CKR - Trying To Understand G&A

The number one topic shareholders want to talk about when it comes to CKE Restaurants is the company's cost structure, especially G&A. Since we are awaiting CKR FY08 proxy, we thought it would be a good time to focus on compensation trends for CKR's senior management.
  • We believe that investors have a reason to be concerned about the level of G&A spending at the company. As seen in Chart 1, since 2002 CKE restaurants system-wide store count has declined by 8.2%.
  • The company has stated publically that its incremental spending in G&A per store is around $20,000 to $24,000 per year. Therefore, given the decline in the system-wide store base, G&A should be $5-7 million lower form the levels seen in 2003.
  • Despite the system-wide store count declining by 8%, G&A per store has increased 39.8%

TXRH - Timeline to Changes in Managements Comp.

29-Oct-07 - Texas Roadhouse Guides 2008 EPS growth to 20% excluding the $0.01-0.02 contribution from week 53. F08 guidance is based on comps of +2.0%-3.0%.

19-Feb-08 - Texas Roadhouse Guides 2008 EPS to 5-15% growth including the contribution from week 53. Guides F'08 comps to flat to +1%.

11-Apr-08 - TXRH proxy - Executive Incentive Compensation Under the 2004 Employment Agreements - In February 2008, the board of directors of the Company approved an EPS target of $0.56 to $0.59. The annual target represents management's estimate of EPS for the fiscal year 2008, and reflects earnings per share growth of ten to 15 percent as compared to the EPS achieved for the fiscal year 2007. EPS is 2007 was $0.52.
The annual target can be adjusted for acquisitions or divestitures, accounting changes and other extraordinary events as noted by the compensation committee.

Management is now getting paid a bonus on a lower target, which also includes the 3% benefit from the 53rd week!

QSR - ROIIC - Who Gets It!

What matters most to maximizing shareholder value is how a company deploys its cash flow among growth capital expenditures, maintenance capital spending, and returning cash to shareholders. Ultimately, we believe, it is the rate of new capital deployed in new business opportunities that determines real enterprise value. The restaurant industry is littered with companies whose concepts are well positioned in the marketplace but that continue to push the limits of growth capital spending, which depresses margins, returns, and equity valuations.
  • CKRCKR's aggressive capital spending program over the past two years has not generated incremental returns for shareholders, and unfortunately for shareholders, management is not changing the business model. Like other restaurant companies we follow, the company's aggressive rate of capital spending has led to deteriorating financial results. Clearly, the decline in CKR's return on ROIIC has been highly correlated with the company's stock price. We believe that management needs to change its long-term new unit growth strategy, which should help to reverse the declining returns the company is experiencing, particularly at its Hardee's concept.


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The Uglier the Better - Significant Changes to the Business Model

Reduced U.S. Store Growth..... SBUX significantly reduced its previously announced U.S. store opening target for fiscal '09, down to 250 net new company-operated stores and less than 400 in total U.S. store openings. The benefit to the P&L will be improving ROIIC and reduced cannibalization of existing stores.

Free Cash Flow..... Over the next three years, SBUX will generate $4.4 billion in CFFO and have 2.4 billion in capital expenditures, leaving over $2 billion cumulative free cash flow. This compares to cumulative free cash flow of about $800 million from fiscal '06 to fiscal '08.

Improving the Four Wall Experience:

1. In February SBUX took the first step with an Espresso Excellence Training which was designed to improve the customer experience.
2. April 8th, SBUX introduced the new everyday brewed coffee Pike Place Roast
3. SBUX will be remodeling stores with the next generation of espresso machines exclusive to Starbucks - the Mastrena
4. SBUX will introduce the Clover into its U.S. store base. The Clover's specialized brewing process blends the best of the vacuum pot and coffee press methods and further develops and unlocks the unique flavor nuances of specialty coffee.
5. SBUX will introduce the Starbucks Card Rewards program which will allow the company to explore ways reward loyal customers.

New Products:
1. The company will enter the energy beverage category through the Starbucks DoubleShot platform. Other entrants into this space have used caffeine as a supplement within their energy beverages, which makes Starbucks a natural. SBUX will leverage the assets of the JV partnership with Pepsi-Cola to expand Starbucks DoubleShot platform. This new platform will include both customizable, handcrafted beverages and RTD beverages.

2. SBUX will broaden its offerings into the health and wellness category. This summer, SBUX's first step is with a protein and fruit blended beverage which is made from simple ingredients that provide the benefit of sustained energy. This new beverage will be initially available in two flavors and will include fresh fruit and a proprietary whey protein, with no artificial sweeteners, delivering 15 or more grams of protein, with no more than 270 calories.

3. With an Italian heritage, SBUX will has developed (through a partnership with an Italian supplier) has a new category of frozen beverages.

FINALLY! - SBUX's New Product Pipeline Revealed

As we have outlined in the past, a key step in the recovery process for SBUX is new product news that broaden the beverage offering at its retail locations!

It appears that the company is now ready to launch a line of smoothie-like drinks made with fresh fruit and whey powder in the U.S. Importantly, this is the first step into of broader line alternative drinks.

Next up new food news!
Stay tuned!

Panera Bread (PNRA) - Wheat trends are as important as Same-Store Sales

All in, a $1 change year-over-year in the cost of wheat per bushel is worth $3.25 million of expense to Panera, or $0.05 in EPS. For 2008, PNRA is fully covered for essentially all their wheat needs at an all-in cost of $14 a bushel.

Currently, wheat is trading at $8.00.

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