CKR – Building Momentum

CKR posted solid period 7 same-store sales growth at both Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, up 4.2% and 1.4%, respectively, closing out 2Q up 3.8% at Carl’s Jr. and up 3.3% at Hardee’s. Both concepts experienced sequentially better 2-year average trends in 2Q from 1Q (100 bp improvement at Carl’s Jr. and 250 bps better Hardee’s). CKR will break out the contribution from price and traffic when it reports its 2Q09 results, and as I mentioned in my post on July 22 (The Pricing Balancing Act Continues), the company has been raising its prices a little more aggressively (up 4% in 1Q09). We will have to wait to see how this has impacted CKR’s traffic trends.
  • CKR also provided restaurant operating cost guidance for 2Q and expects restaurant operating margins to be up 20-50 bps year-over-year. The company is facing an easy comparison from last year when restaurant margins fell 300 bps (primarily as a result of higher food costs), but margins growing YOY is favorable, nonetheless, as CKR’s margins have declined for the last 6 quarters. For reference, the company is also facing as easy comparison in 3Q as margins were down 190 bps in 3Q08 on a consolidated basis (down 260 bps at Hardee’s).
  • These favorable year-over-year restaurant margins should translate into expanding operating margins as the company has communicated that it is focused on reducing its G&A expenses, which have been criticized as being too high (Ramius LLC, me). CKR’s operating margins grew YOY in 1Q for the first time in 5 quarters (up 40 bps), and management stated on its last earnings call that the lower levels of G&A in 1Q would be an appropriate run-rate going forward. The company highlighted that it will see about a $1 million increase in its share-based compensation (included in G&A) in 2Q, but that the level of increase will be only slightly more than what the company experienced in 1Q.

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