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How Comparable Sales Broke the Crazy Chicken

El Pollo Loco Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: LOCO) reported its second quarter financial results after the market closed on Thursday. The crazy chicken had $0.19 in earnings per share (EPS) on $89.5 million in revenue compared to consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters that call for $0.18 in EPS on $92.96 million in revenue. The same period from the previous year had $0.16 in EPS on $86.90 million in revenue.

The company gave its outlook for the 2015 full year. It expects net income per share, on a pro forma basis, to be in the range of $0.67 to $0.71, as well as growth in comparable restaurant sales in the range of roughly 3%—down from 3% to 5%—and the restaurant contribution margin of 21.2% to 21.5%. The consensus estimates moved up slightly since then to EPS of $0.70 and $371.26 million in revenue from $0.68 in EPS on revenue of $369.30 million.

Comparable company-operated restaurant sales in the second quarter decreased 0.5%, driven by a 3.9% decrease in traffic, partially offset by a 3.4% increase in average check. This actually breaks the 15 consecutive quarter streak in which El Pollo Loco had increased its comparable sales in each quarter.

Restaurant contribution was $18.0 million, compared to $18.4 million in the second quarter of 2014. Franchise revenue increased 6.0% to $5.9 million, from $5.5 million year over year.

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

Our second quarter results included pro forma net income growth of over 20%, as well as our 16th consecutive quarter of system-wide comparable restaurant sales growth. We remain focused on delivering the core elements of our QSR+ brand promise and are confident in the remainder of the year with the addition of shrimp and the rebalancing of our menu with more value focused products.

He continued:

We continue to be excited about the opportunity to expand in both new and existing markets, and our new restaurant pipeline continues to strengthen. We look forward to bringing our delicious Fire-Grilled Chicken and authentic Mexican inspired entrees to consumers across the country craving healthier and flavorful meals.

On the books, El Pollo Loco had $6.4 million in cash and cash equivalents in the second quarter compared to $11.5 million at the end of December 2014.

Shares of the crazy chicken closed up 2.9% at $18.36 on its 52-week trading range of $17.51 to $40.89. Following the release of the earnings report, shares were down 10.5% at $16.44 in the after-hours trading session. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $27.67.

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By Chris Lange


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