What: Shares of Zoe's Kitchen (NYSE:ZOES) climbed 25.7% in the month of February, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, driven by the Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant chain's strong fourth-quarter 2015 results.
So what: Zoe's quarterly revenue climbed 31.7% year over year, to $52.7 million, helped by both new locations and a 7.7% increase in comparable-restaurant sales. Within the latter, Zoe's enjoyed a 2.8% increase in foot traffic, as well as 0.4% growth from price increases and a 4.5% boost from favorable product mix. Meanwhile, the chain did post an adjusted net loss of $500,000, or $0.03 per share. But that was narrowed from a $0.04-per-share loss in the same year-ago period. And analysts, on average, were anticipating a wider net loss of $0.06 per share on revenue of just $50.5 million.
As it stands, that marked Zoe's sixth straight year of positive comparable-restaurant sales growth, while the company continues to anticipate investing in its key strategic initiatives to drive sustained growth for the foreseeable future.
Now what: Looking forward, Zoe's anticipates full-year 2016 revenue between $275 million and $280 million -- or growth of roughly 22.5% at the midpoint -- driven by the opening of 34 to 36 new company-owned locations, and comparable-store sales growth of 4% to 5.5%. And though Zoe's lack of bottom-line profitability might seem concerning at first glance, note that its focus on investing in new company-owned locations indeed comes at a cost in the near term, especially in these early stages as Zoe's works to build scale.
Over the long term, however, with its excellent unit-level economics -- including an average three-year cash-on-cash return of 30% for each new location and an outstanding goal to at least double its restaurant base over the next four years -- I think investors willing to buy now and patiently hold Zoe's Kitchen stock will be handsomely rewarded as that growth story unfolds.