Noodles shares plunge following first-quarter earnings report

BROOMFIELD – Shares of restaurant chain Noodles and Co. (Nasdaq: NDLS) plunged 18 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday following the release of a first-quarter earnings release that fell short of analyst expectations and adjusted earnings guidance significantly downward.

The Broomfield-based company reported a loss of $2.8 million, or 9 cents per diluted share, after seeing a profit of $1.4 million, or 5 cents per share for the same period last year. That’s despite revenue climbing 18.1 percent versus a year ago to $104.8 million.

Noodles shares had risen 51 cents to close at $20.71 on Tuesday. But within an hour of the earnings report’s release, they’d plunged to a new 52-week low of $16.90. The shares have lost more than half their value since closing at $35.48 on June 26 of last year.

After issuing guidance in February for adjusted diluted earnings per share growth of 20 percent for the full year of 2015, Noodles revised that metric, noting that it now expects the growth to remain flat this year.

The company attributed the revenue growth to the opening of new restaurants as well as the acquisition of 19 franchise restaurants and an increase in sales at comparable base restaurants. But CEO Kevin Reddy also acknowledged “sales challenges” in a few parts of the country, including Colorado.

While comparable restaurant sales grew 0.9 percent company-wide since the first quarter of last year, such sales climbed 3.2 percent when Colorado, the Washington D.C. area and Austin, Texas are excluded.

“We are confident that we understand our opportunities in these markets and are aggressively working on returning them to the success that we are seeing in the balance of the country,” Reddy said in a press release.

Noodles, finished the first quarter with 455 restaurants, including 399 company-owned and 56 franchise locations. That includes 16 new restaurants opened in the first quarter, including the first locations in Arizona and Montana.