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Papa John's (PZZA) Shares Gain 44% YTD: More Upside Left?

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Papa John’s International, Inc. (PZZA - Free Report) is poised to benefit from digital efforts, robust comps growth, expansion initiatives and menu innovation. Also, focus on the loyalty program and third-party delivery aggregators have been driving sales in the last few quarters.

So far this year, shares of Papa John’s have gained 43.7% compared with the industry’s 7.3% growth. The price performance was backed by a solid earnings surprise history. Papa John’s earnings surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in three of the trailing four quarters. Earnings estimates for 2021 and 2022 have moved up 6.7% and 4.3%, respectively, in the past 60 days. This positive trend signifies bullish analysts’ sentiments and justifies the company’s Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), indicating robust fundamentals and the expectation of outperformance in the near term. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Major Growth Drivers

Digitization Efforts: Papa John’s is investing heavily in technology-driven initiatives like digital ordering to boost sales. The company’s online and digital marketing activities have increased significantly in the past several years in response to higher utilization of online and mobile web technology. In fact, Papa John’s is committed toward providing better customer experience with enhancements to digital ordering process. The company’s loyalty program continues to witness a rise in digital transactions during third-quarter fiscal 2021. Higher transaction sizes and better targeting of offers and promotions have been benefitting the company.

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Solid Comps Growth: Papa John’s continues to impress investors with robust comparable sales growth. The company recorded positive comparable sales growth in third-quarter fiscal 2021, which marks the eighth straight quarter of comps growth. It benefited from initiatives related to menu innovation, operational efficiencies and cost-saving efforts. Also, solid contributions were reported from third-party delivery aggregators.

In the fiscal third quarter, total comparable sales rose 7.3% year over year compared with 23% growth reported in the prior-year quarter. At North America franchised restaurants, comps rose 6.8% compared with 25.6% growth in the year-ago quarter. Comps in North America restaurants increased 6.9% compared with 23.8% growth in the year-ago quarter. Comps in the region benefited from solid customer acquisition from the successful launch of Epic Stuffed Crust, Shaq-a-Roni and Parmesan-Crusted Papadias. Comps at international restaurants were up 8.3% year over year compared with 20.7% growth in the prior-year quarter.

Emphasis on Expansion: Papa John’s is committed to develop and maintain a strong franchise system. The company is striving to eliminate barriers for expansion in existing international markets and identify new market opportunities. In August 2021, the company expanded its partnership with Drake Food Service International to open more than 220 Papa John’s restaurants by 2025. This includes more than 170 stores across Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Drake Food Service plans to open 50 new restaurants in the U.K. over the next four years. The company already purchased 60 Papa John’s restaurants in London, making it the brand’s largest franchisee in the country. Under the terms of this expanded partnership, Drake Food Service will operate more than 560 Papa John’s restaurants by 2025. Apart from this, the company signed a new deal with Sun Holdings (in September 2021) to open 100 new locations in Texas and the south by 2029.

Focus on Menu Innovation: Additionally, the company continues to focus on product introduction to drive growth. Notably, menu innovations like Epic Stuffed Crust and toasted handheld Papadias continue to witness solid popularity among customers, thereby boosting the top line. Backed by better brand positioning, the new products have driven higher ticket and traffic across dayparts without cannibalizing core premium products as well as complicating operations at other stores. During the fiscal third quarter, the company initiated a new BaconMania promotion that comprises bacon servings across three different product platforms - Pizza, Papadias and Jalapeno Popper Rolls side. With primary results in the positive trajectory, the company anticipates the initiative to drive traffic and new customers in each menu platform, thereby enhancing the top line in the long term.

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