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Cramer taps into how Grubhub is changing the game for food chains

The stay-at-home economy is undoubtedly flourishing, so Jim Cramer turned to one of its biggest benefactors to see how it is staying afloat: online food delivery giant Grubhub.

"Take it from me, the owner of Bar San Miguel in Brooklyn, you never want to do take out if you can avoid it," the "Mad Money" host said. "And delivery? Holy cow, that's a total sin for a restaurant, a dead weight loss given [that] you can't even get a guest to buy a Corona while she waits for her food to go."

Yet those two services have been Grubhub's keys to success, with the company seeing 40 percent year-over-year revenue growth and 21 percent year-over-year daily average user growth in its first quarter earnings report.

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Cramer sees the company's earnings beat as a sign on a "huge cultural sea change" upheld by pizza powerhouse Domino's, which saw gains across the board in the first quarter, including a 10 percent bump in same-store sales.

However, since its initial public offering in April 2014, Grubhub has had a controversial history. Some thought its business model was set up well for growing nationwide, while others saw no way forward for food delivery platforms.

Even now, 21 percent of Grubhub's stock is sold short despite its climb from $17 in January of 2016 to over $42, where it currently trades.

Cramer is still positive on Grubhub. Not only does the "Mad Money" host like its scale, which makes restaurants pay more for exposure on the app, but also how the service pushes restaurant chains to stop relying on their best gross margin item — alcohol — at the behest of customer convenience.

T.G.I. Fridays, Chili's, Maggiano's and several other chains are now on Grubhub, while 100 Buffalo Wild Wings and 50 Red Robin locations are trying the service.

"That is a giant admission that these chains aren't going to be able to get as many people in the seats anymore buying beer for too much money versus what you can buy it for at the supermarket. And yes, selling marked-up alcohol is the secret behind the success of so many dinner chain restaurants," Cramer said.

Buffalo Wild Wings' latest earnings call actually underlined the shift when CEO Sally Smith acknowledged that "delivery is an addressable opportunity for Buffalo Wild Wings as more consumers are eating at home."

While the wings chain is under pressure from an activist investor to change its business model, Cramer said the point was that paying more to dine out is simply becoming less attractive.

"Whether it's student debt or lower wages or a sense that you want to multi-task, check out Facebook, Snap or Twitter while watching the game or looking at Netflix, or maybe all of those, the simple fact is that the change is accelerating, not arresting itself," Cramer said.

And with Amazon's Alexa forging a path for voice-activated devices to become household items, the outlook for restaurant chains may only get worse.

All that said, Grubhub's future is looking bright, but Cramer said that analysts will always argue about the company's standing. Even after a blowout quarter, many still made the case that competition was fierce and seasonal weakness was coming.

If all those once-lucrative chains slink into the background as delivery services like Grubhub continue to grow, Cramer will count it as proof that the restaurant-bar model has finally peaked.

"That's going to shake everyone, from the big chains to the real estate investment trusts' landlords to the small and medium size businesses that would never have opened if they knew they could no longer count on the beer tap and mixed drinks to make their quarters," he concluded.

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