October 2013

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Should Darden Refranchise?

Bernstein Research analyst Sara Senatore analyzed various proposals to improve value at Darden Restaurants. Among the ideas she analyzes: the company selling its restaurants to franchisees.

Yup, Restaurant Sales Are Sluggish

The National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Performance Index fell in September, amid softening sales and operators' growing concerns about the direction of the economy. But the industry is still in expansion mode.

Ruby Tuesday Needs To Improve Sales Soon

The surprising resignation of Ruby Tuesday's chairman highlights a big issue facing the chain, at least according to one analyst: if the company doesn't reverse its sales slide, it could be forced to sell off its real estate.

Consumers Return To Deal Dining

According to the NPD Group, discount-based deal visits in the restaurant industry are up 2 percent so far this year, after two years of declines. We have a simple explanation for this: the end of the payroll tax break.

Wing Prices Take A Tumble

Chicken wing prices are so volatile it's a wonder that executives at wing chains don't have perpetual cases of whiplash. Wing prices are down big this year, and have even done something they rarely do: fall during football season.

Refranchising Has Been Good For Burger King

Want to know why legacy restaurant brands like selling company locations to franchisees? Just take a look at Burger King, which managed to increase earnings even though its revenue plunged this quarter, because it no longer operates any locations.

Ruby Tuesday Chair Sells Stock, Resigns

This doesn't look like a good sign: Matthew Drapkin, the chairman of Tennessee-based casual dining chain Ruby Tuesday, resigned on Sunday—two days after he sold nearly all of his stock. He was replaced by CEO JJ Buettgen.

Expect M&A To Return In 2014

Bankers and others were busy in 2012 as restaurant owners and others scrambled to sell their companies before tax laws changed. They took a breather this year, but now the market is apparently picking back up, according to the investment bank Harris Williams & Co.

The Weakening Better Burger Business

The latest evidence that the better burger business has peaked comes from Plano, Texas, where fast-growing chain Mooyah ousted its CEO, Bill Spae, after just 10 months on the job.

Is Young Adult Unemployment Hurting Chili's?

There are plenty of problems in the economy that have brought down casual dining sales this year. Here's one that gets overlooked: a weak job market for young adults, at least according to Brinker International CEO Wyman Roberts.

Panera's Refreshing Service Admission

Transaction count at Panera Bread fell last quarter, but rather than blame the economy or competition or weather, the company's executives said that its service problems are driving people out the door. Its solution? Increase labor costs.

Restaurants Not Yet Cutting Hours

The part-time workforce that many restaurant industry experts predicted a year ago hasn't yet come to pass, at least according to various statistics. Restaurants are hiring, and they haven't cut hours.

Biglari Makes Compromise Offers

Sardar Biglari is apparently frustrated. That was clear, based on the letter sent this morning to Cracker Barrel shareholders, in which the investor kept wondering why the company's board has rebuffed his efforts at a compromise.

Morgan's Foods Could Be Sold

The end could be near for one of the country's oldest franchisees. Morgan's Foods, the 72-unit operator known mostly for its KFCs, has hired Brookwood Associates to explore strategic alternatives.

QSRs' Wide Volume Gap

For all the talk of McDonald's sluggishness of late, it might be worth looking at the past 15 years. Over that time, the Chicago-based burger giant has nearly lapped its peers in the QSR space. Just look at this chart.

Darden Hires Goldman To Look Into Proposal

Darden Restaurants has hired Goldman Sachs to look into a host of issues presented by the activist investor Barington Capital, sources tell the Monitor. The hiring is a clear indication that the Orlando company is taking the issue of a potential breakup seriously.

Cracker Barrel Pokes Biglari

Cracker Barrel has never been shy in taking on its nemesis, the activist investor Sardar Biglari, and its latest investor presentation is no exception. The company hits Big for his corporate governance and track record.

Struggling In Chipotle's Shadow

Potbelly's stock is down 20 percent over the past week amid concerns that its stock was overvalued. From what we can tell, it is now paying for comparisons with Chipotle, comparisons that were unfair to begin with.

Is Froyo Consolidation On The Horizon?

In an interview, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt CEO Reese Travis said that his company keeps adding new units and may even go public as soon as 2015. But he is also on the lookout for acquisitions as his company navigates the brand-filled frozen yogurt market.

Payroll Tax Hike Still A Problem

We and many others have listed many reasons why some restaurants are struggling this summer: household budgeting, income stagnation, etc. But that payroll tax hike this year might be doing most of the damage.

Should Darden Be Split Up?

Darden Restaurants is suddenly under a lot of pressure to make major changes to improve shareholder value—including a breakup of the 8-company casual dining behemoth into two or more different companies.

Why Chick-fil-A Just Works

Chick-fil-A's move into the Minneapolis market has given us a front-row seat into how the Atlanta chain gets more customers per store than any other QSR in the U.S.—and keeps them.

How Ruby Tuesday Is Like JC Penney

The current situation at Ruby Tuesday isn't exactly like J.C. Penney, but there are enough similarities to explain some of the issues currently bedeviling the struggling casual dining chain.

Burger King Loses A Key Executive

Steve Wiborg, the former Burger King franchisee brought in by 3G Capital to help lead the chain's revitalization, is leaving the Miami-based company. The departure comes after a shuffling of the company's management.

Is Jamba's Stock Plunge An Omen?

Jamba Juice said late yesterday that its same-store sales in the third quarter will likely be down an unexpectedly high 3.4 percent, due mostly to the economy. Its stock plunged 19 percent, which could be a sign of things to come.

Wendy's Sells 24 Seattle Locations

Wendy's, which is unloading more than 400 company locations as part of its "brand transformation" effort, today announced the sale of 24 Seattle locations to a long-time franchisee, Cedar Enterprises, for $14 million.

Potbelly Explodes Out Of The Gate

Potbelly, the Chicago-based sandwich chain, is having a pretty good debut on the public markets. "Pretty good," as in a 130 percent increase off of its initial public offering price in the first hour of trading.

Cracker Barrel, Kraft Settle Differences

The good news: Cracker Barrel and Kraft have settled their differences over the use of the name "Cracker Barrel." The settlement allows the Tennessee chain to start selling licensed products in grocery stores.

Potbelly's IPO Price Getting Higher

Here's one indicator that investors are interested in the Potbelly IPO: the Chicago-based sub chain increased the price range for its shares to $12 to $13, despite political uncertainty that has hammered stocks lately.

Will Biglari Exit If He Loses Proxy?

Sardar Biglari has indicated repeatedly that he is in Cracker Barrel for the long haul, and that he'll keep making efforts to gain seats on the company's board. But something in his latest proxy filing could give Big an out.

Bruxie's Crazy Idea Gets Backing

Bruxie, the California-based chain of waffle sandwich restaurants, just got the ultimate confirmation that its unique idea is a good one: a "significant investment" from the private equity firm Catterton Partners.