Even though Jamba Juice (NASDAQ:JMBA) has been trading as a stand-alone entity for only a few days now, it's already squeezing investors. Yesterday, the smoothie giant posted results that can only be considered lackluster for a company often seen as the Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) of the juice-bar world.

Net income fell by 23% during the quarter, as higher commodity costs, expansion expenses, and fuel surcharges ate into margins and undermined the company's aggressive expansion strategy. Jamba is committed to growing its chain count by 20% annually, which makes its 12% top-line spurt seem equally anticlimactic.

Comps for the quarter fell by 0.2%. In Jamba's defense, same-unit sales had soared 6% higher a year earlier. However, Jamba isn't exactly putting its best foot forward as it makes its first presentation as a public company.

No, you didn't miss the IPO
Yes, Jamba is public now. Earlier this year, a shell acquisition company fronted by Steve Berrard agreed to merge with privately held Jamba to take the smoothie specialist public, a rather unconventional method for a company of Jamba's caliber. These shell deals are often reserved for obscure entities looking to tap the equity market with as little fanfare and overhead as possible. Jamba, my friend, you could have gone it alone.

Then again, this wasn't just any kind of shell company. If Berrard's name is familiar, it's because he has often been at Wayne Huizenga's side in picking up promising companies such as Blockbuster (NYSE:BBI), Swisher, and AutoNation (NYSE:AN) early in their growth trajectories. He's got a good track record, and shares of the acquisition-minded company traded at healthy levels even when it was just a wad of wandering cash and an airy box of dreams.

In that sense, the Jamba Juice concept was a natural attraction. Jamba itself also has seasoned leadership. CEO Paul Clayton was a bigwig at Burger King (NYSE:BKC). Its vice president of development cut his real estate teeth at location-hounding behemoths Brinker (NYSE:EAT) and Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM).

The pieces fit, but will the investment bear more fruit than its key menu ingredients do?

It's a small whirl after all
Even though Jamba Juice already has 589 locations -- most of them company-owned -- it still has plenty of real estate left to conquer. A whopping 55% of the locations are in California, and even there, Sacramento is the only market in which ambitious expansion has threatened to cannibalize sales. I guess I'm lucky in South Florida to have one within walking distance from my home to fill my Strawberries Wild or Orange Dream Machine cravings on a weekly basis.

In a Peter Lynch world, I would be backing up the truck to load up on Jamba, but I do have some concerns that go above and beyond this rather uninspiring quarter.

Now that the deal is complete, Jamba has 52 million shares outstanding. However, another 18 million shares are out there in the form of warrants and units, as well as an options pool of five million for Jamba management. Yes, Jamba's debt-free cash position would grow from $90 million to $206 million if all of the derivatives were executed, but that's a whole lot of dilution for the sake of a cash cushion that would add up to less than $3 a share.

I am also concerned about the higher sales, general, and administrative costs. They are rising more quickly than revenues this year, and the company expects that trend to continue through 2007 as it expands into new markets and builds out its brand. During yesterday's conference call, the chunky operating structure had one analyst wondering whether Jamba was ultimately a company with 4% in operating margins or 12% in operating margins.

Jamba's Wall Street debut has also been marred in the near term by negative publicity stemming from a supplier that sent strawberries tainted with potentially harmful listeria bacteria. Jamba was able to pull most of the product, with just 40 to 60 cases actually served in some of the stores in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada. The sting would be only temporary, but it won't help comps in the current quarter if reports surface of patrons getting sick.

So my feeling, like its smoothies, are mixed. I want to own a piece of the Jamba Juice growth story, yet there's a red flag in every blender. I may ultimately tiptoe into establishing an initial position in a few weeks, once the berry scare has passed. It's probably what Lynch would do if he were in my shoes.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz really is about a 10-minute walk away from a Jamba Juice. He thinks he'll give the Peenya Kowlada a try later today. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. T he Fool has a disclosure policy.