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Edited Transcript of TAST.OQ earnings conference call or presentation 7-Nov-19 1:30pm GMT

Q3 2019 Carrols Restaurant Group Inc Earnings Call

Nov 14, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Carrols Restaurant Group Inc earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 1:30:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Daniel T. Accordino

Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO

* Timothy J. LaLonde

Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Interim CFO, Interim Treasurer & Interim VP

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Conference Call Participants

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* Brian M. Vaccaro

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

* Jake Rowland Bartlett

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst

* William Everett Slabaugh

Stephens Inc., Research Division - MD

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Welcome to the Carrols Restaurant Group Third Quarter 2019 Earnings Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) I would like to remind everyone that this conference call is being recorded today, Thursday, November 7, 2019, at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time and will be available for replay.

I will now turn the conference over to Mr. Tim LaLonde, Interim Chief Financial Officer. Please go ahead, sir.

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Timothy J. LaLonde, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Interim CFO, Interim Treasurer & Interim VP [2]

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Good morning, everyone. By now you should have access to our earnings announcements released earlier this morning, which is available on our website at www.carrols.com under the Investor Relations section.

Before we begin our remarks, I would like to remind everyone that our discussion will include forward-looking statements, which may consist of comments regarding our strategies, intentions, guidance or plans. These statements are not guarantees of future performance, and therefore, undue reliance should not be placed on them. We also refer to you to our filings with the SEC for more details, especially the risks that could impact our business and results.

During today's call, we will discuss certain non-GAAP measures that we believe can be useful in evaluating our performance. The presentation of this additional information should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for our results prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. A reconciliation to comparable generally accepted accounting principle measures is available with our earnings release.

With that, I will now turn the call over to Chairman and CEO of Carrols Restaurant Group, Dan Accordino.

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [3]

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Thanks, Tim, and good morning, everyone. Let me begin by expressing our deep sadness over the September passing of Paul Flanders, who served as our CFO for over 2 decades. He was a dear friend and colleague and is sorely, sorely missed by the entire Carrols' team. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family during this difficult time.

We have commenced a search for a new permanent CFO, but in the meantime, are thankful to Tim LaLonde who's been able to step in on an interim basis until a permanent replacement can be identified and appointed. Tim is a seasoned professional, with a little over 4 decades of finance and accounting experience and served as our own controller for 20 years. In the past 2 months, we have experienced a seamless transition as he temporarily rejoined the company.

With that, let's discuss the quarter. Total restaurant sales grew by more than 34% compared to the year ago period, to $402 million, mainly because of the Cambridge merger and was completed in the second quarter, which contributed nearly $72 million of restaurant sales to our top line as well as other smaller acquisitions completed over the past year. We also generated a robust 4.5% increase in comparable restaurant sales due to the effectiveness of Burger King's marketing strategy during the third quarter, with a gain consisting of both mix and traffic increases. On a 2-year basis, comparable restaurant sales grew 6.1%. We are further encouraged that the sales momentum we experienced in the third quarter has continued through October as well. However, restaurant-level EBITDA rose only modestly to $43 million from $41.6 million and restaurant-level EBITDA margin decreased 330 basis points due to 10.7% or -- to 10.7%. Adjusted EBITDA decreased $800,000 to $25.6 million and adjusted EBITDA margin declined 250 basis points to 6.4%. Finally, our adjusted net loss was $0.09 per diluted share compared to adjusted net income of $0.09 per diluted share in the prior quarter.

As referenced in the press release, our results were negatively impacted by combining sales discounts with respect to separate Whopper value meal promotions between June 3 and August 26, which resulted in significant additional sales discounts at our restaurants relative to those experienced in the Burger King franchise system and reduced restaurant sales by approximately $8.3 million and reduced adjusted EBITDA by $7.3 million. Adjusting for the excess sales discounts, our comparable same-store sales would have increased approximately 7.4% and our adjusted EBITDA would have been approximately $32.9 million in the third quarter. This issue also negatively impacted our restaurant sales in June, and on a year-to-date basis, reduced our restaurant sales by approximately $12.4 million and adjusted EBITDA by approximately $10.9 million. I will give more detail on the stack promotion later in my remarks, but we'll first comment on the most significant factors affecting our core top line performance in the third quarter.

Beginning with comparable restaurant sales, the Impossible Whopper launch in August was undoubtedly the biggest product news of the third quarter. The Impossible Whopper was not only additive to average check but also appears to have attracted new guests into our restaurants across all demographics and ages. From our observation, these guests included many millennials and Gen Z customers, who appreciate its messaging around sustainability, and lapsed users, including older customers, who had not visited us in a while but came back because of the Impossible Whopper. We are also encouraged by the product's healthy rates of repurchase and are therefore optimistic that over time Burger King can meaningfully build on the success that this plant-based platform has shown so far in 2019 and we expect will continue to show through the remainder of this year and beyond.

Importantly, the Impossible Whopper wasn't the only driver of Burger King's successful promotional messaging during the third quarter, the 2 for $6 Mix or Match sandwich platform delivered a consistent performance during the quarter as did other limited-time offers, such as the $4, $5, $6 Whopper Meal Deal. In the value segment, the full margin $1 Crispy Taco offer helped address a perceived gap in the value menu noted in the second quarter.

I now want to provide more detail around the nonrecurring promotional area that impacted our financial results. Had it not been for this issue, our results would have been much more in line with our expectations. They also would have been much more in line with what we expected to achieve in the fourth quarter and beyond, given the strong momentum we've seen carry us over from September into October. We discovered the issue in late August 2019 when comparing our significantly higher level of promotional discounts relative to the rest of the Burger King franchise system and our lagging same-store sales performance relative to other franchisees during the preceding 12 weeks.

For those of you who follow Carrols closely, you will know that we typically outperformed the Burger King system, which is why our underperformance raised a red flag when we received the comparative information for review. We eliminated these excess sales discounts on August 27, which resulted in an immediate improvement in sales from an immediate decline in promotional discounts. This led to improved sales and margin trends sequentially during the remainder of the third quarter, which you can see from the encouraging and unaffected September results that we disclosed in our press release. Note that these positive trends continued through October, so that in both September and October we are once again back to outperforming the broader U.S. Burger King system from a same-store sales perspective.

Now a brief comment on Popeyes. Although this brand currently represents less than 5% of our sales, same-store sales compared to preacquisition Cambridge sales increased 8.2% in the third quarter, driven by the successful launch of the new chicken sandwich, which was only featured for about 2 weeks in mid-August before being sold out. The sandwich just returned in early November as a permanent menu item chain-wide, and the initial results are extremely favorable. We are excited to grow our Popeyes business through both acquisitions and new restaurant development.

Turning to other factors that affected profitability. We were challenged by higher beef costs, which rose nearly 11% year-over-year, and by labor cost pressures as our average rate increased approximately 5.5%. Although Cambridge did not contribute materially to our overall profitability in the third quarter, the integration of the Cambridge restaurants is progressing very well and is proceeding on schedule. We've applied the same Carrols integration playbook that we developed and honed over the last decade. We are adding labor and training, which leads to improved guest satisfaction and accelerated same-store sales, and we are installing our point-of-sale and back-office -- back-of-house systems at the Cambridge Burger King restaurants, which should improve cost of sales due to the reduced theft and food waste. We will be finished with a rollout by mid-November. The current performance at the Cambridge restaurants is not a reflection of any shift in our business model fundamentals. It is simply a reflection of the investments required to drive long-term results.

We realize that it will take some time to see the full benefit of the acquisition flow through to our financial results and we do not expect that, that will be evident until next year. However, we are confident, based on our experience and our prior track record, that we can improve the sales and overall financial performance of these restaurants so that they contribute meaningfully to our overall growth and profitability. By realizing these improvements, we believe we can drive meaningful value-creation from the Cambridge restaurants as we have with so many acquisitions in the past.

On the M&A front, we continue to pursue a capital allocation strategy to drive long-term shareholder value and have a compelling pipeline of acquisition targets at both Burger King and Popeyes that we expect to close in the coming months. As a reminder, we have a $25 million share repurchase authorization in place, reflecting the Board's continued confidence in our strategy and value-creation potential. During the third quarter, we repurchased $2 million of our common stock in open market transactions. Although we believe that the Carrols stock price does not reflect the fair value of our business, we have many competing high-return options for capital allocation and are disciplined in balancing all of them while also maintaining sufficient liquidity and a prudent level of leverage. At an approximately 4x net debt to EBITDA, with a covenant-light term loan, we believe we are well capitalized to pursue our growth goals and will continue to evaluate all capital allocation decisions rigorously to compound shareholder value at attractive rates of return.

With that, let me turn the call over to Tim to review our financials in further detail and update our annual guidance.

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Timothy J. LaLonde, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Interim CFO, Interim Treasurer & Interim VP [4]

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Thanks, Dan. Restaurant sales for the third quarter increased 34.2% over the prior year period to $398.4 million, including $71.6 million in restaurant sales from the Cambridge acquisition. Comparable restaurant sales for our core Burger King restaurants, which excludes Cambridge and other restaurants acquired in the past 12 months, increased 5%, consisting of a 2.3% increase in average check and a 2.2% increase in customer traffic. Our average check increase reflected menu price increases of 1.2% in the quarter. Note that the excess discounts relative to our Whopper Value Meals, that Dan mentioned, negatively impacted our same-store sales by approximately 290 basis points during the third quarter. And adjusting for the impact of that issue, our comparable restaurant sales would have increased 7.4% in the third quarter and would have outperformed the broader Burger King North America system, which had a 5% comp sales increase, by approximately 240 basis points.

Adjusted EBITDA declined $800,000 in the quarter to $25.6 million from $25.6 million in the third quarter last year. As Dan mentioned, the excess sales discounts on our Whopper Value Meals reduced adjusted EBITDA by approximately $7.3 million in the third quarter and reduced adjusted EBITDA margin by approximately 180 basis points in the third quarter. We have made investments in training labor, as Dan mentioned, for the Cambridge Burger King restaurants as part of the integration to our restaurant systems, which we believe will enhance restaurant-level margins in the future.

Restaurant-level EBITDA increased $1.4 million to $43 million in the quarter from $41.6 million in the third quarter last year. Restaurant-level EBITDA margin was 10.7% of restaurant sales and decreased 330 basis points. The impact for the excess sales discounts also reduced restaurant-level EBITDA margin by 180 basis points in the third quarter.

Turning to other cost line items. Cost of sales, excluding the Cambridge 6 convenience stores, increased 190 basis points as a percentage of restaurant sales compared to the prior year period, which primarily reflected higher commodity costs, including a 10.7% increase in beef costs. Ground beef averaged $2.20 a pound in the third quarter compared to a $1.97 per pound in the third quarter last year.

Restaurant labor expense increased in the third quarter 77 basis points as a percentage of restaurant sales compared to the prior year quarter due primarily to a 5% increase in our average hourly rate in our Burger King restaurants.

Rent expense increased 46 basis points in the third quarter as a percentage of total revenues compared to the prior year period due to the high rents as a percentage of sales acquired in 2019 and the elimination of deferred gain amortization on sale-leaseback transactions this year as a result of the new lease accounting standard.

Other operating expenses increased 42 basis points in the third quarter as a percentage of total revenues compared to the prior year due to higher repair and maintenance expenses.

General and administrative expenses were $21.4 million in the third quarter of 2019, including $2.2 million in Cambridge acquisition costs and the integration costs compared to $17.6 million in the prior year period, which included $800,000 in acquisition costs and integration costs. Excluding these costs in both periods, general and administrative expenses declined 102 basis points to 4.6% as a percentage of total revenues.

Our net loss was $6.8 million in the third quarter or $0.15 per diluted share compared to net income of $3.6 million or $0.08 per diluted share in the prior period. The net loss for the third quarter of 2019 included $0.5 million of impairment charges and other lease charges, and $2.8 million of acquisition and integration costs.

Net income for the period included -- for the prior year quarter included $200,000 of impairment costs and charges, and $800,000 of acquisition expenses. Excluding these charges, adjusted net loss in the third quarter was $3.9 million or $0.09 per diluted share compared to adjusted net income of $4.2 million or $0.09 per diluted share. As a reminder, a summary of these adjustments in arriving at adjusted net loss are detailed in the tables accompanying this morning's release.

Total capital expenditures reflect $54.3 million in the third quarter of '19 compared to $97.4 million in the first 9 months. At the end of the third quarter, our cash balances were $2.6 million and total long-term debt and finance lease liabilities were $486.5 million.

With regard to liquidity, we ended the third quarter with $2.6 million in cash. And at the end of the third quarter, we had available under our revolving credit facility $53.9 million. Our net leverage ratio was approximately 4x consolidated EBITDA, as defined in our senior credit facility.

Lastly, as we've announced during our last call, our Board authorized a $25 million stock repurchase program, which we can use at our discretion to provide a tangible return of capital and support the long-term enhancement of value to shareholders. To that end, we repurchased in open market transactions a little over 283,000 shares of our stock for approximately $2 million during the third quarter, which was at an average purchase price of $7.10 per share.

Turning now to our 2019 guidance, we are revising certain items while maintaining others. These estimates exclude any other potential acquisitions that we may complete in 2019. Total restaurant sales are still expected to be $1.44 billion to $1.47 billion, including approximately $200 million of total revenues for Cambridge for approximately 8 months of results in 2019. Comparable restaurant sales are still expected to increase 2% to 3% for the year. Commodity costs are still expected to increase 3% to 4%, with beef costs increasing 7% to 9% for the year.

General and administrative expenses are still expected to be $68 million to $72 million, which excludes stock compensation expense and acquisition and integration costs. We also fully -- we expect to fully integrate the Cambridge corporate functions by the end of the year.

Our previous guidance of adjusted EBITDA of $100 million to $105 million remains unchanged other than for the negative impact on adjusted EBITDA of $10.9 million in the second and third quarters due to the excess sales discounts discussed earlier.

We are building more restaurants in Q4 than we previously guided. And as a result, capital expenditures are now expected to be $145 million to $155 million, which was previously $120 million to $130 million, which -- this includes $55 million to $65 million for the construction of 22 to 24 new Burger King restaurants and 9 to 11 new Popeyes restaurants. We also plan in 2019 to remodel a total of 90 -- approximately 92 Burger King restaurants and 4 Popeyes restaurants.

Our CapEx guidance for 2019 is gross of an $8 million landlord contribution related to certain 2019 remodels to be received in 2020. Proceeds from sale leasebacks are now expected to be approximately $44 million to $48 million, previously $15 million to $25 million. Finally, we expect to close up to 15 Burger King restaurants, including 2 restaurants that were relocated in their respective trade areas and of which 13 have already closed through the end of the third quarter.

That concludes our prepared remarks. So with that, operator, let's go ahead and open up the lines for questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions)

Your first question comes from Jake Bartlett with SunTrust.

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Jake Rowland Bartlett, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [2]

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I'd first just like to express my condolences for Paul's passing. I think the rest of the investment community, I think, we really appreciated the work he did with us, and he was a great guy.

And so, Dan, my first question is just really on this excess discounting. And if you can just kind of, really, kind of clearly explain what it was? And my understanding is that it related to the $4, $5, $6 Whopper promotion and that came with a small drink and sides, and you were offering any size for those, but you didn't see a related boost in traffic. If you could just clarify that, that understanding is right or wrong then that would be helpful?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [3]

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Yes. That's pretty close, Jake. The -- what we typically do when we run a 2 for $4 promotion or a 2 for $6 promotion, which doesn't include any ancillary items, is we induce people to attempt to trade up to a higher quantity, medium or large. This promotion was intended for only a value meal -- I mean, a value fry and a value drink to be purchased for a Whopper Junior at $4, a Whopper at $5 and a Double Whopper at $6. What we did was attempt to induce people to a trade up. And what therefore happened was you ended up with a double discount, because we typically don't do this with a value meal. Our value meals are already discounted, and by the way we handled this, you essentially ended up with a further discount on a value meal that was already discounted. So if you had $1.50 discount off a value meal, we gave you an additional discount on top of that. So it was not a successful strategy. It was not an accounting issue. It was not a systems issue. It was a mistake. We screwed up, and it cost us a fair amount of money. And when I saw the margins and I contacted Burger King after Q2 and said, "What in the world happened here, because we always outperform the system?," we did some research with them, some analysis with them and looked at our incidence of $4, $5 and $6 compared to the rest of the system, and essentially, we were giving a discount to everybody and we shouldn't have, and we didn't get a corresponding increase in traffic nor sales.

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Jake Rowland Bartlett, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [4]

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And you feel confident that it didn't boost your traffic? You feel confident of how you're able to kind of tease out the impact?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [5]

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Yes. We looked at it -- we did -- we analyzed in 3 different ways here, and I have Burger King analyze it separately. And our incidence of $4, $5 and $6 was exactly the same as the balance of the system. So in terms of people who actually took advantage of the promotion as it was intended, which was to buy it with a value fry and a value drink, we were giving discounts to people who otherwise didn't expect those discounts and we didn't get any additional traffic from that at all.

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Jake Rowland Bartlett, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [6]

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Got it. And then I think...

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [7]

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I think the issue, Jake, is we spent a lot of time dealing with this convoluted mistake. The fact of the matter is, it was a mistake. We screwed up. The underlying business is stronger than what our numbers reflect. And that's what we should be focused on, is the fact that it was a onetime error, and the underlying business is very good.

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Jake Rowland Bartlett, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [8]

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Got it. I appreciate that. And I think maybe to that end, it would be helpful if you could quantify your performance in October because obviously you already stated the strong results in September. I think that was also lapping Hurricane Florence, if I'm correct. But I think it would be helpful just to hear how the trends in October have been, which are maybe a little more clean?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [9]

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October is also trending very strong compared to -- it's consistent with what we had expected and were higher than the balance of the system.

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Jake Rowland Bartlett, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [10]

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Okay. Would it be stronger than September number that you've disclosed?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [11]

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No, not in terms of same-store sales. But in terms of -- relative to the balance of the system, there's still an adequate delta. No, when you look at -- I think where you're going, Jake, if you look at the Q4 sales comps, it's embedded in the annual guidance of 2% to 3%.

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Jake Rowland Bartlett, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [12]

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Got it. Okay.

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [13]

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All right.

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Jake Rowland Bartlett, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [14]

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Yes. That's really helpful. And then just lastly, just trying to...

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [15]

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You do understand the press release, Jake, because I'm not sure I did?

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Jake Rowland Bartlett, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [16]

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No, I think, I'm finally -- I think I'm getting it. I think I'm starting to get it now. So I appreciate it. It's very helpful. Lastly, for me. I wanted to just see if I can better understand the drag on margins from the Cambridge stores. If you could quantify that, it would be really helpful, if there's kind of a number you could provide as to what may be their margins were versus yours? Or we could do the math to see what kind of a drag it was. But I wanted to see if I could get that answer. And then also just to understand how quickly you expect the margins at those stores to improve in the coming quarters?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [17]

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Tim can give you what the margins were. And then I'll tell you what our expectation is in terms of the improvement.

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Timothy J. LaLonde, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Interim CFO, Interim Treasurer & Interim VP [18]

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Yes. The Cambridge stores from a same-store sales standpoint are not performing nearly as well as our legacy restaurants and that impacted the margins quite significantly. We still have -- we have a lot of opportunity in food costs. And we are -- we will be beginning those -- recognizing those benefits once we complete our POS installations, which will be done here in the next couple of weeks. And then as mentioned in the release, we also added some labor for training...

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [19]

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But what was the margin in Q3? That's what he's asking.

He's looking up that answer. The -- as far as the improvement, right now, Jake, there's about a 350 to 400 basis point delta in cost of sales between the Cambridge restaurants and our legacy stores. Now that we have our own POS systems in, we've been able to quantify that. Our expectation is that half of that will be corrected by mid-2020, and we will be on target with the legacy restaurant cost of sales improvements by the end of the year of 2020. Labor, we're already making the modifications that need to be made and those things will be on target by the end of Q1. What we're really focused on is the sales increase because right now the delta between the Cambridge sales and the legacy sales in terms of comp-store sales is not where it needs to be and that's primarily an operating issue, which is why we're adding labor currently to improve the restaurants. We've added management staffing, and we've added team member staffing. And we would expect, again, by the mid-2020 that those restaurants will be in a competitive shape.

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Timothy J. LaLonde, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Interim CFO, Interim Treasurer & Interim VP [20]

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Yes, Jake, our restaurant EBITDA contribution for Burger King and the Popeyes was about $3.2 million and at a margin between 4% to 5%.

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [21]

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It was de minimis, Jake.

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Operator [22]

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Your next question comes from Will Slabaugh from Stephens Inc.

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William Everett Slabaugh, Stephens Inc., Research Division - MD [23]

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I know there's a lot of noise in the quarter, but I was wondering how you would describe the underlying momentum of the business as you work throughout the quarter. And I know you mentioned on the last call, I think you were up 1.5% or so in July, but I'm assuming there was -- that's not an adjusted number. So just curious how you would describe sort of the cadence of the quarter as we work throughout the 3 months?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [24]

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We got stronger as the quarter went on, Jake (sic) [Will]. Each month -- while part of it is because the numbers that we were lapping last year got a little bit easier. But our sales trend is as we had expected and forecasted on our Q2 call, and we ended Q3 on a much stronger note and we expect that Q4 will also be consistent with our expectations.

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Timothy J. LaLonde, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Interim CFO, Interim Treasurer & Interim VP [25]

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September benefited from the launch of the Impossible Whopper, which did what we thought it was going to do. And looking at the rest of our menu item sales, it appeared to be almost 100% incremental.

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William Everett Slabaugh, Stephens Inc., Research Division - MD [26]

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Great. And I had a Cambridge follow-up as well. How are you thinking about the earnings power of that business for 2020 and beyond today versus when the acquisition was announced? I'm just curious if any thoughts have changed there?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [27]

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No, no. No, I'm still very optimistic about Cambridge. One of the things that we were impressed by was the fact that the -- we had real favorable opportunities in wage rates, which we can leverage. And we knew that the operating metrics were not strong and that we had real opportunity to improve the operations. And when you improve the operations, the sales also will be strong. The one thing I think that we have learned is that it's a very value-sensitive market. And consequently, we'll be focused in that area as well in terms of things that we can do to continue value offerings in those -- well, there's 2 things. It's a value-oriented market, and it's not responding to the Impossible Whopper to the extent that other places are, probably not surprising.

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William Everett Slabaugh, Stephens Inc., Research Division - MD [28]

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Makes sense. And then one more question, if I could, on the acquisition pipeline and plans for both Burger King and Popeyes. You mentioned you had a few stores -- or a few deals rather you're hoping to close by year-end. I'm curious if those are all Burger Kings or if you have some Popeyes in there? And just if you could talk about the pipelines in general for both brands.

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [29]

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We will have a few Burger Kings closed in this year in 2019, and we have a significant Popeyes acquisition that we are in negotiation with. We're, as a matter of fact, dealing with the contract issues as we speak, and we will close on that deal in the first quarter of 2020. So the acquisition pipeline in both brands is still quite strong. And our expectation is that we'll be at 130, 140 Popeyes by Q2 of 2020, and we will continue to be acquisitive in that -- with that brand as well as continue the new-build opportunities.

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Operator [30]

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(Operator Instructions)

Your next question comes from Brian Vaccaro with Raymond James.

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Brian M. Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [31]

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I just wanted to circle back on the Impossible Whopper. Obviously, a very strong product launch. Could you provide a little more color on how demand for the product or unit sales trended through the quarter and perhaps into October?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [32]

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The Impossible Whopper trend is pretty stable. We've been running at 30 to 35 units per day over the past several weeks, and that continues to be the trend. And as Tim indicated, it appears to be 100% incremental, because it has not negatively impacted our SKUs on Whopper sales at all.

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Timothy J. LaLonde, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Interim CFO, Interim Treasurer & Interim VP [33]

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If you look to, as Dan mentioned, the per-store, pe- day counts vary greatly within our system depending on the demographic, but we're averaging in the 30s.

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Brian M. Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [34]

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Okay. And the discounting issue and the promotion issue that you obviously identified, did that impact both Cambridge units and the legacy units?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [35]

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No, just the legacy restaurants.

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Brian M. Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [36]

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Just legacy, okay. And then [staying on with that], about the updated guidance excluding the discounting piece, I guess, just can you talk about the Cambridge assumption that's embedded in your $100 million to $105 million of adjusted EBITDA? Did that change at all versus last quarter?

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Timothy J. LaLonde, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Interim CFO, Interim Treasurer & Interim VP [37]

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I think the way to think of that would be, as I mentioned before on the margins, a slight improvement in the restaurant EBITDA.

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Brian M. Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [38]

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So versus your prior guide, you expect a little higher margins on those units?

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Timothy J. LaLonde, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Interim CFO, Interim Treasurer & Interim VP [39]

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No, sequentially, from the third quarter, it was what I was referencing.

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [40]

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No, it's consistent with what we guided to previously, Brian.

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Brian M. Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [41]

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Okay. All right. And then on the sale leaseback, the change there. Dan, can you elaborate a little bit on that, sort of build it up buying some incremental land, it sounds like for future organic growth? And what was the year-to-date proceed so far?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [42]

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Let me answer the first part of that. Yes, the Cambridge restaurants, there were some Burger King opportunities and Popeyes opportunities that were already in the pipeline when we did the deal, and it was owned real estate. So we were able to build those things in a more rapid pace in Q4, and that's part of the sale-leaseback issue. Right now, currently on -- in terms of sale-leaseback dollars -- what have we got in the bank right now?

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Timothy J. LaLonde, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Interim CFO, Interim Treasurer & Interim VP [43]

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We're expecting to close in the fourth quarter here about $39 million of sale leasebacks in about 4 or 5 different transactions, some transactions with multiple restaurants included.

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Brian M. Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [44]

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Okay. And then, I guess, last one, Dan, you talked about the Popeyes acquisition in the early part of next year. I noticed you're -- just thinking about the balance sheet a little bit, I noticed the debt, I think, was close to $490 million. I guess, how are you balancing the organic unit growth opportunity versus acquisitions? And is there an expected sort of amendment or additional capacity you might pursue into next year to provide that funding?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [45]

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Yes. I think that your question is, how am I going to pay for this. And yes, we're in the process currently of looking at financing alternatives, and we're in pretty good shape in terms of locking those up, and our leverage will be south of 4x. And consequently, we're confident that we'll be able to get the financing that we need at very favorable terms.

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Brian M. Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [46]

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Okay. And any color on the multiple on the Popeyes units, even a range?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [47]

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It will be between $6 million and $7 million.

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Brian M. Vaccaro, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - VP [48]

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Store-level EBITDA?

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [49]

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Yes.

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Operator [50]

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We have reached the end of the question-and-answer session. And I will now turn the call over to the management team for closing remarks.

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [51]

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Yes. So this is Dan...

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Operator [52]

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Apologies, we do have a follow-up question from Jake Bartlett of SunTrust.

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Jake Rowland Bartlett, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [53]

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I just snuck it in there. It was ending quicker than I thought.

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [54]

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Well, you just made it, Jake.

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Jake Rowland Bartlett, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division - Analyst [55]

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I know. So again, I just want to maybe pin you down on this a little bit more. As I look at the fourth quarter -- and the guidance range is just pretty wide when you kind of look at the implied guidance, I think it's about 1% to 5% for the fourth quarter. So any more color on where you think you're going to fall in that range, as I look to last quarter...

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Daniel T. Accordino, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. - Chairman of the Board, President & CEO [56]

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At the high end, Jake.

Yes. As a final comment, this is Dan, what I would like to say is, again, I apologize for the confusion around this discounting issue. It was -- it's difficult to explain. And that, I just want to make sure everybody understands. It's not an accounting issue. It's not an add-back issue. It's not a restatement issue. It was a mistake, and the underlying business is very strong. And I think that's what we focus on. And I think that's what our investors focus on. So thank you, and we'll talk to you in February.