Can These 22 New Restaurant Foods and Drinks Feed Investors Too?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- For chain restaurants, many new food and drink items have been added to the menu in 2014. The only problem is that investors don't seem too excited by the flood of product innovation.

According to Bloomberg data, there are only four stocks from major full-service and quick-service restaurants that are higher on the year -- Burger King (BKW) (up 29.3%), Chipotle (CMG) (up 23.9%), Brinker International (EAT) (up 10%), and Domino's Pizza (DPZ) (up 9.8%).

Burger King shares have mostly zoomed in response to the company's proposed mega-merger with Canadian coffee and donut-maker Tim Horton's (THI) , while Chipotle has succeeded by serving burritos and salad bowls -- and a menu price increase earlier in the year.

The stock prices of most household restaurant names, from Starbucks (SBUX) (down 3.9%) to Panera Bread (PNRA) (down 6.6%), are lower this year. These companies have tried unwrapped menu additions to attract the post-work dinner crowd and those watching their waistlines. To no avail.

So what's eating at these stocks?

The answer could be same-restaurant sales, a key industry metric that measures performance from locations open longer than a year.  Same-restaurant sales are not growing at the pace one would imagine, given the new and limited-time menu items.

Same-restaurant sales sluggishness may be a reflection of an economy where customers are not eating out or are choosing to remain loyal to a single brand. Or maybe the new food and drinks are failing to spur sales growth.

That should make investors sick to their stomachs.

But here are the top 22 products this year from the food and beverage industry stalwarts.

Starbucks (SBUX)

  • Year-to-date stock price performance: -3.9%
  • First-quarter system-wide same-restaurant sales: +6%
  • Second-quarter system-wide same-restaurant sales: +6%

Oprah Chai

This tea is a collaboration between Starbucks and talk show legend Oprah Winfrey. The premium Oprah Chai Teavana tea debuted on April 29. The tea is marketed as both gift sets and handcrafted beverages.

Reserve Coffee Grown in Hawaii

Starbucks has placed a high priority on expanding its premium reserve coffee. On Sept. 5, the company announced plans for Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room stand-alone stores that feature the company's premium blends. Its Hawaiian reserve coffee debuted on March 23.

Fizzio Handcrafted Soda

Why not add some fizz to that coffee or tea? Now you can, as Starbucks launched a sparkling beverage option on June 23.

Domino's Pizza (DPZ)

  • Year-to-date stock price performance: +9.8%
  • First-quarter international/domestic same-restaurant sales: +7.4%/+4.9%
  • Second-quarter international/domestic same-restaurant sales: +7.7%/+5.4%

Domino's specialty chicken offerings became available on April 14. And that may only be a sign of what is to come.

In an interview with TheStreet on July 23, President and CEO J. Patrick Doyle was asked if the company could soon roll out a "skinny menu." His answer? "We think there are opportunities" there. We shall see.

DineEquity (DIN)

  • Year-to-date stock price performance: -2.9%
  • First-quarter IHOP/Applebee's same-restaurant sales: +3.9%/-0.5%
  • Second-quarter IHOP/Applebee's same-restaurant sales: +3.2%/+0.6%

IHOP

IHOP, which along with Applebee's is owned by DineEquity, introduced the stuffed "Wafflelicious Waffle" as a limited-time item from Sept. 2 to Nov. 2.

"We have streamlined the menu, eliminated items, added new items and used photography for each of our entrees," pointed out DineEquity chairman and CEO Julia Stewart in an Aug. 22 interview with TheStreet when asked about breakfast innovation at IHOP.

 

Applebee's

The quesadilla burger has been a staple of the Applebee's menu for nearly 10 years. On Feb. 27, it received a mini-makeover into two new flavors -- Citrus Lime Sirloin and Chicken and Shrimp Tequila Tango. 

DineEquity CEO Stewart said, "In the last couple of years, we have changed out probably 95% of the menu at Applebee's to either new or improved items."

Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD)

  • Year-to-date stock price performance: -7.1%
  • First-quarter company-owned/franchise same-restaurant sales: +6.6%/-5%
  • Second-quarter company-owned/franchise same-restaurant sales: +7.7%/6.5%

To kick off football season, the chicken wing joint introduced something called a "Beermosa" -- a beer/mimosa concoction. The next area of focus? Items that can easily be shared by a table of hungry football fans.

"Certainly we always want to keep innovating around what other kind of shareables we have in the restaurants," said Buffalo Wild Wings President and CEO Sally J. Smith in an interview with TheStreet on Aug. 7.

Panera Bread (PNRA)

  • Year-to-date stock price performance: -6.1%
  • First-quarter system-wide same-restaurant sales: +0.1%
  • Second-quarter system-wide same-restaurant sales: 0%

In the beginning of May, Panera Bread started selling sprouted grain bread.

According to the company, the bread is "a good source of fiber and rich in taste." The bread was the first product cooked up from the company's new test bakery facility in New Haven, CT.

McDonald's (MCD)

  • Year-to-date stock price performance: -2.3%
  • First-quarter U.S. same-restaurant sales: -1.7%
  • Second-quarter U.S. same-restaurant sales: -1.5%

The home of the hipster Ronald McDonald didn't reinvent its coffee, simply its marketing plan for coffee.

McDonald's held its first-ever national free coffee event from March 31 to April 13. It was followed up by one that ran Sept. 16 to Sept. 29.

Dunkin' Donuts (DNKN)

  • Year-to-date stock price performance: -7.6%
  • First-quarter Dunkin' Donuts U.S. same-restaurant sales: +0.5%
  • Second-quarter Dunkin' Donuts U.S. same-restaurant sales: +4.2%

Dunkin' is one of the biggest aggressors in introducing new products in 2014. That aggressiveness won't be changing going into the end of the year.

"We are rolling out a steak platform this fall," said John Costello, president of global marketing and innovation for Dunkin' Donuts in an interview with TheStreet on Sept. 30.

Sept. 25 brought the "Dunkin Go Bar," a chewy granola bar exclusive to Dunkin' Donuts restaurants.

On Sept. 22, Dunkin' Donuts lifted the veil off a bolder-tasting dark roast coffee to compete with Starbucks' notoriously strong blends.

On June 30, Dunkin Donuts ushered in the pretzel twist. And on the same day...

it began selling a steak burrito.

Grilled chicken flatbreads arrived on June 2.

A chicken-apple-sausage breakfast sandwich debuted on April 28.

Brinker International (EAT)

  • Year-to-date stock price performance: +10%
  • First-quarter Chili's same-restaurant sales: +2.5%
  • Second-quarter Chili's same-restaurant sales: +0.7%

In a bid to grab some of the spotlight from Chipotle, Brinker's Chili's division introduced its new "fresh-mex" menu on Jan. 20.  It features protein-packed Southwestern salad bowls.

Papa John's (PZZA)

  • Year-to-date stock price performance: -11.8%
  • First-quarter domestic company-owned/franchise same-restaurant sales: +11.4%/+7.5%
  • Second-quarter domestic company-owned/franchise same-restaurant sales: +8.9%/5.4%

The pizza sponsor of the NFL has turned its attention to limited-time deals with new flavor profiles in 2014.

From Sept. 30 to Oct. 26, the Ultimate Meats Pizza is available -- with five types of meat.

A spicy pulled-pork pizza was added to the menu on July 28, with a promotion running until Aug. 24. It's now officially on Papa John's menu.

The Greek pizza was offered at a promoted price from May 27 to June 29. It's currently not being showcased on the online menu.

Burger King (BKW)

  • Year-to-date stock price performance: +29.3%
  • First-quarter system-wide same-restaurant sales: +2.0%
  • Second-quarter system-wide same-restaurant sales: +0.9%

Chicken fries made their triumphant return to the menu on Aug. 12. But...

the low-calorie Satisfries that were introduced in 2013 was removed from many restaurants due to tepid demand.

The headline grabber, however, may have been Burger King's all-black "Kuro Burger," which is being sold in Japan. It became available for purchase around Sept. 19.

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