El Pollo Loco Chokes on Earnings

When El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: LOCO) reported its third-quarter financial results after the markets closed on Thursday, the company said that it had $0.18 in earnings per share (EPS) and $95.8 million in revenue. The consensus estimates were EPS of $0.19 and $97 million in revenue. In the same period of last year, it posted $0.18 in EPS and revenue of $88.9 million.

System-wide comparable restaurant sales grew 1.6%, including a 1.4% increase for company-operated restaurants, and a 1.8% increase for franchised restaurants.

Restaurant contribution was $18.8 million or 20.9% of restaurant revenue, compared to $17.6 million, or 21.2% of restaurant revenue in the third quarter of 2015.

In terms of guidance for the full year, El Pollo Loco expects EPS to be in the range of $0.67 to $0.68 and system-wide comparable restaurant sales increasing by 1%. The consensus estimates call for $0.70 in EPS and $382.82 million in revenue for 2016.

Steve Sather, president and CEO of El Pollo Loco, commented:

We continue to focus on the four pillars of our brand – great food, excellent service, a warm and inviting atmosphere, and a good price.  This focus continues to strengthen our core business and has enabled us to achieve our 21st consecutive quarter of system wide comparable restaurant sales growth.

Sather added:

We remain on track to open 17-18 company-operated restaurants and 11-12 franchised restaurants in 2016, including approximately seven combined company and franchise restaurants in the Dallas area.  Our development pipeline continues to strengthen as we seek to partner with high quality franchisees who are eager to expand our brand.

On the books, El Pollo Loco cash and cash equivalents totaled $6.53 million at the end of the quarter, versus $6.10 at the end of 2015.

Shares of El Pollo Loco closed Thursday at $12.20, with a consensus analyst price target of $14.58 and a 52-week trading range of $9.58 to $15.44. Following the release of the earnings report, the stock was down 11% at $10.90 in early trading indications Friday.