Pity the poor analyst or financial writer. Numbers are what we live on. Well, that and food such as that served at Bob Evans Farms (NASDAQ:BOBE) restaurants. The operator of Bob Evans-branded restaurants in the Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and Southeast, and Mimi's Cafe, mostly in the West, reported blowout earnings last night after the bell. Expectations were for $0.37 earnings per share (EPS) for the fiscal 2006 fourth quarter and $1.24 EPS for the entire year. The company reported $0.56 and $1.52 diluted EPS, respectively. Delicious.

Operating margin improved from 4.6% in fiscal 2005 to 5.4% in fiscal 2006. Net margin improved from 2.5% to 3.4% over the past year. Changes like that are impressive and reflect well on interim CEO Larry Corbin, who was named to the post after the sudden resignation of Stewart Owens last summer.

Same-store sales decreased 0.9% for the quarter at the Bob Evans restaurants, while increasing 1.1% at Mimi's Cafe. For the month of May, comps were down 1.2% and up 0.3%, respectively. For the food products division (sausage and refrigerated prepared food), sales were up 10% for the quarter, with operating income up 42%, excluding special items.

And that is pretty much it when it comes to extracting nourishing numbers from the earnings release. To fill out the meal, analysts and financial writers had to listen to the conference call this morning. There they obtained morsels such as a decrease of nearly two points in restaurant cost of sales from last year to 24.9%, a decrease in labor costs of 1.6 points because of better labor management, and the fact that the company completely paid off its credit line in the fourth quarter.

New Chief Executive Officer Steven Davis was certainly forthcoming about where the company still needs to improve, namely same-store sales. After all, there is only so much one can gain by cutting margins, though that, too, can continue to improve. Increased emphasis on the value that Bob Evans provides, both at its restaurants and in its food products division, is expected to help drive sales forward. Value emphasis is a good line to take as high petroleum costs affect more people through higher prices all around.

I was a bit disappointed to see that Bob Evans continued its practice of releasing incomplete financial statements in its earnings press release. By incomplete, I mean no balance sheet, no cash flow statement, and a non-detailed income statement that didn't show various expense lines such as cost of sales, labor, selling, general, and administrative, etc. For comparison, competitor CBRL Group (NASDAQ:CBRL) did provide these items in its earnings release late last month, as did IHOP (NYSE:IHP). Without the information found in the various financial statements, it is much more difficult to evaluate management and the company as a whole, especially at the fiscal year's end.

In this, I try to follow one of my favorite value investors, Robert Olstein, manager of the Olstein Financial Alert Growth fund (FUND:OFALX). He wrote in his most recent letter to shareholders, "Financial statements provide valuable clues as to the capabilities and veracity of management, which, for us, are great indicators of the quality of earnings, the predictability of a company's future cash flow and, ultimately, the quality of a company as an investment." Investors wishing to pursue due diligence will have to wait until the annual report is filed in a month's time or so.

Management is making all the right comments. Going forward, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. I just wish the pudding presented in the earnings release showed a few more of the ingredients.

At the moment, Foolish investors might be willing to take a nibble at this company, especially if it continues as a turnaround. Be sure, though, to keep an eye on the margins and same-store sales.

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Fool contributor Jim Mueller didn't find pudding on Bob Evans' menu, but he did find French silk pie, oh my! He does not own shares in any company mentioned, though his wife owns shares in Olstein Financial Alert Growth fund. The Fool is investors writing for investors .