It's been a volatile year for the restaurant industry group (EATZ), which found itself down over 29% for the year before its recent recovery. This rebound can be attributed to hopes that inflation has peaked combined with short covering, with the small-cap and mid-cap restaurant names having elevated short interest relative to other industry groups.
Following this rally, some investors might be looking for names that haven’t participated in the recovery. However, underperformance is often related to underlying problems with a business, so it's essential to look at industry trends, sales performance, and other key metrics to ensure one isn't buying into a value trap.
Scale, Business Model & Unit Growth
From a scale standpoint, Restaurant Brands International (“RBI”) and Red Robin differ materially. RBI has more than 29,000 restaurants under four different brands (Burger King, Tim Hortons, Firehouse Subs, Popeyes Chicken), and Red Robin has 525 restaurants under one brand: Red Robin Gourmet Burgers.
Typically, the smaller-scale company would be the more attractive one assuming it was a high-growth concept and a similar business model. However, Red Robin is inferior in both categories.
Not only has Red Robin seen its store count decline by 10% over the past three years while RBI’s store count has increased 15%, but Red Robin operates a casual dining concept, and its brand is nowhere near as iconic as RBI’s top-rated brands in the coffee, burger, and chicken category, which are Tim Hortons, Burger King, and Popeyes, respectively.
Meanwhile, only 20% of Red Robin’s system is franchised vs. 100% for RBI, meaning that Red Robin is much more sensitive to inflationary pressures, seeing a sharp decline in earnings when it's seeing food and labor costs rise. Continue reading "Which Is The Better Restaurant Stock?"