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Panera says weather will affect 1st-Q profit

ST. LOUIS Bakery-café operator and franchisor Panera Bread Co. said Wednesday that its first-quarter, per-share profit will come in "at or modestly below" prior projections because of "extreme weather" that reduced same-stores sales and negatively impacted margins, especially through food and labor costs.

The company had expected to earn between 47 cents and 50 cents per share for the quarter ended March 27, which would have been flat to slightly up from year-earlier per-share profit of 47 cents. On average, securities analysts had expected profit of 48 cents per share, according to Thomson Financial.

Panera said quarterly same-store sales fell 0.6 percent at corporate locations and increased 0.2 percent at franchised locations. For the four weeks ended March 27, same-store sales fell 1 percent at corporate units and rose 0.2 percent at franchised locations.

The company estimated that severe winter weather, especially in the Midwest where about 35 percent of all corporate units are located, lowered same-store sales by about 1 percent. The negative same-store sales "have a significantly higher impact on earnings given the inability to rapidly reduce food and labor in the face of inclement weather," the company said.

First-quarter corporate revenues increased 24 percent to $240 million, the company reported. During the quarter, 31 new bakery-cafes were opened, 4 units were acquired by Panera from a franchisee, and one corporate location was closed. In addition, in February, Panera purchased a 51-percent stake in Paradise Bakery and Cafe, resulting in the acquisition of 23 corporate locations and 23 franchised units.

Full first-quarter results are expected on April 24. Panera's system includes about 1,029 locations.

TAGS: Finance News
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