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UPDATE 1-Surprise revenue miss drags down Noodles shares

Wednesday, 6 Nov 2013 | 5:20 PM ET

* Third-quarter earnings/share $0.11 vs est $0.11

* Revenue rises 15 pct to $88.9 mln vs est $91 mln

* Comparable restaurant sales for company-owned restaurants rise 2.4 pct

* Shares fall 10 pct after market

(Adds analyst's comment, background; updates share movement)

Nov 6 (Reuters) - Restaurant operator Noodles & Co reported lower-than-expected revenue in its second quarter as a public company, citing a tepid consumer spending environment.

Noodles shares fell 10 percent in trading after markets closed on Wednesday.

The results come as a surprise as casual restaurants focusing on fast service have been popular among U.S. consumers who are lured by customizable menus, inviting decor and pocket-friendly prices.

In October, fast-casual chain Panera Bread Co posted a smaller-than-expected gain in quarterly sales at established company-owned bakery cafes as customer visits declined.

"The rest of the industry is obviously being impacted but the fast-casual category has more or less been immune to this tepid consumer environment except for Noodles and Panera, so I think it has something to do with the brand (and) its positioning," Wedbush Securities analyst Nick Setyan told Reuters.

More traditional casual dining chains Ruby Tuesday Inc and Darden Restaurants Inc - owner of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains - posted weak results for the latest quarter, citing weakened consumer spending.

Comparable sales at Noodles' company-owned restaurants rose 2.4 percent in the third quarter, below the 2.7 percent rise that analysts polled by Consensus Metrix expected.

Flooding in Colorado towards the end of the quarter hurt comparable store sales by 10-20 basis points, a Noodles executive said in a post-earnings call with analysts.

The company said it expects full-year company-owned comparable restaurant sales growth of about 3.25-3.75 percent, but reiterated its adjusted earnings forecast.

"Given the multiple, I think a lot of buy-side expectations (for the outlook) were much higher and they wanted to see raised guidance," Setyan said.

Net income rose to $3.3 million, or 11 cents per share, for the quarter ended Oct. 1 from $133,000, or 1 cent per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, Noodles, which serves pasta and noodle dishes for as little as $8, earned 11 cents per share in the third quarter, in line with the average analyst estimate.

Revenue rose 15.4 percent to $88.9 million. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $91 million in the quarter ended Oct. 1, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Noodles' shares were trading down 8 percent at $43. They have risen 27 percent since their debut to Wednesday's close of $46.68 on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Maria Ajit Thomas in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)

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