“We refranchised 78 Jack in the Box restaurants in fiscal 2013, including 56 in the fourth quarter. Our system is now approximately 79 percent franchised, and we’re near our goal of franchise ownership in the 80 to 85 percent range.”
Consolidated restaurant operating margin decreased by 10 basis points to 16.1 percent of sales in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with 16.2 percent of sales in the year-ago quarter. Restaurant operating margin for Jack in the Box restaurants increased 80 basis points to 15.7 percent of sales. The improvement was due primarily to the benefit of refranchising, which was partially offset by higher food and packaging costs and sales deleverage as compared to last year. The increase in food and packaging costs as a percentage of sales resulted from commodity inflation of approximately 4.6 percent, which was partially offset by the benefit of price increases. Restaurant operating margin for Qdoba restaurants decreased 310 basis points to 17.2 percent of sales, due primarily to increased rent and staffing levels related to new restaurant openings, higher credit card fees, product mix changes, and commodity inflation of approximately 1.5 percent.
SG&A expense for the fourth quarter decreased by $4.3 million and was 14.6 percent of revenues as compared to 15.4 percent in the prior year quarter. The benefit of the company’s restructuring activities, lower overhead costs resulting from the Jack in the Box refranchising strategy, and decreases in pre-opening costs and incentive and share-based compensation were partially offset by higher pension costs and a legal judgment that negatively impacted SG&A by approximately $1.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2013. Mark-to-market adjustments on investments supporting the company’s non-qualified retirement plans positively impacted SG&A by $2.0 million in the fourth quarters of both 2013 and 2012.
The tax rate for the fourth quarter of 2013 was 28.0 percent versus 29.4 percent for the fourth quarter of 2012, and 32.8 percent in fiscal 2013 as compared to 33.2 percent in fiscal 2012. The tax rate for fiscal 2013 was lower than the company’s most recent guidance due primarily to the market performance of insurance investment products used to fund certain non-qualified retirement plans. Changes in the cash value of the insurance products are not deductible or taxable.