If you're willing to trade near-term profits for spectacular growth, Kona Grill
A year ago, I compared Kona to its popular Macadamia Nut Chicken entree. "It sounds appetizing, but there's something a little nutty in every bite," I wrote at the time.
Things haven't changed, really. If you're hungry, Kona Grill is racing to find you. The restaurateur had just nine locations open at the start of last year. It tacked on five units last year, and it will open another six eateries in 2007. In other words, the concept will more than double in size over the span of two years.
Kona Grill's popularity is growing. Comps rose 1.3% this past quarter, despite severe blizzards affecting its Denver location. Same-unit sales would have inched 1.8% higher without the storms. For all of 2006, comps climbed 4% higher.
The unit level growth is important and encouraging. Investors who have latched on to young, popular eateries like P.F. Chang's
Growth at Kona will actually accelerate this year. The company is looking for 44% to 48% in revenue growth in 2007.
The downside here is that ramping up a concept from such a small base entails beefy expense line items. Since Kona's IPO in 2005, the company has achieved a quarterly profit only once. It may produce a profit in the second or third quarter this year, but will likely post a small loss for the year as a whole.
Another potential pitfall comes from a likely secondary offering later this year. Wall Street has been kind to the stock, sending it 65% higher since its market debut in August 2005. Again, expansion doesn't come cheap, so look for the company to tap the equity market to raise some capital sooner rather than later.
Despite the concerns, I would still keep a close eye on Kona. The company has the flexibility to inch prices higher to match minimum wage hikes. The concept is in its infancy, but it's succeeding in diverse markets. Announcing a secondary offering may create the ideal buying opportunity dip -- that is, of course, as long as you're not a nutty chicken.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been to Kona, but never a Kona Grill. He does own shares in Cheesecake Factory. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.