Here's some food for thought and thought for food: the chain restaurant industry doesn't suffer the same worsening ailment as apparel retail, but it's certainly shaking up.
The culprit behind this overhaul? Millennials, according to investment banking firm Stifel. Millennials, it turns out, love Domino's Pizza, Inc. (DPZ) , Wendy's Company (WEN) , Olive Garden—owned by Darden Restaurants, Inc. (DRI) —and Taco Bell, under Yum! Brands, Inc. (YUM) , all which Stifel analysts recommend to buy in its inaugural restaurant report Tuesday, Oct. 3.
"Mature restaurant chains [that] alter their value proposition and new concepts are experiencing strong growth," they wrote. "Domino's, Taco Bell, and Starbucks are examples of chains that have successfully altered their menu, service, messaging, physical store design, and/or consumer-facing technology to appeal to these consumer preferences."
Millennials, like boomers and Gen X, will likely up spending on food as they age and their earnings increase, the analysts posit.
Domino's, in particular, is a standout, thanks to its "significant" free cash flows and stronger growth potential than most restaurants, generating a total shareholder return of 457% in the past five years alone, according to the report. Analysts gave it a $235 target price, above its current $202 as of Tuesday morning.
Its "two or more for $5.99" deal has proven to be an effective part of its messaging, Stifel noted, in addition to its two-year-old Piece of the Pie loyalty program.
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Slightly lower in investment potential is McDonald's (MCD) , which Stifel designated as a hold at a target price of $160, compared to its current at $156 as of Tuesday morning. McDonald's, the world's biggest fast food company is seeing considerable sales momentum, the report said, but earnings may be hampered in the next several quarters because the company is refranchising, or selling franchisor-owned restaurants to local franchisees.
A bright spot in McDonald's future is McDelivery. "Based on our analysis of social media mentions, it appears most consumers have a favorable net sentiment for McDonald's delivery in the markets it is offered," the analysts wrote. The service is now available in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Columbus, and Phoenix, with plans to expand.
But consumers are less hot on McDonald's new premium line, Signature Crafted, Stifel noted, "especially when compared with direct competitors, like Wendy's."
Wendy's, on the other hand, warranted a buy rating at a target price of $18. It saw a total shareholder return of 286% in the past five years, according to Stifel. Darden, which owns Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse and others in addition to Olive Garden, also received a buy rating at a target of $92 ($79 as of Tuesday).
"America loves Olive Garden," the report said, citing its double-digit annual growth for three consecutive years.
And Yum!, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, was awarded a buy rating at a target price of $88, largely due to its franchise growth, with Taco Bell leading the brand. Its penchant for product innovation, such as the Chicken Chalupa and the Naked Egg Taco, according to Stifel, are consumer favorites.
Other ratings in the report:
- Hold on BJ's Restaurants, Inc. (BJRI) , with a target price of $32.
- Hold on Bojangles', Inc. (BOJA) at $16 TP
- Hold on Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. (BWLD) at $115 TP
- Hold on Chuy's Holdings, Inc. (CHUY) at $23 TP
- Hold on Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (CMG) at $345 TP
- Hold on Brinker International, Inc. (EAT) at $36 TP
- Hold on Jack in the Box, Inc. (JACK) at $109 TP
- Hold on Papa John's International, Inc. (PZZA) at $65 TP
- Hold on Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. (RRGB) at $62 PT
- Hold on Starbucks Corporation (SBUX) at $58 TP
- Buy on Texas Roadhouse, Inc. (TXRH) at $55 TP
- Hold on Wingstop, Inc. (WING) at $35 TP
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