After analyzing the company's third-quarter results release, more investors seem to be getting comfortable with the prospect of being partial owners of all-day café operator Cosi (NASDAQ:COSI). An optimistic five-year outlook by the company's management will do that -- and send shares up by more than 10%.

Cosi's stock has been on a rampage recently. The current price of $6.50 per share represents a near triple from its 2004 low. Of course, it would be only fair to mention Cosi's performance prior to 2004. Since its initial IPO in late 2002 -- when Matt Richey ruminated that the company could be the next Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA) -- shares in the company still offer a negative return compared with the S&P 500's 30% return.

Cosi could still be the next Panera Bread. Same-store sales have been growing for three years in a row now, with the latest quarter boasting a 6.9% rise. The company closed the last three underperforming stores it tabbed as closure candidates in 2003. A recently announced partnership with Federated Department Stores' (NYSE:FD) Macy's chain could give the company added exposure in high-traffic, profitable areas. Also, restaurant operating expenses continued to come down from year-ago levels, from 66% to 59% of sales.

But the biggest news by far was management's announcement of a five-year growth plan and its focus on the addition of 485 new restaurants between now and the end of 2009. Cosi currently operates 90 restaurants, so the growth would be substantial.

Although this would be phenomenal news if the company's stores were churning out free cash like Hidden Gems pick Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD), the problem is that they're not. Profitability is still not on the horizon, but that could change within the next year. Investors should watch the next company announcement in December for more detailed plans for 2005 and beyond. If profitability appears to be within grasp, Matt Richey's original comparison may play out after all.

Fool contributor Marko Djuranovic does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this article. He lives in New York City and loves Cosi's tasty pesto chicken sandwiches.