Starbucks (SBUX -1.08%) CFO Scott Maw recently provided some interesting business updates at Goldman Sachs' Global Retailing Conference. Let's discuss three key points investors should know.
1. Digital momentum
Maw thoroughly discussed the rollout of Mobile Order & Pay, which lets mobile users place orders from an app before going to the store. The app can reduce wait times in lines and increase the number of customers served at each location. Starbucks plans to add the service to all 7,500 of its company-owned stores in the U.S. by the end of this calendar year. The app is currently only available on iOS, but Starbucks plans to launch an Android version soon.
Regarding the performance of the app so far, Maw said, "We know we have a winner, and it's running ahead of our expectations." He declared that the increased adoption of its mobile app would set up the company "very well for delivery" services, which Starbucks plans to expand over the next fiscal year. Starbucks is already providing deliveries in select areas with Postmates, for a flat $4.99 fee per order.
According to Maw, Starbucks' digital investments in Mobile Order & Pay and My Starbucks Rewards, or MSR, feed into the company's "pipeline of innovation" and "are paying off significantly" in terms of top line and bottom line growth. However, Maw notes that these investments "will have some impact" on Starbucks' anticipated plans for 15%-20% EPS growth over the next few years.
2. Demand in Asia remains strong
Starbucks' strongest market in recent quarters has been its China/Asia Pacific, or CAP, region. Last quarter, Starbucks' comparable store sales in the CAP region rose 11% annually and outpaced growth across all other regions. Total CAP revenues surged 127% and accounted for over 13% of Starbucks' top line.
China and Japan have been the standout performers in the region. That's why Starbucks plans to double its store count in China to 3,400 within the next five years, and the reason it spent over $900 million to assume full control of Starbucks Japan last year.
Maw expects CAP growth to "continue to be ahead" of the rest of the company, with "the highest growth rate of any or our business units." However, Maw reminded the audience that it would take time to fully integrate the Japanese business, which might make CAP growth figures seem weaker. Excluding the impact of the Japanese acquisition, Maw stated that CAP revenues had risen "over 20%" year to date.
Since China is such an important market for Starbucks, there have been growing concerns about how an economic slowdown in the country could impact its long-term plans. Maw didn't provide any exact figures regarding China for the current quarter, but he stated that the company hadn't seen "any material impact on transactions in China" from the "uncertainty around the stock market, currency, and the consumer." Maw believes that the "health of the brand" is guiding the company through these uncertain times, and that that the fourth quarter should "stack up really well" in China.
3. Opportunities in food
Maw believes that breakfast and lunch foods represent big growth opportunities for the company. He stated that sales of breakfast sandwiches rose 30% annually last quarter, while sales of lunch foods like bistro boxes and salads climbed 20%.
To push that growth further into the afternoon, Maw believes that offering more afternoon snacks paired with tea might generate higher sales. He also believes that Starbucks had only started "scratching the surface" of late afternoon and evening foods with bacon-wrapped dates, truffle macaroni, and wine at select locations. To increase the amount of food sold at each location, Starbucks is also accelerating the deployment of second ovens across its stores.
Food sales generally account for 20% of Starbucks' total sales, versus a mid-teens percentage a few years ago. The company believes that total could reach 25% within the next few years without impacting beverage sales.
The key takeaway
After surging nearly 40% since the beginning of the year, Starbucks stock now trades at 32 times earnings -- a hefty premium to S&P 500's current P/E of 20. However, investors are generally willing to pay a premium for higher growth, and Scott Maw's recent presentation indicates that Starbucks still has plenty of ways to grow its core business.