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Edited Transcript of CAKE earnings conference call or presentation 1-May-19 9:00pm GMT

Q1 2019 Cheesecake Factory Inc Earnings Call

CALABASAS HILLS May 24, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Cheesecake Factory Inc earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 9:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* David M. Gordon

The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President

* David M. Overton

The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Chairman & CEO

* Matthew Eliot Clark

The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO

* Stacy Feit

The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - VP of IR

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Conference Call Participants

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* Brian John Bittner

Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst

* Brian Michae Vaccaro

Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP

* David E. Tarantino

Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Co-Director of Research and Senior Research Analyst

* Gregory Ryan Francfort

BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate

* Jeffrey Andrew Bernstein

Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Director & Senior Equity Research Analyst

* Jeffrey Daniel Farmer

Gordon Haskett Research Advisors - MD & Senior Analyst of Restaurants

* John William Ivankoe

JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Restaurant Analyst

* Jon Michael Tower

Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst

* Joshua C. Long

Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Assistant VP & Research Analyst

* Matthew James DiFrisco

Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Director and Senior Equity Analyst

* Peter Mokhlis Saleh

BTIG, LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Restaurant Analyst

* Sharon Zackfia

William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Group Head of Consumer

* Stephen Anderson

Maxim Group LLC, Research Division - Senior VP & Senior Equity Research Analyst

* William Everett Slabaugh

Stephens Inc., Research Division - MD

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good afternoon. My name is Kelly, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to The Cheesecake Factory First Quarter Fiscal 2019 Earnings Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) I would now like to turn the call over to Stacy Feit, Vice President of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

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Stacy Feit, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - VP of IR [2]

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Thanks, Kelly. Good afternoon, and welcome to our first quarter fiscal 2019 earnings call. On the call today are David Overton, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; David Gordon, our President; and Matt Clark, our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

Before we begin, let me quickly remind you that during this call, items will be discussed that are not based on historical fact and are considered forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results could be materially different from those stated or implied in forward-looking statements as a result of the factors detailed in today's press release, which is available on our website at investors.thecheesecakefactory.com and in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

All forward-looking statements made on this call speak only as of today's date, and the company undertakes no duty to update any forward-looking statements. In addition throughout this conference call, we will be presenting results on an adjusted basis. An explanation of our use of non-GAAP financial measures and reconciliations to the most directly comparable GAAP measures appear in our press release on our website, as previously described.

David Overton will begin today's call with some opening remarks, and David Gordon will provide an operational update. Matt will then take you through our financial results in detail and provide our outlook for the second quarter and the full year 2019. With that, I'll turn the call over to David.

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David M. Overton, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Chairman & CEO [3]

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Thank you, Stacy. Comparable sales growth at The Cheesecake Factory restaurants up 1.3%, and adjusted earnings per share were at the higher end of our expectations for the first quarter. We posted positive sales result and outperformed the industry benchmarks in all of our key geographies. Strong performance within the off-premise channel and across our marketing initiatives contributed to these top line results.

Operating performance within the four walls was solid across the key metrics we measure, including sales productivity, food efficiency, labor productivity, overtime and flow through. During the first quarter, we opened the first location of Social Monk Asian Kitchen, our new fine fast-casual concept. So far, guest response has been great with positive feedback on the cuisine, design and ambiance.

Subsequent to quarter end last month, we opened The Cheesecake Factory in Oxnard, California, which is about halfway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. We opted to build a smaller restaurant, approximately 5,500 square feet, to determine if this business model can capture sufficient productivity and efficiencies in a smaller footprint. If we are successful, we would look to export the model to our international partners as it could support additional real estate opportunities particularly in Asia where larger locations are difficult to find.

For 2019, we continue to expect to open as many as 6 Cheesecake Factory restaurants, including the Oxnard location. We also continue to expect as many as 5 restaurants to open internationally under licensing agreements in 2019, including the Monterrey, Mexico location that opened during the first quarter. The year is off to a great start, and we look forward to continuing to deliver memorable experiences to our guests, bringing The Cheesecake Factory to new markets both domestic and abroad, and positioning the company for additional long-term growth potential. With that, I will now turn the call over to David Gordon.

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [4]

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Thank you, David. In addition to the strong operational execution during the quarter, we also saw both manager and staff retention strengthened even further during the first quarter both on a year-to-date and year-over-year basis contrary to the industry, which continues to face increase in turnover. We believe our staffing success is contributing to the consistent trend in our guest satisfaction scores as industry research continues to confirm the importance of service to the guest experience and the overall restaurant's performance.

As David mentioned, continued momentum in the off-premise channel as well as some effective marketing initiatives contributed to our solid comp store sales performance during the quarter. Our off-premise business continues to grow, comprising over 16% of total sales during the first quarter of 2019. We believe this is being driven by our differentiated positioning, high quality, made-fresh-from-scratch menu and value proposition supported by our creative on-brand marketing. Our experience in the delivery channel has confirmed findings from our own consumer research that aided awareness of The Cheesecake Factory is very strong. Consumers love our brand, and their interest in dining with us is very high. We do, however, have an opportunity to increase unaided awareness.

In today's world with so much noise and distraction, we want to more frequently remind people about The Cheesecake Factory to attain top-of-mind status. To complement the publicity we received, we are utilizing a number of additional marketing channels, including year-round paid search and social advertising, influencer marketing and our enhanced partnership with the American Express Gold Card. We also continue to execute creative campaigns in the off-premise channel, including collaborative marketing with DoorDash like our recent April Fools' Day campaign in which 10,000 people received $25 of free Cheesecake Factory delivery.

We garnered great publicity from this campaign, including over 40 national and local broadcast segments and coverage in major online sites, including Today, People, Eater, Thrillist and USA Today. All 10,000 rewards were claimed within just 8 minutes, underscoring the tremendous affinity for The Cheesecake Factory brand, and we saw sustained increase in delivery sales following the offer. We believe these efforts will continue to contribute to comp store sales growth moving forward.

And with that, I'll now turn the call over to Matt for our financial review.

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [5]

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Thank you, David. Comparable sales at The Cheesecake Factory restaurants increased 1.3%, which was at the higher end of our expectations for the first quarter. Including $12.9 million in external bakery sales, total revenues were $599.5 million. Cost of sales was 22.7% of revenues, a decrease of about 30 basis points from the first quarter of last year, reflecting menu pricing leverage.

Labor was 36.2% of revenues, an increase of about 40 basis points from the same period last year. This is primarily attributable to higher hourly wage rates and management labor. Other operating costs were 25.6% of revenues, up 80 basis points from the same period last year. This is due to the additional noncash rent associated with the adoption of the new lease accounting standard. In addition, we also had higher marketing costs as expected, although these were offset by favorability in our workers comp and general liability insurance comparison.

G&A was 6.5% of revenues in the first quarter of fiscal 2019, down 20 basis points from the same quarter of the prior year. Preopening expense was approximately $2.1 million in the first quarter of 2019 versus $1.1 million in the same period last year. Our first Social Monk Asian Kitchen location opened during the first quarter of 2019, plus we incurred costs associated with the Oxnard opening. We had no openings in the same period last year. And our tax rate this quarter was approximately 6%. Excluding the loss on our minority investments in the 2 Fox Restaurant Concepts, which is primarily driven by high preopening costs given their unit growth levels. As expected, adjusted earnings per share was $0.62.

Cash flow from operations was approximately $33 million. Roughly $13 million of cash was used for capital expenditures and $14 million for growth capital investments in the 2 Fox Restaurant Concepts, and we returned nearly $26 million to our shareholders via our dividend and share repurchase program. That wraps up our financial review for the first quarter. Now I'll spend a few minutes on our outlook for the second quarter and full year 2019.

As we've done in the past, we continue to provide our best estimate for earnings per share ranges based on realistic, comparable sales assumptions and the most current cost information we have at this time. These assumptions factor in everything we know as of today, which includes quarter-to-date trends, what we think will happen in the weeks ahead and the effect of any impacts associated with holidays or weather.

For the second quarter of 2019, we're estimating adjusted diluted earnings per share between $0.80 and $0.84 based on comparable sales in a range of 1.5% to 2.5% at The Cheesecake Factory restaurants. This comp sales range assumes an estimated 50 basis point positive impact from the shift of Easter and the associated spring break vacations into the second quarter this year from the first quarter last year.

Turning to full year 2019. We continue to expect comparable sales in a range of 1% to 2% at The Cheesecake Factory restaurants, in line with our longer-term target. On the cost side, we continue to expect food inflation for our 2019 market basket to be approximately 1% to 2% and wage inflation of about 6%. For modeling purposes, we now anticipate a 2019 tax rate of approximately 9%. In turn, we now estimate adjusted diluted earnings per share between $2.58 and $2.70. As a reminder, our anticipated Q2 and full year EPS ranges exclude our portion of any loss from the operations of Fox concepts as well as any onetime integration costs associated with the anticipated acquisition of North Italia.

With regard to capital allocation, we continue to expect our cash CapEx in 2019 to be between $90 million and $100 million to support our anticipated unit growth and ongoing maintenance needs. We continue to expect to provide approximately $20 million to $25 million in growth capital to the 2 Fox Restaurant Concepts prior to the anticipated acquisition of North Italia.

In closing, our solid first quarter results support our consistent expectation for operating performance for the remainder of 2019. Our underlying sales trend is in line with our longer-term target for The Cheesecake Factory brand. We are executing on our plan to stabilize and grow net income margin over time, which we believe coupled with prudent capital allocation should drive long-term profitability growth.

With that said, we'll take your questions. (Operator Instructions) Operator?

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from the line of Sharon Zackfia from William Blair.

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Sharon Zackfia, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Group Head of Consumer [2]

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A couple questions actually on North Italia. Could you give us any update on how the new openings have been going? And any kind of thought process on how you're seeing geographic portability play out with that concept?

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [3]

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Sharon, it's David Gordon. So far, actually there's a North Italia that is opening today in Dallas at The Union, and that'll take the total restaurant number up to 18. And as the restaurants opened across the country, the affinity has been very strong. So they've moved into outside of Arizona, as I said, into Texas. The restaurants here in California continue to beat expectations, and the most -- one of the most recent openings actually all the way out in Florida has been the most successful opening that they've had to date in the first about 6 weeks that they've been open. So thus far, the portability appears to be very, very strong and certainly the guests' feedback has been very, very positive.

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Sharon Zackfia, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Group Head of Consumer [4]

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And then separately on Social Monk, I know it hasn't been opened that long. But is there anything you can share there? And what is the thought process on opening number 2 there? Do you sit and wait and watch a while? Or is there something in the hopper already?

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David M. Overton, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Chairman & CEO [5]

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This is David, Sharon. I don't think we have to wait too long. We're working on some points of food cost and labor. The sales have been great. We've been very happy with that, how it's received, the decor, the food. All that seems to be quite successful. So we're -- as soon as we can get our labor and food cost down a little bit, we'll start looking for the second one. We don't think it's going to take a long time to prove it out because it's pretty simple, straightforward. It's just all down to profitability in the end.

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Operator [6]

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Your next question comes from the line of Jeffrey Bernstein from Barclays.

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Jeffrey Andrew Bernstein, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Director & Senior Equity Research Analyst [7]

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Two questions as well. The first one just on restaurant margin more broadly. I mean it seems like you've now settled into the low single-digit comp range and we got stable pricing within there. But it seems like you and many of your peers are kind of in a position where you're still dealing with some significant margin compression. Just wondering where you draw the line on degradation and maybe what you could do to mitigate that pressure, if there was anything in terms of specific buckets where you see opportunity or whether you'd be willing to take more price. Or how do you go about handling it when the cost pressures are as challenging as they are? And then I have one follow-up.

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [8]

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Jeff, this Matt Clark. I think when you look at the P&L for the first quarter as well as the full year guidance, we believe that we can keep restaurant margins flat to last year. And so that -- I think we are drawing a line in the sand. There is some off-ticks obviously with some of the lease accounting. And so netting that out, we obviously had some movement from what used to be an interest line item into other OpEx depreciation into a few other OpEx. And so really when you adjust for that, I think we are in this environment at the 3% pricing and 1% to 2% comp range able to manage it to at least flat going forward. So that's been our objective. I think we're meeting that when you take away the accounting component of it.

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Jeffrey Andrew Bernstein, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Director & Senior Equity Research Analyst [9]

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Got it. And then just on North Italia in terms of timing. I mean I'm assuming it's still perhaps late 3Q or 4Q. But how do you see the transaction playing out in terms of the term, the payment? And any changes you anticipate making upon closing of the deal, whether it be operations or menu or anything specific? Or have you really had control of much of that brand for the past year or so and therefore we really shouldn't expect any real change when all of a sudden you have full ownership?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [10]

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Jeff, this is Matt again. I think -- we're still evaluating the financing. We have good options. I think capital relatively is accessible. We have a very strong balance sheet purposely to be able to do things like this when we see the opportunity. I don't think it will be complicated for us. We have a little bit of time left. We're just getting ourselves ready. So the close, it looks like, would be at the -- right at the end of the third quarter. As we've talked about, roughly, depending on performance, $150 million would be the payment due at that point in time. And then essentially, the financials would roll into us on a consolidated basis.

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [11]

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And then just operationally, Jeff, this is David Gordon. Everything that's going on at North today is why guests love it so much. We will, however, look to leverage our supply chain scale, our IT infrastructure, some of our HR practices. Whatever we can do to add more value in the concept, we will. And over time, we'll see what happens with the menu. But the menu is delicious today, and we'll do everything we can to make sure that it stays that way. And if there's 1 or 2 new things we want to add to the menu, we may. But operationally, it's a very sound business and the restaurants run very, very well. So we feel good about how they're being handled today, and we still think there are some things that we can do to add a lot of value across the bigger company.

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Operator [12]

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Your next question comes from the line of David Tarantino from Baird.

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David E. Tarantino, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Co-Director of Research and Senior Research Analyst [13]

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Matt, first, a clarification or mechanical question on comps. If you could give us the breakdown between pricing mix and traffic, that would be helpful, and then also confirm that the Easter drag in the first quarter was similar to the benefit that you expect in the second quarter. And then I have one real question after that.

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [14]

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Sure. Well, that's a real question. Pricing was 3%, the mix was a positive 0.8% and traffic was negative 2.5%. A couple things to remember was we've talked about the mix at the positive 0.8%. It's directly attributable to the growth in the delivery and off-prem for us and the way we capture the data. So we're effectively getting large checks with our multiple people. We, in effect, net that against the traffic today. And then we have about 50 basis points I think -- we thought maybe it was a -- going to be a little bit more, 10 to 20 more than that, but it's about 50 basis point impact in the first quarter and that's exactly what we are estimating to flip back in the second quarter. So when we look at that, David, what sort of traffic looks like, it's below 1% negative, which is where we've been tracking.

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David E. Tarantino, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Co-Director of Research and Senior Research Analyst [15]

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Great. And then I guess a big picture question about the check and check growth. I think this year The Cheesecake Factory you'll be crossing over $23 average check, which I guess in the world of casual dining is pretty high, and I know your quality justifies that. But just wondering how you think about the increases in the absolute level of that average check over the next several years and if you think you'll meet any resistance as you push up towards $25 and beyond.

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [16]

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Well, I think David -- this is Matt again. I think it's art and science. And as we've talked about before, we're constantly watching the competition and where they're at. And I've been with the company almost 14 years, and our relative position has not changed at all compared to all of the competitors that we track nationally. And so I think we see everybody sort of moving in lockstep to protect margins. We've seen pricing come up. I think Jeff asked a question earlier about that. I think companies are moving to make sure that they protect their margins. I don't think relatively we'll be much different.

The other thing I think about our menu is that we have so many options. Guests can really choose to spend whatever they want, and you can get appetizers for $5 to $10 that are the equivalent of a full meal in many places. I think when we look at the mix, we feel very good about the elasticity of our pricing power, how guests are navigating. They continue to order across the spectrum, which is very positive.

And then the last thing I would say about that in average check, I mean, obviously it's distorted a little bit by the significant growth in the off-premise business. So that's part of what's driving it higher. And the other thing is it's differentiated across geographies and as everybody knows, pricing is becoming a little bit more different in those higher-cost areas. And so I think that also plays into it. It's not the same everywhere.

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Operator [17]

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Your next question comes from the line of Gregory Francfort from Bank of America.

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Gregory Ryan Francfort, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate [18]

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I know you talked about the retention getting better. What do you think is driving that? And do you have key initiatives that you're putting in place around training or something else that's causing that? And I guess when did that inflection start to happen? Was it 2 quarters ago? 3 quarters ago? I guess what was the timing on that shift?

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [19]

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Thanks for the question, Greg. This is David Gordon. The staff retention really stabilized around the middle of last year. And our practice is over time be in the Great Places to Work on the Fortune list obviously is something we're very, very proud of and part of our culture is who we've always been. We did put a concerted effort probably about 18 months ago to really focus on retention in the first 90 days and to really look at our staff members that were churning really too early in their employment. And we did put some practices in place for our management teams around engaging with those people that had just been hired, making sure that they were thoroughly trained properly by the right people at the right time and that we're meeting all their schedule flexibilities, and actually even giving them the hours that we had told them that we were going to give them during hiring. And I think that's been beneficial. I think we're doing a better job in those first 90 days.

And on the management front, we've always had very strong management retention. This year, that continues to be the same. And at the general manager level, I think so far this year it's an all-time low. I think its 1% or 2%. So the culture of Cheesecake Factory remains very, very strong. And I think the awareness of the brand and being on the Fortune Great Places to Work list has helped us and benefited us from an attraction standpoint. So those HR practices are just built into our DNA, but specifically around the 90 days, that has made a bit of a benefit for us.

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Gregory Ryan Francfort, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate [20]

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And maybe can you frame up how much that's changed in terms of 90-day retention?

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [21]

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I don't have those numbers in front of me, but we certainly can follow up with you.

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Operator [22]

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Your next question comes from the line of Joshua Long from Piper Jaffray.

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Joshua C. Long, Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Assistant VP & Research Analyst [23]

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I wanted to circle back to the comments made on the smaller footprints at the new Oxnard location. Just curious if there's been some evolution there, maybe some new learnings in terms of where some of the square footage has gone, had been repurposed? What you might be able to share with us there that gets you excited versus maybe previous iterations of becoming more efficient in your store footprint?

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [24]

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Well, this is David Gordon. As David mentioned, our intent originally was to see if the restaurant could operate as fluidly as the 7,200 or 7,500 square-foot restaurant to help our international partners look for real estate sites, most specifically in Asia where the sites tend to be a little bit smaller. So we wanted to be able to prove out, number one, that we can execute the menu in a little bit of a smaller kitchen design. We want to prove out the feel of a Cheesecake Factory when you walk in, everything at the guest experience is still there in 5,500 square feet; that the wait times actually wouldn't be too excessive because the popularity we knew would still be there.

In the first couple of weeks that the restaurant has been open, I'd say that it's currently exceeding our sales per square foot expectations. And we've seen that we have more of an -- probably an even flow of guests throughout the day. The wait times are not that much different than in some of our busiest openings we had at the end of last year, whether in Chattanooga, Tennessee or Lubbock, Texas. And we've been able to execute the menu really, really well. So that's been promising thus far. Again, it's early -- it's only a couple of weeks, but we feel good about what we've seen in the first 2 weeks.

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Joshua C. Long, Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Assistant VP & Research Analyst [25]

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Great. And then as you spend more time with the off-premise channel, any sort of learnings there that you've seen in terms of how guests are using your brand whether in terms of frequency or menu? I know we've talked about in the past how usually multiple people, higher average ticket. But curious if those trends have been relatively steady? Any sort of read-through in the tab in terms of just how the guest is engaging with your brand in that new channel?

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [26]

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I think that nothing's really changed since our last call. Obviously, as Matt said, the check is a little bit higher whether that's through delivery or even through the digital check through the online ordering channel. We also see the check higher there. Dessert sales are probably closer to 20% on delivery versus in restaurant. I think it's about 17%, 17.5% for the first quarter. So those trends are similar to what they have been. But we just see that in the markets that whether we're mature in those markets or in some of the newer markets that we launched towards the end of last year, the popularity of delivery continues to grow and the guests continue to be as pressed, if not more pressed, for time than they have been in the past. And some of our successful marketing campaigns have been meaningful.

Along with being able to be at the top of the app with DoorDash and having the awareness of The Cheesecake Factory brand top of mind when somebody goes in just through the DoorDash app to begin with, along with the marketing that we've done with DoorDash, has -- the TV marketing that they've done most recently, us being one of the featured brands, has continued to grow that channel in a pretty strong and meaningful way.

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Operator [27]

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Your next question comes from the line of John Ivankoe from JPMorgan.

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John William Ivankoe, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Restaurant Analyst [28]

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Maybe tying on to that last question. I thought it was interesting, the conversation of driving not just aided awareness but unaided awareness, and obviously you're going into -- even deeper into some nontraditional digital channels. So I wanted to see how that marketing spending is shifting between traditional and digital. And in terms of basis points and sales, are you now seeing the specific ROI for marketing that it actually may make sense to increase marketing as a percentage of sales going forward?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [29]

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John, this is Matt. It's a good question, and I would say we're early stage in learning about that. So I don't know that we're committed one way or another. I think we have always taken the approach that we're going to do marketing that does make good business sense for us. And so what we are doing does have a good ROI. How far you can go with that in these digital areas, I think, is new and we don't yet know what that is.

But certainly, just doing things like owning search for your name has proven we can track that directly. You can see the click-through. You can see the engagement with guests. You know the behavior. You can see the online ordering rates for to-go. So those things are very, very tangible. Where that goes, I mean, like I said, will be determined. But I think we feel good about continuing to spend some incremental money to drive that unaided awareness at least in the near term.

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [30]

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I would just add, John, as you know, we've never really done traditional marketing. So -- and today, social and influencing and all the things you see are becoming a little bit more traditional. I think what's good for us is that people want to hear about our brand and influencers want to visit our kitchens and do tours with our kitchen managers and post about them and talk about it. And our food is so Instagramable and very photogenic, I guess you could say. So that really helps us when it comes to our presence in social and helping that level of awareness.

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John William Ivankoe, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Restaurant Analyst [31]

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Could you remind me what your total marketing spend as you look at it, the whole component of it, was in '18 and what you think that might be in '19 as a percentage of sales is fine?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [32]

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Yes, I think in '19 we're somewhere -- I mean, carving out things like the gift cards, John, we've talked about that, it sits in G&A, or think about like just marketing spend, we're probably just under 0.5% and historically it's been less than that. So we're just sort of creeping it forward.

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Operator [33]

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Your next question comes from the line of Will Slabaugh from Stephens.

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William Everett Slabaugh, Stephens Inc., Research Division - MD [34]

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I had a question on value. How are you thinking about value at The Cheesecake Factory brand? And has that evolved at all as traffic continues to be pressured modestly negative in this type of industry backdrop and whether that may eventually be through -- addressed through additional menu insert, like, I know SkinnyLicious play a valuable role whenever you launch that, or another way to communicate that everyday value that is on your menu to the guests?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [35]

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I think over time -- well, you're right. We've used menu inserts to help remind guests. I think again it's kind of similar to the unaided awareness component of marketing, if you will, because the value is always there. I think we're very confident that when you're buying a $6 or $7 appetizer at The Cheesecake Factory or even some of our dishes that people can share that are $15 or $16 and really a meal for 2, when our guests understand that, they know the value is there not only in the portion size but the quality and that combination.

So sometimes I think we do work a little bit more to remind the guest of that. Obviously, again, just to reiterate the obvious, we're not going to do couponing or LTOs or anything like that. We really have thought that it's been impactful when we partnered with DoorDash, and that's a slightly different way to get guests to just recognize and to bring them in for special occasions or for everyday use when they can get something like a free slice of cheesecake. So that has been a vehicle we've used to just to reintroduce it, but I think we've always put value on it. We will continue to do. We'll continue to add items that are between $5 and $10. And as we view that as being necessary, we'll continue to remind the guests maybe in the same way we have or maybe we'll come up with new ways.

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Operator [36]

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Your next question comes from the line of Matt DiFrisco from Guggenheim Securities.

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Matthew James DiFrisco, Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Director and Senior Equity Analyst [37]

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Just want to go back to the margins. I think you commented or you did not comment in the other operating expense line. You didn't call out delivery fees some other restaurants have. Are they de minimis in there? I mean obviously, I know you've got the lease accounting as a major factor on a year-over-year basis. But how would you characterize the delivery fees embedded in there as far as pressure? Can you quantify basis points?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [38]

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Yes, I think it's a couple of tenths on a year-over-year basis. We want to be careful with how much we quantify given that there's questions around the sales and then there's questions around that and it may lead to some confidential information regarding the relationship we have with DoorDash. So I don't know if you'll consider a couple of tenths to be de minimis or material, but I don't think it's moving the P&L one way or the other, to be honest.

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Matthew James DiFrisco, Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Director and Senior Equity Analyst [39]

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And then I guess the full year margin guidance of flat, that is for EBIT. And if I were to look at that, there's some makeup you'd have to do then in the remaining quarters. Is there an implied greater price increase than the -- than what you took in the first quarter? Or are you looking to add in the middle of the summer as you usually do?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [40]

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When we think about that margin fees, Matt, part of that is not just in the EBIT but it is in the makeup on how the interest moved out from below that, right? So I think we're right on track. I don't think we have to make up any more ground because we are sort of netting that accounting piece out of it. So there's 20 to 30 basis points that was down below the EBIT line that went above the EBIT line. So we're kind of saying if you take that in totality, really the core business margin is flat, and then it shows up on the net income line, which we believe will be flat to better.

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Operator [41]

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Your next question comes from the line of Jeff Farmer from Gordon Haskett.

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Jeffrey Daniel Farmer, Gordon Haskett Research Advisors - MD & Senior Analyst of Restaurants [42]

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Matt, on the last earnings call you noted that Cheesecake has been able to hold labor dollar for operating week growth, I think you said, below wage rate growth. So I'm just curious how have you guys been able to do that?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [43]

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I think it's a couple of things. First and foremost -- and Jeff, thanks for the question. This is Matt. As David Gordon mentioned, really retention is a big driver. Efficiencies in the restaurant are only achievable if we're attracting and keeping and training people right. And so I think that we're very good at that, and I think that's a differentiator long term.

As we've said, sort of a core tenant is to be continuously improving in that. So if we can get just a little bit better with over time, as an example. I think in Q1 we were a little bit better in our staffing, which is driven by retention partly as well as scheduling, that drives a little bit better over time year-over-year. So I think it's initiatives like that. I think it begins with making sure we have the right people and we retain them. And then if we can utilize that first piece to make sure that we're fully staffed, that's the next component of it. And so it's just really driving off of those core foundations.

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Jeffrey Daniel Farmer, Gordon Haskett Research Advisors - MD & Senior Analyst of Restaurants [44]

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And then just one more, a follow-up on off-premise. Have you guys -- or are you willing to share an estimate of what you think the off-premise contribution is to your overall same-store sales growth rate right now?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [45]

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I mean I think if you look at the math, it's obviously a little bit of a fungible pool, but I think that it's driving the positive comps. And I think we would say that when you look at delivery in off-prem increasing year-over-year at the rate that it is, that that's the piece that's increasing our total sales.

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Operator [46]

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Your next question comes from the line of Brian Vaccaro from Raymond James.

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Brian Michae Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [47]

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Just a couple questions on labor cost, if I could. So I think last year you saw outsized pressure on health insurance in the first quarter. And was that a benefit in this year? And if so, could you quantify it? And if you saw a normal level of claims in Q2, how much of a benefit would that be in year-on-year terms as you lap last year's heightened cost in that line?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [48]

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I think group medical when we're looking back at last year, it was a little bit high in Q1. But really, Brian, the bigger impact was really in Q2. So this year, Q1 is pretty comparable. I think we saw what I would consider to be relatively normal activity. I have to go back and double-check for sure what the increase was in Q2, but I know that, that was where the bigger impact was. And then that is factored into the guidance that we've provided. If you look it through year-over-year EPS growth, obviously much bigger in the Q2 guidance than what we achieved in the first year -- or first quarter.

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Brian Michae Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [49]

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Okay. And Matt, when you talk -- when you mentioned wage inflation of 6%, can you confirm that, that's specific to hourly labor? And what percent would hourly labor be of your total labor dollars in a given year?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [50]

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Brian, yes, that is correct, so the wage inflation when we look at it from an hourly perspective. And of the total P&L, I would say that hourly is in the low 20%. So it's roughly 2/3 of the labor line item. Obviously, we do have management labor increases, too, but that's probably not at the same rate.

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Brian Michae Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [51]

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Right. Okay. So -- okay. So about 2/3. So the other 35%, I guess, what are you seeing in terms of managerial inflation and inflation in insurance? I mean, if we try to bucket the other 35%, might that inflation be 3%, 4%? Any help on that?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [52]

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I think 3% to 4% is a fair range today.

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Brian Michae Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [53]

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Right. And then other OpEx line, just a quick one. You called out workers comp and general liability in Q1. Can you quantify the favorability there? And was that unusually low this year? Or maybe you were lapping high costs last year? Can you remind us of that?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [54]

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Mostly it was an improvement this year in the trends and -- but basically, it was, I'm going to say, in the 20 to 30 basis point range and the kind of offset the earlier question about the delivery. So it kind of netted out.

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Operator [55]

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Your next question comes from the line of Brian Bittner from Oppenheimer.

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Brian John Bittner, Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst [56]

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As it relates to the full year guidance, it implies the second half is much lower EBIT growth than the first half. What's the main driver of that? Is that just the first half is lapping some of these issues, like the group medical in the second quarter and the overtime issues you were seeing last year? Is that the main driver of the difference in profit growth year-over-year and first half versus second half?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [57]

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Brian, it's Matt. And certainly that's part of it. There are other puts and takes. I think there's timing of G&A as well. I think there's a little bit of timing of preopening. But I think the biggest piece, particularly in the second quarter as we just talked about, was the group medical as well as the legal piece is the biggest driver in sort of the comparison of the first half to the second half.

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Brian John Bittner, Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst [58]

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Okay. And just on the off-premise, just asking the question probably a different way. Are you able to just say how much that business grew year-over-year in the first quarter or how much it's been growing on its own?

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [59]

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It's about -- yes, off-premise in total was about 2% over the first quarter of last year. It grew from 14% to 16%.

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Stacy Feit, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - VP of IR [60]

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By absolute terms.

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [61]

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Yes.

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Brian John Bittner, Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst [62]

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As far as -- you're talking about as far as the mix of the business, right, obviously?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [63]

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Exactly. Yes. Exactly.

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Operator [64]

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Your next question comes from the line of Jon Tower from Wells Fargo.

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Jon Michael Tower, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst [65]

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Just first, a clarification on the smaller footprint store that you opened in Oxnard, California. Is that a test to only see how sort of like this works for international markets only? Or could this be applicable to domestic market? And if not, if it's only geared towards the international markets, why is that? And then separately, with off-premise now reaching 16% of your sales mix, has the company explored moving some of those production in the kitchen out of the stores into either ghost or dark kitchens?

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [66]

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Thanks for the question, John. No. The idea around opening the smaller footprint store was for the international restaurants, and we'll see what happens over time. If we do think that we're operating that really, really well, when we get the returns that we want, could possibly lead to some other sites over time, who knows. But that wasn't the original intent, but it also wouldn't limit us from looking a little bit further into it as we get closer to understanding how well we can do. I think that's most important is to understand what the returns could be.

And then because of the made-from-scratch kitchen that we have and the size of the menu, we're really not looking to do anything off-premise or ghost kitchens. We can execute what we need to do off-premise and even grow those sales in the kitchen designs that we have today due to their size. So we would look to continue to do that and not add any additional costs or any other additional complexity.

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Operator [67]

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Your next question comes from the line of Peter Saleh from BTIG.

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Peter Mokhlis Saleh, BTIG, LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Restaurant Analyst [68]

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I want to come back to the conversation around off-premise. Can you guys give us an idea of how much of your off-premise orders are now coming in digitally and if that is allowing you to remove any of the front-of-the-house labor for taking some of those orders?

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [69]

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Sure. Online ordering was about 13% for Q1, and I don't know that it's going to currently offset any potential labor that's in the restaurant today. We're certainly set up to continue to drive great sales, great service and hospitality, as I mentioned when we open the call. And we've seen that online ordering number grow from about 10% to 11% up to the 13% it's at today, and delivery is roughly 30% of that total 16% off-premise that I talked about earlier.

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Peter Mokhlis Saleh, BTIG, LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Restaurant Analyst [70]

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Great. And then just on the partnership with DoorDash, do you guys remain exclusive with DoorDash? Or are you considering partnering with other aggregators to expand the pool?

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David M. Gordon, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - President [71]

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We do remain exclusive with DoorDash in our current contract for now.

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Operator [72]

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Your next question comes from the line of Stephen Anderson from Maxim Group.

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Stephen Anderson, Maxim Group LLC, Research Division - Senior VP & Senior Equity Research Analyst [73]

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As we take a look at your commodity basket among all of your peers, they've ticked up their forecasts for the year but you've left that unchanged. Just want to see where you're seeing some benefit and maybe seeing some of the pressures?

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Matthew Eliot Clark, The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated - Executive VP & CFO [74]

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Sure. We have probably a much broader market basket than most of our peers. So I think it moves up and down maybe less than they are. I think there's some short-term pressure maybe in produce and a little bit of pressure in pork because of the swine flu. But because of that balance, I think we've just been able to offset it across a couple of other categories. So nothing big moving up and down, but we're just staying right in that sweet spot of 1% to 2%.

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Operator [75]

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And there are no further questions at this time. Thank you for joining. You may now disconnect.