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McCafe Coffee review: second try

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Went to the nearby McDonald (NYSE: MCD) yesterday afternoon, and tried out the Iced Latte. Personal opinion: the latte at MCD is not as good as Starbucks ( Nasdaq: SBUX). Two things:

1) McDonald makes this mostly by machine, while in Starbucks the barista used some hand;

2) McDonald serves the latte not in a full cup, this never happened to me in Starbucks.

So in summary the latte McDonald (McCafe) looks cheap, although they can argue in “blind test” their coffee tastes better. As to the regular brewed coffee in MCD, it depends: it tastes better when it was fresh brewed. The coffee beans in those stores are similar, except SBUX are usually overly roasted (looks darker and tastes bitter).

Other stores

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Weekend thoughts w/e 053108

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Gas and Panera: more saving tips
Yeah, the $4 a gallon gas is finally coming, it’s $3.899 in recent 3 days here in STL. I tried to stretch the gas I put last time at $3.699 as much as I could, but it seems like I will need to put gas either tomorrow or Monday. Meanwhile, I tried to walk to and from Panera this morning and afternoon, maybe I saved a dollar or two on this šŸ™‚

Seriously, I think my last car tune up worked in terms of improving gas mileage.

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Smart buyback, iPhone China delayed

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Week in progress 11/25 to 12/01/07

1) Panera to buy back up to USD 75 millions (worth) of shares from a broker (see the news here). The is in contrast to Crocs panic buy back announced on Nov. 1, amid the sharp fall of its stock price after it announced Q3 result. Last I looked at its 10Q at SEC: “On November 7, 2007, the Company repurchased approximately 524,000 shares for a total of approximately $25.0 million”. That is $47.70 per share (currently CROX traded just under $40). Good shoes maker, not so good stock traders?

2) iPhone delayed in China. The main problem is Apple and China Mobile can not agree on the how big a pie each will get, according to NanFangdaily (Chinese). American expatriate entrepreneur (in Beijing) Billsdue predicted the outcome before hand.

3) J. Crew reported a good quarter. Here is a link to its conference call (webcast). I found its CEO Millard Drexler had good insights about fashion and fashion business.

4) China Ping An Insurance (sh601318) paid 1.3 b Euro for 4% stake in Fortis, a Belgo-Dutch financial group.

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Starbucks, Panera

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Yesterday morning when I went to Panera (St. Louis) Bread to get morning bagel, I noticed they raised the price from 89 cents to 95 cents. I can fully understand the pressure they are facing: the rising wheat, diary, and energy cost.

Today Starbucks came out with earning, and understandablely a disappointing outlook (bloomberg).

SBUX and PNRA are hit on two sides: the rising costs of raw materials; and shrinking pockets of US consumers.

Long term, I do believe Starbucks will do very well in China, and other emerging markets; but right now, the sales from China is just too small to overcome the difficulty in the US…So I will NOT try to be hero at this time.

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Mindray Q3 report

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(Update) I also listened into its conference call, and it confirmed some of my thought: Chinese domestic market becomes more friendly; south America has strongest international growth, while NA has the slowest.

(Original) I went to Panera bread this morning. Here is what I saw: Bagel, 89 cents; coffee, $1.59 to $1.79. These prices haven’t changed from 3 months ago. No time to check out sandwich price (will do it later). By the way, its stock (Nasdaq:PNRA) closed under $40 ($39.28) yesterday! Sounds like a bargain?

Seriously, Mindray (NYSE:MR) had another good quarter. From its earning report, Chinese goverment finally step in and bought lots of diagnostic stuff. I think this was delayed by the anti-corruption movement last year. Also, the numbers from Europe and South America are quite strong. In other words, the US did not have a good number last quarter. Note US is supposed to be the growth driver this year. I am not sure is the purchase is delayed by the sub-prime crisis. Overall, Mindray is on the track. This is a stock one can own and have good sleep in the night.

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Chipotle and Panera

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Went to Chipotle Mexican Grill in my neighbourhood yesterday. I heard about it because of its stock (CMG)Ā has done very well since IPO early last year (up 88%). I was curious about the food and the atmosphere so I went. It seems there are lots of young people, I mean people in 20s (Generation Y), whichĀ are generally younger than Panera crowd. At Panera, there are many older people in the morning. Also there are people working and gathering at Panera because of its free Wifi access and community feeling.

chipotle pic

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Week in Review 06-03 to 06-09

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Bill Gates got Harvard degree finally, 30 years after drop out from Harvard;

Gates Harvard degree

Dell announced to sell laptop at Sam’s Club (Major’s comment: too little, too late);

Andy Xie, former chiefĀ economist of Morgan Stanley Asia,Ā says the odds of making moneyĀ in Chinese stock market is lower than casinos (40% vs.Ā 48%);Ā 

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Bought A Little Panera Bread PNRA

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I bought a little Panera Bread PNRA shares today. I have watched the stock for more than 6 months. This noon I went to the store at St. Charles Rock road as usual, and I saw the biggest crowd.Ā After I ordered food, I canĀ see and hear theĀ associateĀ calling theĀ customer name (when food is ready) aboutĀ every 20 to 30Ā seconds.Ā It took me about 15 minutes to get my food, probablly a record for me.Ā But I am not complaining here;Ā I always see a large crowd during lunch hour there and today’s waitĀ helped me make the decision to buy some stocks. IĀ noticedĀ this place is more popular than my oldĀ favorite lunch placeĀ  Fazoli’sĀ andĀ there isĀ reasons behind that: better food; people always want to be in the “crowded restaurant”, whether in China or the United States. Ā Ā 

Here is a good introduction of Panera Bread.

Panera Bread Co. St. Louis

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