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Buffalo Wild Wings Stays Fired Up

The Exchange

Americans love a wing, a fact that's made abundantly clear by the ongoing performance at Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD).

Shares of the Minneapolis-based spicy chicken parts seller were hitting a record high Wednesday, continuing a string of all-time bests that have been reached as the stock has advanced 94% this year. In recent trading, Buffalo Wild Wings was up 7.9% at $139.77 on heavier-than-normal volume. At its peak today, the stock traded at $143.90.

Buffalo Wild Wings Stock Chart

The latest buying spree came a day after Buffalo Wild Wings said third-quarter revenue rose 27.9% from a year ago to $315.8 million, while earnings jumped almost 67% to $17.9 million, or 95 cents a share. Profits were helped by a drop in chicken wing costs, which were right around $2 a pound in the third quarter last year. In comparison, the price earlier this week on a Georgia Department of Agriculture website was slightly under $1.38.

Both the top and bottom lines beat estimates -- earnings did so for the second straight time after four misses. Same-store sales were also bright. On that key measure, comparable sales at company-owned shops climbed 4.8%, two percentage points better than analysts expected and positive for the 11th consecutive quarter.

[Related: Wingstop CEO Targets Chicken Lovers Across the Globe]

The current market quote puts the stock 8.1% ahead of the consensus price target, but the most recent financial results still led some on Wall Street to raise their goals even further. However, Buffalo Wild Wings' run in 2013 has pushed the next-12-months multiple to 31.7, well ahead of the average forward price-to-earnings ratio of 21 over the last five years. Exiting short-sellers have played some role of late in the upward move by covering their positions, which have fallen to 1.65 million shares as of Oct. 15 from 4.25 million in February.

If you're long, you'll take it. That's been a good place to be, even if the Buffalo Wild Wings experience itself isn't for everyone: It's a loud, crowded, at times frenetic place that keeps its visitors upbeat and talking at elevated levels over the multiple installed TVs. It operates essentially as a sit-down sports bar, and it benefits in check size from 86% of its customers eating in and unquestionably from selling alcohol, which accounted for about 22% of revenue in 2012. Even for the sober diner, it's easy to rack up a sizable bill, considering an order of 10 Buffalo wings and a side of fries will probably run right under $13 pretax. At any rate, it works.

[Related: McDonald's Mighty Wings Fail to Lift Stock]

With football season underway, same-store sales at corporate-owned restaurants in the fourth quarter are running about 5.3% (analysts estimate a 3.9% increase for the full period), the company says. Franchised stores, 56% of the 949 total unit count at the end of the third quarter, were showing a 3% gain in comps.

Buffalo Wild Wings ended 2012 with 891 shops, and it expects to surpass 1,000 locations in the first quarter of next year. So as long as wings keep selling, that means the chickens better flee.

What about shareholders, though? You tell us: Will BWLD stay aloft, or has the price gotten out of hand?