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Edited Transcript of PZA.TO earnings conference call or presentation 2-Mar-21 10:00pm GMT

·32 min read

Q4 2020 Pizza Pizza Royalty Corp Earnings Call Toronto Mar 3, 2021 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Pizza Pizza Royalty Corp earnings conference call or presentation Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 10:00:00pm GMT TEXT version of Transcript ================================================================================ Corporate Participants ================================================================================ * Christine D'Sylva Pizza Pizza Limited - CFO * Curtis Feltner Pizza Pizza Limited - Senior VP Strategy & Analytics and Director * Paul Goddard Pizza Pizza Limited - CEO, President & Director ================================================================================ Conference Call Participants ================================================================================ * Derek J. Lessard TD Securities Equity Research - Research Analyst ================================================================================ Presentation -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Pizza Pizza Royalty Corp. Earnings Call for the Fourth Quarter of 2020. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. I will now turn the call over to Christine D'Sylva, CFO. Please go ahead. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Christine D'Sylva, Pizza Pizza Limited - CFO [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Pizza Pizza Royalty Corp.'s earnings call for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2020. Joining me on the call today are Pizza Pizza Limited's Chief Executive Officer, Paul Goddard; and Senior Vice President of Strategic Analysis and Implementation, Curt Feltner. Our discussion today will contain forward-looking statements that may involve risks relating to future events. Actual events may differ materially from the projections discussed today. All forward-looking statements should be considered in conjunction with the cautionary language in our earnings release, and the risk factors included in our annual information form. Please refer to our earnings press release and MD&A in the Investor Relations section of our website, for a reconciliation and other disclosures related to non-IFRS measures mentioned on this call. As a reminder, analysts are welcome to ask questions after the prepared remarks. Portfolio managers, media and shareholders can contact us after the call. Before turning the call over to Paul for the business update, I wanted to spend a few moments reviewing the structure of the corp for our new investors. Pizza Pizza Royalty Corp. indirectly owns the Pizza Pizza and Pizza 73 brands and trademarks through its subsidiary, Pizza Pizza Royalty Limited partnership. This partnership has 2 partners: Pizza Pizza Royalty Corp., the public company, which owns 76.5%; and the other partner, Pizza Pizza Limited, a private operating company, who owns the remaining 23.5%. The Royalty Corp. is a top line restaurant Royalty Corp. that earns monthly royalties through a lease agreement with Pizza Pizza Limited. In exchange for the use of the Pizza Pizza and Pizza 73 trademarks in its restaurant operations, Pizza Pizza pays the partnership a monthly royalty calculated as a percentage of Royalty Pool sales. Royalties lost due to the permanent closure of restaurants are replaced with royalties from new restaurants opened on the next Royalty Pool adjustment date. Until that date, Pizza Pizza continues to pay the royalties as if the restaurant had not closed. Growth in the Corp. is derived from increasing same-store sales of the restaurants in the Royalty Pool and by adding new restaurants to the pool each year. The Royalty Pool is adjusted at the beginning of each year by adding new restaurants opened unless any restaurants that have been permanently closed. For the fiscal year 2020, the Royalty Pool was adjusted on January 1, 2020, to include 645 Pizza Pizza restaurants and 104 Pizza 73 restaurants. So with that brief review, I will turn the call over to Paul Goddard to provide the business update. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Paul Goddard, Pizza Pizza Limited - CEO, President & Director [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks Christine for that structural overview, and good afternoon, everybody. Thank you, all of you for taking the time to attend our call today. And before we get started here, I just would like to take this opportunity to personally thank all of our employees, our restaurant owners and their team members, our incredible delivery drivers on the front lines and our suppliers, of course, as well. They've shown tremendous resilience, courage and leadership over this past year. And despite this pandemic, our team is continue to really perform well under extreme circumstances, and it's truly inspiring for me to see everyone helping each other out, particularly during these really trying times. And to our customers and to you, our investors, thank you for your continued trust and loyalty. Moving on to the business side of our call. I would like to first congratulate Christine on her appointment earlier this year as of January 1, to the Chief Financial Officer position of Pizza Pizza and Pizza Pizza Realty Corp. Christine has worked alongside Curt and myself for 14 years now. And was previously, our VP of Finance and Investor Relations, and really excited to have her in this role. And I'd also like to extend my appreciation and thanks to Curt Feltner on his transition from CFO into the new cross-functional role of Senior Vice President of Strategic Analysis and Implementation. We've got a lot of exciting initiatives and strategies that we're embarking on here in 2021, and I'm proud of the exceptional senior management team that we have at the company. And both Christine and Curt are here on the call today with me. Obviously, the main purpose for our call this afternoon is to highlight the results of our fourth quarter and year-end for December 31, 2020. And as a reminder, our business is comprised of 2-key revenue streams. First, our traditional restaurant network, which generates 90% of our Royalty Pool sales; and second, our non-traditional and special event locations, which generate the remaining 10%. So within our traditional restaurant network, our customers are able to enjoy our food by ordering in advance for delivery or for pickup or by simply walking into one of our restaurants on premeditated basis for takeout or for dine-in. And about 60% of all of our orders, by the way, are done through our websites or numerous apps as well, and that's increasing over time, which is great. Fortunately, our traditional restaurants have remained open for delivery and take out business since the pandemic began. Our customer dine-in options have generally been closed since the onset of the pandemic following public health guidelines with the exception of a brief period during the summer months in 2020, where we did see some good momentum. While our traditional business has been deemed essential and therefore, allowed to remain open, Pizza Pizza and Pizza 73 system sales have still been impacted in material ways as restaurant operators took significant and necessary measures in their restaurants to protect the health of their employees and our customers. Our teams have also been proactive and agile in complying with all social distancing recommendations and requirements of the applicable health authorities, including the closure of all restaurant seating areas. So the lack of normally robust dine-in business, combined with work from home mandates, virtual schooling and a reduction in broader social and business activities. So all combined and led to a significant decrease in our walk-in sales, especially for those in our urban locations, which typically represent all that group there, walk-in, about 40% of our total store sales, so definitely very significant. But again, fortunately, for delivery and pickup channels, which represent that 60% of our sales, we continue to see that offset a large portion of those lost walk-in sales. During the early stages of the pandemic, we quickly introduced innovative customer-centric safety measures such as contactless pickup and delivery transactions, literally in about 4 days. So I mean, hats off to the IT, operations and marketing folks for making that happen as laser fast and also an industry first award-winning tamper-free pizza box, which provides customers additional assurances when ordering from us. And all of these innovations have been very well received by our customers and appreciate it. The other aspect of our business, our nontraditional locations and special events have had to remain almost entirely closed due to government mandates during the pandemic. Our nontraditional business, including sporting arenas, colleges and universities, major outdoor entertainment venues, such as Canada's Wonderland and many others, are largely responsible for the reported decrease in our fourth quarter sales. As I noted at the beginning, this component generally accounts for 10% of our sales, that nontraditional bucket. The fourth quarter, typically signals the start of the new sports season, holiday gatherings and our strongest sales quarter. However, during this last fourth quarter, as government restrictions and stay-at-home orders resumed, the start of sports was delayed. For example, the beginning of the new NHL season was delayed until mid-January, whereas back in 2019 it began in early October. And of course, this past year, no spectators have been allowed in sporting venues either. Halloween parties, seasonal holiday gatherings, they just were not permitted to happen this past December either. We also normally see substantial group ordering, catering orders, high-volume orders at businesses, school orders, during Q4 as well, right from September through to, especially the holiday season. But this was another area where we were not permitted to operate basically. We were open for business, but just there's no demand there because of what was going on with the pandemic restrictions. And in addition, I would also say that we saw increased pressure from third-party aggregators through a substantial amount of discounting on their part and heavy advertising in the marketplace. So our sales momentum from the summer rents that we had was really materially pressured lower during the fourth quarter with the resumption of all these restrictions and the difference of behavior is going on associated with that. So for the quarter, our same-store sales, the key driver of yield growth for shareholders decreased 17.6%, and the total Royalty Pool sales decreased 15.8% to $123.7 million from $146.9 million. While system sales and royalty income were meaningfully lower in the fourth quarter than prior years, our ability to pay our monthly dividends remain strong. As a reminder to everyone, our Board of Trustees made the prudent decision to reduce our monthly dividend in April 2020 by 30% ahead of potential uncertainties in our business. However, I'm proud to say that our business outperformed those expectations, and we were able to announce a 10% dividend increase last year. During the quarter, we generated 745 -- sorry, pardon me, $745,000 in excess cash, which added to our working capital reserve, which is now at a very robust $5.4 million. As a result, our payout ratio was 84% for Q4 and 90% for the year. We will continue to monitor that payout ratio carefully as you always do. And while our target payout ratio remains at 100%, we also need to remain vigilant given the ongoing effects of the pandemic across Canada and the possibility of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and variants, which does appear to be happening right now in parts of Ontario, for instance. And until we see a broader vaccination rollout, hopefully, by the end of September, as the federal government has promised us, we expect consumer confidence and therefore, domestic economic fundamentals to remain quite weak. Nevertheless, our goal remains to be providing stability in our dividends to shareholders and increase them over time as we move past this pandemic. Turning to the operations of PPL, the private operating company, at both Pizza Pizza and Pizza 73, our marketing strategies are structured to support restaurant profitability while also increasing customer orders and order frequency, whether it is via traditional phone call-in, digital app engagement or walk-in traffic. This year, we're focused on going on the offense. Our innovation pipeline is strong, and we see excellent growth potential, particularly in key new markets. Consumers have moved online faster than ever before during 2020 and are purchasing in large numbers, in large part due to the pandemic and increasing consumer e-commerce and contactless experiences in general. And we feel they aren't going to move back offline after the pandemic recedes either. With this trend in mind, Pizza Pizza also launched a new e-gift card program, focusing on driving digital sales and quick contactless redemptions as well versus using a more tedious plastic gift cards still so common in the industry. And for many, many years, Pizza Pizza Limited has invested heavily in our digital platforms. And we said this before, and I'll say it again here, no other pizza player in Canada has more digital channels for customers to choose from. Our customer delivery and pickup orders transacted through our array of digital ordering platforms account for over 60% of all orders. And like I said, this percentage will continue to increase, benefiting our customers, our company and our franchisees. Innovation is key to our growth, and it's one of the most important brand attributes we're known for, not only in tech, but also in our menu offerings and really in everything we do. In 2020, we continued our core menu promotional activity, featuring our very popular unlimited 2-topping $7.99 medium pizza special at Pizza Pizza and our 9.73 Solo Special at Pizza 73. And we also promoted our alternative crusts, particularly the Keto and Cauliflower Crust, now paired with a side order of Cauliflower Bites. And for the holidays, Pizza Pizza promoted a dessert option with Funnel Cake Stix featuring 2 holiday inspired dips. Our diverse high-quality menu, together with our award-winning websites and apps and our top-notch customer service have positioned us well to weather this pandemic and come out stronger at the other end. Now turning to restaurant development for a moment. During the quarter, we opened 1 traditional restaurant and 1 nontraditional Pizza Pizza location. However, we permanently closed 3 Pizza Pizza restaurants. Additionally, we opened 1 traditional Pizza 73 restaurants. For the year, we opened 6 traditional restaurants in 3 nontraditional Pizza Pizza locations, while closing 17 traditional and 15 nontraditional Pizza Pizza restaurants. Additionally, 2 traditional Pizza 73 restaurants opened, while 1 traditional and 1 nontraditional restaurant were closed. And as previously mentioned, during the quarter, substantially all traditional Pizza Pizza and Pizza 73 restaurants are made open across Canada. However, the majority of the nontraditional Pizza Pizza and Pizza 73 restaurants have remained closed, with the exception of a few small locations and several hospitals and gas stations and the like. So while we have not opened as many new restaurants as originally visioned in 2020 due to the pandemic, we have accelerated our renovation and refresh program now. And in fact, 70% of our traditional stores now showcase our new look. And also we put through new uniforms and a bunch of other changes, too. So if you have been in one of our stores lately, I think you'll see a very new and refreshed look right through and through, which is great to see. And that really demonstrates to the market that we will always reinvent ourselves and keep refreshing our brands. We're not waiting around for various restrictions to be lifted. That's something we're not in direct control over. So we're going to focus on what we can control. And we believe our current store network is strong, it's ubiquitous, and our franchisees are as ambitious as we are to grow faster. So we've ramped up new restaurant construction and renovations through 2021. And barring any resurgence or adverse long-term effects of the pandemic or unexpected further delays in vaccine rollout later this year, we currently expect to see traditional restaurant growth to be approximately 5% in 2021. And as I said at the beginning, this year has been, of course, very challenging for everyone, and I want to personally thank our entire team for their hard work, their sheer perseverance and unrelenting efforts this past year. The health and safety of our customers and our restaurant teams continues to remain our top priority. And we've implemented strict protocols in our restaurants and in our deliveries to keep our customers safe. And our track record has been really good in that regard. So we're committed to, as always, delivering great food, providing the best customer experience, and we know that will translate into loyal customers and improve performance over the long-term for our investors as well. So thanks again for joining call this afternoon. I'll now turn things over briefly to Curt to say a few words, followed by Christine as our newly mentioned CFO, who will provide the full financial update. But first, over to you, Curt. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Curtis Feltner, Pizza Pizza Limited - Senior VP Strategy & Analytics and Director [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. Thank you, Paul. I would just like to take a moment. It's been a pleasure working with our shareholders, our investment bankers and our financial institutions and our analysts over the years since our public offering in 2005. I'm personally very proud of what would we've accomplished with our market hitting brands. And I'm particularly pleased to have Christine now lead the company in the Chief Financial Officer role. She and I've worked closely over the years, and I'm fully confident she'll serve the company extremely well. She has excellent technical skills and has gained a solid industry knowledge. And she's been at the table for all of our major company decisions at least in the past decade. So yes, she's well versed on our company. So with regards to my new role, I'm well into our strategic and analytical role and initially focusing on business intelligence and specifically, currently on customer data analysis. So it's good stuff for the company. And we're making good progress. But just thank you for the time. And with that, I'll now pass the call to Christine for our Q4 financial update. Christine? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Christine D'Sylva, Pizza Pizza Limited - CFO [5] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Curt, for that glowing introduction. I'd just like to briefly cover the financial results for the quarter, and our financial results, as Paul has mentioned, continue to be impacted by COVID-19. Same-store sales growth, the key driver of yield growth for shareholders, as Paul mentioned, decreased 17.6% for the quarter and decreased 12.5% for the year. The lost walk-in sales and nontraditional sales, as previously discussed, are responsible for the reduction in system sales. However, delivery and pickup at both brands are working hard to offset this reduction. Though same-store sales is expected to be negative in the near future as the pandemic continues. Gross sales reported by the restaurants in the Royalty Pool for the fourth quarter were $123.7 million. This is a 15.8% decrease as compared to $146.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. By brand, sales from the 645 Pizza Pizza restaurants in the pool decreased 15.6% to $103.4 million, and sales from the 104 Pizza 73 restaurants decreased 16.6% to $20.3 million for the quarter. For the year, Royalty Pool system sales decreased 11.8% to $488.3 million. Royalty income for the quarter was $8 million as compared to $9.5 million and was $31.8 million for the year compared to $35.9 million in 2019. The decrease in Royalty Pool system sales and royalty income for the quarter and year is largely a result of the negative impact COVID-19 has had on our business and the change in the number of restaurants on January 1, 2020. Turning to the partnership expenses. Administrative expenses include Director, legal, auditor fees, listing costs and annual shareholder meeting costs. Administrative expenses for the quarter were $183,636 for the year. In addition to administrative expenses, the partnership pays interest expense on its $47 million credit facility. Interest paid for the quarter decreased to $319,000 from $329,000 last year. The partnership is currently making interest-only payments on the non-revolving credit facility. The partnership's new interest rate swap agreement came into effect in April of 2020. The new interest rate swap agreements fixed the facility's interest rate at the bank at acceptance rate of 1.81% plus a credit spread, which is currently 0.875% for a combined rate of 2.685%. The previous interest rate agreements expired in April of 2020 at a combined rate of 2.75%. The facilities include affirmative and negative covenants customary for agreements of this nature. And as of December 31, 2020, all covenants have been met. The partnership is required to maintain a funded debt-to-EBITDA ratio not to exceed 2.5:1. The debt-to-EBITDA ratio for the last 4 -- rolling 4-quarter period was 1.51:1, and the credit spread ranges based on this level of debt-to-EBITDA. Due to the impact of COVID-19 on the partnership, it is likely that the credit spread will increase to the next year. And you can refer to the MD&A for the full credit spread schedule. So after the partnership receives royalty income and pays administrative and interest expenses, the resulting net cash position is available to distribute to its 2 partners based on their ownership. Now speaking to shareholder dividends. The company declared shareholder dividends of $3.9 million for the quarter or $0.16 per share compared to $5.3 million or $0.2139 per share in the prior year's comparable quarter. The payout ratio was 84% for the quarter compared to 95% in the prior year. For the year, the company declared shareholder dividends of $16.6 million or $0.6739 per share compared to $21.1 million or $0.8556 per share in 2019. The payout ratio for the year was 90% and was 103% in 2019. When COVID-19 first impacted system sales in March, the company reduced its dividend from $0.0713 per share to $0.05 per share beginning in April 2020. Since April, system sales have partially recovered. And after careful consideration, the Board of Directors announced a 10% increase to the monthly dividend beginning in November 2020. This has resulted in the 90% payout ratio for the year and the working capital reserve, ending the year at $5.4 million. The working capital reserve increased over $700,000 in the quarter and $1.8 million in the year, and it's largely attributable to the April dividend reduction offsetting the first quarter's payout ratio of 123%. It is expected that future dividends will continue to be funded entirely by cash flow from operations and the cash reserve. The company will continue to monitor system sales and royalty income and will consider future changes to the monthly dividend, taking into account the duration and impact of the pandemic on our restaurant operations. As well as the timing and pace of economic recovery in the markets in which we operate. That concludes my financial overview. I'd like to turn the call back now to the operator to poll for questions. ================================================================================ Questions and Answers -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from the line of Derek Lessard with TD Securities. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Derek J. Lessard, TD Securities Equity Research - Research Analyst [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Congratulations to both you and Christine and Curt, good luck in your new roles. Just a question, Paul. I think it looks like the second lockdown hurt you guys more in terms of sales than it did the first time. You did add some color, but just maybe on the surface, it looks like it was much weaker in Pizza 73, which up to this point has held in pretty well. Is that the gist of it? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Paul Goddard, Pizza Pizza Limited - CEO, President & Director [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, that's pretty much it. I mean I would say that you're thinking about Q4 as well, right, is that the catering orders in that whole sort of seasonal aspect, which normally, as I said, is such a big thing for us. It was just so anemic this year because of what's going on, right? And so I think that's what I would highlight is the main difference. It's not just the fact that you can't sit down in the restaurants because that's what also happened before the summer. But just the back-to-school catering surge that we see, all the seasonal parties, we did okay on Halloween and Christmas eve and New Years, things, but not as robust as we normally would be, right? People are just not physically gathering. And so that's one part I really would highlight is just that effect. And also, as I tried to allude to, we just saw more activity in that back part of the year from third-party aggregators, in particular, and you may notice just the sheer level of advertising spend going on there from those folks. And I think people are using those apps quite a bit. There's a lot of choice out there. Even though it's very financially tough on those independent restaurants that use them heavily. But I think those are 2 key things I would highlight is why we saw a more pain in that fourth quarter. And nontraditional still being shut. Yes, the nontraditionals as well are impacted by that, too. All the college kids are not back, right? Or if they are back, they're maybe on-campus or they're in their town where the university is, in some cases, if they're not home in Toronto or Calgary or Montreal or whatever, but they're not on-campus as well. So there's all those compounding effects, I guess. And that's -- I contrast that also with something like the United States where you saw -- it's definitely different state-by-state, but a lot more of a return to somewhat more normal behavior with restaurants, especially QSR general down there as we have -- if you look at our restaurants, we're saying roughly 725 locations. I mean, basically about 300 locations of all our nontraditionals are pretty much not able to operate right now. So that's a quite a unique factor for us. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Derek J. Lessard, TD Securities Equity Research - Research Analyst [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And that makes sense. Have you noticed as well from maybe some of your competitors or other QSRs, I guess in the second wave that they were more prepared for it, offering curbside pickup and different offerings than they would first time around? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Paul Goddard, Pizza Pizza Limited - CEO, President & Director [5] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I think so. Yes, I think that we -- perhaps we were one of the quickest ones along with maybe a few other brands that were -- have the capability to shift really quickly to contactless, especially for our own organic delivery and pickup. And I think a lot of other independents, restaurants and non-pizza players, they're pretty much at the mercy of the third parties. And so it helps them get in that game. And I think there is also more of a surge of those people to get on those platforms, which just makes sense because it was their only option, right? If you're at a place like a sports bar, somewhere that's more fast-casual, your only option, in most cases, is to use those third-party aggregators, and albeit at very high commission levels. So I do wonder about the sustainability of that. But in the short term, it does get those folks sales more. And I think there was a catch-up to some of those different competitors of different types may have been able to do more as of the year wore on versus in the sort of late spring, early summer, I think we were one of the few. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Derek J. Lessard, TD Securities Equity Research - Research Analyst [6] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And how is that -- how is the competitive environment playing out, I guess, as we exit or kind of get into the end of the first quarter here. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Paul Goddard, Pizza Pizza Limited - CEO, President & Director [7] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. I mean, we'll see. I mean, we certainly still have many of those -- but there's restrictions in place, for instance, in Ontario. It's definitely an impact for us still. Our nontraditional business is still very essentially nonexistent largely right now. We do think that will come back. We'll rebound these questions. When will it rebound? And right now, it's just too early to say. I'm pretty conservative on when it will return in my own view, just I think it will be more towards the end of this year. That's just my thought. But it will take a while. I think if people are vaccinated or we get some combination of broad vaccination nationwide pretty much. And also and/or herd immunity as well, people are still not going to be confident enough. Even if they are confident, the government restrictions are still going to keep people in some of these most populated regions like Ontario Québec, from actually enjoying restaurants in a closed environment until we see those numbers staying down for a long time. So we're really trying to focus on, look, pickups has actually been quite strong for us, deliveries. Those things we know we're good at and the sort of delivery done better mantra that we have in the company let's prove that we can do it better than anyone else putting third-party delivery people. It's trusted driver and a uniform. It's going to be hot, our time guarantee is something that is a key part of our brand as well that people expect and differentiates us from these folks who just can't really do that, right? And you're typically going to get even a driver you recognize many times with us. So trying to highlight that service aspect, the food quality and innovation as well as -- we've got the pipeline there, some exciting things. I think that will help play out this year. So I feel sort of optimistic, but it's going to take a while for that nontraditional to come back in that group ordering, catering behavior, schools, all that stuff is a very significant volume for us. And it's just still a big question mark as to when does that return? I think we'll be in a good position when it does. But until then, it's hard for us to really replace that volume, if you know what I mean? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Derek J. Lessard, TD Securities Equity Research - Research Analyst [8] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. No, that -- I mean, it makes perfect sense. And maybe just still touching on the subject, as you alluded to, more from a high level, how are you thinking about the business and how you're positioned coming out of the pandemic? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Paul Goddard, Pizza Pizza Limited - CEO, President & Director [9] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Well, I guess what I tried to give people a sense of was that we are really seeing it as an opportunity to take share. There are so many things that we are not happy about, obviously, with our nontraditional group order business being so nonexistent. But we do see, because of the weakness, I mean, there's real estate opportunities. We are starting to see signs of prices coming down there. We've been able to successfully negotiate lease extensions and things at quite an attractive level. And I think people also see that we're a really solid financial player and brand in the market as well. So that all does give us leverage. And so we're quite ambitious about our build this year, accelerating our renovations, and we're trying to make sure we keep our cost down for the franchisees and time it for them so that we're not hurting the cash flow of the units at a unit level for the stores. But I just see -- I do see a lot of opportunity because if we can really push do the things well that we can control that drive volume. Obviously, value is continuing to be a very key part, but we've really also, I think, emphasized quality and food innovation. So we're getting new customers we didn't use to get, whether the alternative Crusts and Thins, Gourmet Thins and our digital channel focus. We're leveraging the data, I mean, the whole service -- Curt's role is to just provide more strategic oversight right across the enterprise as well and really leverage all that investment that we've spent for years to build up our data platform and our data warehouse to really just get more insights into a true household view like never before in terms of what our customers are doing. We've tracked the transaction data very well for a long time now with our loyalty program and whatnot. But we haven't necessarily been able to until recently been able to really get a full household view of everything that a household might be doing. And that's actually quite complex. Easy to say, but complex to actually do. So we think that the level of insights we have is something that very few people have, maybe only the top few players in QSR. So we think that we're -- we should be able to leverage that more, especially with a real focus and a senior level focus with Curt and his team. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Derek J. Lessard, TD Securities Equity Research - Research Analyst [10] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'm looking forward to that. I guess there's just one more for me because you touched on it. Just maybe if you can speak to some of your franchisee pipeline and the franchisee health. I mean, it seems it's pretty healthy given 5% growth that you're looking for this year. But maybe just some comments on that. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Paul Goddard, Pizza Pizza Limited - CEO, President & Director [11] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sure. I mean, I'm not -- I don't want to paint a picture of the things, we're rosy all over the place, but I think that I've got a good sense this past year, I did a lot of advocacy with the industry as well with Chamber of Commerce and Restaurants Canada and things. Everyone is so (inaudible) trying to get hopefully better policy from governments on the wage subsidy and things like that. And certainly, governments listen, they tend to not necessarily do a great job on execution. But I think that there's at least the intention and certainly, what I learned is that so many restaurants, I mean, almost every restaurant I can think about there in the industry is suffering, right? I mean, some more than others, sports bars and fast-casual and those that don't really have a deliverable product. It's really terrible for them. And I think when subsidies run out, it's going to be really a tough picture. But I think for us, we see our financial health overall quite good. We went through a lot of pain last year by really closing locations that were just -- probably should have been closed even sooner. So I think the worst performers are at the bottom of our pile, really, we made some decisions to not extend leases and renew, which -- on a given case, even I can think of some cases even in Downtown Toronto, where we decided not to renew a lease and actually a really good location, but it wasn't really doing that great. And now those 2 adjacent territories are doing so much better, and we're still very close to the customers. So we've been able to maintain the service level and help to franchisees with the financial performance much better. So I think the sort of EBITDA per store type of metric is actually pretty good overall. And I think stores seem to be -- now that we've kind of achieved that critical mass of that refreshed new look and the uniforms and even if they're light -- front lobby refreshes in some cases versus a brand-new store, it really does rejuvenate people, I think, and people say, I want that. So I think that there's a pretty good sort of overall group psychology going on. And I think despite the fact that we're not physically in the office, most of us, it's -- we're almost all remote, our operations team and our overall broader team, no matter what part of the company they're working in. They're very connected to the franchisees. And I think the franchisees are ironically, probably more in touch with everybody inside the company, too. So I think we're working through it with them, and they know that we're very ambitious along with them to try and come out of this more strongly. So there's frustrations there, too. But I think overall, we've weathered it quite well relative to others. I mean, I think at least we're in pizza delivery business, right? I mean, versus some other sectors or even other parts of QSR that still really have a really uphill battle. I mean our -- we want to get back to, obviously, increasing dividends eventually, but we just -- we've got work to do to get to that level. But I do like our financial position, obviously, right? Our dividend is very safe. We've -- we're in a good place, I think, to go on offense here while others are in a timid retreating mode. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Derek J. Lessard, TD Securities Equity Research - Research Analyst [12] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. Thanks for the color, Paul, and understandably a tough market all around. And I think you guys are operating quite well given the circumstances. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [13] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- There are no further questions at this time. I will turn the call back over to Christine D'Sylva. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Christine D'Sylva, Pizza Pizza Limited - CFO [14] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you, and thank you, everyone, for being on the call with us this afternoon. If you do have any questions after the call, please contact us. Our information is on the earnings release. Have a great evening. Stay safe and healthy. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [15] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's conference call. Thank you for participating. You may now disconnect.