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Brinker (EAT) Bets on Sales Building Efforts Amid Cost Woes

Brinker International, Inc. EAT is focused on driving traffic and revenues through a range of sales-building initiatives. However, high costs remain a concern. In the past three months, shares of the company have fallen 0.9%, compared with the industry’s decline of 16.3%.

Growth Drivers

The company has been benefiting from sales-building initiatives, including streamlining and innovation of its menu, strengthening value proposition, better food presentation, advertising campaigns, kitchen system optimization and introduction of a better service platform.

The company has been witnessing pent-up demand for dine-in experience on the back of ramped-up vaccination drive and easing of capacity restrictions. To this end, additional team members are being hired to support higher volumes. Brinker continues to focus on consumer convenience, as it expects the momentum to stay in the upcoming periods as well. The company stated that it expects its dining rooms, takeout and delivery business to surpass pre-pandemic levels, subject to normalization of the current scenario. The company persists with its multi-channel strategies, thereby driving traffic.

Brinker is one of the few fast-casual restaurant chains that have been expanding despite sluggish economic development. Management is gearing up for international expansion as well, especially in the faster-growing emerging markets. The company is on the lookout to expand its brand in existing markets and enter new ones. During the first and second quarters of fiscal 2022, the company opened four and seven restaurants, respectively. During fiscal 2022, the company expects to open 17-20 restaurants.

The company has been gaining from robust Chili's performance. During the second quarter of 2022, Chili’s total revenues increased 16.1% year over year. The upside was primarily driven by higher dining room guest sales and traffic, the acquisition of 60 Chili’s restaurants from two former franchisees and six new restaurant openings. However, this was partially offset by a fall in off-premise sales. Comps at Chili's franchised restaurants increased 17% against a decline of 9% in the year-ago quarter. The upside can be attributed to an increase in dining room sales and traffic at the company’s franchise restaurants. At international franchised Chili’s restaurants, the same surged 27.7% versus the year-ago quarter’s decline of 16.2%. In the U.S. franchised units, comps climbed 4.8% against the year-ago quarter’s slump of 4.7%.

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The rise in food and beverage costs as well as restaurant labor costs, which include wage rates, training and overtime, continue to hurt the company. Higher repairs and maintenance expenses and an increase in utility expenses are raising expenses. During the fiscal second quarter, food and beverage costs increased 1.2% year over year owing to a rise in meat, poultry and other commodity inflation. Restaurant labor costs increased 0.6% year over year. Restaurant operating margin — as a percentage of the company’s sales — was 10.7% compared with 11.3% in the prior-year quarter. Going forward, the company anticipates high-single-digit inflation for food and beverage as well as wage rates through the remainder of fiscal 2022.

Brinker currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Key picks

Some better-ranked stocks in the Zacks Retail-Wholesale sector include Genesco Inc. GCO, Arcos Dorados Holdings Inc. ARCO and Tapestry, Inc. TPR.

Genesco sports a Zacks Rank #1. The company has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 2,739.6%, on average. Shares of the company have gained 26.4% in the past year.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Genesco’s 2022 sales and EPS suggests growth of 35.5% and 677.1%, respectively, from the year-ago period’s levels.

Arcos Dorados carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). ARCO has a long-term earnings growth of 24.7%. Shares of the company have surged 48.6% in the past year.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Arcos Dorados’ 2022 sales and EPS suggests growth of 35% and 120.8%, respectively, from the year-ago period’s levels.

Tapestry carries a Zacks Rank #2. The company has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 28.2%, on average. Shares of the company have declined 17% in the past year.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Tapestry’s 2022 sales and EPS suggests growth of 17.5% and 22.9%, respectively, from the year-ago period’s levels.

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