Sonic: Zacks’ Bull of the Day Play

Sonic Corporation (SONCSnapshot Report) recently posted blow-out second fiscal quarter results as traffic picked up at this drive-in chain. This Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) is expected to see double digit earnings growth both this year and next as technology initiatives are starting to pay off.

Sonic operates 3500 drive-in restaurant locations around the United States selling cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, tater tots and numerous drink combinations.

It revolutionized the drive-in experience in 1953 when it perfected the curbside speaker for ordering.

Another Beat in the Fiscal Second Quarter

On Mar 24, Sonic reported its fiscal second quarter results and beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny. Earnings were $0.13 compared to the Zacks Consensus of $0.12.

It was the 5th consecutive earnings beat in a row. It has a solid earnings surprise record with just one miss since 2012.

But the real surprise came in the same store sales results which soared 11.5% due to higher traffic.

The company said the gains were due to growth in its core menu items and product innovation, including technology initiatives, coupled with a national media strategy.

It couldn’t have hurt that gasoline prices also fell during the quarter.

Wind at its Back

Sonic was bullish about the rest of fiscal 2015. It said it saw the second quarter momentum continuing into the third and fourth quarters.

However, it did guide same-store-sales down to a more realistic range of low to mid-single digits for the year despite the hot second quarter due to more difficult year over year comps in the second half of the year.

This would still be strong same-store-sales growth in an industry where low single digits, or even negative growth, is the norm.

It expects to open another 34 to 44 franchises this year as well.

There’s Growth But No Value

Sonic shares have been on a tear and were hitting new all-time highs into this earnings report.

They have since pulled back a bit but that hasn’t made the shares any cheaper.

Sonic trades with a sky-high forward P/E of 29.5. That is well above the average of the S&P 500 at 18x.

Investors are clearly buying the growth, but the growth is forecast to be there.

Earnings are expected to jump 30% this year and another 15.6% next fiscal year. 7 analysts raised fiscal 2015 estimates since the earnings report.

Not every mid-priced restaurant chain is performing this well, even with lower gas prices. It’s dog-eat-dog out there in the race for the consumers’ dollars.

If you’re looking for a restaurant chain that is delivering the goods, Sonic should be one to keep on your short list.

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Tracey Ryniec is the Value Stock Strategist for Zacks.com. She is also the Editor of the Insider Trader and Value Investor services. You can follow her on twitter at @TraceyRyniec.

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