Cava stock (CAVA) is up nearly 9% in early trading at more than $43 per share, as Wall Street is out with its initial coverage of the newly publicly traded Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant chain.
As of Monday morning, there are six Buys, three Holds, and zero Sells on the Street. This comes nearly one month after the company made its public debut on the New York Stock Exchange on June 15 and soared to $43.30 on its first day of trading, bringing its valuation to $4.8 billion after pricing in at $22 a share the evening before.
How did the company reach this valuation, and how does it compare to its peers? Here's what Wall Street has to say.
'A clear leader in Mediterranean fast-casual,' like Chipotle was for Mexican
Jefferies and Stifel both initiated coverage with a Buy rating and a $48 price target.
In a note to clients, Stifel said the stock's $4.8 billion valuation can be justified by its annual unit volume and unit growth opportunity, in addition to "the potential for solid operating momentum to cause upward revisions to near-term estimates and long-term earnings potential."
Jefferies is also homing in on the company's "attractive" runway ahead, calling it a "scalable model."
"We view the next stage of growth as among the best-in-class, building on the heels of the transformative Zoes acquisition in 2018 and leveraging a now-national presence against a meaningful white space opportunity to deliver on its robust long-term algorithm," the note said.
Cava acquired the Mediterranean fast-casual chain Zoes Kitchen for $300 million in August 2018 and has successfully converted 145 Zoes Kitchen locations with plans to open another eight converted Zoes (the remainder of the locations) this year.
Jefferies said it believes Cava's total addressable market can match that of rival chain, Chipotle (CMG).
"Not dissimilar to the skepticism around Fast Casual Mexican at the time of CMG's IPO in 2006, we expect Mediterranean to prove itself over time with success and portability at CAVA the early proof point, and believe the 'blue sky' scenario could ultimately be near that of CMG's North America TAM of 7,000 units."
Stifel said its price target "assumes CAVA will follow a similar path as Chipotle when it was at a comparable size."
Baird and William Blair initiated their coverage with Outperform ratings.
Sharon Zackfia of William Blair said Cava is a "clear leader in Mediterranean fast-casual."
In her note to clients, she said Cava has "attractive unit economics with ample white space." The firm sees potential for at least 1,200 domestic locations and potential for digital drive-thrus to lift average unit volumes (AUV) by 10%-15%.
As of April 16, there are 263 Cava restaurants, and the company is targeting an AUV of $2.3 million. In 2024, half of Cava's new locations are expected to have drive-thrus.
The firm also expects Cava to achieve a 20% revenue growth rate and rapid EBITDA growth.
"We expect bottom-line profitability and an inflection into positive free cash flow by 2026, with proceeds from the IPO providing ample funding for growth in the interim, and see the potential for CAVA to generate more than $2.5 billion in revenue and roughly $400 million of adjusted EBITDA by 2032 at roughly 1,000 locations."
JPMorgan and Piper Sandler initiated their coverage with Overweight ratings.
In a note to clients, JPMorgan, which has a price target of $45, said, "Given the attractive unit economics with already peer-leading store margins, combined with high visibility to grow both top line and bottom line from here."
JPMorgan believes it will have 2,000 stores by 2037 with a $3.3 million dollar AUV and a 25% store margin. It also expects the company to hit 1,000 stores by 2031, a year before the company guided.
JPMorgan also believes the "end-market for CAVA is large." The firm said, "Many bowls are $11-$17 at the brand, which will likely limit potential high frequency of lower income cohorts, but we believe the brand has an enduring appeal to a very broad customer base for at least occasional usage." Roughly 60% of customers have an annual income of less than $100,000.
This is only the first taste of restaurants going public.
Cava was the first to take the plunge in its public debut. Then, Korean barbecue concept GEN Restaurant Group (GENK) made its public debut on June 28.
Others expected to go public this year include Panera Brands, which owns Caribou Coffee, Panera Bread, Einstein Bros Bagels, and Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão.
Brooke DiPalma is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.