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Domino's Pizza Is Still the Best Restaurant Stock on the Market

Forget FANG stocks: Domino's Pizza (NYSE: DPZ) has crushed nearly all the hot tech stocks over the past decade. Shares of the pizza slinger are up a whopping 4,000% since 2008 as the company has revamped its recipes, embraced technology with innovations like its Pizza Tracker, and ridden a delivery wave in the restaurant industry.

However, after years of rapid growth, investors seem to believe that this pizza stock is cooling off. Domino's shares dipped after the company turned in its third-quarter earnings report a few days ago. Despite strong comp sales growth, an earnings beat, and continued expansion, the stock still fell 5% on Tuesday.

Image source: Domino's.

Inside the numbers

Domino's posted 6.3% domestic same-store sales growth last quarter, and 3.3% same-store sales growth in international locations. Though those numbers are lower than a year ago and far from the double-digit growth figures Domino's was posting a couple of years ago, they are still better than virtually any other restaurant company. They also marked the 30th consecutive quarter of domestic comparable-sales growth and the 99th of international same-store sales growth.

According to Black Box Intelligence, same-store sales across the U.S. restaurant industry increased just 1.2% in the third quarter, the best growth in three years, though traffic continued to fall. During the restaurant recession of 2016-2017, when comps fell across the industry, Domino's continued to put up strong growth; that outperformance has continued.

Revenue increased 22.1% to $786 million in Q3. On the bottom line, adjusted earnings per share jumped 54% to $1.95, topping estimates of $1.75. EPS benefited from a lower tax rate, the sale of 12 company-owned stores, and share repurchases.

Let's take a look at some of the catalysts continuing to drive Domino's growth, even as investors worry it's slowing.

Delivery is king

A big reason for Domino's blowout growth is the company's reliance on a delivery model at a time when the "stay-at-home" economy is booming. The reach of companies like Netflix and Amazon has made it convenient for Americans to get virtually everything they want from the comfort of their own homes. As a result, store and restaurant traffic are falling, but delivery is booming. Grubhub, the leading restaurant takeout and delivery marketplace, has seen its stock nearly quadruple over the last three years; even Papa John's (NASDAQ: PZZA) was delivering solid comparable-sales growth before the NFL backlash and the more recent brand meltdown.

Domino's CEO Richard Allison addressed the Papa John's issue on the recent third-quarter earnings call, but he tamped down expectations of runaway growth at Papa John's expense:

... [W]e're in a very fragmented category and if we have a competitor donating share, it doesn't simply fall in our pocket, we've got to earn it. And sometimes, share that's donated doesn't necessarily all fall into the pizza category as well, and that specific competitor has a relatively small share within the category. So the impact of this on the overall landscape isn't necessarily as heavy as some might assume.

Even so, Papa John's weakness should benefit Domino's, even if it's not to the degree investors had hoped.

Delivery will continue to gain market share in overall restaurant sales, and Domino's will be among the biggest beneficiaries: It has more than 15,000 locations around the world, and its business is built on delivery.

Demand is stronger than ever

No metric is a better representation for demand in restaurants than comparable sales. So it's encouraging that Domino's has grown comps every quarter for seven years at home and nearly 25 years abroad, all while adding new stores -- the company had 920 net new openings over the last year.

In response to a question about continuing to accelerate store openings, Allison assured investors that cannibalization was not a risk, adding that demand was sometimes overwhelming: "On Friday and Saturday nights, we've got some stores where we have a tough time putting an incremental pizza in the oven because they're so busy." A Domino's in Texas, recently remodeled with an open kitchen that it called a "pizza theater," sold 8,500 pizzas in its first week, breaking a company sales record. That demand should support the company's planned annual unit growth of 6% to 8%.

Domino's is also consistently finding new ways to meet its customers where they are, like its new Hotspots program, which offers delivery to popular outdoor spots like parks, stadiums, and beaches.

Finally, at a time when food trends have rapidly shifted to organic, natural, and fresh products due to millennials' tastes, pizza remains beloved by the young-adult generation and is little changed. The delivery staple has also demonstrated its popularity around the globe.

For Domino's, that means the company is still gaining market share in the best category of the restaurant industry to operate in -- pizza delivery. Given that position, there's still plenty of growth ahead for this industry leader.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Jeremy Bowman owns shares of NFLX. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends AMZN and NFLX. The Motley Fool is short shares of Papa John's International. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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