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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- C'mon guys, get it together. The markets are too important not to have a backup plan, Jim Cramer said on "Mad Money" Thursday. There needs to be an emergency system that kicks in when the system goes down and trading is halted, as it was this afternoon at the Nasdaq for more than three hours, Cramer said. He added that he didn't feel like sharing the numbers from the markets today, particularly the Nasdaq close, because he wasn't sure if he trusted them. What happened today was profoundly disappointing and disheartening, said Cramer, and he was especially concerned no one at the Nasdaq said anything. How could this happen? Cramer asked. It's a for-profit company. There's a CEO, Bob Greifeld, and he's got a chain of command. Any one of them could have come out and apologize and explain what was happening. Also, Cramer asked, where was the government? Where was Mary Jo White of the Securities and Exchange Commission? In the meantime, exchange-traded fund and index trading was on hold because many hold Nasdaq stocks and the market was compromised. The SEC should not tolerate this nonsense anymore, Cramer said. Cramer wondered, where is the backup system? Cramer's theory is this: Many professionals have become inured to this kind of nonsense. They say it comes with the territory and shrug their shoulders. There is no sense of outrage anymore. No one gets outed. No one loses his job. The SEC has to represent the regular guy, Cramer said. Trading has gotten titled toward the big, rich trading firms and against the moms and pops. Cramer called for the government to lead and the Nasdaq to be investigated and end these debacles once and for all.
Executive Decision: Cheryl BachelderThere are still stocks working well right now. Case in point, AFC Enterprises ( AFCE), which runs Popeye's, the number-two chicken chain in the country with more than 2,000 locations. AFCE reported on Wednesday night and shot the lights out, Cramer said, with second-quarter revenue rising 21% year-over-year and beating expectations. The stock was up $2.45 Thursday, and up 74% since Cramer started recommending it one year ago.
Cramer visited a Popeye's location in Brooklyn, N.Y., to talk to CEO Cheryl Bachelder, the company's terrific CEO. Bachelder credited innovation, cost savings, driving the top line, running a better restaurant for the guests, and remodeling restaurants so they look spectacular for the great earnings. It doesn't hurt the company provides an affordable meal at a time of high unemployment. Restaurant remodels have led to a 3% to 4% lift in remodeled restaurants, Bachelder said, and customers are staying in the dining room longer. By the end of the second quarter this year, about 40% of AFCE's domestic restaurants had been remodeled into the new Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen image. That number will reach 60% of the system by the end of the year and close to 80% by the end of 2014, Bachelder said. Popeye's is seeing great results from new markets such as Minneapolis, where AFCE has bought old KFC restaurants to remodel in its own image and found pent-up demand. Bachelder said social media has been a big driver of growth. Popeye's is growing overseas as well, Bachelder said, and the company has yet to find a country that doesn't enjoy its chicken in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia. Cramer asked what Popeye's plans to do with its cash. Bachelder said it plans to expand the company's footprint in the U.S. and internationally.
Hope for Hewlett-Packard?In the wake of a disappointing quarter, Cramer wondered where Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) should go from here. If you are CEO Meg Whitman, how do you stop the bleeding after revenue shrunk by 8% in its third quarter? Sales in HPQ's consumer PC sgment fell 22% in the third quarter from the same period last year. Enterprise sales are down 9%, Cramer said. And yet, lost in all the disappointment, cash flow from operations is healthy. In an interview with Whitman earlier Thursday, Cramer said she told him to look to the turnaround of IBM ( IBM) in 1993 and Starbucks' ( SBUX) resurgence in 2008 as parallel tracks that HPQ could take. Those two both took similar paths: Fix the balance sheet first, then grow the company.
Cramer said at IBM, under Louis Gerstner's leadership in the 1990s, the company exited the retail desktop PC market, fixed the balance sheet and reinvented the company as a primarily software and service company. That's where Whitman finds herself with HPQ, Cramer said. The industry is moving so quickly to smaller, faster devices. Cramer doesn't know if this is transitioning too fast for Hewlett-Packard to transcend the riptides. Unlike Howard Shultz, the CEO at Starbucks who expanded overseas and turned the stores into places that beckons customers inside, there's no new products coming from HPQ, and it's already huge internationally. HPQ can become a value-added software, service and printer company, Cramer says. Without economic growth worldwide, it can't make owning the stock a worthwhile proposition right now. Bottom line: Cramer says HPQ needs a new product, worldwide growth and a lot of luck to spark another turn.