NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Chipotle (CMG - Get Report) and Shake Shack (SHAK - Get Report) may be riding the wave of interest in "healthy" fast food and customized menu items, but that's not the only way to succeed in the restaurant business today.
The chicken-and-biscuit restaurant-chain Bojangles' recipe of staying true to its roots of indulgent Southern-fried food has led to tasty sales and profits over the years, and may be just enough to feed hungry investors looking for the next hot restaurant IPO.
On Monday, Bojangles' disclosed the terms for its initial public offering, establishing a price range of from $15 to $17 per share. The company plans to sell 6.25 million shares, which could raise some $100 million, according to its amended prospectus. Bojangles' will be listed on the Nasdaq, trading under the ticker symbol BOJA.
Bojangles' IPO will come on the heels of Shake Shack's hugely successful January IPO, in which shares more than doubled in their first day of trading. Since then, its shares have risen to $68 from $45.90. Other recent restaurant IPOs have had mixed results, ranging from fast-casual noodle bowl chain Noodles & Co. (NDLS - Get Report) to sandwich shop Potbelly (PBPB - Get Report) to Mexican chicken seller El Pollo Loco (LOCO - Get Report).
Prospective investors sniffing around Bojangles', which has 635 locations and competes with Popeye's Louisian Chicken (PLKI), Yum Brand's (YUM - Get Report) KFC and Chick-Fil-A, have a good bit to sink their teeth into. As of March 29, comparable-store sales were estimated to rise from 7.6% to 7.9%, significantly stronger than the 1.7% increase from a year earlier, according to the company's prospectus.
Operating income was expected to grow 17.3% to 19.3%, or about in line to the pace of total sales growth, as profits were weighed down slightly due to chicken price inflation and minimum-wage hikes. The company has delivered 19 consecutive quarters of comparable restaurant sales growth.
What makes the recent stretch of performance remarkable is that many consumers are increasingly favoring "healthy" fast food, the kind served up by Chipotle and Shake Shack, where using organic ingredients is the norm rather than the exception. Those new consumer demands for fast food have taken their toll on some of Bojangles' bigger competitors. McDonald's (MCD - Get Report) U.S. same-restaurant sales have fallen in six consecutive quarters. KFC's U.S. sales declined 1% last year.
So what explains the big sales gains for Bojangles' in a nation deriding McDonald's preservative-laden menu and striving to cut calories from its diet? As Bojangles' puts it, its success is all about "Bo Fanatics." These are customers that visit Bojangles' multiple times per week and are hearty supporters of the brand's made-from-scratch biscuits and fried chicken on social media. Here's just a sampling of recent tweets about Bojangles':
Craving Bojangles— Mayahh (@Mayahh4) April 29, 2015
Bout to eat me some Bojangles. Yummy!!— Season Brown (@seasonbrown80) April 29, 2015
That Cajun filet biscuit from Bojangles just changed my life...@lakness_monster, you were right— Keziah Bollinger (@KeziahBollinger) April 29, 2015
In effect, Bojo serves up the food consumers can't help but crave -- warm, flaky biscuits that are baked fresh every 20 minutes, according to a 48-step recipe, as well as its Cajun-spiced fried chicken. Further, Bojangles' is in many cases the only southern food chain to serve the region's staple biscuit around the clock. Bojangles' then goes onto slather its prized biscuits with gravy, or just fits a piece of fried chicken inside for those who want to drive and eat. And to cater to notoriously rowdy Southern tailgate parties, Bojangles' offers boxes of fried chicken and its signature biscuits to satisfy a large group.
But the eminently craveable Bojangles' will confront several challenges in the years ahead as it tries to maintain its cult-like customer following, as well as its investor base.
One formidable challenge is the push by fast food companies much bigger than Bojangles' into the highly profitable breakfast hours. Yum Brands' Taco Bell division launched its breakfast menu nationally on March 27 last year with the Waffle Taco and easy-to-hold A.M. Crunchwrap. That menu, available from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., has expanded to 16 items.
"We are far from done innovating in breakfast by a long shot -- Taco Bell has an innovation pipeline that is very robust," said Yum Brands representative Jonathan Blum in an April 22 interview with TheStreet.
As for the struggling McDonald's, where breakfast is about 25% of its sales, it began tests of all-day breakfast in 94 San Diego restaurants on April 20 to boost flagging U.S. sales. Breakfast, which has been a bright spot for the maligned Golden Arches, was previously only available up until 11:00 a.m.
Even the recently public Shake Shack is attempting to capture a share of one's morning appetite. On May 11, the "better burger" chain's Washington, D.C.'s Union Station location will add a breakfast menu. Consisting of four different egg sandwiches priced from $3.75 to $4.75, Shake Shack's breakfast offerings will be available between 7:00am and 10:30am.
As of now, Shake Shack only offers breakfast at locations in JFK and Dubai international airports, and at New York's' Grand Central terminal.
Satisfying the voracious appetite of Wall Street will probably be tougher than keeping customers from visiting Chick-Fil-A. One thing investors will want to see over time is an expanded menu from Bojangles', which would go a long way to lift its paltry average check size of $6.68. Offering new, limited-time premium lunch or dinner sandwiches would help Bojangles' to offset inevitably higher minimum wages for employees and bouts of chicken price inflation.
Today, Bojangles' menu is heavily reliant on biscuits and fried chicken. Its complementary items are just ordinary, in an industry where "wow" sides drive customers. Bojangles' side items include the standard green beans, "dirty rice", three types of salad, grits and seasoned fries. According to Bojangles' prospectus, it "plans to continue introducing and marketing limited-time offers to increase occasions across our dayparts, as well as to educate customers on our lunch and dinner offerings."
And if it can't develop those new dinner-friendly sandwiches, it will have to continue opening restaurants in new locations and converting people into "Bo Fanatics."