Earnings and Valuation Distortions, Part 4

Restaurant 4With company operated restaurant margins optimally in the 20-25% range (McDonald’s (MCD) and Chipotle (CMG) are industry leaders), and franchising profit margin at around 70-80%, refranchising seems like an easy decision. But which throws off more free cash flow? It will be interesting to watch YUM and Jack in the Box (JACK) long term as their US refranchising ramps up. In the last year, both have mentioned the earnings shortfall after refranchising and noted plans to cut G&A.

Refranchsing can drive percentage margins higher but once completed, the company must rely on franchisees making their growth unit goals. And with franchisees paying more in cost of money (since they are smaller) and have lower unit economics than company operations (franchisees pay a royalty); the growth pattern will be a bit cloudier.

Most chain restaurants don’t even discuss franchisee sales, let alone profitability.

Earnings disclosure needs to be revamped in the US.

About John Gordon

John A. Gordon is a restaurant sector expert, who focuses on restaurant management, operations, and related earnings and economics matters. He consults with attorneys and other professionals who need to know about restaurants, via expert research, expert consultant and expert witness roles. Working for both plaintiffs and defendants, he has experience with both state and federal actions. He is an expert on chain restaurant business conditions and publicly traded companies. Gordon has extensive, career-long executive restaurant operations, corporate staff, financial management and management consulting experience, and is familiar with virtually all management issues and business disciplines. He has completed PSLRA securities, financial projections, due diligence reviews, earnings and damages, franchisee/franchisor matters, wage and hour and menu analysis expert work. Expert witness and article contributor for www.ForensisGroup.com

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