Red Robin Gourmet Burgers' (Nasdaq: RRGB) investors are seeing red today. The company announced medium-well results for fiscal 2002, but cooked up first-quarter projections too cold to satisfy hungry investors.

Management projected first-quarter 2003 earnings of $0.20 to $0.21 per share on $91 million in sales, well below the consensus estimate of $0.27. Increased costs -- including higher costs running as a public company -- and speedier new restaurant openings have lowered projections.

Red Robin operates 99 gourmet hamburger and spirits restaurants stateside, and profits from another 98 licensed locations. In an atmosphere reminiscent of TGI Friday's, Portillo's, Fuddruckers, Hamburger Hamlet, and a 1950s shake diner all swirled into one, customers choose from 22 original gourmet hamburgers for slightly upscale prices.

In the fourth quarter of 2002, same-store sales rose 2.3%, as revenue increased 24% to $66 million. For all of 2002, same-store sales were patted 1.6% higher on 22% growth in revenue to $274 million. Management projects same-store sales growth of 1.5% to 2.5% in the current quarter. For fiscal 2003, $0.94 to $0.97 in earnings per share is anticipated on $315 million in sales.

Red Robin raised $48 million in last year's initial public offering (IPO). However, after paying down debt and opening new stores, its cash balance was recently under $5 million, and its long-term debt and capital lease obligations stood at $38 million. The company was not cash flow positive in 2002.

The hamburger chain operates in a crowded marketplace and charges higher prices than many others for a burger. Perhaps the largest thing working in its favor is its novelty, which, of course, isn't a long-term investment attribute.