NEW YORK (
Restaurant stocks stand to face poor sales figures after heavy flooding in California and blizzard conditions on much of the Eastern Seaboard kept potential diners at home.
"The West Coast, especially California, was deluged by record rainfalls over the past two weeks," noted Stifel Nicolaus analyst Steve West. "As a result, we believe restaurants with significant exposure to California will likely experience same-store sales softness versus street expectations."
West said chains like
California Pizza Kitchen
( CPKI), restaurants that are 100% co-owned, are likely to be the most affected by inclement weather.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Peet's Coffee & Tea
( PEET) could also report weather-related sales drags.
Franchised models like
Jack in the Box's
Qdoba concept should be more "more isolated from the direct financial impact versus a co-owned model," he said.
West pointed out that rainfall across many U.S. cities in December was more than twice the average of year-earlier levels. Then a
massive blizzard left much of the East Coast under feet of snow when many
would-be shoppers were expected to be out and about taking advantage of post-Christmas sales.
Blizzard conditions "won't help
restaurants, that's for sure," West told
in an email Monday. "But, the snow started on Christmas and progressed through Sunday and into the new week. All are typically slow days anyway so the impact will be muted a bit," he added.
West forecast that December same-store sales -- sales at store open at least one year, a closely watched metric in the restaurant industry -- could be negatively affected by upwards of 10% or more for California.
"Depending on the amount of system exposure in California, this could equate to a negative 2-3% impact for the entire system in the December ending quarter," he noted.
The analyst expects restaurants with heavy California exposure, and likely East Coast exposure as well, to use what he calls the "weather crutch" a quarter early. That refers to restaurants blaming poor weather conditions for sluggish sales that usually happen in the first calendar quarter. This year restaurant chains are likely to pull the weather crutch for fourth-quarter results when the group reports earnings in February, West said.
same-store sales comp softness vs. expectations, we believe there could be a correction coming on some of the more premium valuation casual diners," West added.
His top concern is for the short-term impact to fourth-quarter comps and earnings per share for chains like BJ's, Cheesecake and California Pizza Kitchen, as well as
and Chipotle, though he believes the latter two will fare better than others.
Chipotle shares fell 2.1% Monday afternoon to $4.80, BJ's 0.3% to $36.58, Denny's 1% to $3.53, and Starbucks 0.5% to $32.46.
California Pizza Kitchen gained 0.5% to $17.62, Cheesecake Factory added 0.4% to $31.20, Peet's rose 0.3% to $42.53 and Jack in the Box 0.4% to $21.65.
-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.
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