Buffalo Wild Wings’ shares nose-dived Wednesday after the high-flying chicken-wing chain laid an egg in its first quarter.
The stock, long a star performer, fell 12.8 percent as Buffalo Wild Wings’ profits and sales came up considerably short of Wall Street’s forecasts.
The company’s earnings, released late Tuesday, were squeezed in part by a spike in the cost of chicken wings, which was expected, and labor, which surprised some analysts.
Golden Valley-based Buffalo Wild Wings, with its wings, beer and sports motif, has been one of the nation’s hottest restaurant concepts in recent years, delivering consistently healthy profit and sales growth.
The company entered 2015 with “strong momentum, leading to elevated expectations,” according to a research report Wednesday by Jeffrey Bernstein, a stock analyst at Barclays.
First-quarter earnings clocked in at $1.52 per share, 11 cents less than analysts on average had predicted. In the first quarter, same-store sales at Wild Wings’ company-owned outlets rose 7 percent over a year ago, and CEO Sally Smith told analysts in a conference call Tuesday that she was pleased with those results. But analysts on average were expecting an 8.6 percent increase.
To make matters worse, Buffalo Wild Wings costs’ were higher than expected, and that means profit margins weren’t as good as Wall Street had anticipated.
Chicken wing costs were up 41 percent over a year ago, though not necessarily out of line with some analysts’ expectations. “Labor was [the] biggest issue,” Brian Bittner, an Oppenheimer stock analyst, wrote in a report.
Labor costs have been growing more than expected as Buffalo Wild Wings has rolled out its “guest experience captain” concept. The guest captain is someone who helps customers with everything from tablet ordering technology to sampling new sauces.
While some analysts lowered their earnings estimates Wednesday, long-term outlooks appear unchanged. “We remain bullish,” Bernstein wrote.
Short-term, it was a different story Wednesday. Wild Wings’ stock was the fourth largest percentage loser on the Nasdaq, experiencing its biggest one day drop since July 30, 2014, when it fell 13.1 percent. The stock closed Wednesday at $160.25, down $23.45. It has been as high as $195 and as low as $122 over the past year.
Staff writer Patrick Kennedy contributed to this report.