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Investing in an increasingly lazy, athleisure-wearing, tech-focused world could be a lucrative opportunity. Just ask Panera Bread (PNRA) .

The company said on Tuesday that it is accelerating the rollout of its new delivery service. Executives believe it can take market share in an estimated $40 billion delivery category. As of the fourth quarter, 305 Panera stores (15% of Panera's system) were offering delivery. The company is on pace to have delivery in 30% to 40% of its stores by the end of 2017.

So far, Panera's foray into delivery -- a category long dominated by the fast-food pizza companies such as Domino's Pizza ( DPZ) and Papa John's ( PZZA) -- looks promising.
In test markets where stores have had delivery for at least six months, Panera is seeing an additional $5,000 a week in sales. That has equated to an eye-popping 10% lift in same-store sales, Canaccord Genuity analyst Lynne Collier pointed out in a recent note.
But Panera is still playing catch-up to the pizza guys.
Papa John's Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie recently told me the company now gets an astounding 55% of its U.S. sales from mobile orders, which are then delivered to people's homes. Meanwhile, Domino's U.S. business has over 50% of its sales coming from mobile orders. Suffice it to say, the easy access to their brands have helped to rack up strong sales gains for Domino's and Papa John's. 

And, it's no small surprise that Domino's and Papa John's has seen their shares surge 85% and 32%, respectively, over the last two years.

Panera Bread chocolate treats

Making it easier to order food is a trend that shouldn't be underestimated. In fact, it's a key reason why McDonald's (MCD) -- which only recently has dabbled in delivery in Florida via third-party Uber Eats -- is experiencing sluggish sales. The lack of a robust delivery network could also be weighing on Action Alerts PLUS charity portfolio holding Starbucks (SBUX) , though its best-in-class mobile platform sets it far apart from a McDonald's.   

Here are some savory new stats from restaurant industry research firm Technomic: 

  • A quarter (26%) of 18-34-year-olds say they are using third-party delivery more often now than one year ago.
  • Roughly a third of consumers aged 18-34 say they are highly likely to order takeout using chatbots or emojis via text or social-media sites if offered.

"As takeout becomes more widely available, ordering takeout is becoming more of a habit for consumers when they don't want or have time to cook, yet they also don't feel like dining in at a restaurant," explains Anne Mills, manager of consumer insights at Technomic. "Takeout has the potential to drive additional traffic and sales rather than cannibalize dine-in revenue."

For those in the restaurant space not playing in this trend, it's going to be a tough slog over the next few years. As for those investors not keen on investing in restaurants, well, then just stay long Apple (AAPL) -- most of these orders are likely being placed on the latest iPhone or Apple Watch. 

Rant of the Day

On paper, Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) shares deserve to be down at least 20% today after its mind-boggling $0.40 a share earnings miss on Tuesday evening. But the stunningly bad quarter does a couple of things, all of which could keep the stock from a dizzying plunge. 

First, the quarter will likely strengthen the hand of activist firm Marcato Capital. Recently, Marcato -- which has a 5.2% stake in Buffalo Wings -- nominated four members to the wing chain's board, citing a lack of management execution and board experience. The market will like B-Dubs possibly getting new board members with extensive industry experience and a desire to shake things up.

Second, the quarter could spur some aggressive tactics by Buffalo Wild Wings in an effort by management to stay in control. Think sales of company-owned restaurants and more debt to support an even richer stock-buyback program.

Make no mistake, big-time change is coming to this company.  

Panera Bread, Apple and Starbucks are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells APPL, SBUX or PNRA? Learn more now.

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