Buffalo Wild Wings turned in an anemic second quarter, falling well short of profit forecasts. But that didn't stop investors from pushing its stock up 11 percent on Wednesday.
The paradox can be explained in Wild Wings' update on business so far in the current third quarter: It's better than Wall Street expected. The stock shot up $18.46 to close at $189.74.
Golden Valley-based Buffalo Wild Wings, one of the nation's hotter restaurant concepts, reported profits after the stock market closed on Tuesday. They weren't much to brag about, at least in relative terms: Earnings per share were $1.12, down from $1.25 a year ago and below the $1.26 forecast by stock analysts.
Buffalo Wild Wings sales of $426.4 million were up 16.5 percent over a year ago, but they missed analysts' forecasts by about 1 percent.
The good news was in same-store sales, a key retail financial gauge that takes into account recent store openings and closings. They were better than expected for the second quarter. More important, the third quarter's first four weeks started strongly: Same-store sales at company-owned and franchised restaurants respectively rose 4.8 percent and 2 percent.
"This is an impressive number," Jason West, a stock analyst at Credit Suisse, wrote in a report Wednesday. That's because Buffalo Wild Wings was lapping at high water in July 2014, when business was booming because of the men's soccer World Cup.
Wild Wings' second-quarter earnings shortfall — vis-à-vis analysts' projections — stems from rising labor costs and high chicken wing prices.
Labor costs as a percent of revenue are up over a year ago partly because of higher wages and benefits. But Buffalo Wild Wings also has implemented a new customer service initiative that requires more restaurant employees.
To help cover rising costs, the company will raise prices, beginning with alcohol in August. In the fourth quarter, menu prices will be up about 4 percent over a year earlier.
West wrote that he's concerned about customer pushback on "aggressive menu pricing" by Wild Wings. "While [the company] has been able to pass through pricing historically with limited pushback, there is always the risk that customers could reach a breaking point."
Buffalo Wild Wings' volatile stock is nearing its 52-week high of around $195, after sinking into the $150s during the spring and gradually creeping back.