At first blush, Burger King's (NYSE:BKC) fourth-quarter results look downright tasty. The company's earnings of $0.43 per share came in well ahead of analyst estimates of $0.33. The market's reaction to the news was, well, fit for a king. Burger King shares jumped more than 6% on the news.

On second thought
When looking deeper into the report, however, Burger King's results didn't quite hit the spot. Sales trends remain dismal. Fourth-quarter sales fell 15.8% versus the year-ago quarter, and global same-store sales decreased 2.4%. Comps in its U.S. and Canadian restaurants were even worse with a decline of 4.5%. That's not exactly the type of performance that warrants a 6% move higher. Still, for fiscal 2009, the company achieved some success, including worldwide same-store sales growth of 1.2% and a 28% increase in operating cash flow.

In addition, management's near-term outlook was less than reassuring. Burger King declined to provide specific guidance for fiscal 2010, citing "consumer uncertainties." But the company did reiterate its annual long-term growth targets of 6% to 7% for revenue and 15% for EPS.

Be careful
That said, the stock still looks reasonably priced based on next year's earnings estimates of $1.46, which gives it a P/E of less than 13. Unfortunately, with sales trends and operating expenses moving in the wrong directions, there is a good chance that analysts will become more pessimistic in the months ahead. If that's the case, Burger King shares would soon be trading at levels that are too pricey for this customer.

For those looking for a more appetizing quick-serve restaurant stock, two other choices -- McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) -- may be preferable to Burger King. Either will quench your thirst for international growth and is better positioned for the weak consumer demand in the U.S. And other restaurants sport higher forecasts for earnings growth than does Burger King. Members of the Motley Fool CAPS investor intelligence community weigh in on these stocks, too.


CAPS Rating
(Out of 5)

Forward P/E

Projected 5-Year
Earnings Growth

Burger King








Yum! Brands




Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD)




Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) (NYSE:CMG-B)




Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA)




Source: Motley Fool CAPS and Yahoo! Finance as of Aug. 27.

My advice: Why buy a fickle Burger King when high performers such as Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle are still not too expensive?

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Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle are Motley Fool Hidden Gems picks. Chipotle is also a Rule Breakers selection, and the Fool owns shares of it and Buffalo Wild Wings. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days

Fool contributor Rob Plaza, CFA, does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.