nonetheless impressive and show Panera's resilience in a tough economy. In comparison, burrito wrapper Chipotle
2. Operating margin growth
Panera showed solid growth in operating margin in its recent quarter, bumping up the margin 100 basis points to 12.6%. That's a trend the company has continued for some time, as it continues to spread its fixed cost base over more stores. Even mighty Chipotle couldn't achieve that feat this quarter, clocking in at 15%. Powerhouse McDonald's
3. Strong profit growth
Panera managed to grow earnings per share by 30% and 25% over the last two fiscal years. The company just revised its EPS growth target upward, to $4.47 to $4.51 per share, or 23% to 25% growth. That upward revision is a strong sign. And with store unit growth at about 100 units for fiscal 2011, there's plenty of tailwind for that profit.
Foolish bottom line
While the stock's P/E of 31 is certainly not conventionally cheap, the company's resilient growth could make the stock appear cheap in retrospect. So those are three reasons that you should love Panera. Do you have others?
Jim Royal, Ph.D., owns shares of McDonald's. Chipotle is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Panera is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle are Motley Fool Hidden Gems picks. McDonald's is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Chipotle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.