Cracker Barrel squeezed by competition with fast-food chains, price target cut

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey has cut Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.’s CBRL, +0.57% price target to $134 from $146 based on the time it will take to reverse negative traffic trends. Cracker Barrel shares closed down 4.6% on Tuesday after it reported an earnings and sales miss, with restaurant traffic down 3.5%. In earnings call comments, Chief Executive Sandra Cochran attributed the traffic decline to the performance of the Campfire menu and promotion, which included new items that didn’t resonate, a change in media strategy that didn’t make the impact the company wanted, and higher gas prices. "We believe the primary factor was increased value-oriented competition, particularly from QSRs," wrote SunTrust analysts. Offering food with higher "craveability" is a focus going forward, with bone-in fried chicken coming to the menu. The company is also looking at its employees as part of an improvement of the guest experience. "The national launch of Cracker Barrel’s ‘Daily Delights’ value offering should enable it to better compete in the current value-oriented environment, but we expect the impact to be gradual, especially in light of declining guest satisfaction metrics, including craveability," analysts said. SunTrust rates Cracker Barrel shares hold. The company’s stock has edged up 0.7% in Wednesday trading, but is down nearly 9% for the year to date. The S&P 500 index SPX, +0.11% has gained 8.8% for 2018 so far.

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