With the Retailers out with April sales trends, here is a collection of comments from the restaurant industry on April trends.  In general, it seems that April was either in line or better than 1Q for restaurant stocks.



“We expect our second quarter sales dynamics to be similar to the first quarter for our divisions.  We expect moderate same-store sales growth in China in the second quarter.  For the U.S. in the second half of the year we expect positive sales growth.”


“We haven’t seen a significant change since the first quarter.”




“I would say, without really disclosing or talking about really April or April trends or anything like that, we do see, as Doug said, business spending starting to come back. We do see banquet bookings as we go out looking better than they have, same way with some social bookings. So your thesis around the business spending recovering, I would say we saw that in our quarter and feel pretty comfortable that that’s continuing to happen.”




“Our momentum is continuing into April with comparable sales trending positive across all of our geographies”


“I think that the consumer is starting to feel a little bit better. We see consumer confidence scores getting better over the last couple of months. We see a little more spending in the marketplace and yet the stubborn unemployment being at 9.7% still is a factor, I think, relative to that overall spending and net confidence.”


“For April, what we said in the release was that we expect April to be at least as strong as the quarter on a global basis. So what we’re setting there is a floor, saying that it won’t any lower than 4.2 is what our expectation is.”




[In terms of sales trends] “What we saw in March did continue into April…”




“As we move through the balance of the year in CPG, we expect to see accelerated revenue growth in relation to the second quarter driven by both VIA and the SBC QSR expansion.”




“We should note that our comparable sales trends for the first three weeks of fiscal April continue to be in the plus-4% range, and we’re also continuing to see positive guest traffic comparisons.  However, we have seen some increased choppiness in April due to the Easter and spring break holiday calendar shift as compared to the prior month.”




“As is generally our practice, we do not plan to give any more specifics on second quarter-to-date comparable sales trends on this call. With that said, for the second quarter of 2010, we estimate diluted earnings per share between $0.34 and $0.36 based on an assumed range of comparable sales of between flat and positive 1%.”




“For April to date, our same-store sales are negative 3.7% at company-owned and negative 2.4% at franchised locations.”


“Last, and of greater impact in April, is that we have experienced a decline in our alcohol sales, which we believe is a result of aggressive competition and advertising for our bar business, as competitors, both local and on a national level, are offering significant discounts for both food and alcohol.”




“We’re encouraged by the improved traffic trends and these trends have held up this far in April.”




“April comps are tracking at 10.3% for company and 10.4% for franchise bakery-cafes.”


“The first 27 days of the April fiscal period ran at a two-year comp of 8%. As already mentioned, this implies that two-year comps will accelerate the rest of the second quarter.”




“Thus far in April, both concepts are experiencing roughly a 200 basis point improvement from their first quarter comp results [1Q Bistro SSS were -4.4%, 1Q Pei Wei SSS were +1.6%].”


“The pickup from 1Q is primarily traffic.”




“April traffic in the U.S. continues to be positive while comp sales, albeit negative, have been slightly better than March. We believe continued positive traffic is a leading indicator and will play a critical role in improving our comp sales over time. Although it’s still too early to tell what the rest of the quarter will look like, we remain cautiously on cautiously optimistic.”


“U.S. and Canada comp sales were -2% in March…April traffic in the U.S. continues to be positive while comp sales, albeit negative, have been slightly better than March.”




“And during April, sales growth continues to be in the low single digit range.” [Following +2.4% Q1]




“The second half of April was much better than the first half.”




“One should assume a reverse benefit in the second quarter from Easter shift. “




“Clearly, this rare pace of sales growth [+14.3%] is not something we expect to sustain at this level but we do, nevertheless, still expect solid growth in our domestic business in the second quarter.”




“The Pizza category is healthy, and as a whole during the first quarter was gaining traffic from other QSR categories. This trend has continued into the second quarter.”




“April got better than March. We saw about a point and a half improvement in April over where we were in March.”




“April got better than March. We saw about a point and a half improvement in April over where we were in March.”




Howard Penney

Managing Director



Large May Shower: The SP500's Long Term TAIL

There is only one line of support left. That’s the long term TAIL of support (see chart) down at 1063. If that holds, markets aren’t going away – at least not today. If that line doesn’t hold… well, we’ll let you know what we think after we see that closing price.


It will be interesting to hear what the bulls have to say in the morning.


Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Large May Shower: The SP500's Long Term TAIL - S P




In 2008 and 2009, the company spent significant time rightsizing the cost structure of the business and resetting the business model to improve profitability.  When operated and run properly, COSI participates in a very attractive segment of the restaurant industry - the fast casual segment.  For more than two years, COSI has been an operational disaster and has experienced a significant decline in same-store sales and in its catering business (not surprisingly, PNRA has made this a big initiative). 


Part of the cleaning house process requires fixing the operating model in order to capture incremental sales dollars.  In addition to closing stores, COSI has taken the past 2 years to right-size its economic model.  With that in the REAR VIEW, the focus on incremental customer visits is now the priority.




At the end of 4Q09, COSI had cash and cash equivalents of approximately $4.1 million, and little funded debt.  With the recent sale of 13 restaurants in the Washington D. C. market to Capitol C Restaurants LLC for $8.4 million, announced on April 27, the balance sheet and the operating model were further enhanced.  Capitol C has entered into a development agreement to open six additional COSI restaurants in D.C.  Under the terms of the Asset Purchase and Sale Agreement, $6.4 million of the purchase price was paid in cash at closing, $1.4 million is to be paid pursuant to a three-year note and the balance of $0.6 million is being held in escrow subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions.




The refranchising of the D.C. restaurants is a strong indicator that COSI has turned the operational corner and raised the likelihood that COSI will see accelerating franchised revenue growth over the next 12 months.  COSI opened six franchise locations in 2009 and is looking to accelerate franchise unit growth in 2010.  Specifically, management stated on its 4Q09 earnings call that there has been a lot of interest on the part of potential franchise partners over the past 6-9 months.  To that end, the company said it would begin to make “specific contacts to individuals in various markets” in April and May.  Based on the refranchising of slightly more than half of the company’s D.C. market in late April, those plans are coming to fruition. 


The company’s focus on reducing its cost structure has helped on the food and labor cost lines and these benefits have flowed through to the franchisees.  As margins and returns continue to get incrementally better, franchise growth will follow as the capital markets allow for franchisees to get incremental financing.  With COSI operating 68% of the store base at the end of 2009 (closer to 60% in 2Q10, adjusting for the partially refranchised D.C. market), there are further opportunities to refranchise more stores, thereby raising cash and enhancing the business model.




As of the 4Q09 conference call, management expected to complete the month of March with positive system-wide same-store sales, reflecting positive growth at both company and franchise locations.  For reference, COSI’s 4Q09 call took place on March 29, 2010 so management had good visibility on March results.  Like every other restaurant company, COSI’s trends were “derailed in February” due to the record snow and weather that the company experienced in 100% of its company markets.  It should be noted that the improvement in same-store trends is due largely to increased operational focus as the company recalibrated its marketing calendar for 2010.  COSI shifted its marketing dollars away from the extreme weather months of 1Q and added it to the balance of the fiscal year.  COSI’s 2Q will see the benefit of additional and refocused marketing dollars.  That being said, I would not expect to see a significant pick up in 2-year average trends until the second quarter, though my 1Q10 -1% company same-store sales estimate assumes a moderate sequential improvement in 2-year trends (big improvement on a 1-year basis from 4Q09’s -6.6% as the year ago comp is much easier).  Also helping 1Q10 is the fact that management stated, relative to catering, that it has “started to see some recovery in early 2010 from the economic turbulence of ’09.”  It is important to remember that declining catering sales (-24% in 2009) have put increased pressure on the company’s average check.






Historically, COSI has never done any meaningful marketing outside of an in-store focus on its most loyal customer base.  Management recognized that it must now attempt to broaden the concept’s appeal by extending brand awareness.  The driver of revenue growth over the next year will be (1) increased marketing (2) new day parts and new products (3) focused operations and (4) a new coffee program.    


INCREASED MARKETING - One of the biggest potential drivers of incremental l traffic is increased marketing dollars and a more efficient use of current marketing spending.   With a new advertising agency in place, COSI will increase spending on “out-of-store” media to increase awareness of the brand and drive incremental traffic.  COSI also has a newly designed website, menu boards and a new social media team in place to drive the marketing effort.  The company’s newly revamped website (completed in late 2009) will have the capabilities to roll out online ordering, online catering, and social media promotions in 2010.


CATERING - While catering sales started to recover in 4Q09 (only -13.5% versus -27.5% in the prior two quarters), there is a very large opportunity in catering.  The products and menu are a good fit for catering.  Operationally, COSI has consolidated its catering call center and is now focused on the logistics of improving ordering, packaging, and delivery.  In addition, COSI is going to launch a catering loyalty program in 2010. The company also plans to expand its direct sales efforts, particularly in its urban markets, in order to drive incremental catering sales.  As I stated earlier, management suggested that it experienced sequentially better catering trends in early 2010.


OPERATIONAL FOCUS – At lunch, management is working to simplify its operations in an effort to serve more guests during the high demand lunch hours of the day.  Specifically, management is working toward reducing wait times.  Management commented that its recent initiatives to increase speed have translated into recent sales lifts and an increase in positive responses from its guest feedback tools.


GROWING DAY PARTS AND NEW PRODUCTS- COSI launched 3 new breakfast wraps on March 29 (so more of a 2Q10 sales driver) to help expand the breakfast day part.  The company’s breakfast menu also includes steel-cut oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches; Squagels, unique to COSI and Fruit Parfaits.  In the coming months, COSI is also working to capitalize on its coffee platform and improve its grab-and-go beverage products, which could potentially drive both traffic and margin growth. 




Operating margin declined 170 bps in 2009, excluding asset impairment, store closure and lease termination costs.  The company’s efforts to reset its cost structure, primarily on the cost of goods sold, labor and G&A expense lines, stemmed further declines.  G&A expense, alone, declined nearly 25% in 2009 and 200 bps as a percentage of sales.  With company-owned same-store sales -10.8% in FY09, COSI experienced significant deleveraging during the year on the labor and occupancy expense lines, despite management’s cost cutting initiatives.  To that end, COSI will need to see a return to positive same-store sales growth before we can really see the magnitude of the benefit to the company’s P&L.


As I said earlier, I would expect same-store sales to get better in 1Q10, but the benefit from the increased and redirected marketing spending, combined with the recently launched breakfast wraps, will not materialize until the second quarter.  The YOY operating margin comparison, however, is much easier in the first quarter than in 2Q10, and I would expect COSI to report a nearly 200 bp improvement in margin (though still negative).  It will be important to see how much leverage the company achieves in 1Q10 with significantly better top-line trends (on a 1-year basis).  From there, it will be easier to measure the impact on margins for the remainder of the year based on my assumption for positive same-store sales trends and to gauge what it will take for COSI to return to profitability.  Regardless, I would expect margins to improve in FY10 with the second quarter being the most difficult from a YOY comparison standpoint.


COSI’s FY10 margin will also be helped somewhat by the fact that the company has no plans to open company-owned units, relative to 2 in FY09 and 1 in FY08.  The company has reduced its new unit growth over the last couple of years from 21 in FY06 and 6 in FY07 as it has worked to reset its cost structure and improve in-store unit economics. 


Thoughts on valuation due out shortly…


Howard Penney

Managing Director


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Forward looking commentary was typically bullish, although we didn't come away necessarily feeling bullish. Here are our "notes" from the release and conference call.



“We see signs of improvement in the Las Vegas market and expect those to accelerate in the second half of the year and into 2011.  Our forward bookings continue to improve as our convention bookings continue to gain traction." 

- Jim Murren, Chairman and CEO of MGM MIRAGE



  • "CityCenter’s first quarter results were particularly affected by the weakness in the Las Vegas convention market.  We expect Las Vegas visitation to be strong for the balance of 2010 and Aria’s conference calendar is strengthening; therefore, we expect Aria’s occupancy to improve over the balance of the year.  We are unveiling a comprehensive new marketing effort for Aria in the coming weeks with new TV and direct marketing elements.  Now that CityCenter is complete, we are able to use its architecturally unique and highly visual assets in a coordinated global advertising push.” 
    • Well, it's hard to get worse than 63% occupancy.... I'll believe the leverage in this architectural marvel when I see it.
  • "Casino revenue decreased 5%, partially offset by strong baccarat results during the quarter with baccarat volume up 17%."
  • "Las Vegas Strip RevPAR decreased 8% and room revenues decreased 6% y-o-y."
  • MGM Grand Macau reported EBITDA of $71M, since MGM provides no information on this property, below are some of our details
    • Slot win: $24MM
    • Mass win: $97MM
    • VIP win: $322MM … we think that hold was around 3.0%-3.1% assuming 15-20% direct VIP play
    • Unfortunately for MGM, luck has a way of reversing itself and April wasn't so great for them ( for details, see our note "STRONG APRIL, VIP HOLD CONTRIBUTES" published on 5/4/2010)
  • City Center lost $28MM of EBITDA (see our note "CITYCENTER OF DISASTER" from 4/15/2010 for more detail)



  • Las Vegas market-- "stabilizing and improving, convention business critical"
    • Locally, still rugged market.
    • Yielded up room rates half of the time in Q; in April, 70% of the time.
    • Back half of 2010 and into 2011-- we see visitation up; still expect 38MM visitors for 2010.
    • Slot handle strong
    • Gained market share in baccarat in drop and win
    • Market share up (with Aria and without Aria)
    • Entertainment revenues are up YoY
    • Convention room rates: 14.5% of total room mix (flat YoY)
      • Citywide convention business down 5% YoY
      • Attrition rates back to normalized levels
      • Las Vegas: premier destination for conventions
      • Would like normalized convention business mix to be 16%
      • Convention ADR:  $140; leisure ADR:  $80
      • As convention business comes back, should positively impact REVPOR and REVPAR
    • REVPAR in 2Q will be down "mid-to-low single digits"- expect REVPAR in the black for 2H of 2010.
    • Convention bookings in 2011: "very strong"
      • Excluding Aria and Vdara: "highest we ever had"... +20% YoY;
      • Room rates also trending higher
  • MGM Resorts International name change:
    • Coincide with launch of new loyalty program; it will be tiered
    • "We have the best assets in industry"-- deliver this message through loyalty program
  • In-house marketing team have grown
  • Building market share in gaming business in LV, Detroit, and Mississippi.
  • City Center
    • Trends moving sequentially in right direction;
    • Occupancy in 1Q disappointing relative to other established resorts
    • Customer awareness improving dramatically
    • Seeing occupancy improve on sequential basis


  • Borgata contributed 7MM operating income in 1Q
  • Cash: $441 MM as of 3/31/2010
  • Convertible bond offering: 1.12 billion
  • Stock compensation: 9-10MM for Q2
  • Depreciation expense: 165-175MM for Q2
  • Gross interest expense: 264MM (250 MM cash interest, no captialized interest); 280-290MM (no capaitlized interest ) for Q2.
  • City Center EBITDA: Vdra - 4.1MM, Mandarin 6MM, Crystals gained 1MM
  • Aria acquired 8.2% of LV gaming market; table drop on par with Bellagio; non casino rev: 84.1MM; January 56%, February 63%, March 70% occupancy; combined occupancy 64%, 194 ADR (199 ADR for Bellagio); booking trends improved for transit and convention customers; May occupancy should be 80%; Convention % of total bookings: 23,000 room nights (21,000 peak for Bellagio); lead volume increased by 300% YoY; 160,000 room nights in 1Q; for 2011, 46,000 room nights convention - 174% YoY; amortizing expense: 8.2MM... FTE down to 6,000; 2.5MM amortization of small equipment and start-up supplies
  • Vdara - in March, property lost ~2.5 MM....  lost 300K in April.
  • Crystals - 56% in 1Q occupied by tenants for business use.  65% occupancy for Q2. 82% should be occupied by year-end.  Expect Veer Tower closings in May 2010.



  • Cost-cuts on labor side were permanent: FTEs down 4% in YoY; occupancies were relatively high; does not expect labor to move up materially; FT component - flat to down for rest of year.
  • 1.2 billion of debt maturing in October that was not extended.
  • Aria room nights available: 358k in 1Q; mid-week occupancy--mid-70s; low 90s for weekend occupancy.
  • For Aria, occupancy or rate improvements?
    • Have been able to hold the rate in 1Q
    • right now, ramping up occupancy; for May, expect 80%; can't achieve 100% because of mix issue.
    • lack of convention business in 1Q--but starting to build.
  • Hired a bank to put toward offering documents for Borgata; document gone out to qualified buyers; process is professionally managed by Boyd; not in a fire-sale.
  • Aria Occupancy rate for April: 69%
  • MGM Macau IPO: late 3Q, early 4Q
  • Hospitality business: 11 Management agreements/ 6 letters of intent: 17 hotels, 6000 hotel rooms/resort (e.g. Egypt, India, Chinese JV); should achieve 100MM in revenues annualized in 5 years.
  • Vietnam: 50 year agreement there; evaluating that market further.
  • Receivables up 50% YoY: receivables due from City-Center (residential component); up to 244 condo proceeds - 200 MM condo proceeds element of completion guaranteed; nothing gaming oriented.
  • Macau: "pretty solid 1Q"; lowered marketing costs; competitors have opened up....increased traffic as a benefit; 60,000-70,000 sq ft of space for further development--want to enhance main gaming floor;
  • Macau net rev: 412 MM in 1Q, (262 MM 1Q 2009)
  • Perini suit: 150MM at low end, 300 MM at high end of legal impact;
  • Vdara rooms in inventory: 864 rooms (out of 1,525) are operated as hotels; remaining apartments are under contracts; by mid-summer, 175 units will close as residences.
  • No future developments in Macau before table cap restriction. 
  • Convention nights booked:  at end of 1Q, 865,000 rooms booked for 2011 (compares to 700k booked for 2010), excludes city center ; Q3--should expect positive YoY rooms booked Q4--may be down YoY rooms booked; Q2--room revenue and room nights should be up YoY.
    • Room rates for conventions: for 2010, similar to 2004-2005 room rates; room rates for 2011, similar to 2007 room rates.
  • Don't expect CC 1Q results as run rate going forward.
  • For CC: Are not pushing rates higher until occupancy gets to 90s; right now, ADR 180-190 at Aria--little bit more at Mandarin--little less at Vdara.
  • Vdara should turn the corner - had been dragging down results at CC EBITDA.
  • All components of CC should be making money by end of Q2.
  • CC starts to make money at 75% occupancy.
  • Baccarat: gaming mix is higher; market share in LV bacc is 38% (with Aria, 46-47%), year ago, market share is 37.5%.

SP500 Risk Management Levels, Refreshed

There is a lot going on out there today, so I’ll keep this to the point.


I am starting to register a series of lower-highs in term of immediate term TRADE lines of resistance (1192 and 1186). On the margin, that’s bearish. All the while, immediate term volume and volatility studies continue to support our call for May Showers in US Equities. We have been calling for a correction, not a crash.


All that said, every market correction finds its level of support. In the chart below, we show that both the immediate and intermediate term TRADE and TREND lines of support are converging between 1144-1152. If this market is going to have a slingshot rally, it should do it after testing this range.


If the SP500 doesn’t hold 1144, watch out below.



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


SP500 Risk Management Levels, Refreshed - S P



“During the first quarter, transient demand increased at many of our hotels around the world. While room rates continue to be under pressure, particularly in North America, we are encouraged by year-over-year increases in occupancy in most markets. On the group side, we have begun to see greater booking activity, but we continue to have limited visibility on future business due to short-lead times and smaller-sized bookings."

- Mark S. Hoplamazian, president and chief executive officer of Hyatt Hotels Corporation



  • "Our owned and leased hotels demonstrated margin growth during the quarter, as a result of strong operating performance, expense management, and because two properties experienced significant gains due to renovations in prior periods."
  • Expect to open more than 25 properties, across all brands in 2010
  • Owned Hotels commentary:
    • RevPAR +9.8% (8.1% ex. FX).
      • Occupancy +760 bps, -2.8% ADR (-4.4% ex. FX).
    • "Strong performance at the Company’s international owned and leased hotels contributed significantly to the revenue growth"
    • Hotel Mar Monte (197 rooms) was added to the portfolio this Q and Hyatt Regency Boston was sold for $113 million (H also retained a mgmt contract on the sale)
  • North American Management & Franchising commentary:
    • Revenue flat y-o-y, while EBITDA was up 3.3% y-o-y
    • Full Service RevPAR -2.2%
      • Occupancy +370bps, ADR -7.9%
    • Select Service RevPAR + 2.6%
      • Occupancy +870bps, -10.7% ADR
  • International Management & Franchising commentary:
    • Revenue +23.1% (16.7% ex. fx benefit) and Adjusted EBITDA +16.7% (9.1% ex. fx benefit)
    • RevPAR +18.7% (9.6% ex. fx benefits)
      • Occupancy +800 bps, ADR +3.6% (-4.3% ex. FX benefits)
  • SG&A increased by 30%, and 12% adjusting for the rabbi trust, as a result of increased bad debt expense and higher professional fees
  • 2010 Guidance:
    • Capital expenditures: $270 to $290MM, "inclusive of broad-scope renovation projects at five owned properties. The Company anticipates that renovations at these properties will cause displacement beginning in July 2010, resulting from a reduction in daily room inventory of approximately 400 rooms on average per day during the second half of 2010."
    • Depreciation and amortization: $285 to $295MM
    • Interest expense: $55 to $60MM


  • Expanding into markets that they are under penetrated is a high priority for them
  • As construction loans are difficult to come by, they are selectively helping owners by providing them with some capital in the form of key money and sliver equity
    • Will be allocating more effort to helping grow their franchise and management pipeline - through a combination of debt and equity investing
  • Increased number of new openings by 5 in 2010 (from 20 to 25) due to some conversions and accelerated time line of openings
  • Over the next 5 years they expect to enter 15 new markets, and are particularly keen on India
  • The $8MM settlement was related to a development dispute
  • Transient demand has continued to strengthen across all their segments
    • Transient revenues were up across all 3 sectors
  • Group nights sold increased 3% y-o-y
  • Over 1/3 of the owned hotel increase were due to ramp in International hotels. In particular there were 2 hotels that were ramping up in 1Q09
    • 50% of the 220 bps margin improvement was due to easy comps at 3 new hotels that were still ramping at 3 of their hotels in 1Q09
  • Expect that their costs will continue to increase in the balance of the 2010, driven by inflation
  • Management & Franchise - NA segment:
    • Transient room nights increased 9% but rates were down 7%
    • Volume of group room night sold increased, but revenues were down mid single digit due to lower rates
    • In the quarter for the quarter bookings were much higher and cancellations back to normal
  • International Mgmt & franchise
    • Asia is benefiting from ramping hotels that have opened over the last 12 months
    • Lift in business in Shanghai also helped them
  • Income taxes: expecting 38%. International blended 20%
    • Their income tax rate increased in the quarter due to timing of payments


  • Owned hotels color
    • 3 ramping assets include: Hyatt West Hollywood converted to Andaz, Grand Cypus and Vancouver asset
    • Only so much they can do to mitigate costs going forward due to occupancy driven RevPAR growth and inflation
    • 2 regions that performed very well were EMEA and Asia/ Pacific (not just for owned)
  • Internationally transient is the primarily driver of revenue growth
  • Seeing more investment opportunity then before - although they aren't the traditional buy/sell arrangements. Have various forms of ownership in assets. In terms of timing and pace, there just isn't much that has gotten done to date
  • $8MM settlement gain was included in the cost line because they treated it as a recovery in the cost of sales.
    •  Don't care how you classify it - its not recurring and its a catch up payment
  • Would consider buying bank debt. Most of the deals that they are looking at are structured deals
  • Key issue for them in growing their pipeline is the lack of financing and figuring out how to deploy capital and provide key money most efficiently to do so
  • Construction dislocation last year? 
    • Grand Cyprus and conversion of West Hollywood to Andaz.  Andaz opening in Jan 09. Grand Cyprus ran mostly in the 1H2009 - and there weren't an enormous amount of rooms in the 2Q
    • Bottom line the comp was much easier in the 1Q vs. 2Q and in the 2H they will have a drag due to renovation disruption
  • Amortization of deferred gains are $2-3MM annually for them
    • Compared to over $80MM for HOT
  • 12% increase in SG&A - 50% of which was bad debt charge driven. Balance was increased compensation and cost of being a public company. See the upward trend being maintained
  • JV Debt $517-$520MM of debt - will be in the Q they file later today
  • Group color:
    • In the year, for the year bookings have gone up dramatically.  Partly driven by people being hesitant in making longer term decisions
    • Need a real economic recover to lengthen the booking cycle
    • Transient demand has really increased and if that trends continues and available rooms contract as a result, groups may be more willing to book further out


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