Denny's, Bob Evans, P.F. Chang's: Who Served Up the Best Quarter?

SPARTANBURG, S.C. ( TheStreet) -- Denny's ( DENN) and Bob Evans ( BOBE) shares fell sharply Wednesday while P.F. Chang's China Bistro ( PFCB) gained following mixed earnings results from the trio of restaurant operators.

Denny's and Bob Evans missed profit expectations. P.F. Chang's posted weaker-than-expected revenue but topped earnings expectations and increased its dividend .

Denny's posted an 84.9% drop in fourth-quarter earnings to $2.7 million, or 3 cents per share, down from a year-earlier profit of $17.9 million, or 18 cents per share.

Revenue fell 3.3% to $135.9 million.

Analysts had expected the casual dining chain to earn 8 cents per share, on revenue of $142.9 million.

Denny's attributed its weakened results to higher costs , and said poor weather across the U.S. accounted for a decline in same-store customer counts.

Denny's said operating margins fell to 12.3% last quarter on rising overhead costs.

Comparable same-store sales -- or sales at stores open at least one year, a closely watched metric in the restaurant industry -- fell 1.6% at company-owned stores and 1.4% at franchised locations.

Denny's forecast 2011 comps in a range of a 2% decline to a 1% rise.

Denny's shares fell 6.1% to $3.83 in morning trading Wednesday. More than 3.5 million shares changed hands around ninety minutes into the session, compared with their average daily volume of just 700,000.

Bob Evans shares lost 7.4% to $31.55.

Bob Evans reiterated its fiscal 2011 guidance, expecting EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) of $108 million to $112 million, excluding net pretax charges of $13.9 million. It forecast net sales of $1.7 billion. Both the EBIT and revenue outlook were in line with analysts' consensus for $109 million and $1.7 billion, respectively.

CEO Steve Davis said that despite its weaker results last quarter the company remained on track to meet its 2011 profit guidance.

Bob Evans also announced a share repurchase program of up to $25 million for this fiscal year.

In the recent quarter, Bob Evans booked a 13.8% profit decline to $15.5 million, or 51 cents per share. Sales fell 0.3% to $428.6 million. Analysts had expected the restaurateur, which also sells sausages and packaged food items, to earn 64 cents per share on revenue of $432 million.

Higher food costs , particularly sow costs, along with restructuring charges pressured Bob Evans' performance. The company has slowly raised menu prices to help offset those costs, as have other food companies like Kellogg ( K), Sara Lee ( SLE) and Panera Bread ( PNRA).

Bob Evans said average menu prices rose 1.8% at its namesake restaurants, and 2.1% at its Mimi's Café chain.

The company anticipated further price increases this year.

Same-store sales fell 0.5% at Bob Evans restaurants last quarter, and fell 3.2% at Mimi's Café.

Chinese-food restaurateur P.F. Chang's saw its shares jump 6.3% on Wednesday to $51.17.

P.F. Chang's posted a 22.5% profit rise to $14.7 million, or 64 cents per share. Revenue declined 4.7% to $311.2 million.

Analysts' consensus had been for P.F. Chang's to earn 57 cents per share on revenue of $31.2.5 million.

P.F. Chang's forecast fiscal 2011 net revenue to increase 3% to 4% year-over-year, or between $1.28 billion and $1.29 billion, on expectations for same-store sales to grow at both its restaurant concepts, its namesake P.F. Chang's China Bistro and Pei Wei Asian Diner.

Full-year earnings-per share should come in between $2.15 and $2.20.

The Street's call is for P.F. Chang's to earn $2.19 per share on revenue of $1.29 billion in 2011.

P.F. Chang's also declared a cash dividend payment of 29 cents per share, higher than the 21-cent dividend it paid in November.

The higher dividend will be available on March 14 to holders of record on Feb. 28.

On Monday, P.F. Chang's tapped board member F. Lane Cardwell as its new president, beginning March 1.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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