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Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc (NASDAQ:CBRL)
Q3 2021 Earnings Call
May 25, 2021, 11:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, and welcome to the Cracker Barrel Fiscal Year 2021 Third Quarter Earnings Conference Call. All participants will be in listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] After today's presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to turn the conference over to Jessica Hazel, Senior Director, Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Jessica Hazel -- Senior Director, Investor Relations

Thank you. Good morning, and welcome to Cracker Barrel's third quarter fiscal 2021 conference call and webcast.

This morning, we issued a press release announcing our third quarter results. In this press release and on this call, we will refer to non-GAAP financial measures for the third quarter ended April 30, 2021. The third quarter non-GAAP financial measures are adjusted to exclude the non-cash amortization of the asset recognized from the gains on our sale-leaseback transactions and the 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 pages of the press release include reconciliations 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 Interim CFO, Doug Couvillion; and Senior Vice President of CMO, Jen Tate. Sandy will begin with a review of the business, and Doug will review the financials and outlook. We will then open up the call for questions for Sandy, Doug and Jen.

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. Many 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 file 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

Thank you, and good morning, everyone. I appreciate you joining us for today's call. We delivered strong third quarter results, which exceeded our expectations. Our operators did an excellent job this quarter, managing a significant step-up in dine-in traffic, continuing to support elevated off-premise sales and driving double-digit retail sales growth compared to 2019. It was largely due to our progress on sales recovery that we delivered operating income margin that improved by 530 basis points over the second quarter. This strong financial performance, combined with the actions we took during the pandemic to strengthen our balance sheet and the progress we made in the third quarter on paying down our debt, enabled us to declare quarterly dividend of $1.00 per share. Our board has been committed to reestablishing a quarterly dividend as part of our overall capital allocation strategy, and I'm glad that we delivered results that allowed them to start down this path this quarter. Going forward, as we have consistently done, we will continue to evaluate our alternatives to prudently structure and allocate capital in ways that create value for all of our shareholders.

During the quarter, we delivered sequential monthly improvements in our restaurant sales performance when compared to the fiscal 2019 third quarter. Our average restaurant sales volumes grew from approximately $56,000 per week during fiscal January, to approximately $70,000 per week in April. We believe this growth was driven by a number of factors. First, the progress of vaccinations and the relaxation of capacity restrictions. Second, our sales initiatives and strong retention of off-premise sales, which remained above 20% of restaurant sales, even with increased dine-in traffic. And lastly, for at least some of the quarter, the favorable impact of the stimulus package and its impact on the consumer. So I'll expand a little further on some of these factors.

Regarding capacity restrictions, on average our locations were operating at approximately 75% effective capacity during the third quarter. Our weekday sales trends showed larger improvement than weekend during the quarter, which we attribute, in part, to the fact that we're less likely to bump up against those capacity constraints during the week. As we move through the balance of the year, we look forward to further recovery as people return to their pre-COVID weekday routines and resume more normal summer travel and family vacation schedules. This is an evolving situation that we continue to monitor as recovery progresses.

Key sales initiatives like the beer and wine program, digital investments and our menu evolution initiative, all of which I've spoken to on previous calls, contributed to our third quarter traffic and sales performance. We anticipate continued favorable sales contributions from each of these initiatives, as well as from our new fully integrated branding campaign, which launched in April. The campaign, which was developed with our new advertising agency Dentsu, highlights the concept of care as our secret ingredient. It emphasizes the care we take making our homestyle food, curating our retail offerings, welcoming our guests like family, and taking care of our employees. This launch is being supported with national and streaming TV advertising, which runs for six weeks; digital and social media support, and a refresh of our more than 500 billboards.

As dine-in sales grew, our off-premise volume remained strong and increased 144% over the more normalized fiscal 2019 third quarter. In fact, April off-premise sales volumes outperformed the prior year when dining room operations were closed, and our stores were operating in an off-premise-only model. We continue to be pleased with the growth in all of our off-premise channels, which include individual to go, third-party delivery and catering. Individual to go, which includes either pick up in store or curbside, remains by far our largest channel, accounting for roughly 55% of off-premise sales over the past 12 months. During the quarter, we made enhancements to our curbside process to better streamline and enhance the guest experience. And we anticipate solid long-term retention of the increase we've experienced in our individual to go sales volumes. But we do expect some guests, who during the pandemic felt more comfortable picking up an order and dining at home will return to joining us in our dining rooms.

Third-party delivery at approximately 25% of off-premise sales over the same period has grown rapidly since the start of the pandemic, as we launched additional vendors and guest demand increased. We believe this channel has introduced us to new customers and new occasions, and we're pleased with how third-party sales volumes held during the third quarter as dining rooms reopened. Catering sales, which include special occasion heat and serve accounts for the remainder of our off-premise business. Catering landscape has been challenging at times during COVID, but our catering teams have done a great job adapting with new offerings such as our individually packaged box meals, which we believe have a strong value proposition and per person affordability. We believe our catering sales have further room for growth and will help with overall off-premise retention as other channels may start to decline in a more normalized environment.

Lastly on off-premise, while it remains early, we've been encouraged by the learnings we've achieved from the single location test of our virtual brand, chicken in biscuits. We're extending the test to 19 additional locations this week, and will provide you with further updates over the coming quarters. Retail sales, once again, exceeded our expectations, while delivering improved gross margin. The retail shop has always been a differentiator for our brand with unique merchandise and strong value price points. During the pandemic, and as our guests have returned to indoor dining, we've seen them respond quite positively to the convenience of dining and shopping in one location.

The merchandising and operations teams have continued to deliver strong sales performance on lower inventory levels, and we've been encouraged by the response to the look and feel of a more curated collection of merchandise. Teams have been nimble and applying recent learnings back into our purchasing strategies, and we're seeing positive results. For example, we saw sales growth in our men's merchandise early in the pandemic, and believe this was being driven by strong attachment rates from customers picking up off-premise orders. We quickly sourced new and unique men's assortments and have seen continued growth in this category. As we look to the fourth quarter, we are optimistic that retail sales will continue above fiscal 2019 levels. However, we believe there could be some moderation in our retail sales and margin performance versus the third quarter, due to the potential for inventory issues related to ongoing industry supply chain challenges.

Maple Street sales throughout the pandemic and during the recent recovery months have been very impressive. Sales volumes remained well above fiscal 2019 levels during the quarter. And on an annualized basis, their third quarter performance would result in AUVs of over $1 million. In addition, we've been pleased with their recent store economics and their ability to manage controllable expenses in support of a solid business model. During the quarter, we opened a location in Tennessee. We've been very pleased with the stores performance, and are preparing for future store openings. After the past year, guests are craving community in connection, and we believe that Maple Street with its focus on community is uniquely situated to meet this demand.

We're pleased with the growth in sales volumes our Cracker Barrel and Maple Street stores achieved during the quarter. Our operators at both brands did an excellent job executing in a difficult environment. We had a number of locations that encountered staffing challenges, which in some locations continue today. Our field leaders and home office staff have implemented several strategies to quickly recruit, hire and train employees, and we've seen positive results already. Additionally, we faced supply chain disruptions, both tight ingredient availability and distribution delays. Through strong leadership, our operators are mitigating the guest impact from these ongoing sourcing and supply chain challenges as we work with our product suppliers. We remain diligent across the Company in ensuring that our operators are fully supported both of these areas, and that our guests and employees feel cared for like family when they walk through our front doors.

Before I hand it over to Doug, I would like to recognize the addition of Chip Wade to our already accomplished and diverse Board. Chip's a 40-year veteran of the restaurant industry and will bring valuable perspective and meaningful insight to both our Board and our management team. He is the third Director we've added over the past 12 months as part of our thoughtful Board succession planning and refreshment program. And our shareholders, employees and guests will benefit from his talent.

And with that, I'll ask Doug to provide you with further financial details on the quarter. Doug?

Doug Couvillion -- Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Sandy, and good morning, everyone. We are pleased with our sales performance in the third quarter, which exceeded our expectations. The improvement in sales during the quarter, as I said, our closest point to normalized fiscal year 2019 levels since the pandemic started. In addition, we made significantly more progress on operating margin than we anticipated in the third quarter. And our adjusted operating income was 7.8% of total sales. Our better-than-expected sales performance, especially in our retail business, was the primary driver of our margin outperformance.

As I get into the detailed financials, I will be commenting on our performance relative to both prior year and the third quarter of fiscal 2019, which we believe is the benchmark to understand the business at this point in time, given our stores were operating in an off-premise-only model from late March through April of the prior year.

For the third quarter, we reported total revenue of $713 million. Our restaurant revenue increased 58%, and our retail revenue increased nearly 100% versus the prior year third quarter. Compared to the third quarter of fiscal 2019, comparable store restaurant sales decreased 8.6%. With more dining rooms open and our guests knowing they can return to a safe experience that delivers on our mission of Pleasing People, our dine-in sales volumes significantly accelerated in the third quarter. Even with the dining rooms reopening and reaching improved capacity rates, we retained approximately 95% of our second quarter individual to go and delivery sales in the third quarter.

Per store total off-premise average weekly sales for the quarter were nearly $15,000, a 144% increase from the third quarter of 2019. This performance gives us confidence that we will see a positive off-premise contribution to our average weekly sales volumes, once we fully return to pre-COVID dine-in volumes. We continue to be pleased with our strong retail performance, which was far better than anticipated during the third quarter. Comparable store retail sales increased 10.8% over 2019. We saw strength in the quarter from food and convenience, apparel and toys. And versus fiscal '19, we had increases across all operational retail metrics, such as the conversion rate of restaurant guests to retail purchase, and the number of units purchased per retail ticket.

Moving on to expenses. Our total cost of goods sold in the quarter was 28.8% of total revenue, which is favorable to both the prior year and fiscal 2019 third quarter, even with the ongoing elevated mix of retail sales, which as a reminder, has a higher cost of goods rate. Restaurant cost of goods sold benefited from lower food waste and moderate commodity inflation, offset with pricing of 2.8%. We anticipate a significant step up to approximately 5% commodity inflation for the fourth quarter, primarily due to the pork category. Retail cost of goods performance was driven largely by our ability to maintain newer and seasonal merchandise sales at full price levels throughout the quarter. Third quarter labor and related expenses at 35.1% of revenue were also favorable to both the prior year and to fiscal 2019. Our two-year comparison benefited from approximately $7.5 million in cost savings associated with the actions we took in the third quarter of fiscal '20. Additionally, later in the quarter, our stores delivered higher hourly productivity levels as sales increased ahead of our ability to increased staffing levels, which helped to offset much of the impact of wage inflation. For the fourth quarter, we anticipate wage inflation on a constant mix basis of approximately 3% to 3.5%.

Adjusted other operating expenses was 23.1% of revenue, which was favorable to the prior year, but unfavorable compared to 2019. Portion of this unfavorability can be explained by temporary factors, including sales deleverage and higher utilities expense as a result of severe winter storms in February. But the primary drivers of the increase versus 2019 are; first, higher supply expense and third-party fees due to the strength of our off-premise channels; second, incremental rent expense as a result of the sale-leaseback transactions. We anticipate these two changes to our business model during COVID will continue to impact our margins for the foreseeable future.

Moving beyond store level margins, general and administrative expenses in the third quarter were $37.4 million, which is approximately flat compared to the third quarter of 2019. We anticipate our fourth quarter G&A expense will be largely in line with the third quarter results.

Our effective tax rate for the third quarter was 21.9%, which was lower than we anticipated, due to the strength of our performance and higher-than-expected pre-tax income. We now expect our fourth quarter effective tax rate to be in the range of 11% to 12%.

These third quarter results culminated in GAAP earnings per diluted share of $1.41 and adjusted earnings per diluted share of $1.51, when adjusting for the non-cash amortization of the asset recognized from the gains on the sale-leaseback transactions.

As sales recover and we maintain our diligent approach to managing expenses, EBITDA continues to grow. In the third quarter, EBITDA was $83 million, an 84% improvement over our second quarter EBITDA results.

To close out our detailed financial results from the third quarter, I want to speak to the strength of our balance sheet. In the third quarter, we generated $91 million in cash from operations and our cash at quarter end was $385 million. As a result of our strong cash generation, we paid down $260 million of debt during the third quarter, leaving us with the remaining debt balance of $615 million. We expect to further reduce our debt by up to $165 million in the fourth quarter, which would bring our total debt reduction to $500 million during the fiscal year.

As we look to near-term expectations, I'd like to make a few additional comments. We've been pleased with our year-to-date sales recovery and anticipate continued recovery over the coming quarters. We expect fourth quarter total revenues to be approximately flat to the fourth quarter 2019 total revenues. We also expect fourth quarter operating income margin will improve sequentially compared to the third quarter of 2021, but remain below the fourth quarter of 2019.

Let me walk you through the assumptions underlying our expectations. I'll begin with the tailwinds. We believe our comparable store sales will further recover as capacity restrictions are lessened. Additionally, we are confident in the targeted cost savings actions we took at the onset of the pandemic, which improved our cost structure and will benefit our results compared to 2019.

We believe there are also several headwinds when comparing to our fourth quarter expectations versus fiscal 2019. First, the modest pricing increases that we took during the pandemic to maintain a strong value proposition will not offset the high commodity and wage inflation environment that we expect in the fourth quarter, even with the step up in fourth quarter pricing to 3%. Second, as we navigate the current staffing environment, we anticipate additional employee-related expenses to support store hourly and skilled leadership staffing and retention efforts. Lastly, we have incremental rent expense associated with the 2020 sale-leaseback transactions, which, as a reminder, bolster the Company's liquidity during the pandemic. We believe our work throughout the pandemic has positioned us well to deliver on these fourth quarter expectations.

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

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Today's first question comes from Jeff Farmer with Gordon Haskett. Please go ahead.

Jeff Farmer -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

Hi, good morning. Thank you. Handful labor questions to start with. And in the prepared remarks, you did touch on a couple of these, but what are your current staffing levels as we sit here in late May versus where they were in pre-COVID levels?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I was waiting for the -- for you to continue on Jeff. Hey, good morning. This is Sandy. I'll say it this way that our staffing situation, although it's improved, it's still challenging. The way we categorized our store about 10% of the chain, we've designated as critical. In terms of how we believe our staffing is relative to the demand, we're either experiencing or anticipating about 25% are in the category of concern. We've got a number of initiatives focused on that to help our operators, both in recruiting and retention. But that continues to be one of the biggest challenges that we're dealing with in the current environment.

Jeff Farmer -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

And then just two more quick ones. So in terms of thinking about the end or the early end of extended and supplemental unemployment benefits as we get into June and into early July, how hopeful do you expect that to be in terms of the hiring process?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So the enhanced unemployment benefits certainly was one of the factors that's been impacting our staffing environment. And the moves, that I guess now, we're about 23 states that have made the decision to discontinue those additional benefits in the next month or so will have an impact on the staffing environment. But I want to be clear, what we're really expecting is that that mostly is going to help us with applicant flow. What we will still be facing is a lot of competition in the industry sort of everybody's hiring at once in the restaurant industry as America opens up. But we've also got new competitors, if you will, for a lot of the similar skill sets. Companies like Amazon and the kind of employment increases they've got all of that competition is going to continue, I believe, to impact wage inflation. So in some sense it will help, but it doesn't alleviate all the problem.

Jeff Farmer -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

And then final one. This is pretty straightforward. So I might have missed some of this, but the 5% commodity inflation in the fiscal fourth quarter. So look carrying into fiscal 2022, how should we be thinking about commodity inflation as you move into your next fiscal year?

Doug Couvillion -- Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, thanks. That's a great question. I think in terms of the fourth quarter commodity inflation, I'll just call out that that was really being focused on the core commodity for us. We're lapping some relatively low pricing on bacon and as we're coming over that and with some of the changes in bellies and exports that's caused kind of an unusual amount of inflation. I expect the commodity inflation as we move into '22 will moderate from that level.

Jeff Farmer -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

Okay, thank you.

Operator

And our next question today comes from Brett Levy with MKM. Please go ahead.

Brett Levy -- MKM -- Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking the call. I guess, if we just go back into the labor again starting with -- what do you think you need to do strategically to not just to get the applicants to enter the door, but to retain them, how much do you think it's going to incrementally cost you at the unit level, whether it's just incremental training, added benefits? And then also just, what can you do to accelerate your technology efforts to try to drive some additional productivity to try to manage the labor side?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Brett, let me take a stab at it. I don't know, if Doug want to add something at the end. There is a lot in that question sort of some short-term things and long-term sense. I think that we've got a lot -- a number of short-term pressures, some of which I just touched on. So as we think about recruiting, we're doing a number of things, certainly, short term everything from front porch events, which actually has been encouragingly successful. We've had a big program just to reach out to all of our former employees that we might have lost contact with over the course of the pandemic, try to get them back, because that will clearly -- those employees will be able to gear up certainly faster we are doing. For some of our most challenged stores, we've actually set up a centralized staffing function here that can supplement the work being done at the store to try to focus even more. We've got employee referral programs. We've got -- we're starting and trying to be sure that we're competitive in terms of the wage rates that we're offering in the markets that we're in, for the skill codes that we're offering. We also do -- your point is, we need to be focused and we are on the retention of the employees that we have. And short-term we can do things like shift meals and extra bonuses or guaranteed bonuses, and perks that are in the kitchen to try to be sure that we are an employer both of choice to come to work for us, and then when you get there, you want to stay. I think our field teams are trying to do a lot to ensure that the kind of cross training emphasis we have. And the kind of training, in general, to get productivity up is offsetting the need for flexibility. So you need an employee to be able to fill multiple positions, if you can, as well as to mitigate the inefficiency of a whole bunch of new employees at one time. Longer term, we're going to have to ensure that our wage and benefit packages are competitive, that our training is effective. And then we treat employees in a way that would want them to stay with us and have a career with Cracker Barrel. I do think that there is some technology that we can apply, and we are applying to that. For example, a lot of -- or some of the focus of our digital store work will allow guests to pay online and the more we allow them to do that, that takes pressure off our cash. We -- it will allow us to just ordering online, and the more we can move volume to things like that, it takes the pressure off the labor in the stores. And we continue to look at how we can use functionality in the back of the house with our new food system and our new labor system that streamlines and simplifies the works that our managers do to run our restaurants. So those are just a couple of examples of how we can apply technology, both guest facing and back of house to have an impact on labor.

Brett Levy -- MKM -- Analyst

And then just two quick technical questions. What do you think -- you talked about two cohorts that are infirmed and challenged. How many employees do you think you had on hourly level pre-COVID and what's the shortfall right now? And then also, you talked about an inching up of pricing. How should we think about your approach to pricing, for not just at 4Q, but as we end '21 and go into '22. And then I'll let others have a chance.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So on the first question, I know some -- what you're looking for is a number. I need x number of employees. It's not really the way we look at it, because we're looking out sort of ramping. Basically, I'm not going to give you that number. We think of it more as which stores have critical needs as we look forward, and in particular, in certain skill codes. So the way I wanted to characterize it is sort of 25% are at a concerned level and about 10% [Phonetic] of critical, but we are very focused on helping those stores. We are thinking about our pricing strategy and how we need to move forward to offset these inflation pressures both in commodities and in wage. I'm going to let Doug speak to what we've announced. But we want to be very careful that we understand which of these pressures are short-term versus long, and being very mindful that our brand and our guest very much values value, and that we want to be careful about not disrupting our reputation and commitment to offering value on our menu. Doug, I don't know -- have we announced our pricing strategy?

Doug Couvillion -- Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Financial Officer

I think what we've talked in terms of short-term pricing of about spot [Phonetic] pricing with carrying pricing of 3%, that's in the fourth quarter. And again as Sandy said, I think as we consider pricing going into next fiscal year will be we're paying very close attention to what's going on with wages and cost of goods and trying to maintain a balanced with our pricing structure. But beyond that, we haven't really talked much about what we think are going to say for next year just yet.

Brett Levy -- MKM -- Analyst

And just one last question. Of the 35%, the challenged and the infirmed, are those broad-based or are those in any particular regions?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Those are broad. There's probably certain DMAs and that you might see more, but it's just broad.

Brett Levy -- MKM -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

And your next question today comes from Alton Stump with Longbow Research. Please go ahead.

Alton Stump -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Great, thank you. And congratulations on the impressive results. I just wanted to ask, coming back to the pricing versus cost front, as a labor costs, I mean, on the commodity front is there a short-term pressure or is there something anything bleeds into the better part of fiscal year '22?

Doug Couvillion -- Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Financial Officer

Hi Alton, I think that the pressures we're seeing that related to the 5% relatively short-term. And I think, again, that was related to bacon and some specific issues there. I think it will moderate as we move into fiscal '22. We're not really prepared to give specific guidance on that, but -- and I think as the markets move forward over the next two months or three months, we'll probably have a stronger opinion about which areas are specific risk for '22.

Alton Stump -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Makes sense. Helpful. And then just, as you mentioned Sandy, that you are doing a billboard refresh. As I recall, that's a pretty big piece of your advertising business especially as presumably people will be out. You're doing lot more road trips this summer. So could you give some color on as what their refresh entails, and how it is different to one you [Phonetic] had previously?

Jennifer Tate -- Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Hi, this is Jen. The billboard refresh is part of a larger, longer-term campaign that Sandy spoke about, which is our care campaign, which is across lots of channels, including our TV and our digital and, of course, to your question about billboards. And we are right now in the process of flipping over our over 1,500 billboards in May. Day two will bring to life this idea that care and the care we take in making our food from scratch, and the care we take in our hospitality, in our service model, and in curating our retail items these boards bring that to life, right. So they tell that story that our secret ingredient is care. And so those are flipping right now just in time for what we hope and really believe will be a very busy summer travel season as families and friends take to the roads again after being cooked up for a long time. So we're excited for people to see our billboards on the road and how they bring the care campaign to life.

Alton Stump -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Great. Thanks so much. I'll hop back in the queue.

Operator

And our next question today comes from Jake Bartlett with Truist Securities. Please go ahead.

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking the question. I know you've been hesitant in the past to give kind of quarter-to-date or monthly same-store sales, but I'm hoping you can help us with really with the cadence. I'm thinking about from April to May, just how important kind of as we try to think about stimulus, and also as we think about the impact of stimulus as we think about the fourth quarter guidance in trying to gauge of how conservative that may be. Could you give us any color on May, perhaps whether it was stronger than April or weaker, just whatever you could offer there would be great.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Well, let me take a stab at that Jake. So not surprising. We are encouraged and certainly through the third quarter, the pace of recovery in the sequentially -- sequential monthly sales and we definitely think that it reflects strong pent-up demand, willingness to spend, which we think was certainly amplified by the stimulus probably also helped by the savings that people were able to accumulate while during the pandemic, and we're seeing that. Although our guests, as I mentioned, are very value conscious, we are seeing check in and add-ons at premium sides, and beer and wine and so on. And to Jen's point that she just may, we're very optimistic about our fourth quarter, in general, but May has been choppy. It started out strong. We are very pleased with our Mother's Day performance both dine-in and off-premise. The last couple of weeks have softened somewhat. We are assuming and that this is related to the shift in Memorial Day from what would have been yesterday to next week, somewhat to that Colonial Pipeline impact, and the impact that may have had on travel during that week. But in general, we are looking forward, as Jen mentioned, to families traveling this summer, and to people getting back to their normalized routines in terms of work, which we think will have a positive impact on our breakfast business.

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Great. That's really helpful. And then just in terms of your recovery, it's impressive trajectory, but it is lower than what we're seeing with casual dine-in competitors. Can you offer your thoughts on why you think that is? And there is -- whether it's breakfast, whether it's the type of market you're in, just any thoughts you can give us why Cracker Barrel, and maybe even just your family dining is trailing?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think that John [Phonetic] there's been a number of issues for us that we've talked about on all the calls and you're alluding to a couple of them. Probably the two biggest relate to breakfast. It is continues to be the day part that is the most challenged. It's the one, it's the easiest to sort of people to do at home. It's probably the one most connected to a work routine that's continues to be disrupted. So the breakfast day part is probably the biggest one. And then the travel. We have not, I think, had the recovery in travel that certainly we are hoping and expecting to see over the next few months.

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Great. And then last -- a quick question on the commodities. In the past you've shared what level of contracting, what percentage of your commodity is contracted for. Could you share that now?

Doug Couvillion -- Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Yeah. As we're looking at the fourth quarter, we've got a little over half of our commodity market basket locked up. That's a little bit lower than we would have had in the past. I think with prices that elevated levels we haven't advanced some of our positions as far, but we feel good about that. Like I said, just north of 50%.

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Great. I appreciate it.

Operator

And our next question today comes from Brian Mullan with Deutsche Bank. Please go ahead.

Brian Mullan -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Hey, thank you. I was hoping you would give us an update on the beer and wine initiative. Can you talk about what you're seeing where you have been placed from a sales lift perspective, and update us on the rollout schedule? And then just from a restaurant sales mix perspective, where was it in the quarter? And do you still feel good about getting the 2% or more of restaurant sales?

Jennifer Tate -- Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Yeah, sure. This is Jen. We have about 405 stores rolled out as of the end of Q3, and we are expecting that we'll be at about 600 stores by the time we get to the end of Q1 FY22. We've made some great updates to our beer-wine menu. So we've added things like Sangria and Blue Moon that have done well. And actually six of the last seven states that we've added have actually brought the mix up. So we've been bringing on states that happened to have a higher mix of beverage alcohol and so that's helping us. So we're pleased with the results we've seen in places like the Northeast and Texas, where mix is running in some of those states at double, some of our early states average. So we are now optimistic that we can get beer and wine mix to 2% of dine-in sales.

Brian Mullan -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Great, thanks. And then just to follow up, a question on Maple Street. For a time, you're talking about opening 15 units annually. Is that still a reasonable expectation for Maple Street when we think about fiscal 2022? And maybe could you talk about whether you are finding enough quality sites out there? Maybe touch on the construction cost inflation environment, could that have an impact? Just your thinking on development there over the next couple of years, next year, and next couple of years.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Brian, let me -- I'll touch on at least some of those issues. I'll start with just, as I've said in the prepared remarks, I remain really pleased with their performance. So I feel really confident about the brand and the growth potential. We are focused on securing the best sites and that is -- that's going well, but maybe not as quite as fast as I had hoped. I'm still hoping to get double-digit growth in FY22 whether it's going to be to the 15 we'll see. We're going to be doing both new markets, and infill. And we'll be able to update you more about construction costs in more detail in our next call.

Brian Mullan -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

And the next question today comes from Todd Brooks with CL King & Associates. Please go ahead.

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, everyone. Just a few questions, if I may. One, Sandy, you were talking about just how encouraged you're with the off-premise revenue streams and the maintenance of those streams as dining rooms have reopened. I guess, as you think about that business being in the kind of low-twenties-percent of mix versus a little bit less than 10% pre-pandemic, what's your best guess for what that settle out point is for what percent of mix you expect off-premise to be? Just trying to get a sense of what AUVs we're building back to beyond what we saw in fiscal '19.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I want to let Jen kind of speak to -- what you're, I assume, kind of getting at Todd is, off-prem stickiness?

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Exactly.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Jen, why don't you address that?

Jennifer Tate -- Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Yeah, I think, as Sandy said, we're really pleased with the strong demand for our off-premise offerings in Q3. And, in particular, April where it's been with -- a majority of our system open for dining rooms, we still did more sales in off-premise this year than in April last year with the dining rooms were closed. So that has continued to reinforce our optimism about that ability to maintain that stickiness. I know on the last call, Sandy talked about our belief that we could retain at least 50% of the growth we saw in off-premise from that sort of high single-digits that we were at in a percentage of sales before the pandemic to the 20%-ish, approximately 20% that we're at now, she said, at least 50%. I think we are comfortable today saying we're even more bullish about that. We believe we will retain at least 60% of the growth that we saw from pre-pandemic to current, if not higher. So we continue to feel very positive about that. Although, we know we will see some consumers trade out of individual categories like delivery back into dine-in, we are seeing stronger-than-expected stickiness and we anticipate strong growth from the catering channel.

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Okay. And is there any assumption or within that assumption, what's the thought about? I know we're early on with the virtual brand, but are you building any thoughts on for that when you're talking about 60%? Or would that be kind of an incremental off-premise stream [Phonetic] that does fully rollout?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We would treat that as incremental if that fully rolls out. We've been working on optimizing the menu and the offering for the chicken and biscuits brand, and gaining some operational learnings in the last couple of months. And this week, we're expanding that test from one location to 19 stores. But we do believe chicken and biscuits has a simple, but winning combination, because it's very broadly appealing food, hand-battered, hand-breaded fried chicken and tenders, just our top selling side, and scratch made biscuits, combined with the fact that the menu is very streamlined, which enables us to deliver on guest expectations for speed. So because of that we think that this brand may launch in at least half of our system, pending the results of a test being successful.

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

That's great. And then two more quick ones. One, Doug for you, if we look at the guidance, I'm just thinking about getting back to fiscal '19 revenue levels in Q4. As we look longer term to returning to full-year fiscal '19 revenue levels, can you just walk through the puts and takes? How much tougher the inflation environment is, the wage pressure and that incremental pressure on occupancy another from packaging and the sale leaseback? Just where do you feel like operating margins when you get there fallout on equivalent revenues to fiscal '19?

Doug Couvillion -- Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Let me take a crack at that. And so you're talking about is, I guess, what we would affectionately call the post-COVID business model. And we've done a lot of thinking and a lot of work around restructuring our business for success in terms of what is going to look like when we come through the pandemic. We feel really good about the steps that we're taking and have -- and are continuing to take to meaningful improve in our business model over the long term. We're also working actively on mitigating labor commodity and other headwinds that the entire industry is facing, and that we expect to continue to see in fiscal '22. At this time, no one really knows how strong or how long these headwinds are going to be facing us. But we believe that we can ultimately prove that it's going to -- we will -- I'm sorry, it's -- while we cannot say exactly when we're going to return to fiscal '19 margins, we're confident that we will continue to make the business model improvements and we're doing everything we can to offset labor and commodity inflation. And I'm optimistic that we'll see these margins improve over the -- by the end of '22.

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Okay, great. And then one final one, and this just gets back to the labor and the two buckets, the critical and the concerned bucket. Any operational changes required? I know, Sandy, when you talked about front porch dining in the past that, that was fairly labor intense that it's hard to get out to the porch to really service those customers well? In those third of the stores, where there is some challenges, are you having to curtail anything operationally that may be in the near-term, diminishes the sales potential for those units? Thanks.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, we're giving our field leaders a lot of latitude about how they manage the business with the constraints that they're dealing with. And so in some cases, yeah, the first thing they might say is, I can't really support the front porch the way we would want to. You might see they close a dining room if they don't have enough staffing on the grill, or the servers, or certainly in terms of some categories for a period of time to -- that is the way they might respond when they either don't have the staffing, or we still got employees who unexpectedly can't come and work their shift that day for a variety of reasons. So what have been really pleased with though is how in this very chaotic environment our field leaders are leading through it. And I think.doing a good job of delivering the brand as this demand has ramped up.

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Okay. Great. Very helpful. Thank you all.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our next question today comes from Jon Tower, Wells Fargo. Please go ahead.

Jon Tower -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Great. Thanks for taking the questions. Just have a few, if I may. First, starting off with the marketing spend, it sounds like you've obviously got a new program out there right now. I am curious to know if you're back at a full strength of spend on a dollar basis relative to say 2019 levels? Or are you not spending at the full level yet because of either capacity constraints at the restaurants, or maybe even labor issues?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We are not at the level that we were somewhere [Indecipherable] much capacity is that we didn't until we thought people are going to be back on the highways, I didn't want to invest, for example, in refreshing the billboards. So some part of the investment for the year, we postponed till the end because we didn't think we would have the impact and the benefit from it previously. The marketing team has done a great job, I think, of shifting to more flexible like digital -- our digital marketing programs, which allow us to be more flexible and more targeted. And so I think as we've gotten through this year, it's been somewhat opportunistic and evolving as the environment has changed. I think when we speak in more detail the next year, you'll see a much more normalized investment and distribution of our marketing spend.

Jon Tower -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Great. And do you -- following up on that, do you expect to return to pre-crisis levels of spend, or do you feel like you found given the digital, the channel there, a more effective way with a lower dollar spend?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I don't think, Jen is -- so I'll let Jen answer this, but I suspect she hasn't fully concluded. But most marketing people, they'll spend all of the money that are [Phonetic] allocated. It's just how they spend it and where they -- where it goes. I will say that the work she and her teams and our digital app teams have done, and our new agency, to help us understand what's possible and the kind of results we can get on digital do support shifting more of our dollars to that channel and getting a lot of bang -- a lot more bang for that. Jen, do you want to add anymore?

Jennifer Tate -- Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Yeah. I won't comment on the exact dollar amount we're going to spend next year, but I will say you're right that we are transitioning more and more of our investment into the digital space, especially now that we have the fully rolled out digital store that brings together our eat, cater and shop, so that people can on their same browsing visits, they can put things from our restaurant in their cart. They can put cool items from the retail shop in their cart. They can even put a catering order in their cart, right. So that now that we have that and we're making significant improvements to both our site and our app, we will continue to move dollars into those digital channels that drive conversion there, and we have seen a nice uptick in conversion and average order value. So we'll continue to invest in that.

Jon Tower -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay, thank you. And then just pivoting to the retail sales. Obviously, the gross margins this quarter were very strong. I think, some of the strongest you have on record, if I am not mistaken, for the retail business. And I'm just curious if -- how much of this you would attribute to full price sales, but it sounds like full price sales mix was a driver of this. So is there any way to parse out how much of this was tied to short-term tailwinds like, stimulus say versus longer-term initiatives around better inventory management, or product selection for the consumer? Just trying to gauge when looking at these numbers, how much can stick in the future? And I understand, obviously, the supply chain stuff you had mentioned earlier, Doug, might be a bit of a near-term headwind, but any way to kind of think about it over the longer term, would be great.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, I think first of all, I just got to say, our retail team has done a phenomenal job of navigating through this. And I mean there's a lot of issues at play, certainly, the convenience of shopping and eating in the same location has resonated, but they've also just been able to have the kind of assortment, do the fun and unique, some nostalgia great value. But it's like America wants to have fun, and we had the product there that help them do it, and I think all of that really helped our sales. In addition that then -- the full price sales helped our margins. I think that the team has had learnings through this. One of them. I mentioned, in my prepared remarks, like men's assortment. We've been able to see improvements there and then add on to that. I think they've also seen how this -- how the visual merchandising with less product potentially has allowed the guests to see the product better. So going forward, we believe we will be get some long-term benefits about how much inventory we need to generate the sales. So certainly, there has been some impact of the stimulus and the savings. But I think sales, the retail team has done an excellent job of capturing that opportunity, and in learning from it and we'll be translating some of those learnings going forward.

Jon Tower -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you. And then just following up, I think to an earlier conversation about kind of the off-premise mix. And I think, Doug, you had mentioned earlier, the 25% of your off-premise around that was coming from delivery or third-party platform. So I'm wondering if there's any way to determine how many of these customers are existing in-store customers? And really, I guess I'm trying to figure out, how many of these customers might shift back to that in-store occasion when the option is available for them versus sticking to that third-party delivery? And then just one more on top of that, I don't know, if you've offered this before, but is there any way to think about or tell us what the pricing differential is between an in-store transaction and the delivery transaction, excluding all the fees simplistically put, is there a 5% or 10% pricing on a delivery menu versus say, in-store transaction?

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I'm going to actually ask Jen to speak to maybe the beginning into the different channels and stickiness. And then Doug, I think you're going to say, we're not going to -- we don't provide the specific pricing premium except to say that we largely offset the fees. But, Jen, why don't you speak to the beginning part of that question?

Jennifer Tate -- Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Yes. Your question about third-party delivery consumers and how much of those we think will trade back to dine-in business, what we have seen is that the third-party delivery guests tends to be incremental to the Cracker Barrel base. They are the least likely to be our core guests, whereas a curbside pickup or an in-store pickup guest is more likely to have at times dined in with us, third-party guests tend to be new to Cracker Barrel brand. They may have discovered Cracker Barrel during the pandemic, and so they have been additive or incremental to us. And we have been impressed with the stickiness. We really have seen, as our dine-in rooms have opened, an impressive portion of those third-party sales have remained. So no one can predict what will happen in a year from now as the pandemic is truly in our rearview mirror, but the third-party guests for us tends to be more incremental than the curbside guests.

Doug Couvillion -- Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Financial Officer

And as we -- in terms of the third-party delivery business a few years ago, we spent a lot of time thinking through the implications that had on our margins, and we have taken additional pricing on third-party delivery. We just haven't quantified it. If you were to give us a try, in your local area, and go to and have a DoorDash delivery, I think you'll see what our structure looks like relative to our in-store menu. That would probably help you out a bit.

Jon Tower -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Yeah. Unfortunately, I don't have one around. I'll try, next time on the road, and see what I can do. But thank you for taking the time. I appreciate it.

Doug Couvillion -- Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Financial Officer

Sure.

Operator

And ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our question-and-answer session. I'd like to turn the conference back over to the management team for any final remarks.

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Well, thank you all for joining us today. We appreciate your interest, support and look forward to speaking with you again soon.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 62 minutes

Call participants:

Jessica Hazel -- Senior Director, Investor Relations

Sandra B. Cochran -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Doug Couvillion -- Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Financial Officer

Jennifer Tate -- Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Jeff Farmer -- Gordon Haskett -- Analyst

Brett Levy -- MKM -- Analyst

Alton Stump -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Jake Bartlett -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Brian Mullan -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Todd Brooks -- CL King & Associates -- Analyst

Jon Tower -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

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