Shares of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (RRGB) hit near five-year highs after a revenue and earnings beat for the fourth quarter and fiscal year. The company continues to show off its same-store sales growth in the tough restaurant sector and is one that should be considered for the long term.
In the fourth quarter, same-store sales increased 1.4% at Red Robin locations. This marked the 10th consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth. The increase was led by a menu price increase and a 30 basis point increase in guest traffic. Fourth quarter earnings per share were $0.59 and full-year earnings per share came in at $2.06.
Back in May, I profiled Red Robin as a great investment. I centered the article on the "fast casual potential as opportunity." At the time, Red Robin had begun to expand its restaurant base to include a new smaller concept called Red Robin Burger Works. The company is taking on Smashburger and Five Guys Burgers and Fries in this growing segment. As I argued in May, Red Robin now has the opportunity to have locations present in smaller locations like airports, sports stadiums, and college campuses.
At the time of that article, Red Robin had two Burger Works locations open. As announced on the earnings call Tuesday, Red Robin now has 5 fast locations open. Red Robin plans to open five Burger Works locations in 2013. The company is in the middle of renovating and investing in previous opened locations. After these transformations take place, Burger Works are expected to open at a rate of 15-20 per year.
Another reason for Red Robin's fourth quarter earnings could have been its advertising blitz during the NFL Super Bowl. After hearing that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was a fan of Red Robin, the company offered him free food for life if he won the big game. Red Robin took out an advertisement in the "San Francisco Chronicle." Chief executive officer Steve Carley wrote this in the newspaper: "So here's our golden offer: if you emerge as the winning QB on Sunday, we'll give you free Red Robin for life. We're game - are you?
Red Robin never received a response from Kaepernick and ultimately he didn't win the big game. However, Red Robin took advantage of one of the biggest sporting events of the year and capitalized on a young emerging sports star in Kaepernick. The company didn't have to spend $4 million on an advertisement during the game, but still had the same kind of press and publicity before the game by sports media.
During the fourth quarter conference call, Red Robin was asked about its advertising. The company said they will not be running television advertising during the first quarter and will invest their advertising money more wisely throughout the year. In my eyes, Red Robin did just this with the Super Bowl. While the company works on renovating locations, it will likely focus on its loyalty program and social media to advertise to customers.
Red Robin's Royalty program passed two million members during the fourth quarter. The rewards program gives customers the chance to earn free food. The valuable tool is used by the company as a device to contact guests and entice them to more frequent visits to Red Robin locations. The company gave specific examples - the Presidential Election and Summer Olympics as events that the company could email guests about and offer discounts and specials centered on the infrequent events.
Red Robin shares are a bit pricey, trading at 20x current earnings. However, with growth in same-store sales and units, the company could be worth the wait over the long term. The potential of the company's fast casual concept could increase the store count at a rapid rate beginning in 2014. The company expects same-store sales growth of 2.5% to 3% in 2013, which should keep its quarterly streak alive.
Over the last fifty-two weeks, shares of Red Robin had traded between $27.18 and $37.98. Shares will open Wednesday trading at over $43 a share. On Tuesday, shares traded as high as $45.88. I have recommended buying shares at $33.15 and $24.22 since November of 2011. I think Red Robin is one of the best long-term growth stocks in the restaurant sector.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.