Despite a broad slowdown for many casual-dining chains, Lone Star Steakhouse
As everyone knows, most dads enjoy a steak on Father's Day, and Lone Star's third-quarter sales benefited by the inclusion of that holiday, which added $1.8 million to the top line. Last year's Father's Day receipts were identical but were booked in the second quarter. The calendar shift boosted yesterday's year-over-year comparisons, offsetting the shortfall from three months ago.
Soaring commodity costs, particularly beef, continue to be problematic. Meat alone constitutes 60% of Lone Star's cost of sales, and through the first two months, the quarter prices were running $600,000, or 3.8%, ahead of last year's pace. Not surprisingly, high beef costs also took a bite out of rival Outback's
Of course, the beef supply and demand imbalance has some fast-food outlets feeling the pinch as well. Wendy's
While the company's namesake Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon eked out only a 0.2% increase in same-store sales, the firm's other concepts gained a little more traction. Comps at Sullivan's Steakhouse, Texas Land & Cattle Steakhouse, and Del Frisco's rose 2.7%, 11.4%, and 22.6%, respectively. Unfortunately, there are only a relative handful of these more upscale brands. The January acquisition of Texas Land & Cattle added 20 restaurants, but there are only 15 Sullivan's and just five Del Frisco's currently in operation.
Lone Star has had a difficult run over the past six months, losing one-third of its value peak to trough. The stock has reclaimed ground, however, since mid-August, when guest columnist Matt Richey rushed to the company's defense, citing Lone Star's substantial real estate holdings, spotless balance sheet, attractive dividend yield, and historical free cash flows. Each of these credentials still applies and is only reinforced by solid third-quarter advances that were made in spite of a fairly difficult operating environment.
Still thinking about a juicy steak? Maybe these will keep you preoccupied:
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter would enjoy the Lone Star experience more if it weren't for the country music. He owns none of the companies mentioned.
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