5 Restaurant Stocks at All-Time Highs

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A handful of stocks in the restaurant sector tapped all-time highs on Wednesday.

Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill ( CMG), BJ's Restaurants ( BJRI), Tim Hortons ( THI), Panera Bread ( PNRA) and Darden Restaurants ( DRI) were among those pushing their trading envelopes.

>>Restaurant Stocks: Earnings to Watch

The First Trust Value Line 100 Exchange-Traded Fund ( FVL), an exchange-traded fund that counts all five stocks among its holdings, climbed 1.9% on Wednesday. The PowerShares Dynamic Leisure and Entertainment Portfolio ( PEJ), an ETF with Chipotle, BJ's, Darden and Panera comprising 12.4% of its portfolio, added 1.5%.

>>Restaurant Stocks: Winners & Losers

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Shares of Chipotle pushed up to $249.70 on Wednesday.

Chipotle handily beat expectations and reported a 39.9% rise in earnings for the third quarter, thanks in large part to an 11.4% jump in comparable same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least one year -- a closely watched metric in the restaurant industry.

RBC Capital Markets maintained a sector perform rating on Chipotle shares following its stellar earnings report, and raised its price target to $185. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Steve West maintained his buy rating, and upped his price target to $215, from $183.69.

BJ's Restaurants

Shares of BJ's tapped an all-time high of $36.65 on Wednesday.

Analysts from Oppenheimer recently downgraded the casual dining restaurateur's shares to perform, from outperform, maintaining a $30 price target. Also in late October RBC Capital reiterated a sector perform rating on BJ's stock, raising its price target by $1 to $29.

BJ's said last month its third-quarter profits surged more than 70%, and revenue jumped 24%, as comps increased 6.7%.

Sterne Agee analyst Lynne Collier reiterated a buy rating on the bar and grill chain, citing the company's "impressive" quarterly results. She raised her earnings expectations for 2010 and 2011, and upped her price target on the stock to $33.

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons shares climbed to a new all-time high of $40.77 on Wednesday.

The Canadian coffee shop chain recently posted strong revenue and earnings growth in the third quarter, but the Canadian coffee shop chain plans to close underperforming stores.

Third-quarter profits jumped 20.7%, and revenue grew 9.8%, but results were negatively impacted by a $20.9 million asset impairment charge related to underperforming markets in the New England region.

Analysts from Morgan Joseph initiated coverage of Tim Hortons in late September, giving the stock a buy rating.

Panera Bread

Panera shares reached a record high of $100.36 on Wednesday.

Panera posted third-quarter earnings in line with expectations , but top-line sales of $372 million came in just shy of analysts' consensus call. Quarterly profits jumped 21.1% year-over-year.

Still, the sandwich and salad purveyor was optimistic. Panera raised its earnings guidance for the current quarter, saying it now expects to earn between $1.15 and $1.17 per share in the fourth quarter. That's as much as a nickel past Wall Street's expectations for fourth-quarter earnings of $1.13 per share.

"We're coming right through this recession as strong as ever," Executive Chairman Ronald M. Shaich told TheStreet.

Panera reported that system-wide comps grew 6.9% in the recent quarter, including a 5.5% increase at company-owned stores and a 7.9% increase at franchise-operated locations.

For fiscal 2011 Panera expects sales to grow between 4% and 6%, partly due to "modest price increases of approximately 1.5% during fiscal 2011 to cover inflation."

"We remain encouraged by the company's SSS trends and believe the increasing operating margins and solid growth pipeline remain all the more impressive," noted Piper Jaffray.

Darden Restaurants

Darden shares heated up to an all-time high of $49.99 on Wednesday.

The operator of Capital Grille restaurant brands, among others, announced in October it inked a franchise deal with Kuwait Food Company Americana to set up international chain restaurants of its Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Long Horn Steak House brands in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

In September Darden reaffirmed its fiscal 2011 guidance, saying it expects earnings per share to grow 14% to 17% year-over-year, or between $3.26 and $3.35 per share. Full year revenue is expected to grow in a range between 5.5% and 6.5%, to a range between $7.5 billion and $7.57 billion.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Miriam Reimer.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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