July 28, 2012

Honesty is the Best Policy

This week saw further fallout from the strong winter 2011/2012 sales at McDonald's
USA. On Monday morning Oak Brook announced earnings for the second quarter
and revealed sales in the USA were up 3.9% for the 2nd Quarter and up 2.9% for
the month of June causing Nation's Restaurant News to report:

With same-store sales slowing sequentially from an 8.9-percent increase in the 
first quarter of 2012 to a 3.6-percent gain in the second quarter, McDonald’s 
would need to hit value harder in its domestic marketing, Thompson said.

But for the past several years sales increases in the USA of 3% or 4% have kept
investors quite happy and the share price hit historical highs.  Because of Oak
Brook's lack of candor about how much the warm winter helped sales new
expectations have been set among investors and the media.

A word search of the earnings call transcript shows the word "Value" is used
over 60 times in a one hour discussion!

To be sure there were other issues with corporate earnings but this lack of under -
standing will become an even bigger problem during the winter of 2012/2013 when 
McDonald's USA will be up against those great numbers from last winter.

And yet McDonald's management refuses to warn investors that it's going to be
a cold winter no matter the reading on the thermometer.

Obamacare = Food Inflation?

We've previously mentioned the involvement of a former member of the McDonald's
top management team in the original drafting of the Affordable Care Act. This week
the Wall Street Journal covered the topic once more HERE

It's ironic that a former McDonald's executive and bushels of campaign contributions
from McDonald's corporate employees created something that might do major damage
to the McDonald's system over the next few years.

Speaking of that damage - during the investor conference call McDonald's CFO told
analysts he expected that health care might cost the average restaurant $10,000 to
$30,000 per year. However, the projections given to McDonald's franchisees in the 
field are three or four times those levels. Another case of telling investors what they 
want to hear.

And the CFO made another statement in reference to health care, "we have years like
last year where commodity cost increases were even greater than that. So while this 
is a significant item and it’s gaining a lot of attention as the P&L item we've managed 
through items of this magnitude in the past and I’m hopeful we can do that in future."

No, this time it's different. Premium and core menu prices are already too high at
McDonald's. It's doubtful McDonald's Operators can raise prices much further when
commodities increase, let alone raise prices again to cover health care.

But investors like to be told about food inflation in their franchised investments.

July 23, 2012

You Can See McDonald's Future From Here

For many years I've encouraged McDonald's franchisees to pay
attention to the quarterly conference calls between McDonald's
executives and Wall Street analysts. I don't think too many
took my advice.

But, today's call is significant because of the drought, foods costs
and competitive pressures. This call contains revealing comments
from management and some really interesting questions from the

If McDonald's Operators want a look into the next 18 months you
really should read the transcript of today's call. Or, you can listen
to the playback on the investor section of the McDonald's website.

Seeking Alpha transcript is HERE

CNBC - MCD to Go On Offensive on Value

This is an interview with an analyst who explains very succinctly
that McDonald's can win a price war because the franchisees 
spend so much money on advertising.

The McDonald's discussion is about four minutes into this 10
minute video, but it's worth the wait.

Rachael Rothman on McDonald's

Analysts - More Discounting at McDonald's

Some smart people quoted in this article.
Howard Penney, managing director of investment research firm Hedgeye Risk 
Management says: “McDonald's can't ever go back to the Dollar Menu.
It's permanently gone.”

Kate MacArthur reports for Crain's Chicago Business

McDonald's CFO Foresaw Drought

McDonald’s Bought Commodities Before Rally, Cuts Cost Forecast - Bloomberg:

McDonald's Rare Profit Miss Signals Slower Growth Ahead - Forbes

McDonald's Rare Profit Miss Signals Slower Growth Ahead - Forbes:

July 22, 2012

McDonald's of India to Lower Prices 6-15%

The last sentence in this article is profound:
"The move is line with the fast food giant's international positioning of value and affordability, with more stress on volumes than margins."

The Economic Times reports HERE

July 20, 2012

What's the Beef?

Burger Business Reports on Beef Prices

Chipotle Down

Friday morning most restaurant shares are under pressure because of poor earnings from Chipotle. Discussing commodities on CNBC an analyst from Raymond James quiped,

"Chicken is just corn with feathers"

News on Chipotle is HERE

July 19, 2012

It's Going to be a Hard Candy Christmas?

When announcing "disaster" areas due to the drought USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack
said: "ranchers were most seriously affected and he expects the prices of beef,
poultry and pork "may go down a bit, but over time they will rise."

In other words, restaurants may get some relief this summer but just about the time
the industry comes up against the tough comps caused by the warm weather of
winter 2011/2012 the corporate folks will be pushing for discounting and coupons to
keep same store sales from going negative.


Dow Jones Reports HERE

The Food Cost Maize

This article contains some interesting facts about  where the money goes when we buy groceries.

The Tax Cliff Is a Growth Killer - WSJ.com

The economist who brought us the Reagan Recovery in the 1980s writes
about the upcoming tax problems.

Arthur Laffer and Ford Scudder: The Tax Cliff Is a Growth Killer - WSJ.com:

July 14, 2012

QSR Remodels

Wendy's is telling investors “Image Activation is more than a remodel” and 
increases sales by more than 25%. We suspect Wendy's management is doing 
what other large chains have done - at the beginning of the initiative remodel 
some really dilapidated stores where the remodel was long overdue. This puffs up
the numbers making a good sales pitch for franchisees (and Wall Street).

Time Mag reports HERE

Complimentary Newsletters - Technomic, Inc.

If you receive restaurant industry news by E-mail you know that some of the E-mails
are interesting and some are mainly advertisements. One of the best we receive is the
newsletter from research firm Technomic. There is little or no advertising, the format 
is clean, and they even include reports from prominent Wall Street firms.

You can sign up for Technomic publications HERE

July 10, 2012

Corn Price Gain Seen Prompting Higher Meat, Soda Costs

Growing up in small South Dakota 
towns I learned early that "Knee High 
by the Fourth of July" was more than 
just a trite saying. But it didn't 
happen this year in most growing 
areas so corn prices are rising. And 
the continuing drought will impact 
other costs.

Hedging might soften the impact but 
eventually restaurant Operators will 
have to absorb the increased costs.

That will likely happen in the fall, just about the time QSRs will begin comping against 
the warm winter weather of 2011/2012. Of course, the only answer from corporate 
marketing will be more discounting and "value". As we've written before, investors and 
analysts don't understand the impact of a warm winter. If sales soften in the fall they'll
over react and corporate headquarters will spend buckets of franchisee money giving 
away food to improve same store sales. 

Your fourth quarter and first quarter 2013 marketing calender is about to change dramatically.

>>>  Corn Price Gain Seen Prompting Higher Meat, Soda Costs - Bloomberg:


Growth Chains: Tom & Eddie’s (Ed Rensi that is)

Growth Chains: Tom & Eddie’s | Nation's Restaurant News:


Somebody Likes Being on Camera!

Why would the world's largest restaurant chain post their
proprietary recipes on YouTube ?

Next we'll see Coke reveal their contents and KFC
disclose the Eleven Herbs and Spices. 

>>>  The Oak Brook chef tells all