Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. Drops as Wing Costs Soar

By Markets Fool.com

Buffalo Wild Wings may think its first-quarter results are delicious, but it left the market hungry today. After climbing around 2.5% in Tuesday's regular session, shares of the beer, wings, and sports-centric restaurant chain dropped nearly 10% in after-hours trading after it said first-quarter revenue climbed 19.8% year over year, to $440.6 million.

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That translated to a 2.6% increase in net earnings, to $29.1 million, and 1.7% growth in net earnings per diluted share, to $1.52. Analysts, on average, were anticipating earnings of $1.63 per share on sales of $452.4 million.

"Exceptionally strong"
Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith insisted: "Sales were exceptionally strong during the college football bowl games as well as the NFL playoffs. Buffalo Wild Wings really came alive during March Madness and we launched a new advertising campaign with unique commercials for each round of the tournament."

Buffalo Wild Wings' top line was led by 20.3% growth at company-owned restaurant sales, to $415 million, thanks to a combination of impressive same-store sales growth of 7% and the opening of 53 new Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants during the past year. Meanwhile, franchise royalties and fees rose 11.8%, to $25.6 million, helped by 18 new franchised locations and a solid 6% jump in franchised same-store sales.

So why the comparatively sluggish growth in net earnings? First -- and as Buffalo Wild Wings management warned during last quarter's call -- cost of sales climbed 28.9%, to $125.7 million during the last year, while labor rose 23.8%, to $130.4 million.

Regarding the latter, remember that Buffalo Wild Wings has had to absorb the cost of minimum wage increases in several states, and also finished the rollout of higher-paid "Guest Experience Captains" at all company-owned locations last quarter.However, as Buffalo Wild Wings CFO Mary Twinem also told investors in February, "From a labor standpoint, we also will improve as we go through the year."

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Meanwhile, cost of sales was negatively affected by a 41% increase in the price per pound for traditional chicken wings -- though that's versus what Smith described as an "unusually low price" in the same year-ago period. But investors should remember that Buffalo Wild Wings also confirmed last quarter that it entered into modified pricing agreements for about two-thirds of its traditional wing supply. According to CFO Mary Twinem at the time, those agreements were set to take effect this month, and will serve to narrow the price range Buffalo Wild Wings pays when wings are at historically high and low prices.

B-Dubs will heat up soon
Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that Buffalo Wild Wings is sticking to its previous guidance for full-year 2015 net earnings growth of 18%, or roughly $5.84 per share. Smith elaborated that same-store sales have increased 4.2% and 1.8% at company-owned and franchised locations, respectively, so far in the second quarter.

To better capitalize on pressed-for-time lunch diners, Buffalo Wild Wings also introduced its newB-Dubs Fast Breaklunch program just more than a week ago. Buffalo Wild Wings is also bringing theWorld of Sportsto restaurants in June, including new in-restaurant games to play during the promotion with daily and weekly prizes to bolster guest engagement.

Unfortunately, that's little comfort for Wall Street analysts, who, on average, came into the report modeling 2015 earnings growth of 20.6%, or $5.97 per share. And shares of Buffalo Wild Wings hardly looked cheap trading at 37 times trailing 12-month earnings, and nearly 26 times next year's estimates.

It's hard to blame analysts for being overzealous watching Buffalo Wild Wings' evident strength during the quarter's crucial sporting events. However, as an investor myself, I'm also not particularly concerned.

Going into today's close, Buffalo Wild Wings stock was up nearly 50% from its October lows. And though B-Dubs' bottom line might not show it right now given stubbornly high labor and food costs, the company is effectively firing on all cylinders, and working to correct those issues in the near future. When that happens, something tells me today's drop will hardly register as a blip on the radar of patient investors.

The article Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. Drops as Wing Costs Soar 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.