Brinker International, Inc. ( EAT)

F1Q12 (Qtr End 09/28/2011) Earnings Call

October 26, 2011 10:00 am ET


Tony Laday - VP of IR, Treasury and Global Finance

Doug Brooks - Chairman and CEO

Guy Constant - CFO

Wyman Roberts - President, Chili's Grill & Bar


David Palmer - UBS

Jeff Bernstein - Barclays Capital

Bryan Elliott - Raymond James

Destin Tompkins - Morgan Keegan

Chris O'Cull - SunTrust

John Ivankoe - JPMorgan

Joe Buckley - Bank of America-Merrill Lynch

Michael Kelter - Goldman Sachs

Brad Ludington - KeyBanc

Jeff Omohundro - Wells Fargo Securities

John Glass - Morgan Stanley

Peter Saleh - Telsey Advisory Group

Mitch Speiser - Buckingham Research



Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Brinker International first quarter 2012 earnings conference call. (Operator Instructions) It is now my pleasure to turn the floor over to your host, Mr. Tony Laday. Sir, the floor is yours.

Tony Laday

Thank you, Kate. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Brinker Internationals first quarter fiscal 2012 earnings call, which is also being broadcast live over the internet.

Before turning the call over, let me quickly remind you of our Safe Harbor regarding forward-looking statements. During our management comments and in our responses to your questions, certain items may be discussed which are not based entirely on historical facts. Any such items should be considered forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties which could cause actual results to differ from those anticipated. Such risks and uncertainties include factors more completely described in this morning's press release and the company's filings with the SEC.

On the call, we may refer to certain non-GAAP financial measures that management uses in its review of the business and believes will provide you with insight in the company's ongoing operations. Reconciliations are provided in the tables in the press release and on Brinker's website under the financial section of the Investor tab.

Consistent with prior practice, we'll be silent on intra-period sales or other key operating results yet to be reported as the data may not accurately reflect the final results of the quarter referenced.

On our call today, you will hear from Doug Brooks, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; Guy Constant, Chief Financial Officer; and Wyman Roberts, President of Chili's Grill & Bar. Following their remarks, we will take your questions.

Now I will turn the call over to Doug.

Doug Brooks

Thank you, Tony, and good morning to everyone. I'm going to briefly share with you our company results for the first quarter, how we continue to deliver on our calmness to strengthen the business model and drive shareholder value and then turn it over to Wyman and Guy for a deeper dive into Chili's and our total business results before we answer any questions you may have.

As you saw in our press release this morning, we reported an adjusted first quarter earnings per share of $0.30, and that's a 43% year-over-year increase. Brinker ended the first quarter with a 1.9% gain in both comp sales and traffic, and that is our third consecutive quarter of positive growth.

During the quarter, we continued to face challenging macroeconomic conditions. Unemployment rate remained high and the policy debates that occurred in Austin around the budget deficit along with the downgraded U.S. credit rating caused the consumer to form a more pessimistic view about the future of the economy. But we along with the industry felt the impact in our business from those economic headwinds.

Despite all that economic challenge, achieving strong earnings growth this quarter demonstrates our strategies to improve the overall business model are continuing to work. Our topline strategy of providing everyday value is attracting guests to our restaurants and allowing us to continue to outperform the industry in traffic growth.

So our primary value strategy is continuing to be: number one, Chili's $20 dinner-for-two; secondly, there are lunch combos; third, Maggiano's Classic Pasta; and fourth, we have a new offering from Maggiano's Marco meal-for-two. These are all increasingly important and appealing to our guests.

At the same time, we continue to work on the member appeal by focusing on improving operational efficiencies. The niches that we put in place continued to deliver results by not only improving our margins, but also elevating our level of service and increasing our consistency. Our ability to provide everyday value to our guests coupled with our continuous margin improvements are resulting in positive earnings growth.

Let me give you some quick highlights around Chili's results. We ended the quarter up 1.7% in comp sales and 1.9% in traffic, which marks our eighth consecutive period of positive growth. And we continue to see operating margin expansion year-over-year despite those commodity headwinds. In a few minutes, Wyman will give you a closer look at how the team gained traction during the quarter and will update you on the progress of our fiscal 2012 initiatives.

Maggiano's Steve Provost and his team continue to produce positive results as well. They had a 3.5% sales growth, marking our seventh consecutive quarter of positive comp sales. Maggiano's had a 2.1% increase in guest counts, marking two years now of positive traffic growth and had a 90 basis point increase in operating margins.

So although Maggiano's is lapping strong sales growth, sales momentum has continued driven by three key areas. First, the value we brought into our menu with the Classic Pasta offering which continues to be a distinguishing factor unmatched by our competition; and our new offering Marco's meal-for-two, with this offering the guests get a choice of an appetizer of flatbread or two-side salads for your first course, then two Classic Pastas for the main course, a dessert to share, plus two Classic Pastas to take home, all for $39.95. Great value offerings.

Second at Maggiano's are direct marketing program that gives us the ability to target loyalists and new prospects in every trade area with direct mail and e-mail is working fine. Third, delivering to go continued to contribute to Maggiano's topline growth.

On the global side of our business, we made some valuable contributions to Brinker results as well that comp sales across all of our global restaurants increased 7.5% for the quarter. We actually opened five net restaurants, bringing our total to 240 Chili's and 1 Maggiano's in 31 countries and two territories outside of the United States.

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