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Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. (NASDAQ:BWLD)

F4Q09 (Qtr End 12/27/09) Earnings Call

February 11, 2010 5:00 pm ET

Executives

Mary J. Twinem – Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Sally J. Smith - President, Chief Executive Officer & Director

Analysts

Jeff Farmer – Jefferies & Co.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

Bryan Elliott – Raymond James

Dustin Tompkins - Morgan Keegan

Jon Komp – Robert W. Baird

Gregory McKinley – Dougherty & Company

Stephen Anderson – MKM Partners LLC

Brad Ludington – KeyBanc Capital Market

Mark Smith – Feltl & Company

Joshua Long – Stephens & Co.

Greg Schroeder – Jesup & Lamont

Operator

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Buffalo Wild Wings fourth quarter 2009 conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Following the presentation, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. Instructions will be provided at that time for you to queue up for questions.

I would like to remind everyone that this conference call is being recorded. I will now turn the call over to Mary Twinem, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Buffalo Wild Wings. Please go ahead, ma'am.

Mary J. Twinem

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us as we review our 2009 results. I am Mary Twinem, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Buffalo Wild Wings. Joining me today is Sally Smith, our President and Chief Executive Officer.

By now, everyone should have access to our fourth quarter earnings release, which went out after the market closed today. If you have not received the release, it is available on the Investor Relations section of our website at buffalowildwings.com. A script of our prepared remarks will also be posted on our website after the call.

Before we get started, I want to remind you that during the course of today’s call, various remarks we make about future expectations, plans, and prospects for the company constitute forward-looking statements for purposes of the Safe Harbor provisions under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

Actual results may vary materially from those contained in forward-looking statements based on a number of factors, including without limitation our ability to achieve and manage our planned expansions, the number of locations opening during 2010 and beyond, the sales at these and our other company-owned and franchised locations, our ability to successfully operate in new markets, unforeseen obstacles in developing sites, the costs of commodities, such as traditional chicken wings, the success of our marketing initiatives, our ability to control restaurant labor and other restaurant operating costs, economic conditions, including changes in consumer preferences or consumer discretionary spending, and other factors disclosed from time –to time in our filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

On today's call, Sally will provide an overview of the fourth quarter and full year 2009. After that, I will provide further detail on our recent financial performance and comment on trends in 2010. Finally, Sally will share some additional thoughts about the current year. We will then answer questions.

So with that, I’ll turn things over to Sally.

Sally J. Smith

Good afternoon, everyone. The fourth quarter capped off another successful year that exceeded all of our annual growth goals. Our fast-paced unit growth continued to position us as the leader in the industry as we built on our established success in existing markets, and opened our second airport location. Our 2009 expansion exceeded our 15% growth goal with 92 additional locations and we entered four new states, to give us a presence in 42 states.

Our restaurant team members maintained – remained dedicated to creating a unique and exciting game day experience that continues to bring guests to our restaurants. Our 2009 revenue increase of nearly 28% is testimony to those efforts. The ongoing training and refinement of systems devoted to product management, including our theoretical cost system, along with our labor management program, are validated by impressive annual net earnings of over 25%. Thank you to the entire Buffalo Wild Wings Team for your continued passion for our brand and dedication throughout the year to deliver these great results.

We are pleased with fourth quarter results, which achieved strong top-line performance as revenue increased 20%, impacted by solid operations and same-store sales that countered the negative trends of our category. Net earnings growth increased 7.9% for the quarter, yet didn’t hamper our ability to exceed our annual net earnings goal, even though we experienced a quarterly increase in insurance costs and stock compensation expense. Earnings per diluted share are $0.46 for the quarter.

Our unique You Have to Be Here dining experience continued to draw guests and produce strong year-over-year sales results. Our ability to consistently provide our guests with great food and a fun dining experience was evident in our fourth quarter same-store sales, which increased 2.6% at company-owned restaurants and 2% at franchised locations. Our multi-layered marketing strategy proved to be successful during the football season. We had a strong start with our fantasy football draft program, which married the in-restaurant draft party experience with a season-long fantasy PR campaign, and was augmented with an exclusive Football Challenge promotion and our Secret Agent website feature that extended the theme of our TV commercials. All were unique and engaging programs that enhanced the Buffalo Wild Wings brand experience.

Coupled with our increased TV presence in NFL and college football games, and our unique media integrations, we reminded hundreds of millions of sports fans that Buffalo Wild Wings is the best place to enjoy the football action. We continued to provide our guests with new and flavorful menu options to enhance their dining experience.

In the fourth quarter, our limited time offer menu featured three new Flatbread Flips with steak, chicken, or barbecue pork that saw strong results, and a tasty new dessert, Sweet Cinnamon Bites. We offset much of the impact of high wing prices with strong sales of other products with more favorable margins and realized improvements in numerous product costs through the diligence of our Purchasing group.

The expansion of our non-alcoholic beverages continued to see success and is a growing category for us. Our ongoing commitment to operational excellence in combination with all of these efforts resulted in a successful quarter and a remarkable year that exceeded each of the annual growth goals of 15% unit growth, 25% revenue growth, and 20 to 25% net earnings growth that we set in October of 2008.

Mary will now provide additional details on fourth quarter and the year’s performance and then I’ll return to talk about 2010 and share my vision of the future.

Mary J. Twinem

Thank you, Sally. Beginning with revenue, our fourth quarter revenue increased by 19.6% to $145 million, bringing our full year revenue to nearly $539 million, a growth of 27.6% over 2008, clearly above our 2009 goal of 25%. On a system-wide basis, sales at our company-owned and franchised restaurants reached $1.5 billion for 2009.

Company-owned restaurant sales for the quarter increased to $131.2 million, a 19.5% increase over the same period in the prior year. This increase is a little lower than we have seen in previous quarters as we lapped the purchase of the nine Las Vegas franchised units that occurred in September of 2008.

Same-store sales increased by 2.6% for the quarter, trending over prior year comps of 4.5%. We estimate the shift of Christmas Eve and Day to Thursday and Friday this year compared to being on Wednesday and Thursday last year negatively impacted our quarterly same-store sales results by about 30 basis points. Menu price increases taken over the past 12 months at company-owned restaurants were slightly under 3%.

We had 35 additional company-owned restaurants in operation by the end of fourth quarter versus last year. Average weekly sales increased by 1.6% in the quarter. For the quarter, our Class of 2008 and 2009 locations each outperformed our average weekly volumes by over 6%.

The performance of these classes of restaurants, however, did not have as much of a positive impact on the quarterly calculation of average weekly sales volume as we saw last year in the fourth quarter with the combination of the Class of 2008 openings, the closure of older lower-volume units, and the addition of the nine higher-volume Las Vegas locations. We anticipate that our 2010 new restaurant openings will continue to outperform the average for our company-owned locations.

Our royalty and franchise fee revenue for the fourth quarter grew by over 21% to $13.8 million versus $11.4 million last year. Franchised locations had a 2% increase in same-store sales, comping over 2.5% in the prior year. Also, an additional 57 franchised units were in operation at the end of 2009 compared to 2008.

With the numerous restaurant openings in the fourth quarter, we finished the year with 652 locations, of which 232 are company-owned and 420 are franchised, for a net increase of 92 units. This 16% increase exceeded our unit growth goal of 15% for the year.

Our discussion now will focus on the performance of our company-owned restaurants. The company-owned restaurant teams performed well on cost savings measures, and their efforts, along with menu price increases and neutral or slightly lower costs for other commodities, offset much of the impact of the higher wing cost. Cost of sales for the fourth quarter was 30.3%, 100 basis points higher than last year.

The significant increase in cost for traditional wings to $1.78 per pound for the quarter, $0.51 or 40% higher than last year’s average of $1.27 is the net cause of the higher cost margin. Traditional wings accounted for 22% of our restaurant sales during the fourth quarter of 2009, 1% higher than in 2008.

Boneless wings, which during 2009 have been a better margin item than traditional wings, increased to 19% of sales, from 17% in the prior year. And food sales grew to 75% of restaurant sales, from 74% in fourth quarter last year.

Cost of labor for the fourth quarter was 29.4% of restaurant sales, 10 basis points lower than fourth quarter last year. We again saw the impact of our labor management program through efficiencies in hourly wages, though most of this savings was offset by increased health and workers’ compensation insurance costs. Restaurant operating expenses as a percentage of restaurant sales increased by 20 basis points to 16% of restaurant sales in the fourth quarter. The benefit from lower utility costs continued, but was offset by higher general liability insurance costs.

Occupancy costs as a percentage of restaurant sales was down slightly, by 10 basis points over the prior year. In summary, the restaurant-level cash flow percentage for the fourth quarter was better than the third quarter, although not as high as fourth quarter of last year. Restaurant-level cash flow, which is calculated before depreciation and preopening expenses, was $23.3 million, or 17.8% of restaurant sales, versus $20.5 million, or 18.7% in the fourth quarter last year. This 90 basis point difference is similar to the higher cost of sales percentage incurred due to the cost of traditional wings. For the full year of 2009, our restaurant-level cash flow achieved 17.6% compared to 17.5% in 2008, due to the focus of our operations team on delivering year-over-year improvement despite the significant increase in cost we experienced with our traditional wings.

Depreciation and amortization for the fourth quarter was 6.2%, up 50 basis points from last year, which has been a consistent increase throughout the year. General and administrative expenses grew to $13.3 million in the fourth quarter, or 9.1% of total revenue, compared to $11.1 million, also 9.1% last year. Excluding stock-based compensation, which was $2.2 million this year compared to $1.7 million last year, G&A expenses for the current quarter totaled $11.1 million, or 7.6% of revenue, a 20 basis point decrease over prior year. We leveraged our wage-related and occupancy expenses, but experienced higher legal fees. In addition, last year in the fourth quarter, the investment loss incurred on funds set aside to fund future deferred compensation costs reduced our G&A expense line. This year, the funds recorded income and increased our G&A expenses.

We opened 12 new company-owned restaurants in the fourth quarter of 2009, compared to 10 new locations in 2008. Preopening expenses for the quarter totaled $2.5 million, similar to last year. The $2.5 million includes $230,000 of preopening expenses for locations that are in construction, while in the fourth quarter last year we incurred $455,000 related to future openings. For the year, we averaged $220,000 of pre-opening expenses per new location. The loss on asset disposals and impairment for the fourth quarter totaled $639,000, of which $237,000 was related to the impairment of assets from one of our Colorado location. The remainder was mostly related to restaurant-level disposals as part of equipment and facility upgrades.

Investment income totaled $209,000 for the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to investment loss of $126,000 in 2008. Due to better market conditions, investment earnings from funds set aside for future payments under our deferred compensation plan increased to $166,000, compared to a loss of $433,000 last year. Investment income from our excess cash and marketable securities was $43,000, which is down from $307,000 last year, primarily the result of lower interest rates.

Our effective tax rate during the fourth quarter was 30.5%, compared to 31.5% in the prior year. Our full year 2009 tax rate ended at 32.5%, and we estimate our 2010 tax rate to be about 32.5% to 33.5%.

In summary, in the fourth quarter, we produced net earnings of $8.3 million, an increase of 7.9% over 2008, delivering earnings per diluted share of $0.46. For the year, our net earnings grew to $30.7 million, an over 25% increase over prior year, and again, beating our annual growth goal for 2009.

From a balance sheet standpoint, on December 27, 2009, our cash and marketable securities totaled $53.2 million, compared to $44.5 million at the end of 2008. We ended the quarter with $309 million in total assets and $210 million in stockholders’ equity. Cash flow from operations was $79.3 million for the year, which funded our $73.7 million of capital expenditures.

Now, let’s discuss a few trends and details for 2010. For the first six weeks of the first quarter, our same-store sales trends at company-owned restaurants are about 0.5% and about 1% for franchised locations, up over same-store sales of 8% and 7%, respectively, for the similar period in 2009. We continue to provide this partial quarter metric, however, it’s important to note this often is not indicative of the full quarter’s results. We expect the combined potential benefit in the first quarter for food and alcohol menu price increases to be slightly over 2% for company-owned restaurants. This includes a small increase that we are taking with our new menu rollout this month. We expect to open five new company-owned restaurants in the first quarter, with two of these units already opened. A similar amount of units are expected to open in the second quarter, with the remaining company-owned locations opening in the last half of the year.

We have also opened four franchised restaurants to date this year, and expect at least seven more franchised locations to open before the end of the first quarter. Unlike the company-owned units, franchised openings will be more even throughout the year.

For cost of sales, the average price per pound of traditional chicken wings for the first two months of the quarter is $1.95 versus $1.63 for first quarter last year. Our company-owned restaurants remain focused on hourly labor efficiencies. We anticipate health insurance costs could show improvement over 2009, as a result of a provider change in January, though first quarter savings may be minimal.

In restaurant operating expenses, we expect to see a slight improvement in utility costs over prior year. We anticipate that our G&A expenses in the first quarter, exclusive of stock-based compensation, will be approximately $11.8 million. We estimate the full year 2010 stock-based compensation expense to be $7 to $8 million, with first quarter expense estimated at $1.2 million. Stock compensation expense will fluctuate based on the level of net earnings achieved for the year, and as we update estimates of the granting and vesting of restricted stock units in the current and future years. In first quarter of 2009, stock-based compensation expense was $801,000.

In the first quarter of 2010, we will be closing two of our older company-owned locations; one in Nashville, which was planned as part of our strategic growth in that market, as we have recently opened three new locations in more vibrant trade areas, and our oldest location in Cincinnati that has come to the end of its lease term. In conjunction with these two closures, we expect to record a loss on store closures of about $130,000 and additional depreciation of $150,000 in the first quarter.

During 2010, we anticipate up to seven additional closures of company-owned units that will be reaching the end of their lease term. We continue to assess these older restaurants and will make decisions to pursue short-term leases, or close or relocate the units. We are accelerating the depreciation on the remaining assets of all seven of these locations, for a total of $310,000 that will be recorded in the first half of 2010. There is also a small amount of restaurant closing costs that would be recorded if all seven of these locations are closed, currently estimated at $150,000.

In October, we stated our 2010 growth goals of 13 to 15% unit growth and 20% net earnings growth. With our past success in managing the numerous influences that impact profitability, we are confident about continuing to achieve the goals we have set.

Please review the risk sections outlined in our SEC filings, including our 10-K for 2009, which will be filed in a few weeks, as well as our safe harbor statement for factors affecting our forward-looking statements.

Now Sally will share her thoughts about the year ahead.

Sally J. Smith

Thank you, Mary. The first quarter is an exciting time for Buffalo Wild Wings and it’s a great time of year for sports fans. The excitement of the Super Bowl, one of our biggest sales days of the year, is still buzzing as we transition into the Winter Olympics and begin the gearing-up for the college basketball tournaments.

On Sunday, we’ll debut a new menu that includes two new products; our popular Chicken Tender Slammers and our ever-flavorful BBQ Nachos, which were successful as limited time offers last year.

Additionally, a new limited time menu features our tasty and trend-right mini slammers and beverages. The bite-size burger, pork and chicken slammers are joined by new Steak Slammers. Served with one of our 14 craveable sauces, they offer something for everyone.

In addition, we’ll debut a new TV spot that highlights our guests’ desire to stay longer at our restaurants. It will be part of an expanded national media presence throughout the college basketball tournaments, including the championship game.

We’ll have new digital media sponsorships with CBS Sports and ESPN.com, plus, we’ll launch our first-ever consumer PR campaign for college basketball. Each week throughout the tournament, our guests will have an exclusive opportunity to interact with a well-known NCAA basketball analyst.

In addition to our January media, we will continue to increase our advertising investment throughout the first quarter with a mix of TV, radio, and digital media. Every market in our system will receive local media in March on top of a rich national and digital media schedule. March radio will promote our long-standing value promotion, Boneless Thursdays, which provides our guests a great value on our increasingly popular boneless wings.

An interactive Boneless Thursdays Invitational campaign on our Facebook page adds a bit of healthy competition among our guests as they persuade their friends that Weekends Start on Thursdays at Buffalo Wild Wings. With the outstanding results of a successful year behind us, we are energized to achieve our growth goals for 2010.

Operationally, we are focused on building sales and profitability, with an intense dedication toward delivering a fun and unique dining experience that will instill the desire for our guests to be a part of the excitement, not only throughout the college basketball tournaments, but all year. We continue our emphasis on training and optimizing cost control systems, which are proving successful. We are refining our restaurant management structure and responsibilities to align with specific results-oriented metrics, and are committed to building the talent and strength of our hourly and management Team Members.

Our unique, You Have To Be Here guest experience remains central to all we do. We are committed to providing our teams the tools and opportunities for success, improving our facilities for an unparalleled game day atmosphere, and creating a rewarding work environment for our Team Members, to uphold our position as a leader in the casual dining category.

We’ll continue to delight our guests with new menu items, drink selections and new ways to enjoy our wings. We’ll enhance our unique marketing programs to engage our guests, including over one million Facebook followers, offering them relevant, compelling and fun new ways to interact with our brand. And we’ll continue to increase our advertising investments and take advantage of market conditions to optimize the media support to our system.

We expect to open nearly 100 new restaurants this year and will stay on course with unit growth of 13% to 15% for 2010. With our proven track record to achieve results, and our dedication to continually improve upon our long-term strategies, we project this will translate into net earnings growth of 20% in 2010.

We’re committed to remaining a fast growing brand and are pursuing a variety of opportunities to achieve our mission. Growth in new and existing markets within United States, expansion of non-traditional airport locations, retail gift card, and pursuing international expansion are all in motion to propel us to new levels of accomplishment. We have an exciting year ahead. We’ve begun the process of our global growth with research, evaluation and visiting potential new markets. We’re building the strategic infrastructure to effectively lead the process.

The promotion of Judy Shoulak to Executive Vice President, Global Operations and Human Resources, aligns the critically important roles of recruiting and maintaining top talent with the equally important function of training Team Members to become excellent operators. The promotion of Kathy Benning to Executive Vice President, Global Marketing and Brand Development, ensures the core of what makes our brand unique and successful is maintained as we expand across the globe.

Buffalo Wild Wings is a fun and unique brand with tremendous opportunity. Despite the challenges of the economy, our momentum continued in 2009 and we achieved the healthy annual growth goals we set for ourselves. We are planning for the future after we achieve our goal of more than 1,000 units in the United States. We are confident we can achieve our new annual growth goals of 13% to 15% unit growth and 20% net earnings growth in 2010. We are moving full speed ahead.

Again, I applaud the entire Buffalo Wild Wings Team for your part in achieving a remarkable year and your endless enthusiasm to achieve greater heights.

Operator, we will now open the call to questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you ma'am. We'll now begin the question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions) And our first question comes from the line of Jeff Farmer with Jefferies & Company. Please go ahead.

Jeff Farmer – Jefferies & Company

Great, thank you and good afternoon. On the last call, you made the point that during football season your customers are loyal and it seems like they are less distracted by value messaging, but with the football season wrapped up, is there any concern that the customer loyalty factor is a little bit diminished moving forward?

Sally J. Smith

Well, we have a timeframe in between football and March Madness. And March Madness happens to be a very strong period of time for us. It was actually the first two days of the tournament as typically record setting. I think the fact that we have the Olympics bridging that gap, this year while we don't expect it to be a huge driver of sales; certainly it gives the guests another reason to come in.

Jeff Farmer – Jefferies & Company

Then I guess just bigger picture as it relates to all the discounting going on from the competitive standpoint, what is your assessment of how that is impacting your top line right now?

Sally J. Smith

Well, I think that certainly the value menu or the value equation is top of line for our guests. We do have two promotional days, one that we promoted in the fourth quarter, which is our Wing Tuesday, a long-standing 25 plus year tradition with us. And in the first quarter, we will be promoting our Boneless Wing Thursdays. We think they provide a compelling value for our guests. And I think offset or put us on equal footing with a lot of the overall menu discounting that is happening out there.

Jeff Farmer – Jefferies & Company

Okay. Just as it relates to those two nights, obviously it sounds like wings essentially $1.95 for the first couple months of the first quarter, I think you took a $0.05 price increase on either Tuesday or Thursday night over the summer. But what is your opportunity over the next couple of months or couple of quarters to potentially take another $0.05 on either Tuesday or Thursday to offset some of that wing cost pressure?

Sally J. Smith

Now we have done some research around that and we certainly do have room. I would like to wait and see where wings shake out in the first and second quarter before we make that decision. The decision to advertise or promote wings in our radio campaign was a conscientious one for us, even though we knew wing prices were high. It's a great value for our guests, and we know it does drive sales as evidenced by our increase in traditional wing sales moving up as a percentage point. We'll look at pricing probably as we get into the second quarter before the third quarter menu rollout.

Jeff Farmer – Jefferies & Company

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Matt DiFrisco with Oppenheimer. Please go ahead.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

Thank you. I just wanted to understand the pricing commentary you gave about the first quarter. I think you said 2% price. Is that for the entire quarter, when the menu rollout seems to be mid-quarter or is it going to be 2% from there going forward?

Mary J. Twinem

It's flat across all months in the quarter. The amount of menu price increase that will go on our new menu is about the same as what comes off this month.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

Okay, so you are just going to roll it basically and sustain a 2% price increase?

Mary J. Twinem

Correct.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

So, year-over-year you are going to have a 2% price increase sustained throughout the entire quarter?

Mary J. Twinem

Correct. Yeah.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

Okay. And then can you just update us on, in 2Q, any price increases to roll off?

Mary J. Twinem

I'm not sure if there is anything rolling off in 2Q, I'd have to go back and look to see when we took that $0.05 price increase in boneless and traditional wings. We will check on that and will get back to you to answer that question before the end of this call.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

And then just looking at the comp to start off the first six weeks 0.5%, seems a little bit low below what, obviously below what you were trending in the fourth quarter and I guess what some were expecting, given the extra incremental NFL week falling into the first quarter. Can you quantify, if at all, weather had an impact? Can you see from the type of business that might be impacted by weather, whether it is late night or your bar business falling back a percent? Can you draw anything from that as far as impacts or done any analysis against that on how weather might have impacted you the first six weeks?

Mary J. Twinem

No, I have a feeling that weather has impacted us. We haven't done a specific analysis on what day part. I do know that we are going over significantly high comps prior year at the same time of 8%. And of course, snow's everywhere. And I think it's something that we will be looking at, but haven't quantified yet.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

Okay, and then I guess just to conclude that thought, you knew you had an 8% comp and the 0.5%. Is the 0.5% a surprise to you, or the slowdown and should we expect somewhat of a surprise impact to margins or was that somewhat planned for and there's no considered weakness that might be reflected in deleverage in the margins in the first quarter, accordingly?

Mary J. Twinem

And I think we could start with a very modest same-store sales, have improvements in our labor line in the first quarter. And as it relates to the cost of sales piece, we did see, we were not in the fourth quarter able to stay neutral year-over-year with the higher wing prices and when we look at the first quarter, we would estimate that our cost of sales could potentially be about 50 basis points higher than prior year. And then Mark, to go back to your prior question on the menu price increase, 2% will be the amount in effect currently through the first quarter and the second quarter, and then in the third quarter, some of it does roll off and we would go down to 1% for the remainder of the year.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

Okay, thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Bryan Elliott with Raymond James. Please go ahead

Bryan Elliott – Raymond James

Hi. Good afternoon. Wanted to clarify a couple of things and maybe circle back on the sales question. But, the clarifications, on the 13% to 15% unit growth, I'm assuming that that takes into account the closures that Mary, you articulated in the prepared remarks?

Mary J. Twinem

It does, Bryan. And I'll give you a little more information on the 13 to 15% unit growth as it relates to company openings. We think we'll be about 40 to 50 or 40 to 45 new locations

Bryan Elliott – Raymond James

Okay.

Mary J. Twinem

And then if we have all nine locations closing, we will net out to about 31 to 36. We gave some color in the script that we have five for sure opening in the first quarter. It looks like five more in the second quarter and then the rest of it will be split in the third and fourth quarters. From the franchise side of the business, we think our openings are going to be in the 55 to 60 range. They don't typically have too many closures and we are not aware really of any but if you figure that they are going to have two, three, four of them, they should net out to about 53 to 56 openings for the year and that will be pretty evenly spread through the year. We already know that there is 11 of them opening in the first quarter.

Bryan Elliott – Raymond James

Okay. Great. One very nit picky clarification, I just happened to notice that the depreciation on the cash flow statement for the first time was a little different than that on the income statement. And don't know if you have any explanation for that at this point because it is pretty small, but I just wondered if you knew where that's from or you need to circle back and if there’s change going forward maybe in that?

Mary J. Twinem

Yeah, I’ll circle back with you. The only thing I can think of is maybe some accelerated depreciation. We will follow-up with you, Bryan.

Bryan Elliott – Raymond James

Yeah. Okay. Fair enough. And then just wanted to kind of circle back to the sales question again. Given what you gave us three months ago, the rest of the quarter was slightly negative in comps. And I just wondered, was it football sort of leveling off on the weekends or weeknight business maybe slowing? Is there a geographical differentiation? Maybe a little more help on that?

Mary J. Twinem

Yes, I mean, as it relates to the fourth quarter, we had shared in our conference call in October that we were at 6% on our company stores and then we ended the quarter at 2.6%. But I will note that we did not on either our company or our franchise side ever go negative for a month in the fourth quarter. And then we did call out in the script that from a Christmas shift standpoint we thought that that costed us about 30 basis points on our same-store sales.

Bryan Elliott - Raymond James.

But, if you were up 6% for the first month and then you were up 2.6% for the whole quarter, didn't you have to be down for the balance of the quarter meaningfully?

Mary J. Twinem

No, it really had to do with how sales fall. October is a huge month for us. Thanksgiving and Christmas ended up in November and December, we are closed two days, so you can be up in October and trend back to 2.6% and still not go negative. You can come close.

Bryan Elliott - Raymond James.

Okay. All right. Fair enough. I didn't realize October was that much bigger than November and December?

Mary J. Twinem

Yep.

Bryan Elliott - Raymond James.

And then more generically, I mean weekends versus weekends, geographical, anything sort of moving around there in those as you look at your sales trends?

Mary J. Twinem

Yeah. Nothing that pops out. Tuesdays we saw some nice traffic up, that kind of paired with the radio side. Las Vegas was positive just for us in the fourth quarter. Yes, I don't know. As it relates to your question Bryan on the cash flow statement, you do have to take both the depreciation line and the amortization line, add those together and then that should equal what you see on the one line on the income statement.

Bryan Elliott - Raymond James.

All right, very good. Thank you

Mary J. Twinem

You're welcome.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Destin Tompkins with Morgan Keegan. Please go ahead.

Destin Tompkins - Morgan Keegan

Thank you. Well just to kind of follow-up on Bryan's question specifically about the Q4 weakness, in November and December, you had the NFL Network that was now included in Comcast's standard cable package. Did you notice weakness on Thursday nights specifically this year that you maybe didn't have last year?

Sally J. Smith

We'll look that up.

Destin Tompkins - Morgan Keegan

Okay.

Sally J. Smith

But nothing comes to mind for Thursday. No, I think our Thursday remained positive for the year. I don't know if we had any unusual snowstorms throughout December. Again with the shift of Christmas to Thursday/Friday versus Wednesday/Thursday, Thursday and Friday are bigger days certainly than Wednesday/Thursday for us. We do know that, that did impact us.

Destin Tompkins - Morgan Keegan

Can you at all quantify the benefit you might have seen in Q1 from the shift of the extra week of the NFL season?

Mary J. Twinem

Yeah, we can. We shared in the script that for the first six weeks of January we’re about a 0.5% total in same-store sales at company and about one on franchise and that took us through Super Bowl. When we look at the effect for the extra week of NFL for that six week period, we think it was a positive of about 30 basis points.

Destin Tompkins - Morgan Keegan

Okay. That’s helpful. Then also you mentioned you expect strong openings in 2010. Do you expect average weekly sales will again kind of outpace same-stores sales at some point during the year and if so what is your best guess?

Mary J. Twinem

Well, I make couple of comments as it relates to the average weekly volume thing. I think that from a kind of back-of-envelope calculation, there are a lot of times that average weekly volume and same-store sales correlation, you can look at it when you are looking at those two factors and usually you try to figure out, if your recent classes of locations are opening up as strong as your average is. But when you have factors like we do in the prior year and we are going to have similar factors coming up again in 2010, for example, the nine Las Vegas locations that came into our average weekly volume calculation in 2008, whether or not you are closing older locations, which we did in ’08, we’ll be doing that again in 2010 and that would be a positive for us on our average weekly volume calc. And then how many initial weeks of sales you have for some of these higher volume store opening. So that was why in our script, we called out the fact that our collections [ph] of ’08 and ’09 are above the average. There is more than 6% above the average in the fourth quarter because you can’t really pick that out anymore from just looking at that kind of quick calc between the two. But obviously, if we close all nine locations in 2010, that will be an immediate benefit to our average weekly volume calc.

Destin Tompkins - Morgan Keegan

Okay, great and then lastly just both G&A and depreciation seemed to be I think a little higher than I anticipated and higher on a sequential basis. Was there anything unusual that I may have missed in your prepared remarks, but was there anything unusual in either one of those line items that may have driven that increase?

Mary J. Twinem

We’ll talk about G&A first. If you take out the stock comp in that, if you also take out the difference between the gain on the deferred comp that made our G&A look higher on that line and you compare it to Q4 of last year where you had expense or you had a negative G&A for that piece. We would have actually leveraged 60 basis points on our G&A line instead of just the 20 that’s reflected on the P&L. When you look at the dollar amount we’re spending, when you look at Q4 then ex that stock comp and also ex the effect of the deferred comp gain, you would be equal in dollar spending in third quarter and fourth quarter. And then, if you are trying to say well what would be the trend then, as you look into Q1 of 2010, we’ve stated in the script, we thought we would be about $11.8 million in total dollar spend. If you are trying to compare that to what we spent in Q4, again ex that comp, we would have been at $11.1 million.

Destin Tompkins - Morgan Keegan

Okay, great. And I assume the depreciation is just additional stores or…

Mary J. Twinem

Additional stores, there is a little bit in the fourth quarter related to some accelerated depreciation that began then and that we talked about would continue now with these nine locations that we have as potential closures. So there is a bit that affected that, but mostly it’s the fact that we are upgrading, remodeling, opening up new locations.

Destin Tompkins - Morgan Keegan

Great, thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Jon Komp with Robert W. Baird. Please go ahead. Jon Komp, your line is open. Hello?

Sally J. Smith

So, is this Jon?

Jon Komp – Robert W. Baird

Hi, this is Jon calling in for David.

Sally J. Smith

Great.

Jon Komp – Robert W. Baird

Hi, sorry about that. Just looking at a bigger picture for the full-year guidance. You said you remain confident in achieving 20% earnings growth for the year. Do you think you can achieve that type of earnings growth on the level of comp that you saw in January?

Sally J. Smith

I would say that implied in kind of our overall guidance for the year, is that we actually get to 13 to 15% unit growth goal. It does imply positive same-store sales for the year, but very modest. It does assume that our new restaurant openings are above our average weekly volumes and then, to get to the bottom line piece, how are you going to make 13 to 15% unit growth equal 20% net earnings growth? We do believe we have restaurant leverage, that we can achieve our G&A leverage. We think from a restaurant level standpoint, there is additional efficiencies in the COGS lines on somewhere around 25 basis points. We have labor initiatives, not only on the hourly side, which they've done a great job of in 2009, but there is additional money there as well focused on our management labor line, and how we staff, how we train it, and how we develop those people. And then from an insurance standpoint, we think at the restaurant level, there is about 25 basis points of health insurance improvement, we’ll see year-over-year.

Jon Komp – Robert W. Baird

Okay, thanks. That’s helpful. And then just last question on the tax rate. it looks like you came in a little bit lower than you were maybe anticipating. Can you just talk about what drove that variance?

Mary J. Twinem

For us, it's mostly just getting to the end of the year, being able to finalize the amount of tax credits that we are going to receive. Part of the overall tax revision calculation that goes through the audit. That is why we have the range for 2010 based on kind of the levels we saw this year we think we'll be in the 32.5% to 33.5% range.

Jon Komp – Robert W. Baird

Great. Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Greg McKinley with Dougherty & Company. Please go ahead.

Gregory McKinley – Dougherty & Company

Yeah. Thank you. Could you talk a little bit more, help us understand your thoughts around international expansion? What is all involved in your initial steps on that strategy? How aggressively will you be moving? What type of investment will be involved? If you could comment on that, that would be great.

Sally J. Smith

No, I really can't talk yet about the specifics.

Gregory McKinley – Dougherty & Company

Okay.

Sally J. Smith

Because they are all in process. We are putting together our forecast. Right now we are spending some G&A dollars on it that’s included in our forecast going forward and we believe we will still leverage our G&A as a result. But, we’re, we've done research on three countries, we visited three countries, and our goal is to have a unit open, most likely in Canada sometime near the end of the year, beginning of first quarter next year and we do have some specific sites identified. The other thing we are doing is determining -- well, we are finalizing all of our trademark registrations in a few remaining countries. And then determining how we want, what the ownership structure should be. Should they be Company-owned, should they be franchised, joint venture? As we have more details, which we’ll probably happen toward the middle to latter part of the year we will provide you with a lot more guidance there.

Gregory McKinley – Dougherty & Company

Okay. Can you talk a little bit about sort of what is the driver behind your interest in making those moves at this point? It seems that there seem to still be large market and trade areas domestically that still present nice growth opportunities for you. Obviously a lot of questions and risks when you move into different cultures and operating environments in other countries, why there now before you sort of exhaust some of the domestic opportunities?

Sally J. Smith

Well, it takes a long time to get ready for international expansion. There is a lot of research that goes on. We have been working on the research for probably six to nine months and had identified that as a growth opportunity going forward. We still feel very confident that there is a lot of room left for expansion in the U.S. with only what about a dozen locations in California. That should far exceed our number in Ohio, which is currently at 85 or 86. So, we have a lot of growth opportunity here. As we have said, we like to be - our goal is 1000 units by the end of 2013 and we are on pace to do that. To provide continued growth opportunity for us, we do need to get ready for some additional expansion. We’ll continue to have domestic expansion beyond 1000 units but just given how long it takes and our goal of not to react too quickly, throw dollars at something we don’t understand, we really need to understand, as you said, the different cultures, the different laws, just the different operating environment in internationals that we can really make an informed decision. So it really is all about timing. It’s just to say okay we’ve got three years to really understand what we’re doing perhaps test the water with one or two in Canada certainly still a foreign market for us, but should be able to provide a lot of learning without a significant amount of risk.

Gregory McKinley – Dougherty & Company

Yes, okay thank you. And then could you also just comment a little bit about alcoholic beverages. That has been declining a bit as a percentage of sales mix. Maybe down about 200 basis points year-over-year for the full-year. Given your customer mix or what you are doing from a menu and marketing standpoint, how do you see alcohol shaking out in your 2010 sales?

Sally J. Smith

I think we'll be consistent in the 25% to 27% range. I think it varies that time of the year. The fact that we have had strong food sales, of course automatically then reduces the percent on alcohol. I think a couple of things I think you'll see if you read any of the trade publications that beer sales across the country have been down slightly or they have been down certainly more than our shift. And a responsible alcohol service I think the focus on responsible driving certainly plays into consideration. But, I again, our customers don’t like to come in for wings and a beer. We have seen a nice shift in our non-alcoholic beverage line, which has probably taken some of that offset in alcohol. So we are not concerned about it we like that 25 to 27% net.

Gregory McKinley – Dougherty & Company

Thank you.

Sally J. Smith

You bet.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Steve Anderson with MKM Partners. Please go ahead.

Stephen Anderson – MKM Partners LLC

Yes, good evening. Somewhere along that vein, it looks like the wings as a percentage of total sales has climbed up a couple of hundred or 2 points too. Is there something in the way you are looking at your menu, once you increase maybe the - your non-bone and wing portion of the menu to counteract some of what is going on with wing prices?

Sally J. Smith

I think that's been a focus of ours throughout 2009. We've seen other than the first quarter a continued shift between traditional and boneless Wing. If you look back oh, six, seven years ago, we were certainly probably up to 35 to 40% traditional Wings introduced boneless about six years ago. So, I think we've done a nice job of shifting that consumer. Although wings are in our name and traditional wings will continue to be part of our offering. It's hard to predict what wing prices will do, but I think we're sitting okay and it’s just it’s something we have to manage. As we said in the script, we expect that it could impact our first quarter cost of sales by about 50 basis points.

Stephen Anderson - MKM Partners LLC

Are you still looking to enter the spot market for wings again this year?

Sally J. Smith

In that, okay what.

Stephen Anderson - MKM Partners LLC

Are you still looking to?

Sally J. Smith

What.

Stephen Anderson - MKM Partners LLC

Are you still looking to enter the spot market for wings as you have done every year except for one?

Sally J. Smith

Yeah our pricing mechanism is the same, certainly as it has been for several years.

Stephen Anderson - MKM Partners LLC

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Brad Ludington with KeyBanc. Please go ahead.

Brad Ludington – KeyBanc Capital Market

Thank you. I apologize if some of this is a repeat. I got disconnected briefly, but what was CapEx supposed to be in 2010?

Sally J. Smith

CapEx we would estimate overall about $95 million. When we were talking about the number of units gross openings that we would have for 2010 assuming that we are in the middle of the range at 42 new units and about half of them are strip centers and half of them are free-standing, we would spend about $1.75 million per location. We also are planning on 20 remodels of older locations. Smaller upgrades of other locations, disposals, repair and maintenance equipment, all that other bucket of stuff would be about $20 million and then we have about $2 million on targeted for home office, IT infrastructure, other non restaurant related things.

Brad Ludington – KeyBanc Capital Market

Okay. And then I just kind of have a question. We look at all the snow. I'm sitting in Dallas and we are supposed to get seven to nine inches today, which is unheard of.

Sally J. Smith

I think you should go get wings tonight.

Mary J. Twinem

Yeah. Get them quick.

Brad Ludington – KeyBanc Capital Market

I think I'll stay at a hotel instead of drive home in this. What does that do? I know it's bad for restaurants, but it seems like people like to still go to bars and drink on snowy days. They don't want to drive to work, but it’s okay to drive home after a few beers. What does that do for you guys?

Sally J. Smith

I think that it depends on where the restaurants are located. Many of ours we are not in a lot of urban downtowns a smattering on college campuses. We are in suburban locations and I think it probably affects us about the same as it does everybody else

Brad Ludington – KeyBanc Capital Markets

Okay. And then looking at Valentine’s Day that can be big for a lot of restaurants. How does that normally impact Buffalo Wild Wings?

Mary J. Twinem

It's not typically a big day for us. In last year it was on a Saturday this year it’s on a Sunday. So, it's hard to know if it will still be a Saturday night out kind of event. In that case we don't have as many people who choose us for that as maybe some other casual diners do

Brad Ludington – KeyBanc Capital Markets

Okay. Well, thank you very much.

Mary J. Twinem

Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Mark Smith with Feltl and Company. Please go ahead.

Mark Smith – Feltl & Company

Hi guys. Just a housekeeping question up first. Can you give the alcohol percent for Q4 in and the year again?

Mary J. Twinem

Q4 it was 25% and for the year I don't have the year in front of me.

Sally J. Smith

It is real similar to that. It might be Q4 might have been down just slightly. May be 26% for the year.

Mark Smith – Feltl & Company

Okay. And then second, can you just talk about the outlook on wing prices? And I know it's kind of tough to always look at what may happen through the remainder of the year. But, just look at some of the trade disputes now and whether there is an opportunity for wing prices to move lower.

Mary J. Twinem

We always would like to think there is an opportunity for wing prices to move lower. The average for the first five months is $1.95. We did see it go up from December through – just shortly before Super Bowl and then there actually was a little bit of weakness in the market about that time, which typically you don't see. So I mean we'll still watch it and I'm sure everybody else will as we go through the month of February. But, knock on wood, you like to think that it will start to trail off here as we get into the second quarter.

Mark Smith – Feltl & Company

Okay. Then last question - you kind of down played any significant impact from the Olympics. Would you expect World Cup to be similar to the Olympics?

Sally J. Smith

Probably, it's in the summer. I think those communities that are, have big youth soccer programs, could possibly benefit from it. And I didn't mean to downplay the Olympics, it just hasn't been a driver. I think we've got some good athletes and as they continue throughout the Olympics, that certainly helps the decision for people to go out and watch. Our teams, from a local store standpoint, they are pushing and marketing that Buffalo Wild Wings is a great place to catch the Winter Olympics. World Cup is probably similar and it will also depend on what time of the day those games are played, given the fact there is that time difference between Europe and the United States.

Mark Smith – Feltl & Company

Okay. Great, thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Joshua Long with Stephens. Please go ahead.

Joshua Long – Stephens & Co.

Okay. Thank you. How are you all doing?

Sally J. Smith

Great.

Joshua Long – Stephens & Co.

I wanted to talk about the progress you are making on the sharing of best practices between the company stores and the franchise system. And so maybe some major takeaways that have come out of that work and kind of where that is going forward?

Sally J. Smith

Well, we have our big annual convention coming up at the end of this month. And I guess the first week of March. We have a number of breakout sessions, mainly sessions that both our franchisees and company stores general – our franchisee general managers and our company store general managers will attend. It's always one of the best places that we're able to rollout some of the programs that we have and learn as well from the franchisee. So I would, that's just an ongoing program that we have all the time with our franchisees.

Joshua Long – Stephens & Co.

Okay. Thank you. With California still being a big growth opportunity, it still seems like we are seeing some weak foreclosure data and indicating there is still some big problems for that part of the country. How does that shape your perspective and outlook on building out the BWLD market in California?

Sally J. Smith

Well, we have franchise locations there now. They have performed very well. I think from the research that we've done, there is an awareness and the desire for Buffalo Wild Wings to be there. And I can't see why, on a company standpoint or on continued franchise expansion that we wouldn't see great things with store results. It will be a while before we have same-store sales results on California. But actually we have some franchises that have been open a period of time and they are same-store sales positive.

Joshua Long – Stephens & Co.

All right. Thank you. And as we start to see peers continue reinvesting their food, what kind of initiative do you all need to take as far as maybe incremental dollars or maybe a shift in marketing message to respond to that? Or do you feel that you need to?

Sally J. Smith

I didn't hear the first part of the question.

Joshua Long – Stephens & Co.

I am sorry, we continue to see peer casual dining peers continue to reinvest in the quality of their food and really make that a point that they put in front of diners. What kind of initiatives or incremental dollars or things you need to do to respond to that? Or do you feel that you even need to?

Sally J. Smith

Well, I think we are always looking at food quality. We have a limited-time menu offering this fall, which will probably bring back. In the third quarter is our flat bread dip flips. Excellent quality, has been very well received from our – by our guests. I think that you'll see in the second quarter some limited-time offer rubs I think that also, I mean the quality of wings shouldn't change from restaurant to restaurant or season to season. But a continuous improvement on food quality is always part of our development process.

Joshua Long – Stephens & Co.

Thank you. That covers it

Sally J. Smith

Great.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question is a follow-up question. Actually our next question is from the line of Greg Schroeder with Jesup & Lamont. Please go ahead.

Greg Schroeder – Jesup & Lamont

Hi, thank you. On the alcohol side I was wondering as you get bigger, are you seeing any purchasing scales, benefits in your alcohol purchases or are you seeing inflation there? Thanks.

Sally J. Smith

Well, we sure wish we could have do system-wide purchasing in alcohol, but it is dictated on a state-by-state basis. Every state has different sales laws, licensing laws, how you buy from your bottlers and your suppliers. So there is no way to leverage buys for alcohol purchases. And the second part of your question? Hello?

Operator

One moment I just removed his line. Give me one moment please. Mr. Schroeder your line is open.

Greg Schroeder – Jesup & Lamont

Okay, thanks. No there wasn't a second part of the question. I am just, just overall in your cost of sales for your alcohol, I mean are you seeing any benefit there? I realize you are buying on a state-by-state basis, but…

Sally J. Smith

Whatever the bottler or distributor or manufacturer puts through as a price increase, we are seeing the same thing.

Greg Schroeder – Jesup & Lamont

Okay. All right. Thank you.

Sally J. Smith

Thanks.

Operator

Thank you and our next question is a follow-up question from the line of Matt DiFrisco with Oppenheimer. Please go ahead.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

Thanks. Looking at the advertising spend through the first six weeks is there anything year-over-year that might have been somewhat deferred or pent-up ahead of the western hemisphere Olympics coming up? Or is there I heard in the prepared remarks that you said that 2010 is a year of incremental ad spend. So was that already experienced in the first six weeks or is it a little bit more flattish and you are expecting to ramp it up as we get into the Olympics and ahead of carry that into March Madness?

Sally J. Smith

We did have a campaign in January this year. We will not be advertising during the Olympics. We don't typically do so anyway. We'll have a bigger spend in March this year as we go into March Madness, which is - that timeframe for a campaign is typical year-after-year. But from our sales or our advertising spend on a year-over-year basis should be incrementally higher because of additional revenue and units with probably a little more emphasis in March this year.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

Okay. And then last question. I went back and looked through where your closures were. I heard you mention '08 sort of a year where you had some closures. That was only about four though, I think in total. So, this is the largest amount you have had I guess if you finish all nine in 2010, should that on a relative basis it's a decent amount of stores coming out of the system. Is that going to be – how accretive could that be to the margin side of your stores going forward in 2010?

Mary J. Twinem

We haven't separately stated out what the effect would be on the margin side. These are nine stores that are on the low side of average sales volume. So they aren't great percentage cash flowers as a group. So, the bottom line effect won't hurt.

Matthew DiFrisco – Oppenheimer & Co.

It won't hurt. Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question is a follow up question from Bryan Elliott with Raymond James. Please go ahead.

Bryan Elliott – Raymond James

Hi. I just wanted – you mentioned briefly but the little squiggle here recently in wing prices was kind of unusual this time of the year. And I just wondered what your suppliers might be telling you, chicken production seems to finally be getting back to zero and maybe going to rise a bit. Just what are your thoughts on and what are your suppliers and other sources telling you might be a range of scenarios here for the wing market?

Mary J. Twinem

I think there is a variety of scenarios. Typically, if there is more wings it tends to help keep the price in check. I think what we saw in fourth quarter that led to the 100 basis point increase year-over-year in what we see as about a 50 basis point estimate for Q1 is really a size. And I think we would be just as happy if they could get their size a little bit smaller as well.

Bryan Elliott – Raymond James

So, your jumbos are too jumbo?

Mary J. Twinem

They are too jumbo.

Bryan Elliott – Raymond James

All right, thanks.

Mary J. Twinem

Thanks Bryan.

Operator

Thank you. And management, I show no further questions at this time. Please continue.

Sally J. Smith

Okay. Well, thanks everyone for calling in and listening to our fourth quarter and 2009 year-end conference call. We'll hear from you and present again in mid-April as we present our first quarter 2010 results. Thanks again.

Operator

Ladies and gentleman, this concludes the Buffalo Wild Wings fourth quarter 2009 Conference Call. If you would like to listen to a replay of today’s conference, please dial 1-303-590-3030 and enter the access code 420-5262 followed by the pound key. The replay will be available until February 18, 2010. I would like to thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.

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