Tag Archives: WING

THE WEEK THAT WAS – ANALYSTS RETHINK RATINGS AHEAD OF ICR CONFERENCE NEXT WEEK

THE WEEK THAT WAS – QUIET SEASON,  ANALYSTS RETHINK A FEW RATINGS AHEAD OF ICR (USUALLY IN ORLANDO, NOW VIRTUAL) CONFERENCE NEXT WEEK

Todd Brooks Initiates WING at Hold. Nicole Regan Upgrades MCD to OverWeight and Downgrades CAKE and QSR to  Neutral. James Rutherford Upgrades CAKE to OverWeight and Downgrades DPZ and TAST to UnderWeight and EqualWeight respectively. Nick Setyan Initiates STKS at Outperform. Dennis Geiger Upgrades TXRH to Buy.

MOST RECENT COMPANY TRANSCRIPTS WHERE RATINGS WERE CHANGED

WINGSTOP

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4465125-wingstop-inc-wing-ceo-charlie-morrison-on-q3-2021-results-earnings-call-transcript

MCDONALD’S

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4462502-mcdonalds-corporations-mcd-ceo-chris-kempczinski-on-q3-2021-results-earnings-call-transcript

CHEESECAKE FACTORY

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4465199-cheesecake-factory-incorporated-cake-ceo-david-overton-on-q3-2021-results-earnings-call

RESTAURANT BRANDS

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4461822-restaurant-brands-international-inc-qsr-ceo-jose-cil-on-q3-2021-results-earnings-call

DOMINO’S

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4459963-dominos-pizza-inc-dpz-ceo-rich-allison-on-q3-2021-results-earnings-call-transcript

CARROLS

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4468048-carrols-restaurant-group-inc-tast-ceo-dan-accordino-on-q3-2021-results-earnings-call

THE ONE GROUP HOSPITALITY

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4466483-one-group-hospitality-inc-stks-ceo-manny-hilario-on-q3-2021-results-earnings-call-transcript

TEXAS ROADHOUSE

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4463310-texas-roadhouse-inc-s-txrh-ceo-jerry-morgan-on-q3-2021-results-earnings-call-transcript

NEXT WEEK: No restaurant companies scheduled to report. Major event is ICR Conference, which we will attend, and report on.

Roger Lipton

 

 

UPDATED CORPORATE DESCRIPTIONS – YUM CHINA, KURA SUSHI, WINGSTOP, SWEETGREEN, FIRST WATCH, POTBELLY

UPDATED CORPORATE DESCRIPTIONS – YUM CHINA (YUMC), KURA SUSHI (KRUS),  WINGSTOP (WING), SWEETGREEN (SG), FIRST WATCH (FWRG), POTBELLY (PBPB)

UPDATED CORPORATE DESCRIPTIONS – SHORTLY WILL INCLUDE VIRTUALLY EVERY PUBLICLY HELD RESTAURANT COMPANY – to be updated each quarter

The summaries we show, while not complete in detail and involve a number of approximations, provide a good starting point for our own investment banking activities and will hopefully do the same for our readers.

https://www.liptonfinancialservices.com/2021/11/yum-china-holdings-yumc-in-process/

https://www.liptonfinancialservices.com/2021/11/kura-sushi-krus-write-up/

https://www.liptonfinancialservices.com/2021/11/wingstop/

https://www.liptonfinancialservices.com/2021/11/sweetgreen-sg-in-process/

https://www.liptonfinancialservices.com/2021/11/first-watch-fwrg-in-process/

https://www.liptonfinancialservices.com/2021/11/potbelly-pbpb-in-process/

 

COULD THIS HIGHLY VALUED RESTAURANT STOCK BE A RELATIVE BARGAIN ? – DEPENDS ON FUNDAMENTALS

COULD THIS HIGHLY VALUED RESTAURANT STOCK BE A RELATIVE BARGAIN ? – DEPENDS ON FUNDAMENTALS

We published an analysis on October 22nd, showing almost all the publicly held restaurant companies, comparing their current valuations to those before the pandemic. That chart is provided below, with prices updated to midday on 11/9. Based on the 2/15/20 (pre-pandemic) estimate of 2020 earnings, and today’s estimate of 2021 earnings, it appears that Wingstop (WING), while still carrying a very high multiple of earnings and EBITDA, is valued more reasonably today than ten months ago.

Let’s take a more complete fundamental look at Wingstop. Back on February 15th, WING was selling at $101/share. Trailing EPS, for calendar 2019, had been $0.73/share. This steadily growing franchising company was expected to earn around $0.87/share in 2021, so the P/E on forward earnings was a very high 116x. Investors obviously were valuing this small box pure franchisor, with consistent unit growth based on strong store level economics, with free cash flow providing recurring special dividends to shareholders.

The table below, from Bloomberg LP, shows the EPS trend. 2020 EPS has obviously accelerated, as a result of Wingstop’s positioning relative to the pandemic.

You can see that EPS for 2021 are estimated to be $1.43/share so that WING, at $129/share is valued at “only” 90x 2021 earnings. Adjusting that multiple upward by 5% to account for the fact that calendar 2021 is about 15 months away versus the forward 2020 normalized EPS as of 2/15/20, the comparable multiple is about 95x versus 116x on 2/15.

The question now: is WING better or worse off as a result of the pandemic, and going forward into a normalized environment at some point?

The key question in any franchising situation relates to unit level economics, which translates into unit growth and then cash flow for the franchisor. As stated in the 2019 10K, the operating model “targets an average investment of about $390k, excluding real estate purchase or lease costs and pre-opening expenses. In year two of operation, we target a franchisee unlevered cash on cash return of about 35% to 40%.” The Wingstop franchise system was growing steadily though calendar 2019. The table below shows the admirable trends, all compelling in terms of attracting investors. This is IDEAL. No wonder the valuation was (and is) so high.

Which brings us to the current situation. In the second quarter, the first during the pandemic,  for thirteen weeks ending 6/27/20, same store sales were up 31.9%. There were 23 net new openings. Adjusted EBITDA grew 54%.

In the recently reported third quarter same store sales were up 25.4%. There were 43 net new openings. Adjusted EBITDA grew 19.5%.

Predictably, the pipeline for new stores is building, with 135-140 net new openings in 2020 now the expectation, up from only 95 earlier in the year. Management stated that “our brand partners are enjoying unlevered cash on cash well above 50%….our existing brand partners make up over 80% of our pipeline.” We don’t doubt that franchisees, who were very happy at the end of ’19, with C/C returns in the area of 35-40%, are even more pleased with sales up 25-30% so far in calendar ’20.

We won’t go into the operational details other than to say that Wingstop is doubling down from an operational, marketing and real estate standpoint. International growth is a major focus, especially the expansion into China.  There is a current “regular” dividend of $0.14/share quarterly (less than 0.5% annually) but “special” dividends have been provided, with a $5.00 dividend going “ex” next week, bringing the total to over $13.00 per share over the last four years. The Company continues to carry long term debt approximating 6x trailing EBITDA, but that’s typical among franchisors and investors don’t object as long as they are getting “theirs” in a continuing low interest rate environment.

CONCLUSION:

There is no reason to expect that Wingstop’s industry position is anything but strengthened over the last ten months. While 25-30% same store sales growth will no doubt moderate, perhaps even decline a bit once a vaccine is available and dine-in activity is re-established, franchisees should continue to generate their “above 50%” C/C returns and build out their territories. We therefore view the existing consensus EPS estimate of $1.22 for 2020 to be a reasonable base  on which to build to $1.43 in 2021 and more thereafter. Investors that were prepared to pay well over 100x expected earnings for WING back in February should be more comfortable today, with an even stronger company and a slightly lower valuation.

Roger Lipton

 

 

ASSET LIGHT FRANCHISING – COMPLAINTS FROM FRANCHISEES – LET’S CLEAR THE AIR!!

 

ASSET LIGHT FRANCHISING – COMPLAINTS FROM FRANCHISEES – LET’S CLEAR THE AIR!!

The long term investment appeal of well established franchising companies is accepted by the investment community. Most of the prominent franchisors’ equities sell at price to trailing twelve month EBITDA multiples in the mid to high teens (Denny’s (DENN), Dine Brands (DIN), Dunkin’ Brands (DNKN), Pollo Loco (LOCO), McDonald’s (MCD), Restaurant Brands (QSR), Wendy’s (WEN), even higher in a couple of instances Domino’s (DPZ), Shake Shack (SHAK), Wingstop (WING), lower in a number of “challenged” situations like Jack in the Box (JACK), Red Robin (RRGB), Brinker (EAT), Fiesta Rest. (FRGI).

The attraction of asset light franchisors revolves around the presumably free cash flow for franchisors, a steady stream of royalty income unburdened by capital expenditures to build stores. The operating leverage is at the store level.  Franchisees are responsible for building the stores, then controlling food costs, labor, rent and all the other operating line items. Franchisors receive the royalty stream and have the obligation of supporting the system with brand development, site selection advice, marketing support, and operating supervision. These supporting functions, it should be noted, are optional to a degree, and we have written extensively about system support sometimes being short changed by corporate priorities such as major stock buybacks.

THE CURRENT WORD, IN THE FIELD, AS WE HEAR IT

We acknowledge that in every franchise system there will be some operators less satisfied than others. In the same way, customer reviews on Yelp or Facebook are more frequently written by critics. Bad news is more noteworthy and more customers are inclined to criticize than applaud, so we have to listen to the complaints but dig further for the reality. With that in mind, we hear the following from franchisees of various restaurant systems:

“I’ve been in this business for thirty years, and I’ve never seen it this bad. Everyone is making money but me; the landlords, the franchisor, the banks. My margins have been killed, and I’m up against my lending convenants”.

“All the franchisors want to do is build sales to build their royalties. The dollar deals are trading people down. My franchisor doesn’t care about my margins. I can’t maintain my margins, especially with the increasing cost of labor, let alone build it”.

“The franchisor is putting pressure on me to sell, even though I’ve always been considered a good operator, with high performance scores. I’m up to date on my development agreement, but they want somebody else to take me out, and the new buyer will agree to what I consider to be a ridiculously aggressive development contract”.

“The franchisor has replaced experienced long term field support with lower priced (and inexperienced) younger people. They’re cutting corporate overhead, but these kids, who never ran a store, are telling me to how to control costs.””

“I’m doing my best with the development objectives, but it is almost impossible to build stores with today’s economics. Rents are too high, labor costs are killing me, and I can’t raise prices in this promotional environment”.

“As if things aren’t tough enough, I’m being nickeled and dimed with demand for higher advertising contributions and fees on services (including software) that I thought would be provided”.

The valuations provided to the publicly held companies do not reflect the situation as described by the admittedly anonymous franchisees. The commentators quoted above don’t want to aggravate their franchisor, and we don’t want to be unfair or misleading to particular companies by relying on just a few conversations, though they do support one another. For the most part, franchisees are strongly discouraged from talking to the press or investment community. The companies will say that “competitive” issues require some secrecy, but there are few secrets in this industry.

The optimistic view, as represented by the valuations in the marketplace, is that the comments above are not typical or representative of the health of the subject franchise systems. Allow me to provide a short story which leads to a suggestion.

A SHORT STORY

Twenty six years ago, in 1992, IHOP had just come public. I was a sell side analyst, thought the numbers were interesting and the stock was reasonably priced. The company, led by the now deceased CEO Kim Herzer, invited me to attend their franchisee convention, which I did. I obviously had the opportunity to interface with many franchisees and it was clear that, while all was not perfect, the franchisor was providing a great deal of support that was embraced by an enthusiastic franchise community. IHOP stock tripled over several years for me and my clients who owned millions of shares. I attended several more of their annual conventions and maintain some of those relationships to this day. Obviously, the conviction I gained from their open attitude was critical to the success of the investment. I should add, that many of those buyers in 1992 owned the stock for many years, not living and dying on quarterly reports.

THE SUGGESTION

As you are no doubt by now anticipating, my suggestion to publicly held franchising companies: open up your franchisee conventions to the investment community. The companies may quickly respond that lenders are already invited to franchise conventions, but franchisees are unlikely to express their system oriented concerns when they are making a pitch to a potential lender. Companies may also respond that their lawyers think it would be a bad idea, not consistent with full disclosure and analysts would be getting “inside information”. Let’s not allow the lawyers to provide “cover”. A good lawyer will provide a solution to the problem, not just provide the pitfalls. Analysts attending a franchise convention are not being told what sales or profits are going to be. Attending a franchise convention is  a “channel check”, no more than talking to a supplier or customer of a manufacturing company, which any decent analyst will do.

The anecdotal critical comments, as described above, have likely been heard by others, but may be atypical of most restaurant franchising companies. There are no secrets in this business. One of the investment appeals of this industry is its transparency. Notable news is going to leak out anyway. The objective of any publicly held company is to build stock ownership by well informed investors. Investment analysts pride themselves on their ability to “build a mosaic”, enhance the information provided in quarterly reports, SEC filings, and conference calls, with “channel checks”. What channel check would be more pertinent than meeting the franchisees of a company that is dependent on franchisee success? Putting it another way, and taking the highest valuation relative to EBITDA as an example: Wingstop (WING) is a company I have the highest regard for. However, you could call it irresponsible to pay almost fifty times trailing EBITDA for Wingstop stock (and I haven’t) if I couldn’t talk to franchisees of my own choosing?

There’s no particular need to invite this writer if I’m not considered influential enough. I have not spoken to these analysts on this subject, but qualified industry followers such as David Palmer, Nicole Reagan, Matt DiFrisco, David Tarantino, Jeff Bernstein, Andy Barish, Bob Derrington, Mark Kalinowski, Michal Halen, Gary Occhiogrosso, Howard Penney, Jonathan Maze, Nicholas Upton, John Hamburger and John Gordon provide the beginning of an invitation list.  I rest my case.

Roger Lipton

WHAT’S HAPPENING ON MAIN STREET ? – FIRST QUARTER SALES AND TRAFFIC TRENDS

To access this content, you must purchase Website Subscription.

INCLUDED IN YOUR ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION:

  • Broad economic insight. As described in “Restaurants/Retail – Why Bother?” the restaurant and retail industries provide a leading indicator of far broader economic trends. You no longer have to be the last to know.
  • Two to three analytical pieces per week (“Roger’s Rap”) personally written by Roger Lipton describing corporate developments within his industry specialization, including their relevance to the broader economy.
  • Periodic “macro” discussions personally written by Roger Lipton, analyzing fiscal and monetary matters that will likely affect your investments and your business.
  • Opportunity to “Ask Rog” about your personal concerns, regarding individual companies or broader economic trends. Roger will use his best efforts to answer questions submitted, obviously limited by the number of requests . He may answer your question by email directly and/or include your question with his “Roger’s Rap” releases.
  • You are provided access to “Friends of Rog”, depending on your financial and operational needs. The outstanding individuals suggested here, have been personally “vetted” by Roger over decades. Roger receives no compensation based on whether or not use their services.
  • A free copy of the legendary best selling book, How you can Profit from the coming devaluation, as shown at right, written in 1970 by Harry Browne, which predicted the 2000% rise in the price of gold. This profound piece is more relevant today than ever, so Roger re-published it in 2012. This book will help you preserve the fortune you are in the process of accumulating.

HIGH GROWTH RESTAURANT STOCKS DOWN AN AVERAGE OF 39% – WHAT’S HAPPENING?

To access this content, you must purchase Website Subscription.

INCLUDED IN YOUR ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION:

  • Broad economic insight. As described in “Restaurants/Retail – Why Bother?” the restaurant and retail industries provide a leading indicator of far broader economic trends. You no longer have to be the last to know.
  • Two to three analytical pieces per week (“Roger’s Rap”) personally written by Roger Lipton describing corporate developments within his industry specialization, including their relevance to the broader economy.
  • Periodic “macro” discussions personally written by Roger Lipton, analyzing fiscal and monetary matters that will likely affect your investments and your business.
  • Opportunity to “Ask Rog” about your personal concerns, regarding individual companies or broader economic trends. Roger will use his best efforts to answer questions submitted, obviously limited by the number of requests . He may answer your question by email directly and/or include your question with his “Roger’s Rap” releases.
  • You are provided access to “Friends of Rog”, depending on your financial and operational needs. The outstanding individuals suggested here, have been personally “vetted” by Roger over decades. Roger receives no compensation based on whether or not use their services.
  • A free copy of the legendary best selling book, How you can Profit from the coming devaluation, as shown at right, written in 1970 by Harry Browne, which predicted the 2000% rise in the price of gold. This profound piece is more relevant today than ever, so Roger re-published it in 2012. This book will help you preserve the fortune you are in the process of accumulating.