Breaking Down the Restaurant Industry, Monopoly Style

by: Jefferson Starship

The purpose of this piece is to take a look at the middle class restaurant industry as a whole and use an entertaining analogy to offer a way of comparing different companies within the sector.

I have developed a list of 22 companies that fall into this category throwing out some for various reasons (i.e. Ark Restaurants (NASDAQ:ARKR) for being to upscale and Krispy Kreme (KKD) for having a negative price to earnings ratio). This industry has been broken into sub-categories, including breakfast, fast order pizza, traditional restaurants, fast food burger joints, fast food restaurant hybrids, coffee places, and Yum! (NYSE:YUM) because of their diversification.

I have also come up with some interesting inserts for the railroads and the utilities spaces; jail, income and luxury taxes, and free parking have been omitted/left unchanged. The well known secret here is that McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) dominates the industry, and the world, with a market cap of $75 billion that exceeds the other 21 companies put together. They also pay a stable, growing dividend and have strong earnings growth to boot. For this reason they have been given the Boardwalk spot and four hotels, thus beginning our analogy.

Like Monopoly, companies may have 1-4 motels, in green, or 1-4 hotels, in red, and having one hotel is better than having four motels. It should also be noted that all the data is up to date as of July 18, 2010, and was taken from Yahoo Finance and Also, some companies’ spots on the board have been assigned so that they are next to their sub-category competitors. This will become clearer as we go on.

Breakfast Restaurants

Denny’s Corp (NASDAQ:DENN) – Denny’s kicks off the board in the Mediterranean slot with a price of $2.54, a market capitalization (MC) of $0.252 billion and a price to earnings ratio (P/E) of 6.02. Their 5 year earnings growth rate is the worst on the list with the exception of Wendy’s/Arby’s, but their 2009 and expected 2010 earnings are much better than the 3 years prior. Not many analysts follow Denny’s but they have a buy consenus with price targets anywhere from $3.50 to $8, and their low P/E makes them very appealing given that the oncoming apocalypse could have consumers trading down to the low priced Grand Slams. ۩۩

Bob Evan’s Farm Inc (NASDAQ:BOBE) – Baltic is taken by Bob Evan’s, which has only half as many locations as Denny’s but three times the market cap. It is relatively cheap right now at a price of $24.08, a MC of $0.736 billion, and a P/E of 10.58. Their 5 year PEG rate of 1.28 has them in line with the other 21 companies and they have a dividend yield of 2.9%. Their consenus price target of $34 alludes to the fact that there is some upside opportunity. ۩۩

Pizza Restaurants

California Pizza Kitchen Inc (NASDAQ:CPKI) – The pizza sub-category takes the next two spaces with California Pizza Kitchen occupying Oriental. With around only 250 locations they are sort of niche, and they have a price of $14.93, a MC of $0.366 billion, and a P/E of 80.7, the second highest behind Wendy’s/Arby’s. Their EPS has been falling for 3 straight quarters, but historically their first quarter has always been their worse, so the next two should be a bit better. Since 2005 there has not really been any growth in earnings and it seems that they may be content with where they are as a company. Their 12 month target is around $20, so there is some upside but there are better plays to be made. ۩

Domino’s Pizza Inc (NYSE:DPZ) – Domino’s (Vermont Avenue) is a very different restaurant than California Pizza Kitchen but they serve the same kind of food, especially considering all of Domino’s' new specialty offerings. Their revenue streams are based on delivery orders, which differentiates them from CPKI, and with around 9,000 stores across the world they are the #2 pizza supplier to Yum!’s Pizza Hut. Their current price is $12.16, with a MC of $0.718 billion, and a P/E of 8.82; this is only half that of Yum!’s, but they do not pay a dividend, which could be one of the reasons for this difference. Domino’s' quarter one EPS looks very good YoY but their 5 year growth rate is bleak. To fight this, Domino’s has been franchising to new global markets, such as India, in hopes of future growth abroad. ۩

Traditional Restaurants

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc (NASDAQ:RRGB) – Connecticut, the last light blue space, kicks off the traditional restaurant category with Red Robin, a sit down American cuisine style restaurant. Red Robin is currently priced at $20.44, a MC of $0.318 billion, the lowest in this sub-category, and has a P/E of 16.99. Like California Pizza Kitchen, their EPS has not done much in the last 5 years and the quarter one YoY was unspectacular to say the least. ۩

Ruby Tuesday Inc (NYSE:RT) – Side two of the board begins with Ruby Tuesday as St. Charles. In the short term they do look much better than Red Robin and are currently trading at an inexpensive price at $9.01. Their MC is $0.57 billion and they have a P/E of 13.61. In 2008, Ruby Tuesday saw their annual EPS drop to one third of its value over the last three years. They are a great example of the actual impact of the recession. They were able to rebound nicely off of their historically terrible fourth quarter, but there is really no promise right now that they will be able to get back to their 2007 highs. The analysts feel this way as well, with a hold rating and a price target of $12. ۩

Buffalo Wild Wings Inc (BWLD) – One the biggest growers over the last 5 years takes States Avenue. Despite a hefty setback in April and May at the hands of some guidance that did not meet the market's desires, Buffalo Wild Wings still offers some promise. Currently off a recent low of around $36, BWLD is at $39.96, with an ever-growing MC of $0.725 billion, and a P/E of 22.24. They had a very good first quarter that drove prices up to over $50 and are now poised for a second quarter that should exceed last year, but not by as much as everyone wanted. Their 2009 EPS was three times as high as in 2005 with no significant hiccups along the way. BWLD is currently sitting 25% below the consensus target price with several analysts covering them. They offer the strong prospect of future earnings growth. ۩۩۩۩

PF Chang’s China Bistro Inc (NASDAQ:PFCB) – Taking Virginia Avenue is PF Chang’s China Bistro, so famous that it’s found its way to South Park, probably not by choice. With a price of $40.24, a MC of $0.931 billion, and a P/E of 24.27, PF Chang’s has seen a rise in earnings annually since 2006 but has also seen its price drop from $65 as the hype of growth prospects has calmed. They are also the second stock to pay a dividend on this list since Bob Evan’s, at 1.6%. The bad news is their poor first quarter in 2010, but they are expected to release second quarter earnings that would beat their 2009 figure. Now that some of the novelty has worn off this company’s performance would greatly benefit from an improving economy. ۩۩۩

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc (NASDAQ:CBRL) - As we close in on the halfway point of the board we find Cracker Barrel maintaining St. James Place. There are not many of them in America, roughly 600, but they have proven to be profitable. Their price, down 5% recently, is at $47.03, MC of $1.11 billion, P/E of 13.62, and, like PF Chang’s, they have a 1.6% dividend. Their earnings have not changed much over the last 5 years, and though they have released a second quarter that beat last year’s by 6 cents, there is not much promise for growth; however, their dividend has increased from 13 cents a quarter in 2005 to 20 cents now. They are also rated a buy with a price target of $56 so perhaps $47 is a solid entry point if it is still available. ۩

Cheesecake Factory Inc (NASDAQ:CAKE) – One of the smallest companies in terms of market share on this list occupies Tennessee Avenue. The Cheesecake Factory operates roughly 160 stores. Their most recent price, down 5% like Cracker Barrel, is $24.21, MC is $1.46 billion, and P/E is 28.42. Their earnings have been relatively stable since 2005 with the exception of 2008, but so far this year has been much better than last and is predicted to continue as such for the next two releases. They have a hold rating, a target price of 29%, and do not pay a dividend. ۩۩

Brinker International Inc (NYSE:EAT) – New York Avenue is taken by Brinker International Inc, which is much larger than I would have guessed and owns restaurants such as Chili’s and the Macaroni Grill, among others. They operate 1,500 locations all over the world, several which one would be hard pressed to think of. They are generously priced at $15.53, have a MC of $1.59 billion, and a P/E of only 13.78. They have a nice growing dividend yield of 3.5% and are the second largest restaurant pick on this list next to Darden (NYSE:DRI) (mentioned later). They had a good 2007 but other than that their EPS has been around $1.45 since 2005. Their most recent quarter did not live up to 2009 and their second quarter is not supposed to either, but they do currently hold a buy rating with a price target 33% above their current price. Take that and the 3.5% dividend and you’ve got something. ۩۩

Fast Food Burger Restaurants

Sonic Corp (NASDAQ:SONC) – We now turn to the third side of the Monopoly board and a new sub-category with Kentucky Avenue/Sonic Corp, the happy hour smoothie, overpriced drive-in. Sonic is trading at $8.08, with a MC of 0.498 billion, and a P/E of 14.85. Sonic now has 3,500 locations in America and I assume this number is growing since my home town has been blessed with its presence within the last year and this area is normally one of the first to be franchised. The first quarter of this year they lost money and this took their share price down from a high of $13. Their 2009 was the worse year of the last several. It has a hold rating and a price target of $10 and should probably be avoided until they rethink their same store sales approach; I say this because the first several months this store was open in my area it was almost always at max capacity but it’s been a year and no one goes there anymore. ۩

Jack In The Box Inc (NASDAQ:JACK) – Indiana Avenue is occupied by the 2,200 location Jack In The Box. They are worth double Sonic, have a price of $19.12, a MC of $1.05 billion, and a P/E of 10.72. Their growth has been much better as well, having essentially doubled their EPS from 2005 to 2009. The bad news is 2010 and its poor earnings, probably brought on by the onset of competition rather than recession since they have not experienced a dip until now. This has rendered JACK a mere hold for now, possibly a sell in my mind unless they can right the ship. ۩۩

Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc (NYSE:WEN) – A stock I know all too well holds Illinois Avenue and that would be Wendy’s/Arby’s (WEN from here for simplicity’s sake). WEN has the highest P/E on this list at 150.74 (this is not a typo), a market cap of $1.75 billion, and a slightly inflated price of $4.07 on buyout rumors. WEN has a system of about 6,500 restaurants and taking Arby’s on has sunk Wendy’s. Their food is second rate by comparison and all that Wendy’s had going for it was its dollar menu and Frosties (Frosti??). That was 5 years ago; now all fast food places have Frosty equivalents and dollar menus. In addition, Arby’s is very overpriced in everything they offer and their food, which was originally marketed as healthy (Market Fresh Sandwich), can compete with almost any fast food offering in a high calorie contest. Earnings-wise there is not much to talk about, but I must disclose that I am long WEN at around $3.25 and should have gotten out at $5.50. I can only hope that the $8 takeover rumors come true someday; oh, they pay a 1.4% dividend as well. Also, I have been using price targets from Yahoo and they have $24 which is just laughable, I know that this is based on analysts who have stopped following the stock years ago. A Bloomberg terminal would show a 1-year target between $5 and $5.50. I am sorry for my ranting. In Monopoly, this would be mortgaged.

Burger King Holdings Inc (BKC) – We now move onto the part of the board where any sensible Monopoly player would have to seriously consider their purchases because of the cost. This generally starts in the yellows, though some may reserve it for just the last leg. In this analogy, Burger King and their clever marketing scheme, minus all the Twlight stuff, sits on Atlantic Avenue. They are currently priced at $17.22, have a MC of $2.34 billion, and a P/E of 12.02. The biggest issue here is growth prospects. They have roughly 12,000 stores globally and their earnings have been going up since going public in 2006. But at this point, who hasn’t heard of Burger King? They’re everywhere, so they are left with having to improve price margins or really amping it up overseas. The King currently has a hold rating, a price target equal to their 52 week high, and pays a 1.4% dividend. ۩۩۩۩

Fast Food/Restaurant Hybrids

Panera Bread Co (NASDAQ:PNRA) – The next two companies to round out the yellows, beginning with Panera Bread in the Ventnor Avenue spot, have been classified as hybrids because they do not fit into the traditional restaurants category and they are certainly not fast food based on their prices. They have also become cool to hold, and by cool I mean profitable. Panera is trading at $75.43, has a MC of $2.41 billion, and a P/E of 24.89, which is a bit high, but so is the next one. They have a very strong 5 year growth rate, but this has happened mostly since 2007. Panera does its best in the fourth quarter. I'm guessing that this is in part because of the cold weather and consumers having time off. Who doesn’t like celebrating Halloween with one of those bread soup things? Regardless, a monster of a second quarter is predicted with a strong third to follow and in a week and a half we’ll see if this holds true. It is this that accounts for the inflated P/E. The groupthink has a buy rating and a $94 price target. It should also be noted that this stock is set to open Monday in the $78 range. ۩۩۩

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (NYSE:CMG) – I recently wrote about Chipotle, which in this article represents Marvin Gardens. They had just opened their 1000th store and were starting to voyage overseas. They are priced at $136.82, MC of $4.3 billion, and P/E 31.4. An interesting thing with them is that they do not franchise. This leads to stricter locale selectivity, which of course is a good thing. I also said that stocks that run up this high, this fast may be in for a rude awakening. But I added that Chipotle is set to report two massive quarters which will bring down their P/E and reassure their absurdly high price. Since 2005 Chipotle has grown roughly seven to eight times in EPS and this is probably an unsustainable rate at this point, but hey, I’d be happy with half of that. Of course, they have a buy rating and a price target of $155, which is their 52 week high; I’d expect that to rise sometime next quarter when they confirm their third quarter guidance. ۩۩۩

Darden Restaurants Inc (DRI) – As we move to the last stage of the board we will circle back momentarily to the traditional restaurant sub-category. Based on Darden’s strengh they really deserved to be in the Pacific Avenue spot, and because of the fact that their group includes the Olive Garden, Long Horn Steak House, and Red Lobster. They are relatively cheap right now at $39.76, have a MC of $5.57 billion, and a low P/E of 14. They also pay a good dividend yield of 3.1%, but be wary because it was lowered in 2007 at the precipice of the recession. They have had steady, albeit slight, EPS growth since 2006. Another note of caution: their EPS is cyclical and they do not do well in the second half of the year. This doesn’t seem to affect their stock price generally but could present some entry points based on poor headlines. They have a buy rating and a $50 price target. ۩۩۩

Coffee Joints

Tim Horton’s Inc (THI) – Coffee needed to be included in this project and we have one Canadian and one American. North Carolina Avenue is being held by Tim Horton’s which has a price of $33, a MC of $5.57 billion, and a P/E of 19.87. Their growth rate has been adequate since going public in 2006 and so far 2010 is looking pretty good. They’ve also just started paying a dividend, currently at 1.4%. Not many analysts follow this stock but the three most recent have buys and a price target of $39. Their biggest threat is the new McCafe, and the prospect of other fast food places doing the same thing, but for the near term coffee appears to be safe. ۩

Starbucks Corp (NASDAQ:SBUX) – Second in the coffee category is Starbucks, sitting on Pennsylvania Avenue. An example of a company who grew too big too fast, they saw their highs in 2007 but have come back admirably since. They are currently priced at $25.35, have a MC of $18.89 billion, and a P/E of 25.3. Their market cap makes them second to McDonald’s in overall size. A solid entry point may be long gone at this point; their low was around $7 in 2009 and their price target is only at $29. Like Tim Horton’s they pay a dividend in the area of 1.5%. Their next two quarters are supposed to be better than last year’s but the bulk of their money is earned in the fourth quarter so we’ll have to wait for that. ۩۩

The Behemoths

Yum! Brands Inc (YUM) – Games of Monopoly are won or lost on the ownership of Park Place and Boardwalk. I have given Yum! Park Place because even though their MC is just below Starbucks ($18.73 billion), their P/E is lower (17.75) and their growth prospects are much stronger. They are currently priced at $40.07, which is probably pretty fair, but for the future earnings this is a steal. Their earnings have been rising progressively since 2005, up about 70% since then. In that time their dividend has quadrupled and is now sitting at 2%. Domestically there is still room for growth of restaurants like Taco Bell, and overseas KFC and Pizza Hut are continuing to blossom, including hitting the Chinese market. Their price target is only at $46 right now, but their 2010 earnings are supposed to exceed 2009 by 10%. This may be a longer term play, with a big payoff in the end. ۩۩۩

McDonald’s Corp (MCD) – I’ve saved the best for last, as is the case with most lists, and here we have McDonald’s, the Boardwalk of the restaurant world. A blue chip like none other, and the only company here that is listed on the Dow. Paying a 3.1% dividend right now, why would you not own this stock? Its current price is at $69.94, a P/E of 16.49, and with a MC of $75 billion, they are bigger than every other company on this list combined. There’s really not much that needs to be said here; awesome earnings growth that is expected to continue, a price target of $77, and they can handle lawsuits (Shrek glasses, Happy Meal toys) without much of a problem. The only issue is that eventually there will be no more room for additional McDonald’s. To fight this, they started redoing the seating areas of current stores, offering improved menus, McCafe, and now smoothies to fight the Jamba Juices of the world. This is one of the best companies in the world and everyone knows it. ۩۩۩۩

Wrap Up

Looking at an entire industry really allows an investor to (a) decide if they want to be in it, and (b) make their picks based on an investment strategy. Say you like the restaurant industry as a whole; you make the defensive play on McDonald’s at the right time, maybe pick up Yum! for the long term growth, and then make a few speculation plays like Panera or Chipotle. There’s more than enough safe picks presented here, some of which could surprise, like Cracker Barrel or Brinker. To finish the analogy, I have included the following companies as railroad suggestions without the write ups, and two commodities to fill the utilities spaces.

  • Reading Railroad – Dr. Pepper Snapple (DPS)
  • Pennsylvania Railroad – Kraft Foods (KFT)
  • B & O Railroad – PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP)
  • Short Line – Coca Cola (NYSE:KO)
  • Electric Company – Live cattle futures
  • Water Works – Cheese futures

If you’ve read this far I applaud you. Any comments are welcomed and I must disclose that I am currently long WEN and MCD but have not held any positions in any of the other listed companies.

Disclosure: Author is long WEN and MCD