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Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc (CBRL) Q1 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

By Motley Fool Transcribers - Dec 3, 2020 at 4:30PM

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CBRL earnings call for the period ending October 30, 2020.

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Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc ( CBRL -1.09% )
Q1 2021 Earnings Call
Dec 3, 2020, 11:00 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good morning and welcome to the Cracker Barrel Fiscal 2021 First Quarter Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions] Please note that this event is being recorded.

I'd like to turn the call over to Mr. Adam Hanan, Manager of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Adam Hanan -- Investor Contact

Thank you. Good morning and welcome to Cracker Barrel's first quarter fiscal 2021 conference call and webcast. This morning we issued a press release announcing our first quarter results. This press release and on this call, we will refer to non-GAAP financial measures for the first quarter ended October 30, 2020.

The first quarter non-GAAP financial measures are adjusted to exclude the gain on sale of assets related to the sale-leaseback transaction that occurred during the first quarter, non-cash amortization of the asset recognized from the gains on the sale-leaseback transactions, expenses related to the proxy contest initiated by affiliates of Sardar Biglari and their related tax impacts.

The Company believes that excluding these items from its financial results provides investors with an enhanced understanding of the Company's financial performance. This information is not intended to be considered in isolation or as a substitute for net income or earnings per share information prepared in accordance with GAAP. The last page of the press release includes a reconciliation from the non-GAAP information to the GAAP financials.

On the call with me this morning are Cracker Barrel's, President and CEO Sandy Cochran; Senior Vice President and CFO, Jill Golder; and Vice President of FP&A Jeff Wilson. Sandy will begin with a review of the business and Jill will review the financials and outlook. We will then open up the call for questions for Sandy, Jill and Jeff.

On this call, statements may be made by management of their beliefs and expectations regarding the Company's future operating results or expected future events. These are known as forward-looking statements which involve risks and uncertainties that in many cases are beyond management's control and may cause actual results to differ materially from expectations.

We caution our listeners and readers in considering forward-looking statements and information. Any of the factors that could affect results are summarized in the cautionary description of risks and uncertainties found at the end of the press release and are described in detail in our reports that we filed with or furnished to the SEC. Finally, the information shared on this call is valid as of today's date and the company undertakes no obligation to update it except as may be required under applicable law.

I'll now turn the call over to Cracker Barrel's, President and CEO, Sandy Cochran, Sandy?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Adam. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us, and I hope everyone is continuing to stay safe and healthy. Today, I'm going to begin my prepared remarks by briefly discussing our first quarter performance and then I'll touch on our Q2 plans, provide an update on our initiatives, and comment on our outlook.

As you can see from our press release, we delivered first quarter results that significantly improved upon the previous quarter. Comparable store restaurant sales declined 16.4% in the quarter, improving from down 39.2% in the fourth quarter. I believe our results demonstrate that we have the right strategy in place and underscore the strength of our brand and the trust our guests have in us to deliver a great, safe, experience.

The health and safety of our guests and employees remains a top priority. Our elevated procedures remain in place and we continue to learn and modify our processes based on CDC, state, and local health department guidelines. I'm proud of how our teams continue to adapt to a dynamic situation, while delivering hospitality to our guests, whether they're dining in our stores, on our front porch or picking up an order to go.

From a culinary standpoint, this past quarter was the first full quarter in which our new lunch and dinner menu was available in all stores. The updated menu introduced everyday offerings such as our new Chicken Pot Pie, which we featured in Q1 and Maple Bacon Grilled Chicken, both of which have been very popular. We believe the redesigned menu reinforces our strong value proposition and underscores our variety, both of which are differentiators for our brand.

The demand for off-premise remains strong. During the quarter, we continued to focus on leveraging successful initiatives such as third-party delivery and curbside pickup, enhancing our off-premise operations, and building brand awareness and affinity. Comparable store off-premise sales grew 122% compared to the prior-year quarter and represented approximately 25% of total restaurant sales compared to approximately 9% in the prior-year quarter.

I was very pleased with our retail performance in the quarter as we, again, delivered top-line retail performance that exceeded our internal expectations. Comparable store retail sales declined 8.1% in the first quarter compared to a decrease of 32.3% in the fourth quarter.

Decor, personal care, and furniture were among our top-performing categories and we also saw strength in our Christmas assortments, as guests continue to look for affordable ways to celebrate the holidays in their homes during the pandemic.

In short, we had a solid first quarter in which we saw improvements in both comparable store sales and in adjusted earnings per share compared to the fourth quarter. Additionally, we generated positive cash flow which strengthened our liquidity position and we ended the first quarter with nearly $600 million in cash.

We were hoping the days with significant dining room closures and capacity restrictions were behind us, but unfortunately in recent weeks, we've seen nationwide resurgences and many of our stores have been impacted with closed dining rooms or more restrictions on capacity.

It remains a fluid situation that could worsen, but regardless of the headwinds that we may face, I firmly believe that we are well-positioned to navigate this environment, and I have great confidence in our plans and initiatives.

As many of you know, our second quarter is typically one of the busiest quarters and Cracker Barrel has always had a strong connection with the holidays. While this year's holiday season has already been and will continue to be starkly different than in years past, we're focused on providing comfort, hospitality and a safe experience for our guests, whether they're dining in our stores or enjoying our scratch cooked meals in their homes.

Second quarter is a key period of our off-premise business and we believe the strong demand for our Heat n' Serve offerings reflects the trust guests have in Cracker Barrel to provide a delicious home-style meal during these special holiday occasions. In anticipation of families celebrating holidays differently this year, we introduced new offerings for those who're hosting smaller groups of friends and family.

In addition to our traditional Heat n' Serve feats that serves up to 10 for $139.99, we introduced a new smaller Heat n' Serve family dinner offering that serves up to six guests for $69.99. Additionally our Country Fried Turkey, which is currently being featured in our seasonal menu promotion is also available as a family meal baskets for $39.99. We were pleased with the Thanksgiving week sales of those off-premise offerings and we're excited about our holiday ham Heat n' Serve offerings that are available in December.

In retail, we're focused on our core holiday themes and on providing unique merchandise at compelling price points with an emphasis on value gift giving and seasonal decor and we're pleased with the response that guests have had to our assortments. We are managing our inventories very closely.

For stores with closed dining rooms and more severe capacity restrictions, our teams are really focused on sell-through of our merchandise. And for stores with open dining rooms, we're focused on supplementing our assortments to ensure appropriate inventory levels, particularly given our strong first quarter retail sales and our conservative buys. It's an unusual dynamic and I believe the team is doing a good job managing through this situation.

I've already touched on our dinner menu and off-premise initiatives and now I want to give you an update on several of our other initiatives, beer and wine, digital store, and Maple Street.

We remain excited about our beer and wine initiative, approximately 250 stores currently have beer and wine. For the stores with these offerings, beer and wine sales were approximately 1% of dine-in restaurant sales during the first quarter, which we achieved with limited merchandising and we believe beer and wine sales have been highly incremental. We've been pleased with the early results of this initiative and we believe that over the next 12 months, we can more than double the percent of beer and wine sales as a percentage of dine-in restaurant sales.

We look forward to completing the roll-out and we expect that by the end of the fiscal year, nearly 600 stores will have beer and wine offerings. At this time, we don't anticipate introducing beer and wine beyond those 600 stores, mainly due to the substantially higher cost of licenses in the remaining markets.

Another key initiative is our digital store, which we launched in the first quarter. As a reminder, this is a new digital platform that provides an integrated and improved user experience, and it's foundational for future planned initiatives that we believe will further enhance the guest experience.

We're encouraged by the initial results and looking forward to leveraging its capabilities going forward. We believe the digital store and other planned technology initiatives allow us to extend our hospitality in new ways, increase convenience, and empower guests by giving them more control over their journey.

I now want to provide an update on Maple Street. I remain pleased with their performance and how they've navigated through the pandemic, which has reinforced our confidence in the brand and its business model. We remain optimistic that we will achieve targeted AUVs of over $1 million.

Similarly to Cracker Barrel, Maple Street saw strong improvement in their first quarter comparable store sales, which grew by approximately 20% compared to the prior-year quarter. These results include the benefit of being open on Sunday in the current year. Their performance has been in line with our expectations and we're looking forward to introducing this exciting brand to many new guests and we remain confident that Maple Street will make a meaningful contribution to our results over the long term.

In closing, I'm pleased with the strong improvement we saw in the first quarter results and with the progress we're making on key initiatives. We are, however, anticipating significant headwinds in the coming months and our outlook remains cautious due to the recent nationwide resurgences in COVID-19 and the resulting increased restrictions that have been imposed in many of our communities as well as the related impacts to the economy and consumer spending.

While we expect greater headwinds through at least the remainder of the second quarter, I'm highly confident in our ability to navigate through this uncertain environment for several reasons. First, we have a strong balance sheet and ample liquidity. Second, we've already demonstrated we can successfully adapt and manage through an environment with significant dining room closures and now we have the benefit of our learnings and experience from earlier in the year.

Third, our initiatives remain relevant even in a more challenged environment, and while the recent resurgences may slow down some of our initiatives, we will continue to make prudent investments to drive long-term value creation. And lastly, and most importantly, we're a trusted, differentiated brand with loyal guests.

And with that, I'll turn it over to Jill.

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning and thank you, Sandy. Today, my prepared remarks will focus on our first quarter financial performance, updates on our strategic initiatives, and our liquidity position; then, I will provide an update on recent sales trends and comment on our outlook.

I would like to begin by discussing our financial performance for the first quarter of fiscal 2021. For the quarter, we reported total revenue of $646.5 million, a decrease of 13.7% compared to the prior-year quarter. Our restaurant revenue decreased 15.1% to $515.2 million and our retail revenue decreased 7.6% to $131.2 million.

We were pleased with the improvement we saw in our comparable store restaurant and retail sales compared to the previous quarter. Comparable store restaurant sales improved from down 39.2% in the fourth quarter to down 16.4% in the first quarter. The sales improvement was broad, both geographically and across day parts.

The South was our strongest performing region. Dinner remained the strongest day part, and all three day parts saw solid improvements. We believe our first quarter top line results were driven by improvements in dining room capacity, our new lunch and dinner menu, off-premise initiative, and for a portion of our stores' front porch dining. Our first quarter comparable store restaurant sales consisted of a traffic decline of 18.3% and a 1.9% increase in average check, which included core menu pricing of approximately 1%.

Off-premise sales grew 122% compared to the prior year and represented approximately 25% of total restaurant sales. Comparable store retail sales improved from down 32.3% in the fourth quarter to down 8.1% in the first quarter, driven by strength in categories such as decor, personal care, and furniture.

Now, moving on to expenses. Total cost of goods sold in the quarter was 30.8% of total revenue versus 29.3% in the prior-year quarter. Our restaurant cost of goods sold was 25.7% of restaurant sales versus 24.6% in the prior-year quarter. This 110 basis point increase was primarily driven by commodity inflation of 1.9%, outpacing our core menu pricing, as well as changes to menu mix. Our retail cost of goods sold was 50.6% of retail sales versus 49.6% in the prior-year quarter. This 100 basis point increase was primarily driven by lower initial margins.

Labor and related expenses were $227.2 million, or 35.1% of revenue in the first quarter compared to $263.3 million, or 35.2% of revenue in the prior-year quarter. This 10 basis point decrease was primarily due to our cost savings initiatives, partially offset by sales deleverage of fixed costs and wage inflation outpacing core menu pricing. Wage inflation on a constant mix basis was approximately 2.5%.

Other operating expenses were $161.3 million, or 25% of revenue in the first quarter compared to $162.9 million, or 21.7% of revenue in the prior-year quarter. This 330 basis point increase was primarily driven by sales deleverage.

General and administrative expenses in the first quarter were $39.6 million. When excluding approximately $5.2 million related to our proxy contest, general and administrative expenses in the first quarter were $34.4 million, or 5.3% of revenue, compared to $39.6 million, or 5.3% of revenue in the prior-year quarter.

Our current year results include approximately $3 million of realized cost savings and lower general expenses due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19. This was partially offset by approximately $1 million in one-time expenses related to our beer and wine initiatives.

GAAP operating income was $237.1 million, or 36.7% of revenue. Adjusting for the gain from the sale-leaseback transaction that closed in August, the non-cash amortization of the asset recognized from the gains on the sale-leaseback transactions and expenses related to our proxy contest, adjusted operating income was $27.7 million, or 4.3% of total revenue. Adjusted EBITDA was $54.1 million.

Net interest expense for the quarter was $10.7 million compared to $3.6 million in the prior-year quarter. The increase in interest expense was primarily due to higher debt as a result of drawing down on our revolving credit facility in order to bolster liquidity.

Our effective tax rate for the first quarter was 24.6% compared to an effective tax rate of 17.7% in the prior-year quarter. This increase was primarily driven by a reduction in tax credits and taxes on the sale-leaseback transaction in the current year.

We reported first quarter GAAP earnings per diluted share of $7.18. Adjusting for the items outlined in our press release and the related tax effects, adjusted earnings per diluted share were $0.69.

I now want to speak to our liquidity position. We ended the first quarter with $597.6 million of cash compared to $437 million at the end of the fourth quarter. The increase in our cash was driven by the sale-leaseback transaction and the cash we generated from operations. We continue to believe we are in a strong financial position due to the active management of our balance sheet and the actions we have taken to strengthen our liquidity.

We believe our strong liquidity position enhances our flexibility, both for managing through the environment and as we consider capital allocation going forward. The Board continues to evaluate the environment and our debt levels, and they will maintain a balanced approach to capital allocation and will take our strong cash position into account when determining the optimal mix of investing in our business, returning cash to shareholders, and paying down debt.

I would now like to speak to our outlook. Everyone should be mindful of the risks and uncertainties associated with this outlook as described in today's earnings release and in our reports filed with the SEC. Because of the uncertainties resulting from the pandemic, we are not providing annual earnings guidance, although I still want to provide some forward-looking commentary.

We are on track to achieve our sustainable cost savings target of $50 million. In the first quarter, we achieved approximately $12 million in cost savings, which brings the total amount realized to-date to approximately $25 million. We expect to achieve the remaining balance of our target over the next two quarters. We anticipate that slightly more than half of the savings will come from labor and related, and approximately 20% from G&A, with the majority of the remaining savings coming from other operating expenses.

As we have discussed, there will be offsets to these cost savings, which can be grouped into three categories. First, we are making investments in labor and supplies to support our enhanced health and safety protocols. Second, we have expenses related to our strategic initiatives. In fiscal 2021, we expect approximately $8 million of one-time expenses in G&A, of which approximately $6 million are related to beer and wine, and approximately $2 million are associated with our digital initiative.

Third, we anticipate a net $20 million expense related to our sale-leaseback transactions, which consists of approximately $25 million of rent, of which about $9 million is cash, offset by approximately $5 million in reduced depreciation.

We now expect commodity inflation on a constant mix basis of 2% to 2.5% due to higher projected costs in fruits and vegetables, pork and beef. We expect an effective tax rate of 19% to 20% for the full year.

While we were pleased with our overall sales improvement in the first quarter as a result of the recent resurgences of COVID, we've seen an increase in the number of dining room closures and in capacity restrictions, which are negatively impacting our restaurant and retail sales. Order-to-date, preliminary comparable store restaurant and retail sales are down approximately 20% compared to the prior year.

As a reminder, the month of November is a unique month for us due to the fact that Thanksgiving week is typically our highest volume week and includes the benefit of our special occasion off-premise offerings. While we were pleased with our Thanksgiving week results, the rising COVID cases and the related impacts have created meaningful headwinds and our outlook remains cautious.

We've seen significant variation between stores that are limited to off-premise only and stores that have open dining rooms. As of the beginning of this week, approximately 100 stores had closed dining rooms. Our full second quarter comparable store sales will be highly dependent on the number of dining room closures and the level of capacity restrictions in our system as well as guests' willingness to eat out.

Although our outlook is cautious and the environment is uncertain, we believe we are well-positioned and we are highly confident in our plans and our ability to navigate these challenges.

And with that, I will turn it over to the operator for questions.

Questions and Answers:


We'll now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] First question is from Alton Stump of Longbow Research. Please go ahead.

Alton Stump -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Great. Thank you and -- picking my call. Just coming back to the point that you made Jill, like the -- Thanksgiving being a huge week for you guys like during the month, I was curious as to what interplay was between obviously there [Indecipherable] traveling. But on the other hand, there were a lot smaller groups on average that potentially might sit well with their Heat n' Serve as a whole platform. So I was curious as to kind of what the puts and takes were particularly over the holiday and what that might portend here for the Christmas -- upcoming season as well?

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Great. Good morning and thank you, Alton. Yes, overall, Thanksgiving from a week standpoint is one of our highest volume weeks, and we were pleased with our overall performance, especially in light of the current environment.

As we look at our sales, our Heat n' Serve sales were better than what we had expected, primarily due to the shift to our off-premise as well as the introduction of the smaller off-premise offering that Sandy talked about in her prepared remarks, both of those were very popular. So we were pleased with the overall demand and believe that that really underscores how the offerings really resonated with our guests.

On the travel side, you're right, it's a noisy quarter. It's a noisy time for us. It does seem like people were less likely to travel and probably are going to be less likely to travel during the holiday season given the resurgence in COVID. So, that said, even though travel was probably down in the aggregate for us, we do believe that overall we're poised to benefit from those guests when travel kind of opens back up. So is that helpful, Alton?

Alton Stump -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Yes. Great. Thanks for that color. And then I guess just one quick follow up. As far as unit builds, has there been any slowdown recently because of the surge in COVID cases as far as your plans to build over the course of the next couple of quarters?

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So Alton, you're talking about building new units?

Alton Stump -- Longbow Research -- Analyst


Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

I see. So our unit expectations may be impacted by COVID. I mean, some of it is -- for Cracker Barrel, we have modest number of new units that we're looking at opening this year. So that's still in flux. As we look at Maple Street, I'd say we're being opportunistic and patient.

That team is in the process of building the pipeline for opening new units. But right now they're solidifying their pipeline, and frankly, as we gets through probably the next quarter, we'll be able to provide more color on where we are with that. But excellent question.

Alton Stump -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Got it. Makes sense. Thanks so much.


Next question comes from Jeff Farmer of Gordon Haskett. Please go ahead.

Jeff Farmer -- Gordon Haskett Research Advisors -- Analyst

Great. Thanks and good morning, guys. You did touch on it, with that 100 restaurants roughly that are closed currently. I think that's about 14% of the system. But I'm just curious, what type of same-store sales headwind did that create for that quarter-to-date same-store sales number?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey Jeff, this is Sandy. Why don't I start and maybe set the question up a little bit, at least, what I think the question is, and then I'll turn it over to Jill. I assume what you're trying to understand is some -- a little more granularity behind our second quarter sales trend.

So, as you all can probably imagine, we're dealing with sort of groups of stores and the way we're categorizing them is, where dining rooms are open greater than 50%, and what our expectation is there. Now, inside that, there it depends on to what degree you might be a tourist location and how that's impacting your business.

Then we've got dining rooms open, but less than 50%. We've got some communities where it's only 25% and they've gone backwards. Then we've got off-premise only, but guests are allowed into the retail store and they can come into the restaurant. We have expectations there.

And then we have curbside only, where guests are not even allowed sort of in the building, and that's an additional category. So our operators -- and these categories are changing. They are going in and out of these rules, if you will, sometimes with only a couple of days' notice, and it's unclear how long they'll be in it, which is creating an interesting environment for operators to predict demand as it relates to labor and our retail teams, as I mentioned in my prepared remarks, there is a very different environment.

So if you were to look onto the Q2 sales, what you see is sort of a conglomerate. It's like each of those categories has different trends and we're monitoring each of them.

I'll add to Jill's, we were pleased with Thanksgiving and I was particularly pleased with how the operators delivered the sales, which to her point, largely shifted as people either couldn't travel or couldn't be in the dining rooms or just weren't comfortable leading in the dining rooms to Heat n' Serve and off-premise, but how the operators navigated through all that chaos often at the very last minute. So that just sort of maybe repeats again sort of how complex is the situation.

I'll turn it over to Jill with -- whether you want to add any numbers to that.

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So I think, Jeff, I would remind you, so we said in our prepared remarks, in the first quarter, we had about 20 stores that -- locations had closed dining rooms. So now, as Sandy said in her prepared remarks, we're running about 100 dining rooms closed currently and that 20 stores in the first quarter that was at the end of the first quarter, so that's definitely had a big impact. That's the biggest impact and the change in trend that you're seeing.

To Sandy's point, it's a really fluid situation and we're working on trends, and certainly trying to help our operators manage through it as well. I guess all of that said, just remind everyone, as we talk about -- we've got a strong balance sheet, we're in a good cash position to manage through this with our operations team, so we're really focused on delivering a great guest experience and the health and safety of our teams and our guests.

Jeff Farmer -- Gordon Haskett Research Advisors -- Analyst

All right. That's helpful. And just one more follow-up. So if my information is correct, it looks like a state like Kentucky home to roughly 6% of the system, at some point in the last few weeks, that state did suspend indoor dining. So the question is, how did your off-premise strategy change? How quickly did it change? Sort of how adept are you guys at reacting or responding to these mitigation efforts that seem to be picking up speed?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, the strategy we'd gone into it with thinking about the assortment, we assumed that a lot of guests may, even if the dining rooms were open, either wouldn't be able to get in or wouldn't be comfortable. So that's why we created this new smaller Heat n' Serve offer, which we thought would be the appropriate kind of offer for the needs of our guests.

As the dining rooms closed, the teams worked very hard to move the inventory around, right, so that we had more of the supplies and inventory to support more of that kind of business, whether that's the turkey or the supplies that you need in order to do the Heat n' Serve, and then we had some really creative things being done by operators.

A couple of our Kentucky stores close to the Tennessee border, I know were doing some of the production for stores in Tennessee that allowed the stores in Tennessee to take more business because we had the production capacity from the Kentucky stores. So our operators were doing everything they could, to sell everything they could, to in whatever way a guest wanted to use us.

Jeff Farmer -- Gordon Haskett Research Advisors -- Analyst

All right. Thank you.


Thank you. And the next question is from Jake Bartlett, Truist Securities. Please go ahead.

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking the question. Mine is really about the run rate of the business. I know still -- a lot has changed from the first half of the month of November to the back half, with the store closings really in the last two weeks. Could you help us understand, it seems -- I would think that the trends have decelerated much lower in the back half of the month versus that negative 20%, but any help there would be useful and helpful.

And also, just to clarify, you've said that Thanksgiving had very strong Heat n' Serve, but was Thanksgiving sales -- did that help or hurt relative to that negative 20%? So potentially, kind of excluding Thanksgiving, maybe even the run rate could be a little bit lower.

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So, Jake, there is a lot in there. Great question. So, let me start kind of on the overall business from a margin standpoint, if that's helpful. So as we think about the business in the near term, clearly in the first quarter, our margins were pressured by the overall lower sales and really the deleverage.

We benefited from the cost savings actions that we've put in place and that was partially offset by the P&L impact from the sale-leaseback and the investment in some of our initiatives. So we mentioned that we had about $1 million of beer and wine in the first quarter.

As we look at the second quarter, we would expect margins to be similarly pressured. Clearly, the deceleration in the top line would have an impact, as well as our off-premise offerings, as you think about the Heat n' Serve, although they have a great penny profit, their overall COGS and packaging costs are higher. So from a margin standpoint, they add more pressure, but great penny profit there. So -- as well as in the second quarter, we'd expect to see additional investments as we roll out our beer and wine initiative. So that's kind of the near-term impact from a margin standpoint.

Looking at it kind of broadly, more longer-term from a margin impact, we feel really good about the actions that we have taken so that hopefully post COVID, we're in a good position. The $50 million in cost savings that we've taken out of the business will benefit. Certainly, that will be partially offset by the net $20 million impact from the sale-leaseback transaction. But overall, those actions were very beneficial.

I guess what we don't know is post-COVID kind of what that mix of sales looks like. Not only how much will be off-premise, but what the different drivers within off-premise, and those have modestly lower margins, so that could have an impact, as well as the timing of our initiatives as we roll out our initiatives, although we're really confident that digital and our other initiatives will create value over the longer term.

So over the longer term, we think we're going to be in a great spot. So hopefully, that's helpful as you think about from the short-term and the longer-term business model aspects.

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Yeah, that is helpful. I was actually also focused on the sales level. As we try to think about the run rate of the business. November was negative 20%, but is it fair to assume that it's significantly lower as you exited the month?

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. That's like the $30 million question. There's just so much noise and so much change in the regulatory environment, and how the consumer is feeling, it's really hard for us to predict what the rest of the quarter will be like. But that's probably the reason why we wanted to share with you all what our current trend looks like, so you could understand how we ended the first quarter and what it looks like at the start of the second quarter.

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Right. But I guess could you tell us what the -- in terms of current trends what the last two weeks versus the first two weeks of the month, just given how much has changed?

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Oh, it's just -- again, it's just so noisy especially we get the holiday in there. It's just too noisy to parse.

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Okay. And the holiday, was that a plus or a minus in terms of that 20% trend? [Speech Overlap] I'm not getting the answer, but I will move on.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

You are so good at asking the same question in the same way, so again, it's just -- we want to [Indecipherable] to be helpful.

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. We want to provide information that we think is helpful. So we think the quarter-to-date trend is the most helpful for you.

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Got it. Okay, I appreciate that. Just one question on pricing. 1% menu pricing and seems like inflation, I don't think you gave your outlook for labor cost inflation, which would be helpful, but the 2% to 2.5% commodities implies some deleverage. So is that 1% what you're planning for the year or is that just timing issue and you'll take more pricing later in the year?

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So you might remember that at the end of the last quarter, we talked about the fact that we are going to be cautious on pricing. So we did go in with more modest pricing at the beginning of the year. We do believe that we will approach that 2% for the total year. And then, we mentioned that we saw a step-up in the commodities inflation and we expect wage inflation in the 2.5% to 3% range.

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

You're welcome.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Jake.


Next question is from Brett Levy, MKM Partners. Please go ahead.

Brett Levy -- MKM Partners -- Analyst

Great. Thanks. Just following up on Jeff and Jake's question and then a couple of others. Are you able to quantify just what the drag is from the 20 stores in first quarter and the 100 stores? I just think that's the simplest way to ask it. And then also, when you think about off-premise, especially in those 20 and the 100 stores that have closed the dining rooms, what have you seen in terms of retention of off-premise, how was that compared to the peak in those markets when you were off-premise only or how they've been running when you had the dining rooms open? And then I'll change acts [Phonetic] on another question.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So maybe I'll start and then turn it over to -- give you a break, Jill. So yes, we would be able to, Brett, quantify each category. I think we are -- but we're not going to each category, except to say that the best performing stores are the ones where the dining rooms are open at very high capacity and we have lots of guests that continue to want to come and dine with us on all three-day parts and so on.

And the worst performing stores are the ones at the other end. And as they shift -- as the number shift, it changes obviously the -- I'm explaining to which probably didn't need to be explained. It's just so much noise over the next -- and particularly as we look for the rest of the quarter with the holiday trends and what we expect for travel and vacation, and people celebrating that we are just not comfortable offering any more granular guidance.

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. And then, I would just add, on your question about how much of the off-premise sales have we retained. Again, that is noisy, because if you think about it, we started opening up dining rooms in May, they opened up to different levels. Then in some areas, they stepped back down. So overall, it's hard to just give you a number on we've retained X percent.

I mean what you can see clearly in our first quarter performance with off-premise sales growing 122% and representing about 25% of our restaurant sales, we were pleased with that overall performance. Clearly, some of that is driven by the closures and we're just not sure what that level is going to look like post-COVID. Our goal is to retain a large portion of our off-premise sales as dining rooms reopen, but we're just not sure at this point.

Brett Levy -- MKM Partners -- Analyst

And then just one little last technical question on sales. Have any of your units returned to positive comp territory and if so, any willingness to share? Is it handful, is it percentages, is it 5%, something like that? Thanks.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah actually, some have. It's been terrific. Like I said, our operators are doing everything. Just our outdoor dining and the kind of things they're doing to capture all of the demand that's there has been really impressive. Yes, we have a handful of stores that have gotten to positive comps, and I guess, Jill, unless you want to add more. It's probably much as we'd say.

Brett Levy -- MKM Partners -- Analyst

I guess then just turning in a different direction, just on the technology front. What have you seen in terms of your ability to integrate the POS systems? Are you seeing any productivity enhancement and what kind of progress are you making on the mobile and digital initiative? And then I'll let the queue handle the rest.

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Right. So this is Jill. I'll start with the POS. So currently, we've got about 250 stores have the new POS system in it and we're hopeful that we'll roll out another couple of hundred through the end of the fiscal year. The POS, from the team member's standpoint is just -- it's easier for the team to use and train on. And you're right, it does set the foundation for some of our other technology, like some of the pieces that digital will use and tablets.

We've certainly found tablets to be very beneficial in the stores that have them for our curbside and some of the off-premise piece of it. And then I guess I can turn it over to Sandy to comment on digital, which we're very early in that story.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So we rolled that in Q1. It's a pretty big milestone. I was pleased with the early results. It was an important component of our Thanksgiving performance and we did see improvements in conversion rates. So people that went online to order were able to do so.

So overall, pleased with the start of it. Looking forward to the planned initiatives that we'll be able to add to it as we go forward. There were some hiccups and things. We almost -- we saw so much traffic that it was well -- it was a lot more than we had expected. So we learned a lot as we stressed the system for that day. So I'm pleased with the progress we're making there.


Next question is from Jon Tower of Wells Fargo. Please go ahead.

Jon Tower -- Well Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Some follow-ups to earlier comments. First, on the comment earlier in the script, the idea of doubling the beer and wine mix within the dining rooms. I think it's 1% in the 250 stores today. In terms of thinking about that going forward, will that include greater merchandising within the stores, because it sounds like, to your point earlier, that's not necessarily happening today?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, yes. And it's part -- we don't really have anything on our tables in our dining rooms in the COVID environment. We don't have oil lamps or the dessert cards or the table tents, which was merchandising, that would have been a great place to tell our guests about the new beverage program.

And a lot of our guests, they know the menu so well, they don't actually look at it. And then -- so what we're using now is what we can. We have posters as you walk into the dining room and so on. But I think as we go back to a more normal environment, we'll have more opportunities to tell the story more effectively.

And I think as we get experience, just having it for a lot of our restaurants, they've only just rolled it out. So our servers are still getting comfortable with the fact that we have a new beverage program, and how to offer it. So I'm pleased with the results, broadly speaking, that we have now, but do believe that it can double as we get more experience and do a better job of promoting the offering.

Jon Tower -- Well Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Okay. So just to clarify that does not -- that 2% number, so it does not really include merchandising on the tables, but just broader awareness growing?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I think it's both. I think it's going to take some merchandising on the table are doing a better job. Now, we've got some places that have had it for a while, that are close to that now. So I think sometimes guests just have to find it as they visit us and maybe they're there for an occasion where it makes sense. So I think it's going to take a variety of things to achieve it, but I'm optimistic that we can get there.

Jon Tower -- Well Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Okay. And then, just switching gears a little bit. Obviously, you're off-premise business has been very successful during the pandemic, and hitting 25% mix in the most recent quarters, great. I am curious about, how you're thinking about the off-premise business and how that might be evolving your in-store menu as well, right?

So today, a lot of your off-premise is bulkier, larger size orders, family packs, the Heat n' Serve, the six-to-ten or less than six. But I'm curious, are you seeing much interest from consumers to kind of go smaller size occasions as well? And what that might potentially mean for your menu over time, whether it'd be in-store or off-premise? For example, does it make sense that at some point, you should have some hand-held sandwiches that aren't necessarily that much of a feature for the off-premise today?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, let me take a stab first. So, first of all, despite the fact that in the month of November and the second quarter may be in general, individual to-go is the overwhelming majority of the off-premise business. It's over 60%. And so most of our to-go are still guests that go online or call the store or walk-in, and they just order one or two entrees. And that's probably what you're thinking for off-prem.

Now, for holidays in particular and what we found during the pandemic, these family meal baskets were a great solution for a certain need that we hope will, now that we've introduced it, continue in non-holidays with our family meal baskets, and that we've even had more of an opportunity to introduce the Heat n' Serve which just is a holiday offer. We do it Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and we tried something last year on Mother's Day. So these big packaging, this is really more of a November thing.

Now, secondly though, there is a lot of work being done from our culinary team about what is the right kind of -- what is the right additions to the menu to meet the needs of the guests that wants to use the brand off-premise. And your point about handheld lunch is one example. And they've actually designed some things that I think are really interesting, taking our meat loaf and making a terrific sandwich with it and some things so that we could actually put into a box and offer to be maybe something people will be interested in, particularly at lunch.

So the culinary team is working on what we could do to supplement the menu maybe off-premise only, handheld dessert, things like that. And I'm looking forward to rolling or testing some of those things in the latter half of this year, through next.

Jon Tower -- Well Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you. Appreciate that. And then, just pivoting to the retail business. Obviously, I've been struck by how strong the business has trended throughout the crisis. And I'm just curious if you've picked up anything having to scramble throughout this crisis to manage that business, have you learned anything that's going to stick on the inventory management side into the future? And perhaps how this digital platform that you've just rolled out will help either manage inventory -- yeah, I guess help manage inventory better than in the past?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We've learned a lot about inventory management, and Laura did an -- Laura and her team, our retail team, did an excellent job heading into the pandemic of cutting inventories. And in some cases, I think she'd say, it was an interesting lesson learned because we had great sell-through and we don't -- we probably realized there's probably some areas we can get better sell-through with less, maybe the visual merchandising impact of fewer items allowed the guests to really see the product almost more effectively.

So I think there is lessons learned about that. They have had to scramble both -- we went into the year with conservative buys and then we had this phenomenal sell-through in the first quarter. So they've had to add things and some themes that we're actually going to be bringing in soon, that will give us maybe some new areas that we -- some new demand that we will see was available to us.

The digital side, we're working hard to understand the opportunity to attachment to an off-premise buy. That's been more interesting because just the fact that you're coming in to buy dinner one night, but it's hard to kind of get a beat on exactly what we might be able to offer you'd add to it.

They're trying a lot of things. I think that the digital store will allow us that when you go online to order to prompt you, and that may give us some learnings. And we're also really working on what we merchandise near the to-go pickup station to see what's getting traction, but we probably got a long way to go to really figure that out completely.

Jon Tower -- Well Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Okay. Great, thank you very much. Appreciate the time.


Next question comes from Todd Brooks of CL King. Please go ahead.

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, everybody. Just a few questions for you. First, if we can look back to the first quarter, could you maybe share with us if you're looking at the three months of the quarter, what the strongest same-store sales performance might have been? We're just trying to gauge how good the business got before we had the COVID flares here?

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So great question. You'll remember when we were going into the quarter, on the first quarter, we had said we were down approximately 15%, 20% kind of going in. So there was some improvement as the quarter went on, but we don't want to get into any particular month. What I would say is, the improvement that we saw within the first quarter was really broad.

Apart from the capacity restrictions, we improved across all of the day-parts. The dinner day-part continued to be the strongest. The weekend dinner is still where we tend to run into more of our capacity constraints as well as kind of brunch time -- breakfast and lunch on Sundays. The South was our strongest performing region, but again, that might have been more aligned with where the capacity constrictions were.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

And the front porch dining and things like that.

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. And we did benefit in the stores that had front porch dining. They picked up about a point in overall sales. And again, much of that was during the capacity restricted time periods, kind of like the weekend.

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Okay. Great. And then, not looking for specifics on the quarter-to-date trends, but you talked about the four buckets of stores and how fluid things are with stores moving between the buckets. But if you look at just one constant bucket, so the stores that have stayed and dining rooms greater than 50%, how variable has that performance been relative to the performance that you saw in Q1?

And I'm just trying to get -- because couple of times, Sandy, you've talked about that the customer may not be as willing to come into the restaurant. I'm just trying to get a sense, are consumer attitudes changing across all the different opening statuses of the store or are sales pretty consistent, and it's more the number of stores moving between the four buckets that's caused the decline in same-store sales relative to this quarter?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, I know that it would be so helpful for us to be able to kind of give you all more clarity, but it really is both. We've got some communities, where I do believe that the concerns in the community about the issue broadly is reducing people's interest in dining in. We've got other communities, where they don't seem at all impacted by the recent resurgences in terms of what's happening there.

We've got some stores that maybe they were more travel-related and that the absence of the travel leading into the season we believe had an impact on them. And just tearing it all apart is very difficult, but generally -- I'm trying to think of something that would be helpful, but generally, the stores that were -- had sort of as much capacity as they can get in the dining room and had off-premise, we continue to be pleased with their performance.

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Okay. That's helpful. Thank you. And then the final question on beer and wine. I know you talked about the progression from 1% of dining room sales to 2% over, hopefully, the coming year. Are the assumptions -- or if you could maybe talk about the assumptions as far as how much of that's related to ticket growth with customers versus how much you're attributing to more frequency with the availability of beer and wine as far as visits?

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So -- Todd, so the 1% that we referenced was same-restaurant sales impact from a check standpoint, so that's mix. From reading the traffic patterns and if we're able to grow traffic in this environment, we just have not been able to read that.

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Okay. So the eventual move to 1% to 2%, we are attributing that to check impact, and then if there is a frequency benefit, it could be an incremental tailwind then?

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

That's right. Thank you for clarifying that. Yes.

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Okay. Great. Thank you both very much. Appreciate it.

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Todd.


Next question is from Gregory Francfort of Bank of America. Please go ahead.

Gregory Francfort -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch Research -- Analyst

Hey. Thanks for the question. I had two. And the first is, how would you -- as cases have spiked and closures have started again, how have you manage labor costs and employee turnover, and keeping employees and the staff in the stores that have had to shut down again? Just sort of curious how have you kind of managed through that event [Phonetic]? Thanks.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So thank you for the question. They've done an excellent job of it, but it's been tough. Each of the stores is -- first, they are just spending time understanding what state that store is going to be in and predicting how the demand is going to come because that has implications on what kind of labor we bring in and how much. Clearly, off-premise uses some different type -- you don't need host and cash addition in the same way. So the managers are managing that.

Now, the good news about the last few weeks has been that our off-prem business has been so strong that we are largely able to put a lot of people to work, doing something in the store and the field had been focused a lot on cross-training, which has given them a lot of flexibility. So I think, right now, they're doing a good job of managing it, but it is difficult and it has been -- it has required us to pivot, at the last minute, to accommodate all the changes.

Gregory Francfort -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch Research -- Analyst

Got it. That's helpful. And then, Sandy, I had one question just on -- as you look out, there is so much talk about sales this week or next week in off-premise, but as you look out to nine months from now or 12 months or whenever I guess this is over, what are your expectations for maybe what has changed?

And I guess I ask you within the context of, do you think consumer wallets will be under a lot of pressure and do you think Cracker Barrel has to adjust to that? And how do you think Cracker Barrel fares in that sort of environment, I don't know if that's a positive or negative for your business from a share or whatever perspective. Thanks.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So I think that's a big and important question that probably everybody is sort of thinking about. We went into this thinking it was going to be a difficult economic environment. And if anything, the recent resurgences have even increased the uncertainty about the duration and maybe the magnitude of the economic impact as we come out of it.

So the unemployment rates improved, but it's still relatively high. The enhanced -- the stimulus and the unemployment benefits, I think, were providing us or did provide some level of insulation, and now it's unclear to what degree those will continue. So we expect the consumer to be challenged for some time.

And we believe that our brand is well-positioned to perform well in that environment. We've got loyal guests. They trust us. We're highly differentiated. Everyday value, high-quality food, all the reasons people love us, we think will be one of the reasons they will trust us to come and dine with us when it's all over.

From a macro cost standpoint, I'll ask Jill to touch on that, because what I kind of touched on is the top line and how that's going to shift off-prem and dining room, we're already spoken to in terms of consumer preference, but in terms of the cost variables, labor and food, maybe you can speak coming out of this. So what do you think?

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. No. Great follow up, because we talked about the fact that even in the near term we've seen more of an acceleration in commodity costs. Now, some of that was due to the wildfires out in California but -- and even like on the beef side, where we saw it accelerate. It was a little bit of combination of demand starting to increase, but also since that herds had been culled, there was less product there.

So as businesses kind of rebound, there might continue to be pressure on that front. And then, on the wage inflation level, we mentioned we think for us it will be in the 2.5% to 3% range. It seems more broadly it had moderated, but where that ends up, not sure. So we're definitely still going to have those inflationary pressures that will continue to put pressure on the overall business.

Gregory Francfort -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch Research -- Analyst

Thank you.


[Operator Instructions] At this time, we have no further questions. I'd like to turn the conference over to Sandy Cochran for closing remarks. Please go ahead.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you all for joining us today. So while we continue to face the disruptions and challenges from this, I remain highly confident in our brand and in our ability to navigate through this uncertain environment. We appreciate your interest and support, and we hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday.


[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 65 minutes

Call participants:

Adam Hanan -- Investor Contact

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Jill Golder -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Alton Stump -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Jeff Farmer -- Gordon Haskett Research Advisors -- Analyst

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Brett Levy -- MKM Partners -- Analyst

Jon Tower -- Well Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Gregory Francfort -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch Research -- Analyst

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