Despite Beating Earnings El Pollo Loco Gets Choked

El Pollo Loco Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: LOCO) reported its first-quarter financial results after the markets closed Thursday. The crazy chicken had $0.18 in earnings per share (EPS) on $90.4 million in revenue versus Thomson Reuters consensus estimates of $0.17 in EPS on $88.49 million in revenue. While this was an earnings beat, it wasn’t by enough when you consider its other metrics. After all, you know how greedy Wall Street can be when it comes to wanting more.

The company gave its outlook for the 2015 full year. El Pollo Loco expects EPS to be in a range of $0.67 to $0.71, comparable sales growth of approximately 3% to 5%, and the restaurant contribution margin of 21.7% to 22.0%. There are consensus estimates for the 2015 full year of $0.70 in on $373.31 million in revenue.

During the first quarter, comparable company-operated restaurant sales increased 3.5%, driven by a 3.4% increase in the average check and a 0.1% increase in traffic. However, this falls short of what analysts were looking which was comparable store sales of 5.5%.

At the same time, franchise revenue increased 9.2% to $5.7 million, compared to $5.2 million in the first quarter of 2014. Franchised comparable restaurant sales increased 6.2% during the quarter.

In the first quarter, restaurant contribution increased 12.2% to $18.9 million, from $16.8 million.

Steve Sather, President and CEO of El Pollo Loco, said:

We are very pleased with our first quarter results, which once again demonstrate strong operating momentum through solid sales and earnings growth. Our Crazy You Can Taste authentic Mexican inspired cuisine continues to resonate with guests, as evidenced by our system-wide comparable restaurant sales growth of 5.1%, which extended our track record to 15 consecutive quarters of positive comparable restaurant sales growth.

Cash and cash equivalents totaled $8.59 million at the end of the first quarter of 2015 compared to $11.50 million at the end of the fourth quarter of 2014.

Sather capped off the report saying:

We remain excited about the opportunity ahead to expand in both new and existing markets, and look forward to showcasing our freshly prepared authentic cuisine, particularly our signature fire-grilled chicken, to customers across the country.

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Shares of the crazy chicken closed Thursday up 3% at $29.07. After the financial results were released in the after-hours, shares were initially down about 9% at $26.35. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $29.67 and a 52-week trading range of $18.48 to $41.70.

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