Top Restaurant Stocks for 2014

Restaurants may seem to be slow and steady performers, but it's not a surprise that two of this year's hottest IPOs were eateries. Clearly, there's money to be made if investors can identify the right trends and buy into the right concepts. 

Let's go over four publicly traded chains that should beat the market in 2014.

Chuy's Holdings
Casual dining doesn't have a lot shining stars these days, as patrons trade down to faster and more convenient fast casual, but Chuy's is a rising star. The fast-growing chain of restaurants serving Mexican food in a festive and colorful environment is at the right spot in its growth cycle. There are just 47 restaurants across 14 states, with plenty of real estate to conquer. Nine of those locations opened this year.

Chuy's remains popular. Comps rose 3.1% in its latest quarter, and even though it's targeting same-restaurant sales to climb at half that pace during the current quarter, we still have a chain that's expanding quickly enough to deliver strong growth. Analysts see revenue and earnings per share climbing 20% in 2014.

Chipotle Mexican Grill  
The country's favorite burrito roller isn't cheap as it heads into 2014. It's fetching 50 times what it's likely to earn in 2013, and a still steep 41 times next year's forecast. 

However, it's hard to question Chipotle's all-weather success. It's been able to keep customers coming in all climates, with comps climbing in good economic times and bad. It also now has Asian and pizza concepts that it can grow at calculated paces until it needs more ammo the day that its namesake chain matures.

Some may argue that Starbucks isn't really a restaurant, but have they nibbled on the premium coffeehouse's growing menu?  

The baron of baristas is the place to be as the economy improves. Stronger employment translates into more people stopping by in the morning to fuel their caffeinated commutes. Heartier discretionary income means fewer folks flinching at the prices of a venti-sized mocha.

Starbucks is already on a roll. It has beaten Wall Street profit targets in each of the three past quarters, and the model is still scalable. Analysts see sales climbing 12% in this new fiscal year that ends in September with earnings growing even faster.

Noodles & Co.  
The pasta tossers at Noodles & Co. may have turned heads as a scorching hot IPO earlier this year, but lately the stock's been as limp as wet spaghetti. The stock that traded as high as $51.97 two days after its IPO -- and had to settle for a secondary priced at $39.50 earlier this month -- is back at its lowest levels since the morning it went public. 

That's not right. Noodles & Co. has a pretty unique concept, giving pasta dishes from all over the world a fast casual spin. The quick service and wide globetrotter menu keep folks coming back, as posting positive comps in 31 of the past 32 quarters will bear out. Expansion should assure double-digit revenue growth for years, and the IPO should help build on the chain's brand. Noodles & Co. is closing out 2013 on a down note, but it should be boiling hot again in 2014.

Here's a fifth stock that should beat the market in 2014
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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