Buffalo Wild Wings Serves Up a Mix, Sees Spicy 2015

By Markets Fool.com

Buffalo Wild Wingsmay have just offered mixed fourth-quarter 2014 results, but that certainly doesn't mean its report was bad.Buffalo Wild Wings stock climbed nearly 3% in Thursday's after-hours trading after it became clear that hungry patrons flocked to the beer, wings, and sports specialist in Q4.

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B-Dubs achieved same-store sales growth of 5.9% and 5.6% at company-owned and franchised locations, respectively, helping quarterly revenue climb 19.7% year over year, to $408.9 million. That's roughly in line with analysts' expectations.

As expected, however, higher food and labor costs ate into B-Dubs' bottom-line results, thanks to both stubbornly high traditional chicken wing prices and minimum wage increases in several states. Buffalo Wild Wings also completed the rollout of higher-paid "Guest Experience Captains" at all company-owned locations in Q4.

Though its same-store sales performance indicates customers didn't bat an eye at Buffalo Wild Wings' 3% menu price increase taken at the end of November, earnings per share still fell around 2.7% year over year, to $1.07. Analysts, on average, were looking for earnings of $1.11 per share.

On guidance
The market is a forward-looking machine, and Buffalo Wild Wings didn't disappoint by reiterating its outlook for 2015 earnings to increase 18%. Based on Buffalo Wild Wings' full-year 2014 earnings of $4.95 per share, the company's 2015 EPS should be at least $5.84.By comparison, analysts' slightly higher Q4 estimates meant Wall Street was modeling 2015 earnings of $5.97 per share.

"Same-store sales increased 11.9% at company-owned restaurants and 11.1% at franchised locations for the first five weeks of the first quarter of 2015," elaborated Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith. "Sales were particularly strong during the college bowl games, including the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl and the national championship game."

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Now that American football season is over, Buffalo Wild Wings can look forward to riding a wave of momentum into the upcoming college basketball tournament. B-Dubs has secured a sponsorship as the "Official Hangout of NCAA March Madness," and will feature limited time menu items inspired by each of the tournament's four regions. It's ready to launch a new ad campaign, and plans to take advantage of its new tabletop tablets with basketball-centric GameBreak competitions.

On new technology
Smith also reminded investors that Buffalo Wild Wings will complete the rollout of those tablets by the end of this year. Three months ago, she noted that roughly 75% of the company's entire restaurant base would feature the devices by the end of 2014, including "nearly all company-owned locations."

Smith also confirmed they have officially begun testing menu ordering from tablets, and will continue doing so for the first half of this year. Previously, she stated the company's goal is to have tablet ordering fully implemented by the end of 2015.

What they didn't say
Today's press release offered no additional details on the pending introduction of server tablets or mobile payments, both of which management previously noted are in the works. It's also probably too early to determine the specific financial impact of this new technology.

But it's no mystery that Buffalo Wild Wings has an almost fanatical focus on improving the dining experience for consumers, which keeps them coming back again and again. If Buffalo Wild Wings' strong same-store sales performance for the first few weeks of 2015 is any indication, it appears to be overachieving on this front already.

Finally, there were no early mentions of new acquisitions, or progress for Buffalo Wild Wings stakes in the up-and-coming Rusty Taco and PizzaRev fast-casual restaurant chains -- though perhaps management will elaborate during its subsequent conference call. Look for further updates here once I have a chance to dig into the discussion in more detail.

As previously announced, Buffalo Wild Wings did point out its franchise partner in the Philippines opened its first restaurant in January. Franchised locations are expected to open soon in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In addition -- and keeping in mind Buffalo Wild Wings ended the year with just more than 1,070 locations in North America -- the company plans to open 50 new company-owned locations and 40 franchised restaurants in the U.S. and Canada this year. Over the long term, it still expects to grow to at least 3,000 restaurants worldwide, including 1,700 in North America.

For long-term investors willing to enjoy the ride as it methodically works toward that goal,that mouthwatering growth potential is one of the many reasons I'm still convinced Buffalo Wild Wings stock is worth a look.

The article Buffalo Wild Wings Serves Up a Mix, Sees Spicy 2015 originally appeared on Fool.com.

Steve Symington owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings. The Motley Fool recommends Buffalo Wild Wings. The Motley Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.