Cracker Barrel's Dutch Menu

A restaurateur that prides itself on generous servings of comfort-food staples now wants to serve up smaller portions of its shares outstanding. Cracker Barrel parent CBRL Group (Nasdaq: CBRL  ) is at it again, announcing another Dutch auction that will allow shareholders to tender some of their shares back to the company.

CBRL hopes to buy back as much as 17% of its outstanding shares at a price between $42 and $46 apiece. Dutch auctions seem to be popular in casual dining these days; Brinker International (NYSE: EAT  ) also recently completed a buyback through the tendering process.

How does it work? CBRL shareholders who want to tender their stock will be able to name a price within the $42 to $46 range. CBRL will round up the 5.4 million shares offered at the cheapest prices, then retire them all at the price of the highest offer within those 5.4 million. In other words, even if you agree to give up your shares at $42 -- which would be silly, because you can sell them in the open market this morning at $43.73 -- you may still walk away with $45 for each tendered share, if $45 is the highest price within the 5.4 million lowest offers.

But there are problems with these tender auctions. Brinker is a perfect example: It set its price range too low and wound up having to go through the expense of starting the process over again. Ultimately, it bought fewer shares than it wanted to at a higher price.

CBRL doesn't need this. The company is performing well lately. Sure, there was a time when carb-counting dieters and the Atkins faithful could have put a dent into casual-dining chains with a comfort-food bent, such as Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans (Nasdaq: BOBE  ) , and Steak 'n Shake (NYSE: SNS  ) . These days, however, it's a kinder climate for hearty eats.

In addition, CBRL has already slimmed down plenty over the past year, with shares outstanding going from nearly 52 million to just 36 million today. I'm still standing by you, CBRL, but please, be a good date. You don't always have to go Dutch, you know?

Further Foolishness with a side of gravy:

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves comfort food -- in moderation. He does own shares in CBRL. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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