Casual Dining Top-Line Trends

According to Knapp Track data, July was the worst month (by at least 100 bps) for casual dining operators from a traffic standpoint (biggest decline on a 2-year average basis as well). Earlier this week, Sanderson Farms commented that foodservice and restaurant demand has been weak with August shaping up like July. Darden’s weaker than anticipated same-store sales results for 1Q09 (ended August 24), particularly at Olive Garden, which has held up relative to other concept, reaffirmed this comment and signals that trends had not yet bottomed in 2Q for the overall industry.

Some companies might be better prepared than others. According to recent comments by management, the following casual dining companies’ guidance may be more realistic about trends in 2H08.
  • EAT 4Q08: Relative to current momentum, management stated, “You know, we didn’t see the exact same momentum continuing in Chili's. It’s sort of flattened out a little bit as we got through the first part of July. We think some of it was related to the way the holiday was and the calendar shifts there. But I would say that we went in and made some changes to our advertising and promotion, schedule. We were doing Create-Your-Own fajitas, which had a much higher price point. And we didn’t see the same kind of response from consumers that we had in the past.

    I think the other issue we were facing in July was we were lapping over a highly successful promotion from last year where we had some of the best same store sales performance in Q1. So, we made some changes to the advertising and promotion schedule. We went to the Bottomless Express Lunch again and back with our Big Mouth Burger Bites, which have done very well and we started seeing a bounce back again. So I would say that the environment is pretty choppy out there right now.”
  • CPKI 2Q08: “Despite our outperformance in the second quarter, we are making only modest changes to our full year guidance by raising our range to $0.65 to $0.70. The way we feel is, until we see consistent upticks in traffic, we'll remain cautious and believe that a negative 1% to 0% comp number for the full year is still the right range for us to forecast.”

    “When I look at our revenues and our profits, I feel very, very good about the current state of our business, even though we're very cautious about the back half of the year and lack of visibility that we all have, and that makes us conservative.”

  • RRGB 2Q08: “We continue to believe we have good visibility generally on the cost side of our business for the balance of 2008 but our visibility for revenue in the second half of the year is less clear. We will be lapping our toughest comp of the year in Q3 with the consumer environment remaining under pressure from macroeconomic influences. We will be on advertising in three weeks in the fourth quarter this year when we were dark in all of the fourth quarter last year. As we have laid this out in our press release, and as Katie will share with you later in the call, we have updated our fiscal 2008 guidance to reflect this top line uncertainty and related deleverage.”

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