Americans, throw on your party hats — today is National Cheeseburger Day!
Perhaps the greatest culinary concoction in U.S. history, the hamburger has satisfied gazillions (nearly 58 billion per year) of gastronomers throughout the country for certainly as long as any one of us can remember.
Then, in a sheer stroke of genius, someone put a slice of cheese on top of the beef, and our world was changed forever.
I won’t bore you with the deep and rich history of the cheeseburger, nor the ongoing tale of Americans’ search for the perfect cheeseburger — dare I say a “Cheeseburger in Paradise”? — which would require reams of data and genuine taste tests across the land.
But suffice it to say, those who deal in cheeseburgers are a pretty big deal — in the mall food court and on Wall Street.
How about arguably the greatest name in cheeseburger history, McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD)? Fast food’s top dog isn’t just a haven of meat, but one of the best investments around, what with it’s longstanding history of dividends, a 3% yield and tremendous global reach. I wouldn’t recommend eating at McDonald’s every day — but feel free to buy McDonald’s anytime.
If you don’t want to feed the industry’s beast, head on down to competitors Wendy’s (NASDAQ:WEN) or Burger King (NYSE:BKW) instead. Both have been trying for years to eat into the MCD marketplace. BKW just broke into the stock market this year after a stint as a privately held company, but is in the red so far. Wendy’s is feeling a bit of beefeaters’ sluggishness, down 15% YTD, despite overtaking Burger King as the No. 2 burger flipper (by revenues) earlier this year. Both have longer-term growth prospects if they can hack away at MCD, but neither currently look as good as the Arches.
Another favorite (at least for one of my colleagues): Jack in the Box (NASDAQ:JACK). Why? As he puts it: “Because you can get a cheeseburger there. Or a taco. If you didn’t hear me, that’s a cheeseburger … or a taco!” Over-enthusiasm aside, JACK is a solid play in this space; the company also owns the poor man’s Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) — Qdoba Mexican Grill, a prime growth driver.
Of course, maybe you’d like to sit down for a cheeseburger. No problem. There’s a number of places to stop throughout the country. Two that come immediately to mind are Cracker Barrel (NASDAQ:CBRL) and Ruby Tuesday (NYSE:RT).
CBRL is paying a very nice 2.5% in dividends, and the stock is up just over 25% for the year, so all’s well there, if not a bit heady. It’s not going quite as well for Ruby Tuesday, with recent guidance provided by management suggesting a flat to lower year. In addition, founder and CEO Sandy Beall announced his intention to step down from management and the RT board. All of this has nothing to do with your favorite cheeseburger at RT, but as an investment, you might want to get the check and say “thanks.”
Of course, there are roughly 1 million privately held restaurants, food trucks, backyard chef tables and other notable eating establishments where you can get your beef ‘n’ cheese on today, so head on down to … well in my case, the local (and private) Five Guys … order one to your taste, rip into some fries and have at it — all in the name of cheeseburgers.
Afterward, we’ll start planning for National Barbecue Day.
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities, nor did he have lunch.