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Cracker Barrel Gains on Forecast

(Updated with additional information and stock prices.)

LEBANON, Tenn. ( TheStreet) -- Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (CBRL - Get Report) shares pared early gains but still closed several points higher after the family-style restaurant operator beat fourth-quarter earnings expectations and forecast 2011 profits in line with Wall Street's expectations.

Cracker Barrel grew fiscal fourth quarter profits by 20.2% to $27.4 million, or $1.14 per share, compared with year-earlier earnings of $22.8 million, or 99 cents per share.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Revenue increased by 2.8% to $612.5 million, from $595.6 million.

Cracker Barrel forecast fiscal 2011 profits per share in a range between $3.95 and $4.10, in line with analysts' consensus call for full-year earnings of $4 per share. The Lebanon, Tenn.-based restaurant operator expects full year revenue to grow between 3% and 4.5%, to a range between $2.47 billion and $2.51 billion, in line with expectations for $2.48 billion.

"We continue to face the uncertainty from low economic growth and a slow job recovery," said CEO Michael A. Woodhouse, commenting on Cracker Barrel's 2011 forecast. "What we do know is that families dining out remain focused on value."

Comparable same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least one year, a key metric in the restaurant industry, pushed up 2% in the recent fourth quarter. Comps growth of 3.2% in June and 2.9% in July helped to offset same-store sales declines of 0.3% in May.

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Comparable sales for Cracker Barrel's retail operations, where it sells everything from country-style rocking chairs and seasonal gifts to cookware and old-fashioned candies, grew 2.6% in the recent quarter, led by strength in June.

Average checks improved 1.9% year-over-year in the recent quarter, with traffic up 0.1%.

Performance metrics -- comp sales, restaurant sales and retail sales -- were strongest in June, which Cracker Barrel attributed to the Memorial Day holiday weekend results being shifted to the later month, negatively impacting May's data. Even so, average check amounts were strongest in July.

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