Ahead of the Bell: Cracker Barrel downgraded

Analyst lowers Cracker Barrel Old Country Store's rating due to high food costs

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- An analyst lowered his rating on Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. on Friday, citing high food costs.

KeyBanc Capital Markets' Christopher O'Cull cut Cracker Barrel to "Hold" from "Buy." In a client note, the analyst said that he was reducing the restaurant operator's full-year earnings estimate to $4.60 per share from $4.67 per share because he anticipates that the company's fiscal 2013 food cost inflation will be toward the high end of its prior guidance of 4 percent to 6 percent.

Analysts polled by FactSet expect full-year earnings of $4.74 per share for the Lebanon, Tenn.-based company.

O'Cull also removed Cracker Barrel's $75 price target, but the analyst said that he still has a favorable long-term view of the chain as its plan to increase sales has led to improved traffic and better sales at restaurants open at least a year.

Cracker Barrel shares finished at $66.17 on Thursday after rising to a 52-week high of $66.50 earlier in the day. They traded as low as $37.92 last October.

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