Updated with comments from interview with Panera Bread CEO.
Panera Bread (PNRA) sated the appetite of investors who have sent its stock surging about 10% so far this year.
The restaurant chain reported on Tuesday evening that first quarter earnings, excluding one-time items, tallied $1.56 a share. Analysts expected earnings of $1.50 a share. Same-store sales at company-operated restaurants rose 6.2%, sustaining the momentum seen at the start of the quarter. Back in February, Panera said same-store sales for the first 41 days of the first quarter surged 6.4%.
"We view the results as impressive in light of high expectations and considering the company is still in the early innings of what should be a multi-year growth story marked by continued acceleration in comps," said Jim Cramer and Jack Mohr of the Action Alerts PLUS Portfolio, which own Panera shares.
Given the struggles of better burrito maker Chipotle (CMG - Get Report) and Panera's own efforts to offer cleaner ingredients and mobile ordering, the company's sales appeared to stay hot as the chain became a destination of choice for healthier fast food. "Essentially [our strategy is] rooted in the belief that we need to be a better competitive alternative, and to do that we have built a new restaurant experience [tech driven] called Panera 2.0 and a great deal of innovation in food," said Panera Bread Founder and CEO Ron Shaich in an interview with TheStreet.
For the first 27 days of the second quarter, Panera's same-store sales increased 4.4%. The company lifted its full year earnings outlook to $6.50 a share to $6.70 a share from $6.33 a share to $6.52 a share.
Shares rose almost 1.5% to $214.63 in midday trading Wednesday.