Skip to Content

Panera Outperforms as Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings Stumble

Panera's results were better than Chipotle's.Panera's results were better than Chipotle's.
Panera's results were better than Chipotle's.Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images

A trio of restaurant chains reported their latest quarterly results on Tuesday afternoon. Only one restauranteur can boast about the figures delivered to Wall Street.

Panera Bread (PNRA) served up far stronger results than rivals Chipotle (CMG), which has been stung badly by poor sales due to food safety concerns, and Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD).

While we won’t know if Panera has successfully won over former Chipotle customers until executives present their quarterly results to Wall Street Wednesday morning, there are hints that the Mexican burrito chain’s weakness may have helped one of its biggest fast-casual rivals. In the case of Buffalo Wild Wings, the main issue is failing to meet expectations. That company’s shares took a dive as it reported a weaker than expected first-quarter profit and issued a forecast for the year that also disappointed investors.

Of the three, only Panera managed to report comparable-store sales that beat expectations. That’s an important metric for the restaurant industry, as it excludes sales from newer locations. Panera’s comparable sales grew 6.2% in the latest quarter at company-owned cafes, better than the 5.3% projected increase. Chipotle reported a steep 29.7% tumble (analysts expected a 28.4% drop), while Buffalo Wild Wings posted a 1.7% decline at companyowned restaurants (Wall Street was looking for a 1.7% increase).

Panera’s total revenue increased 6% to $685 million, while net income climbed to $1.56 per share from $1.41 the prior year, both increases that exceeded expectations. Chairman and CEO Ron Shaich said the growth in same-store sales and transactions were the best Panera generated in four years.

“As a result, today, we are raising our full-year 2016 targets for same-store sales growth and earnings per share,” Shaich said.

Executives and Chipotle and Buffalo Wild Wings sent somewhat diverging prepared statements on their disappointing results. Sally Smith, president and CEO at Buffalo Wild Wings, acknowledged her restaurant chain was “dissatisfied to report a same-store sales decline and we’re undertaking several sales-driving initiatives to regain momentum.” Chipotle founder and co-CEO Steve Ells essentially shrugged off the bruising first-quarter results, instead striking a hopeful tone. “As our sales are on a gradual path to recovery, we remain focused on our mission of changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” he said.