It's got to be the biggest fumble in Texas since Tony Romo's bobbled field goal snap in last year's playoffs. Texas Roadhouse
Heady expansion fueled a 22% revenue growth spurt to $186.3 million. Earnings clocked in lower at $0.09 a share, but would have inched slightly higher to nearly $0.11 a share before an asset impairment hit. The top- and bottom-line showings narrowly missed Wall Street's projections, but that's not why the shares were hammered.
In a trend that has already rocked the shares of former darlings such as Cheesecake Factory
The company still expects to add 30 company-owned units this year. That is fewer than the 32 units it opened last year. It also acquired an additional nine franchised locations last year. But Texas Roadhouse isn't exactly slamming on the brakes.
Thirty new units will be enough to find the chain watching over 20% more unit-level operating weeks in 2008. Unfortunately, net margins will contract right when the company is looking for earnings to grow by just 5% to 15% this year (even with the advantage of an extra week in fiscal 2008).
That leads us to the other problem with the eatery's report. Applying the profit guidance to the $0.51 a share it earned in 2007 implies earnings per share will clock in between $0.54 and $0.59, well off Wall Street's target of $0.64. This doesn't include the effects of share repurchases under its just-announced $25 million repurchase authorization, or any share issuances either. But the guidance would fall well short of Wall Street estimates under the rosiest scenario.
The company's outlook is based on comps coming in flat to slightly positive this year, and that may be overly optimistic. Comps have deteriorated lately, turning negative since November. Same-unit sales fell by 1.5% through the first six weeks of 2008. There is little reason to expect that trend to reverse given the uncertain economy.
Maybe Texas Roadhouse would have been wise to get out of Dodge when the rest of its compadres moved on.
Yes, Texas Roadhouse is one of the few publicly traded casual steakhouses still standing. The parent companies of Lone Star Steakhouse and Outback Steakhouse have been taken private over the past two years. CBRL Group
It hasn't been easy for the carnivore hubs. Upscale steakhouses Morton's
It makes one wonder why private equity has been so hungry to snap up shares in this niche when clearly its players are less meaty today than they were a couple of years ago.
Tony Romo redeemed himself the following season. He got a Pro Bowl nod in leading the Dallas Cowboys to the playoffs. Can Texas Roadhouse be so lucky? I wouldn't bet on it. Until comps turn positive, expect a little more fumbling as 2008 wears on.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is always on the lookout for a good steakhouse and thankfully there are plenty in Miami. He owns shares in CBRL Group. 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.