Morgan Stanley says digital restaurant delivery is surging as it warns on the casual dining sector. The analyst team relies on the latest AlphaWise survey in making its assessment. The bear case scenario is lowered on BJ's Restaurants (NASDAQ:BJRI), Bloomin' Brands (NASDAQ:BLMN), Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD), Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE), Brinker International (NYSE:EAT), DineEquity (NYSE:DRI) and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (NASDAQ:RRGB) due to the impact on margins of the delivery trend.
The outlook is different for the fast-food sector as the investment firm factors in the less cannibalistic impact of delivery on sales. Incremental benefits from an increase in delivery in the future are seen for Chipotle (NYSE:CMG), Dunkin' Brands (NASDAQ:DNKN), Jack In The Box (NASDAQ:JACK), El Pollo Loco (NASDAQ:LOCO), McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), Noodles (NASDAQ:NDLS), Restaurant Brands International (NYSE:QSR), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), Shake Shack (NYSE:SHAK), Wendy's (NYSE:WEN), Wingstop (NASDAQ:WING) and Yum Brands (NYSE:YUM).
Despite the surge in delivery, Grubhub (NYSE:GRUB) is downgraded to Equalweight from Overweight due to increase competiton from Uber (Private:UBER) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).
"We note our Alphawise data show UberEats is gaining traction too with a 800bp increase in user adoption (now at 10%). Our Amazon Restaurant Delivery math also shows how a scaled restaurants business could subsidize 1-hour PrimeNow Delivery," notes MS.
Restaurant same-store sales fell for the fourth straight month, according to data from Black Box Intelligence.
Same-store sales were down 1.1% Y/Y in May. Comparable traffic was down 3.0%, a minor improvement from the 3.2% drop in Aprl.
"Both sales and traffic growth quarter-to-date at the end of May show improvements over the first quarter and the second quarter is currently on track to post the best results we’ve seen for the industry since the third quarter of 2016," notes Black Box.
Restaurant same-store sales fell for the third straight month, according to data from Black Box Intelligence.
Same-store sales fell 1.0% Y/Y during the month, a slight improvement over the 1.1% drop in March. Comparable traffic was down 3.3%. Sales gains were recorded for the fine dining, upscale casual and family dining categories, --while fast-casual and quick service sales fell back.
"The move of the Easter holiday meant that April’s results were likely softer than they would have been without this shift, meaning spending in restaurants was probably a little stronger than the numbers show," notes Black Box.
Wendy's (WEN +6%) reports same restaurant sales increased 1.6% in North America in Q1. Total revenue was up 3% in the quarter, driven higher by a 14% jump in international sales. The marks were good enough to lead the restaurant chain to an earnings beat.
The company reported a 50 bp drop in restaurant margin to 16.7% during the quarter as higher labor costs factored in, while system optmization efforts led to a 530 bps increase in adjusted EBITDA margin rate to 31.2%.
33 global restaurants were opened by Wendy's in Q1.
The company boosts its view for full year EBITDA to a range of $400M to $406M vs. $396M to $404M prior. EPS of $0.45 to $0.47 is seen.
The read from McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) CEO Steve Easterbrook on the chain's momentum in the U.S. was positive during today's earnings call.
Easterbrook noted that traffic challenges still remain, but pointed to a 2% increase in U.S. menu prices by the end of the quarter.
The exec thinks the new mobile order and pay feature will help boost traffic as it rolls out over the next few years.
The modernization push at McDonald's will continue -- with fresh beef, kiosks, all-day breakfast expansion, and menu innovation are all on the plate. In a very interesting development, Easterbrook says a number of U.S. cities will see delivery during this quarter via UberEats (online ordering platform).
Shares of McDonald's pushed even higher after the earnings call, crossing over $140 for the first time ever and peaking at $141.12. The Golden Arches currently trade up 4.94% and are up 16% YTD.
Burger sector chat: Any thoughts on how the modernization push at McDonald's could impact other burger segment chains (SONC, HABT, SHAK, QSR, WEN, BH, GTIM, Carl's Jr. Hardees, Dairy Queen, Smashburger, Fatburger, In-N-Out, Five Guys, Culver's)? Or even more broadly with IHOP (NYSE:DIN), Denny's (NASDAQ:DENN) or Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (NASDAQ:RRGB)?
Credit Suisse has a positive reaction to the U.S. fresh beef initiative announced by McDonald's earlier this week.
The firm notes that the stores where McDonald's tested the concept showed a significant sales lift, including a 35% increase in one case.
As far as those kitchen operations concerns with the fresh Qaurter Pounder push, CS says buying three-platen grills will do the trick.
The fresh beef strategy also has broader implications. "We note this initiative also opens the door to further expansion in [McDonald’s] use of fresh ingredients, which could lead to sales lifts in other products and further improvement in brand perception," notes the analyst team.
Look for other chains such as Wendy's (NYSE:WEN), Burger King (NYSE:QSR) and Sonic (NASDAQ:SONC) to react to the McDonald's development on the marketing end.
The restaurant industry is adjusting to higher labor costs with additional surcharges on customer bills of 3% to 4% in some areas.
"It’s the emerging new norm," says California Restaurant Association spokeswoman Sharokina Shams.
The new practice is in reaction to a wave of minimum wage increases across the country. The extra costs are cutting into the narrow margins for many restaurant chains.
The risk for operators is that consumers will push back amid what's already a pressured backdrop for traffic at dine-in restaurants. Millennials in particular are seen as price-sensitive and brand-disloyal.
The labor surcharges vary by region and are more prevalent with smaller, independent restaurants so far.
A number of restaurant chains are pivoting to delivery innovation in an effort to fight off a declining store traffic trend.
Papa John's International (NASDAQ:PZZA) is dabbling with a premium delivery service in select locations that bumps customers orders up on the list for faster turnaround times.
The chain is starting off slow with the $2.99 add-on service, by limiting the program to five orders a night at participating stores while it works out the mechanics of the system. The development follows the continual explosion in popularity of the Domino's Pizza (NYSE:DPZ) mobile ordering system (+12.2% U.S. same-store sales in Q4), which has steadily helped shares of Domino's to a sector-best 5-year return of +374%.
The Papa John's test will be of interest to McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), which is stepping out into the delivery game in a big way - but has the soggy french fries conundrum to work out.
A number of restaurant chains (Chipotle (NYSE:CMG), Burger King (NYSE:QSR), Wendy's (NYSE:WEN)) already partner with Postmates on delivery, but most of the programs are small-scale and insignificant to earnings.
Here's what Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) said about delivery during its last earnings call in what could be taken as a bit of a curveball.
SBUX Chief Strategy Office Matthew Ryan: "Where we see the greatest opportunity for delivery as we outlined at investment day is in China, where the cost of delivery has come in at a price point that customers are willing to pay, and we will be looking to engage and make that happen."