Restaurant Finance Across America
Archived postings from January, 2012...
More Proof That Restaurants Ended The Year Right
Posted: Tue, January 31, 2012 at 9:24am (CST)
Let's take one last moment to note what a good month December was for the restaurant industry. In spite of considerable uncertainty, high unemployment and rising prices, consumers went out to eat. The latest proof comes from the National Restaurant Association, which this morning said that its Restaurant Performance Index was at its highest level in nearly six years. ...continue reading.
Facing Competition, Casual Diners Cut Lunch Prices
Posted: Mon, January 30, 2012 at 3:37pm (CST)
Fast-casual chains have been getting a big chunk of their customers from casual-dining concepts, and they're mostly getting those customers at lunch time. In response, casual dining concepts have been using lower prices as a way to get those customers to return. ...continue reading.
On Wendy's, and QSR's Struggles
Posted: Mon, January 30, 2012 at 2:32pm (CST)
Pity the poor QSR. In recent years, consumers found their incomes squeezed, their jobs in danger, their home prices smaller, and they've been less tolerant of wait staff. All of this should be ingredients for the sector's improvement, and yet traditional quick-serves continue to struggle, a fact that the burger chain Wendy's illustrated in its investor presentation today. ...continue reading.
Amid Turmoil, Cosi Grows Sales
Posted: Fri, January 27, 2012 at 2:43pm (CST)
OK, now I know the economy improved last quarter. Restaurants, in the midst of quarterly-report season, have been releasing mostly strong financials from the fourth quarter of 2011. And that includes the little Illinois-based bakery/cafe chain Cosi, which today said that its sales increased during the quarter despite some corporate turmoil. ...continue reading.
Granite City Might Lose Its Listing
Posted: Thu, January 26, 2012 at 5:15pm (CST)
Granite City Food & Brewery strange road just got a little more perilous. The small casual dining chain out of Minneapolis, which has been struggling for years, said this afternoon that it could lose its listing on the Nasdaq stock exchange as early as next week because its shareholders' equity is too low. ...continue reading.
Former Wideout Buys A Wing Chain
Posted: Wed, January 25, 2012 at 10:48am (CST)
The popularity of chicken wings has exploded in large part due to its association with football, and so it only goes to reason that a partner in the private equity firm that just bought the 32-unit Wild Wing Cafe is none other than Muhsin Muhammad, former wide receiver with the Carolina Panthers and the Chicago Bears. ...continue reading.
Quiznos Avoids Bankruptcy
Posted: Tue, January 24, 2012 at 4:35pm (CST)
Beleagured, Denver-based sub chain Quiznos said today it has completed its restructuring deal without declaring bankruptcy, a move that handles control of the company over to the hedge fund Avenue Capital, wiping out existing shareholders—including former CEO Rick Schaden—and infusing the chain with $150 million in cash. ...continue reading.
Typical McDonald's Day: Strong Sales, Media Flub
Posted: Tue, January 24, 2012 at 3:12pm (CST)
Today, McDonald's reported a full-year financial report that was strong even by its standards, including the best domestic same-store sales in eight years. It also had to deal with the aftermath of an embarrassing social media mistake that had people around the world sharing all sorts of ugly stories about McDonald's. Just another day in the life of the world's biggest restaurant chain. ...continue reading.
Del Frisco's To Give IPO Another Go
Posted: Tue, January 24, 2012 at 2:17pm (CST)
Suddenly, restaurant chains seem a lot friendlier to the public markets than they seemed just 18 months ago. The latest IPO filing came today, from the Texas-based Del Frisco's Restaurant Group, the operator of a trio of upscale restaurant concepts which wants to raise $100 million. ...continue reading.
On The Comeback Trail?
Posted: Mon, January 23, 2012 at 10:33am (CST)
Is the recovery in the casual dining sector speeding up? It sure looks like it. The sector had its best month of the year in December, according to the Knapp Track index of casual dining sales. Sales for the segment were up 2.9 percent for the month. More importantly, traffic was up 0.4 percent. ...continue reading.
NPC International Gets Even Bigger
Posted: Thu, January 19, 2012 at 9:40am (CST)
Some day Pizza Hut will have one franchisee and it will be NPC International. The big Kansas operation, the largest franchisee of any kind in the U.S., today announced that it has bought 36 more units from Pizza Hut for $18.8 million. The restaurants are near Jacksonville, Florida. ...continue reading.
Burger King's Puerto Rico Franchisee Is Struggling
Posted: Wed, January 18, 2012 at 4:48pm (CST)
Burger King's 177-unit Puerto Rico franchisee, Caribbean Restaurants LLC, said today that it is exploring options to refinance its debt. In a terse, one-paragraph announcement, the company, owned by the past eight years by the private equity firm Castle Harlan, said it expects to begin talking to "third parties" about potential transactions "in the near term." ...continue reading.
Surprise! Buffets Inc. Files For Bankruptcy
Posted: Wed, January 18, 2012 at 1:42pm (CST)
How is bankruptcy at Buffets Inc. like the presidential election, Leap Year and the Olympics? You can expect it every four years. The Minnesota-based operator of buffet concepts, including Ryan's and Old Country Buffet, filed a prepackaged bankruptcy today—nearly four years to the day since the last time it filed. ...continue reading.
Where Do Fast Casual Customers Come From?
Posted: Tue, January 17, 2012 at 5:06pm (CST)
During his presentation at the ICR XChange investors' conference last week, Smashburger CEO Dave Prokupek discussed the results of a survey the burger chain did of its customers—specifically, where they would have gone had they not gone to Smashburger. The results were revealing. ...continue reading.
A&W's Surprising International Development
Posted: Tue, January 17, 2012 at 2:09pm (CST)
In recent interviews, new A&W Chairman Dale Mulder was careful to avoid any criticism of the chain's previous owners, Yum! Brands, which is common following such deals. Yet he couldn't hide his disdain for Yum regarding one topic: international development, or the lack thereof. ...continue reading.
How Costco Could Make Life Miserable For Restaurants
Posted: Thu, January 12, 2012 at 11:10pm (CST)
Arne Haak, the CFO of upscale restaurant operator Ruth's Chris, said at the ICR XChange this week that he expects beef prices to go up 5 to 8 percent but, he admitted, that's just a guess. "It's real volatile," he said. One big reason for that volatility: Costco. ...continue reading.
Expect More Activists This Year
Posted: Thu, January 12, 2012 at 11:03pm (CST)
Restaurants fended off numerous activist investors last year, either through negotiation (Ruby Tuesday) or a proxy win (Cracker Barrel). But don't expect that these investors will simply go away. Indeed, some experts believe activism will be on the upswing this year. ...continue reading.
How Yelp Can Be A Good Customer Survey Tool
Posted: Tue, January 10, 2012 at 3:03pm (CST)
The healthy QSR concept Freshii had been on a pretty good run in its first few years of existence, until a year ago when it noticed that its stores in new markets had been performing poorly. So its CEO, Matthew Corrin, did what any other young executive would do: he looked his concept up on the Internet.
Is Yum! Brands Leaving Money On The Table?
Posted: Fri, January 06, 2012 at 3:20pm (CST)
Try this: Go ask a bunch of people not closely associated or interested in the restaurant industry and ask them about Yum! Brands. It's a good bet that most people won't know what the heck you're talking about. While it may not seem like a big deal whether consumers know the name of a holding company or not, it does hurt the company's market value, according to a branding expert. ...continue reading.
Sardar Biglari Isn't Giving Up
Posted: Fri, January 06, 2012 at 9:20am (CST)
Sardar Biglari not only lost his proxy fight with Cracker Barrel last month, he lost it by a big margin, receiving half as many votes as board member Charles Jones, the next lowest vote getter. But that doesn't mean he's giving up. Biglari Holdings has been buying up hundreds of thousands of shares in the family dining chain this month. ...continue reading.
Franchise Development Incentives Keep Coming
Posted: Thu, January 05, 2012 at 9:32am (CST)
Papa John's not only gives discounts to customers. It's giving discounts to franchisees. The Kentucky-based pizza chain this morning announced a new batch of incentives, including a royalty waiver for up to 18 months, designed to encourage operators to build new units this year. ...continue reading.
Can Dunkin' Donuts Double In Size?
Posted: Wed, January 04, 2012 at 5:00pm (CST)
A press release this morning announcing Dunkin' Donuts' distribution deal with its new, nationwide franchisee-owned co-op included a modest nugget saying that Dunkin' wants to double its unit count in 20 years. That tiny nugget got a lot of press, never mind that the plan is not new, and that such stated, long-term goals aren't worth diddly. Twenty years is a long time, after all. ...continue reading.
The Chicken Wing Roller Coaster Peaking Again
Posted: Wed, January 04, 2012 at 3:06pm (CST)
We're huge fans of roller coasters, which is why we're so fascinated by chicken wing prices. The wing was once reserved for stock, until a woman in Buffalo made it into a dish. Since then wing prices have had a steady climb to the top of the chicken price ladder, peaking at a record two years ago. The bottom fell out last year, but they're back up this year. Way up. ...continue reading.
Steak N Shake Does Something By Doing Nothing
Posted: Tue, January 03, 2012 at 5:02pm (CST)
Shortly after we arrived this morning, we received a press release from Steak N Shake, announcing a price freeze for 2012. We immediately blew it off as a meaningless marketing gimmick. But then in rapid succession we read about price hikes at Starbucks and Denny's and we rethought our initial skepticism. ...continue reading.
Restaurants Outperform The Stock Market, Barely
Posted: Tue, January 03, 2012 at 4:05pm (CST)
The stock market did its best roller coaster act last year, with the Dow up 100 points one day, down 200 the next, up 300 after that, and so on. Yet for all that movement, by the time it was done there was very little movement at all. The S&P 500 was basically flat for the year—which makes restaurants' median gain of 3.12 percent seem huge. ...continue reading.