It has been a difficult year for restaurant stocks to say the least. Thanks to the novel coronavirus, the sector has been absolutely walloped. Even with the market generally recovering strongly, most of the restaurant names remain down in the dumps. Dunkin’ Brands (NASDAQ:DNKN) stock, however, is one exception.
Shares fell from $75 to $38 during the crash, but are back up to $65 now. And with good reason: Dunkin’ should get back to its old highs as investors realize it is one of the best-positioned restaurants in this new economic environment. Why would that be? First, let me tell you a story.
Because my youngest son was born in New York and spent the first eight years of his life there, he “grew up” with Dunkin’ Donuts. Soon, he became one of the restaurant chain’s biggest fans. Almost every weekend, we’d drive to the local Dunkin’ shop to pick up a dozen doughnuts, along with a box of doughnut holes.
But then we moved to California and left the East Coast Dunkin’ behind. My son never really got over it. Every time I traveled to the East Coast for business, he’d ask me to bring back a doughnut or two, if I could. And if I couldn’t, he’d ask me to at least take a photo of a Dunkin’ Donuts shop and send it to him.
That’s a powerful example of “brand value,” and that’s one of the traits that will enable Dunkin’ Brands to thrive in the post-Covid-19 world. And that tradition will continue well into the next generation and beyond.
Plenty of Room for Brand Growth
While many East Coasters, like my son, are huge fans of Dunkin’ Donuts, much of the country isn’t so familiar with Dunkin’ yet. The company launched its initial public offering in 2011 in part to raise funds and enhance its public stature as part of a big expansion push across the United States. That is well under way now, as the company has found new franchisees outside of its core East Coast market.
There’s also a large overseas opportunity for Dunkin’ Donuts. International revenues account for just 17% of the company’s total sales at this point. However, this could grow a ton. As of year-end 2019, Dunkin’ Donuts had more than 13,000 locations. Nearly 10,000 of those are in the United States, and the other 3,500 are international. Three thousand five hundred is an impressive number and shows the potential for the company to become a coffee and fast-food leader around the world, following in the footsteps of McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX).
Dunkin’ Is a Natural Social-Distancing Winner
The Canton, Massachusetts-based company’s other main winning trait is a business model that relies heavily on “takeaway” purchases and mobile deliveries.
Takeout orders represented 90% of the company’s business even before the quarantines started. Unlike Starbucks, few people go to Dunkin’ to hang out and enjoy the ambiance. Dunkin’ has never marketed itself as a public space to linger with friends or get work done. So it loses little from switching to all takeout and delivery for the time being.
On top of that, Dunkin’ is actively finding new clients through delivery services. The company has added delivery alliances with GrubHub (NYSE:GRUB), UberEats (NYSE:UBER), DoorDash and Postmates. Put it all together, and the company has doubled its pre-coronavirus delivery capacity.
The Verdict on DNKN Stock
Dunkin’ has a fantastic brand. And, unlike a McDonald’s or Starbucks, it’s not fully saturated yet. There are plenty of markets, both in the United States and overseas, for Dunkin’ to tap in to.
On top of that, Dunkin’ has a unique advantage right now: Its brand is based around its products, but not its in-store experience. People like Dunkin’s doughnuts and drinks (and the ice cream at Baskin-Robbins), not the look of its restaurants. Thus, Dunkin’ can seamlessly switch to delivery and takeout only for some time, while many competitors lose much of their appeal without dine-in eating.
So, I expect Dunkin’ Brands to snap back quickly and thrive in the post-coronavirus world. Dunkin’ was set to earn more than $3 per share before the virus hit. And the company has historically grown earnings at more than 10% a year thanks to its new-store growth and large share buyback.
For a fast-growing franchisee restaurant chain, the market normally would pay at least 25x earnings, which would support a stock price up toward $80. As investors figure out that sales should be steady, and perhaps even increase as the new delivery options kick in, expect shares to continue moving higher.
Eric Fry is an award-winning stock picker with numerous “10-bagger” calls — in good markets AND bad. How? By finding potent global megatrends … before they take off. And when it comes to bear markets, you’ll want to have his “blueprint” in hand before stocks go south. Eric does not own the aforementioned securities.