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Edited Transcript of WEN earnings conference call or presentation 26-Feb-20 1:30pm GMT

Q4 2019 Wendys Co Earnings Call

Atlanta Mar 9, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Wendys Co earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 1:30:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Greg Lemenchick

The Wendy's Company - Director of IR

* Gunther Plosch

The Wendy's Company - CFO

* Todd Allan Penegor

The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Andrew Strelzik

BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Restaurants Analyst

* Andrew Michael Charles

Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - Director

* Christopher Thomas O'Cull

Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD & Senior Analyst

* David Sterling Palmer

Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Senior MD & Fundamental Research Analyst

* Dennis Geiger

UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst of Restaurants

* Eric Andrew Gonzalez

KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - Restaurants 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 Stephenson Glass

Morgan Stanley, Research Division - MD

* 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 Sandler & Co., Research Division - Assistant VP & Research Analyst

* Katherine Irene Fogertey

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - VP & Derivatives Research Strategist

* Matthew James DiFrisco

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

* Nerses Setyan

Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - Senior VP of Equity Research & Senior Equity Analyst

* Sara Harkavy Senatore

Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division - Senior Research Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good morning. Welcome to The Wendy's Company Earnings Results Conference Call. (Operator Instructions)

Thank you. Greg Lemenchick, Senior Director, Investor Relations and Corporate FP&A, you may begin your conference.

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Greg Lemenchick, The Wendy's Company - Director of IR [2]

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Thank you and good morning, everyone. Today's conference call and webcast includes a PowerPoint presentation which is available on our Investor Relations website, irwendys.com.

Before we begin, please take note of the safe harbor statement that appears at the end of our earnings release. This disclosure reminds investors that certain information we may discuss today is forward-looking. Various factors could affect our results and cause those results to differ materially from the projections set forth in our forward-looking statements.

Also, some of today's comments will reference non-GAAP financial measures. Investors should refer to our reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measure at the end of this presentation or in our earnings release.

On our call today, our President and Chief Executive Officer, Todd Penegor, will provide an update on key initiatives; and our Chief Financial Officer; Gunther Plosch, will review our fourth quarter and full year 2019 results as well as our 2020 outlook. From there, we will open up the line for questions.

With that, I will hand things over to Todd.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Thanks, Greg, and good morning, everyone. I'd like to open today's remarks with the Wendy's vision as it is important to remember that our goal is to become the world's most thriving and beloved restaurant brand. Everything we do at Wendy's ladders up to this vision: to build an even stronger brand. Our vision is powerful, and you will see throughout our remarks today that we have momentum, have become more focused and are set up for accelerated long-term growth that will help us achieve this vision.

Before we dive into 2020, let's begin with a few highlights from 2019, which demonstrates the momentum we have in our business heading into an exciting year for the Wendy's brand. We finished the year with a strong system-wide sales increase of 4.4% that exceeded our expectations on the backdrop of robust North America same-restaurant sales of 2.8% and continued restaurant expansion as we opened 182 new restaurants across the globe. 2019 was an investment year, helping to lay the foundation for accelerated growth in the years to come. We invested approximately $17 million to support our launch of breakfast and another $5 million to roll out scanners to our North America system to help with the integration across all our digital platforms. As expected, we finished the year with approximately flat adjusted EBITDA and EPS versus the prior year. We had another strong year of free cash flow as we generated $221 million. This allowed us to return approximately $314 million to shareholders in the way of share repurchases and dividends. Lastly, we could not be more excited about our upcoming breakfast launch. A lot of work has been completed, and our system is fully staffed and trained. We are ready to launch what we believe will be America's favorite breakfast nationally across the U.S. on March 2.

I could not be more proud to say that we have achieved our ninth consecutive year of North America same-restaurant sales growth, which is a streak we plan on keeping alive in 2020 and beyond. Throughout 2019, we focused on enticing customers to visit one more time and to spend one more dollar, and this strategy was successful as we achieved one of our strongest same-restaurant sales performances over this 9-year stretch. This strong performance in 2019 was driven by accelerating same-restaurant sales growth in the back half of the year, which sets us up extremely well heading into the current year. We are approaching 2020 from a position of strength and momentum with the full support of the franchise system behind us. We will continue to partner with our franchisees to ensure we are providing customers with promotions that bring them into our restaurants more frequently, that are operationally sound, with the restaurant economic model at the core of it all. We believe that scale matters, and that we are well positioned to win now and over the long term as we can deliver on the consumer need for speed, convenience and affordability while separating ourselves with quality. Our system is engaged, and we are excited about our plans for 2020.

With that, I will now hand things over to GP, who will provide more details on our 2019 results.

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [4]

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Thanks, Todd. As Todd mentioned, 2019 was an investment year for us, helping to lay the foundation for accelerated growth in the years to come. Let's jump into our full year financial results. The increase in adjusted revenues was due to positive same-restaurant sales at franchise and company restaurants as well as an increase in company-operated restaurant sales from the acquisition of restaurants as part of our ongoing system optimization strategy. Revenues were also driven by approximately $38 million of pass-through payments related to subleases as part of the new lease accounting standard. Company restaurant margin decreased by 30 basis points to 15.5%, primarily driven by labor rate inflation and higher commodity costs, partially offset by the positive sales mix from company same-restaurant sales growth of 3.1%. Adjusted EBITDA met our expectations, coming in flat at $413 million, even with approximately $22 million in investments for growth. Adjusted EBITDA was impacted by our previously mentioned $17 million investment to support our launch of breakfast and another $5 million to rollout scanners to our North America system as well as an increase in G&A. This was offset by an increase in franchise royalty revenue and an increase in restaurant margin dollars due to increased sales at our company restaurants. Adjusted earnings per share was flat for the full year at $0.59. This was driven from fewer shares outstanding as a result of our share repurchase programs, offset by an increase in income taxes. To round things out, free cash flow came in at $221 million, down about $10 million year-over-year. The decrease resulted primarily from an increase in capital expenditures.

Now let's turn to quarter 4. We were very pleased with our results as we closed out the year with very strong same-restaurant sales growth. Let's dive into the numbers. The increase in adjusted revenues was due primarily to positive same-restaurant sales of 4.3% in North America. Adjusted revenues were also driven by approximately $9 million of pass-through payments related to subleases as part of the new lease accounting standard. Year-over-year company restaurant margins decreased by 170 basis points to 14.3%, primarily driven by labor rate inflation, higher insurance costs and higher commodity costs. This was partially offset by sales leverage from company same-restaurant sales growth. Excluding the legal reserve for the financial institutions case that was recorded in the fourth quarter of 2018, G&A increased by approximately 23% primarily as a result of higher incentive compensation. As expected, adjusted EBITDA decreased by about 23% to $83 million. This was primarily driven by investments to support the U.S. systems in advance of our breakfast launch in Q1. An increase in G&A and a decrease in net rental income also drove unfavorability. This was partially offset by an increase in franchise royalty revenues and fees on the backdrop of strong system sales growth. Lastly, adjusted earnings per share decreased by approximately 50% in the fourth quarter to $0.08 driven by a decrease in adjusted EBITDA.

With that, I will pass things over to Todd to talk about our 2020 plans.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [5]

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Thanks, GP. Our formula is simple, yet powerful: accelerate same-restaurant sales and drive global restaurant expansion with a strong restaurant economic model to fuel this growth. I'd like to provide a brief update on our 2020 strategy for each of our growth initiatives, starting with our one more visit, one more dollar strategy that is gaining momentum.

Our marketing strategy contributed to strong North America same-restaurant sales growth of 4.3% in Q4 and led us to finish the full year at 2.8%, one of our best results over the last decade. Same-restaurant sales grew over 4% in the back half of 2019, driving significant momentum into our core business as we head into our launch of breakfast. Spicy Nuggets were once again a powerful promotion in the fourth quarter as customers continued to show up for this offering. This was followed by the 2 for $5 Meal Deal, which showcases some of our top premium menu items in the Dave's Single and Spicy Chicken Sandwich as well as our Chicken Nuggets, including spicy. This promotion drove a strong average check in the fourth quarter as customers regularly added fries and a drink to this offering.

We plan to accelerate and drive further flavor and innovation through our Made to Crave platform in 2020. We recently brought back the iconic Big Bacon Classic and added it to this lineup, highlighting our freshly prepared bacon and our fresh, never-frozen beef in a delicious sandwich. We will continue to utilize our Made to Crave platform by leveraging news to keep the platform fresh and ownable.

The continued strong performance of our core business is critical to our success as we embark on a year of transformational growth with our launch of breakfast, and we believe that we have a plan that sets us up for success. After over 2 years of preparation, we are ready to launch what we believe will be America's favorite breakfast across the U.S. system on March 2. There is strong customer demand for breakfast at Wendy's, and our franchise system is fully aligned to this launch as we have designed a program that we expect to benefit the overall restaurant economic model. Our system has been very busy recruiting for the breakfast daypart, and we are excited to report that we are fully staffed and ready for launch. We have also spent the last few weeks training our crews. As expected, training has gone very smoothly as the menu was designed to be simple and easy to execute. Our system is energized and excited to bring the breakfast offering to life for our customers. We have created a differentiated menu with mass customer appeal that capitalizes on our quality heritage, featuring the Breakfast Baconator, Frosty-ccino and Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit. We are excited to deliver America the breakfast it deserves, and we will be driving awareness in a big way.

Our digital business experienced strong growth in 2019, and we laid the foundation for future success. We expanded our delivery and mobile ordering businesses and technology capabilities in the restaurant with our installation of scanners across the North America system. In 2019, we had approximately 2.5% of our U.S. sales coming through digital channels, which doubled from the end of 2018. We are energized by the work occurring in the digital space to improve access to the Wendy's brand. In 2020, we are expanding our delivery business with additional partners in Grubhub and Uber Eats, continuing to bring convenience into the hands of our customers by working to improve our mobile-ordering capabilities and lastly, to launch our loyalty program. Awareness will remain a key focus in 2020 as we ramp up the integration of our digital initiatives into our advertising. With the plans we have in place, we are well on our way to achieving our goal of 10% of our sales coming through digital channels by 2024.

At the end of the day, we will not be successful if we can't deliver a great experience when customers visit our restaurants. Our team is highly focused on 2 areas: speed and great-tasting food. Improving speed of service to increase throughput is key to driving increased sales and higher customer satisfaction in our restaurants as well as to ensure that our breakfast launch reaches its full potential. We have implemented several new training procedures that we expect will have outsized benefits in this area. On delivering great-tasting food, we will continue to enhance our operational procedures to ensure that our products are being delivered to customers at the highest quality possible, and we will continue to do more throughout the year. This will all be brought to life by having our restaurants fully staffed and trained. As previously mentioned, we have been successful hiring for the breakfast daypart in a very challenging labor market, and I could not be more proud of the team. In addition to showcasing why Wendy's is a great place to work, we have also launched a new central hiring website that has helped the overall hiring process. This has been a huge win, and we expect continued benefits in the future. Operational excellence is paramount in our journey to become the best Wendy's we can be, and we know that we have more opportunities ahead to be even better.

We are pleased with our U.S. development results for 2019 as we met our expected growth goal of about 1%. Our reimaging program also remains on track as franchisees continue to see the benefits from this program with higher sales and customer counts. We now have 58% of our global restaurants in the new image. As we move into 2020, we are expecting our U.S. footprint to continue to expand based on the tailwinds that we have created with our groundbreaker incentive program and our Smart Family of Designs, which has significantly lowered the cost to build a Wendy's restaurant. In addition, we are also continuing to focus on nontraditional channels, which will also provide a tailwind in 2020 and beyond to our U.S. pipeline. Lastly, we are expecting 2020 to be a busy year from a system optimization perspective as we are planning to refranchise our company-operated New York market. We believe that getting these restaurants into the hands of franchisees will help unlock significant growth in this market. As a reminder, we will be retaining our Manhattan restaurants. We are also planning to complete approximately 100 franchise flips in 2020, which will further strengthen our franchise base.

2019 was an exciting year for our international business and one where we laid the foundation for the future. As discussed at our Investor Day, the team was very busy working through our long-term international strategy in 2019. As part of this, we have developed a global leadership team that is focused and disciplined with a relentless commitment to economics and growth. With the economic model as a key focus, we did a full assessment of our current footprint and franchisees. One such decision, as previously announced, was to expand into the U.K. market and to do so by opening company restaurants to kick-start development. On the flip side, we have had to make some tough decisions as we prioritize our growth markets and resources. We closed our Malaysian market in the first quarter of 2019 and also made the decision to exit Brazil in the fourth quarter. We had 5 restaurants in Brazil, which were part of a joint venture. As a result of this market closure, it created a profit headwind of approximately $2 million in 2019. This groundwork has strengthened our foundation and feel great momentum as we finish 2019 with approximately 7% system sales growth internationally. We also had some big wins where we signed large development agreements in Canada and the Philippines, which will set us up for the future. As we look forward to 2020, it is all about accelerated growth. We will continue to grow our existing markets to scale and are very excited to enter a new market in the United Kingdom. We are expecting that we will more than double our net new restaurant openings internationally in 2020 as we embark on our plan to double our system sales to $2 billion by 2024. We know that international is a huge opportunity for the Wendy's brand, and we are excited to grow this business with our great franchise partners.

In order to bring The Wendy's Way to life, we must remain focused on investing in the quality of our food, providing great value, delivering exceptional service and elevating our restaurants. We will bring this to life through our focus in 2020 by continuing the strong momentum within our core business, launching into the breakfast daypart and enhancing our digital platforms to create even more touch points with our consumers. We will have a focus on speed and great-tasting food to create an experience that brings people into a Wendy's more frequently. Lastly, we will continue to provide more access to the brand around the world through our global development plans and continue to create a place customers love to go through our reimaging program.

It is important to remember that our system is one family, and we wouldn't be able to do any of this without the support and dedication of our franchisees. With the passion they bring to the brand day in and day out, I know that we will become the world's most thriving and beloved restaurant brand.

I will now hand things back over to GP.

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [6]

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Thanks, Todd. I would now like to walk you through our 2020 outlook, which is very consistent with what we have shared previously. As we move into 2020, our road map remains unchanged. We are striving to become an accelerated, efficient growth company that is showcasing meaningful systemwide sales growth on the backdrop of accelerating same-restaurant sales and global restaurant expansion which is translating into significant free cash flows.

Now let's take a deeper look into our key financial metrics, starting with global system-wide sales. Strong system-wide sales growth of 4.4% in 2019 pushed us to the high end of our global system-wide sales range as we ended the year at $10.9 billion. We expect our 2020 system-wide sales to grow approximately 10% to 15%, which equates to $12 billion to $12.5 billion. We expect this growth to come through core growth of 4% to 5%, comprised of same-restaurant sales in existing dayparts, digital acceleration and global restaurant development. We expect an additional 6% to 8% of growth from our breakfast launch, and finally, the 53rd week will add about 2% of growth.

Moving on to adjusted EBITDA, which we expect to grow mid-single digits to $425 million to $435 million. Core growth, breakfast and the 53rd week are all EBITDA tailwinds, offset by the New York disposition where we expect to sell about 40 restaurants by midyear. As a reminder on the breakfast investments, we are still anticipating that we will have a loss on our breakfast business in 2020 due to the marketing investments we are making.

Now that our breakfast plans are set, we wanted to provide some details on our expected advertising investment in 2020, on how you can expect this to flow on our financial statements. Over the course of 2020, we plan to spend approximately $70 million to $80 million of advertising to promote awareness and frequency within the breakfast daypart. This will drive our working media weights up about 30% higher than they are today. And it's important to remember that we will not be reducing our lunch and dinner spending as a result of our breakfast launch. In accordance with revenue recognition standards, the advertising expense related to Brexit will be smooth evenly across the quarters, starting on a pro rated basis beginning in quarter 1. We expect adjusted earnings per share to grow to $0.60 to $0.62 in 2020 on the backdrop of adjusted EBITDA growth and continued benefits from our share repurchase programs, partially offset by higher tax rate in 2020 as we lap the onetime benefits we had from a tax reserve release in 2019. Finally, we expect our free cash flow to grow to $230 million to $240 million, fueled by strong core earnings growth. Lastly, we expect capital expenditures to be approximately $75 million, which is our expected run rate moving forward as we balance our investments in development, technology and maintenance capital.

As I close, I would like to highlight our capital allocation policy, which remains unchanged. Our first priority remains investing in profitable growth. We are disciplined in our investment choices and we are always focused on ensuring a strong financial return for our franchisees and for us, as the franchisor. We remain committed to maintaining an attractive dividend with a payout ratio north of 50%, and will utilize excess cash to repurchase shares and/or reduce debt. As a reminder, we increased our dividend twice in 2019 to a quarterly amount of $0.12 per share. This is an increase of over 40%. On the share repurchase front, we recently completed our previous $225 million share repurchase authorization, and our Board has authorized a new $100 million program expiring in February of 2021. We also executed the repurchase of approximately $10 million of our debentures in the fourth quarter. Our formula is simple yet powerful. We are an accelerated, efficient growth company that is showcasing strong system-wide sales growth on the backdrop of positive same-restaurant sales and global restaurant expansion, which is translating into significant free cash flows.

I will now hand things over to Greg to close it out.

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Greg Lemenchick, The Wendy's Company - Director of IR [7]

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Thanks, GP. I wanted to quickly take a moment to provide an update on our segment reporting structure. In May 2019, we announced realignment of our business as we saw an opportunity to increase our effectiveness by driving clear accountabilities for growth across the organization. In order to better align our reporting with the organizational structure, we have changed our previous North America and International segments by combining our Canadian business with the International segment and separating our real estate and development operations into its own segment. Our future reporting will reflect our results in the following 3 segments: U.S., International and Global Real Estate and Development. For more information regarding the changes related to our new segment reporting structure and for our 2017 through 2019 results as reported under this new structure, please reference the segment reporting update presentation that is publicly available in the Supplemental Financial Information section of our Investor Relations website at irwendys.com.

Now let's turn to our upcoming IR calendar. We will head to New York City on Tuesday, March 3, for a roadshow with Bank of America, then on to the UBS Conference the following day in Boston. The following week, on March 12, we will attend the JPMorgan Conference in Las Vegas. If you're interested in meeting with us at any of these events, please contact the respective sell-side analyst or equity sales contact at the host firm. And finally, on Wednesday, May 6, we plan to release our first quarter earnings and host a conference call that same morning.

With that, we are now ready to take your 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 Chris O'Cull from Stifel.

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Christopher Thomas O'Cull, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD & Senior Analyst [2]

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It looks like your guidance calls for 6% to 8% breakfast sales mix for 2020 or roughly that amount. I guess you're probably assuming some cannibalization, but how quickly do you expect to be within that range?

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Chris, the way we talked about it at Investor Day and the way we're thinking about it is we'll drive a lot of awareness with advertising as we start our national launch here on March 2. Our hope is, and our desire is, to drive a lot of trial early during the course of the year. But we do believe it will be a build throughout the year, and really talked about how we will exit the year at that kind of mix as we really work to ingrain the habit with consumers to come to Wendy's more often into the future.

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Christopher Thomas O'Cull, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD & Senior Analyst [4]

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And then, Todd, outside of sales performance, what other consumer metrics will you be evaluating to determine if the breakfast rollout is meeting your goals?

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [5]

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Yes, I think there's a few things, right? We know we need to be breakfast fast in the morning. So speed of service is critical. As the consumer comes into the restaurant for the breakfast daypart, we want to make sure that we are delivering high-quality, great-tasting food, day in and day out, to make sure that they are wowed so we can ingrain the habit and they want to get us into their morning routine. And we'll continue to monitor sales in a relative sales performance to the competition moving forward, but making sure that we're doing it in a very profitable fashion for our franchise community.

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Operator [6]

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Your next question comes from Jeffrey Bernstein of 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. First, on the comps that you talked about, sequentially improving in the fourth quarter. And it seems like on a 2-year basis, it improved every quarter of 2019. With that as a backdrop, it does seem like the check was the driver with traffic still negative. So I'm just wondering whether you're comfortable with that imbalance, or how you plan to maybe better balance that. And is there anything in particular that you'd attribute that accelerating momentum, whether it's a specific new product or daypart or anything like that? Any color you could add? And I think you made mention of momentum continued into '20, so I don't know whether you'd offer any color on the quarter-to-date first quarter.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [8]

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Yes, Jeff, we're very proud of the momentum that we built in the back half of the year in our business. With the new segment reporting, you can actually see the U.S. same-restaurant sales, 4.5% in Q3. Again, 4.5% in Q4. As we talked about last year or I guess in the end of 2018, we really wanted to get a better balance between traffic and mix. And as you think about where we went during the course of 2019 and how we went -- worked through the fourth quarter, we did see strong check growth as we did expect. A lot of it in the fourth quarter was relapping over that $1 Any Size Fry promotion from a year ago. But we're really starting to see the benefits of that one more visit, one more dollar promotional calendar that we set up during the course of 2019. If you think about our check growth, it's been approximately half price, half mix, so we feel comfortable with that balance. And customer counts were down slightly as we lapped over some of the promotional activities that we had in the prior year, especially in the fourth quarter as we lapped over the $1 Any Size Fry promotion. But we feel good that we've got the right balance. And the traffic function is more getting the rate balance between our promotional high-low one more visit, one more dollar calendar than anything else. So we feel good about where we stand and really started to build momentum with the reintroduction of Spicy Chicken Nuggets. It allowed us to hit all of our digital platforms, hit our social media platform, advertise that, get more folks into our restaurants and then really wow them with some great experiences day in and day out in the restaurant.

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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 my other question was on profitability. You mentioned in the release that you dealt with labor inflation, commodity inflation and down traffic, so those are kind of the big 3 components, and all of them being headwinds. Your restaurant margins were down significantly. I'm just wondering whether you could talk about sentiment from franchisees on their profitability. And looking ahead, maybe what your expectation is for labor commodity and traffic and I guess, pricing to offset that in 2020?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [10]

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Jeff, yes, on the company side, the fourth quarter, I would say, most items definitely went to plan. There was one exception on about 110 basis points of headwinds due to a true-up in our insurance reserves. Also, I would say commodity inflation was pretty strong in the fourth quarter, about 3.2%. That's up versus about 2% in the third quarter and the 2% commodity inflation we experienced on the year. I would also say labor inflation ticked up a little bit at about 4.5%, where we ended on the year with about 4% inflation.

As to your question in terms of how our franchisees are tracking, they're probably -- in general, we always say they are tracking closely to our performance. Since we had this onetime insurance true-up effect in the fourth quarter, some of our franchise community might not have experienced that.

As far as outlook for 2020, our expectation is that our restaurant margin, the company restaurant is going to expand slightly, definitely driven by a little bit of profitability on breakfast. We have sales growth that we are banking on, but we do expect inflation. And we do expect inflation on the labor side of about 4% and on the commodity side, north of 2%.

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Operator [11]

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Your next question comes from Eric Gonzalez of KeyBanc Capital Markets.

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Eric Andrew Gonzalez, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - Restaurants Analyst [12]

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So I appreciate the range on the breakfast advertising spend. Is that range dependent on the sales mix achieved? And how does that range change if you don't achieve the targeted mix or you exceed the targeted mix?

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [13]

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Yes, Eric, as we talked about, we're committed to breakfast, and we're going to ingrain the habit and said that we will have commitments to support the system, ingrain the habit of breakfast over the next 3 years. So we are committed to the range that we had laid out in that $70 million to $80 million. The great news is it's all incremental dollars that we're bringing to the party. We're going to have more media pressure out there. We're not stealing from lunch or dinner. So we'll not only be able to showcase breakfast. We'll continue to be able to keep our nice support on lunch and dinner in all of our messaging. We'll have a great halo to fresh, high-quality food that Wendy's continues to deliver. If sales came in a little bit softer, we're not going to flinch. We're absolutely committed to this daypart, so we're very much committed to spend those kind of dollars during the course of this year.

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [14]

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And Eric, this is Gunther. Just to point out, it's not just a 1-year investment, it's a multiyear investment, so we definitely expect to put our money into this daypart for the next 3 years to be really unlock full, full profitability of breakfast come 2020.

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Eric Andrew Gonzalez, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division - Restaurants Analyst [15]

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And then just as a follow-up. Based on what you've seen thus far, I know you're a week away from launching, but have you seen the competitive response? Would you say it's more or less intense than what you previously expected?

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [16]

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Yes. Specifically, in regards to breakfast. Since everybody knows there's a new entrant coming into the breakfast daypart, we would have expected it to be highly competitive, and that's what we're seeing. There is a lot of competitive messaging out there, but we know that we'll have our messaging. We started in social. We'll have more coming on mainstream media where we started this week with Chef Mike. You'll see a lot more next week as we really roll out the full national campaign. We've got everything in the restaurants. The great news, as we said in the prepared remarks, is we're fully hired, which has been great. A lot of folks didn't think we could hire the staffing for that breakfast daypart and fully trained. And our teams are energized and excited and our systems all in behind breakfast to drive great execution, so we will make sure that we create a great first impression with all the trial that we have as we launch into the breakfast daypart.

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Operator [17]

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Your next question comes from Matthew DiFrisco of Guggenheim.

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Matthew James DiFrisco, Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Director and Senior Equity Analyst [18]

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GP, I think in the release, you mentioned that net rental income was down. I don't believe that number was -- has ever been really meaningful as far as down. It's been directionally up sequentially or even up year-over-year for most quarters. How should we think about that going forward? And how is that sort of embedded in your guidance? Or could you give us some color on why that was down year-over-year almost $5 million or so, it looks like?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [19]

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Matt, yes, what we have seen is a comparison base, right? We had a couple of onetime lease buyouts there that pushed our rental income stream last year. We didn't repeat this in the fourth quarter of this year. That's the negative comparison. I would say, on a go-forward basis, the net rental incomes that you are seeing for this year are probably quite representative of what you expect going forward.

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Matthew James DiFrisco, Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Director and Senior Equity Analyst [20]

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So pretty much flat on a income -- net income contribution basis year-over-year? So not really growing the EBITDA?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [21]

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Yes, that would be a good estimate.

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Operator [22]

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Your next question comes from David Palmer of Evercore ISI.

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David Sterling Palmer, Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Senior MD & Fundamental Research Analyst [23]

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Congrats on comps in recent quarters, in 2019, in particular. Question on chicken. We're seeing big growth from chicken sandwich players out there, Popeyes, Chick-Fil-A. Those guys operate in your regions or some of your key regions. Wendy's obviously has a phenomenal history with chicken sandwiches going back a long ways. You, yourself had some really good growth with Spicy Chicken Nuggets in the second half. So I wonder about the gives and takes on that platform. You're going to have to lap your Spicy Chicken Nuggets, you're going to see some competitors launch their own renovated chicken sandwich offerings. But you, yourself might see upside from that platform, if not '19, but in the future. So what are your thoughts about that on chicken? And I have a similar one on plant-based.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [24]

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Yes, David, on the chicken business, we've been very proud of our performance. Not only has the return of Spicy Chicken Nuggets been nice and healthy, it's actually been a nice mix driver for us as we've traded folks up from 4-piece into 6, 10 and even 50 pieces along the way. And with all the chicken wars going on, we were able to really engage with our social media team and create a lot of news around our own product and drive a lot of folks into our premium chicken sandwiches. And everything lined up nicely with our 2 for $5 promotion, where we had our premium sandwiches with our chicken sandwich as well as the Dave's Single as well as nuggets in that promotion, where we've seen a nice drive into our premium products, which is our best-tasting food as well as nice add-ons to the check, which help drive mix along the way. We're absolutely focused to continue to renovate and improve the quality, which we're already very proud of our chicken sandwich. We'll continue to do that through the course of this year. We'll continue to upgrade and enhance the operational procedures in the restaurants to make sure that we have the most tender juicy chicken in the business. So we are focused on that, but we are in a good position to continue to compete.

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David Sterling Palmer, Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Senior MD & Fundamental Research Analyst [25]

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And then on plant-based, there seems to be a ton of hype right now around plant-based products or meatless burgers. Burger King has been underperforming you guys on comps lately. They have a product, but in other words, it's not driving the monster comps that we're seeing from a Popeyes, for instance, with a Better Chicken sandwich. You tested a Black Bean Burger in the past. I don't know how you're thinking about this in the future. What are your early thoughts about testing or going into meatless? Do you think that's a potential big idea for Wendy's?

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [26]

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Yes, we'll have to see how the consumer votes with their stomach and whether it's a big idea. But we do think that plant-based is here to stay. Consumers looking for more protein in their diet. And we've always said we would do it The Wendy's Way with high-quality product if we entered into that space and would do it in an operationally effective way within our restaurants. We've tested several things. We've got a great Plantiful Burger in Canada that's tested quite well, and I'm sure you see that launch soon in that market. We've tested the Black Bean Burger, where we simplified the operational procedures. In the U.S., we've tested a plant-based chicken sandwich. So we've got an arsenal of plant-based products that we could sprinkle into our calendar as appropriate through the year. And it really allows for news, which I think is the biggest driver on a lot of this plant-based, as you bring on some news to the category. And you have provided some variety for those protein takers to rotate around from traditional proteins. So you will see us play in that space during the course of this year.

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Operator [27]

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Your next question comes from John Ivankoe of JPMorgan.

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

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I was wondering if there is any decision in terms of using some national promotional pricing to really drive a lot of interest in the initial trial in breakfast. And I have a few quick ones after that.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [29]

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Well, John, I wouldn't want to give the competitors our full promotional calendar and where we're managing our business. But we are locked and loaded. We built the economics in a fashion where we are committed to compete. We have our base plan as we get into our launch calendar next year -- or next week, rather. We've got our contingency plans in place if we needed to do other things. But we're really proud that we've got value built in across the entire menu. So we start there. We've got high-quality product, we've got competitive price points and we know that we're going to drive a lot of trial. And we're going to be really proud to get our great-tasting food and beverage offerings into the consumers' mouths.

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John William Ivankoe, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Restaurant Analyst [30]

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Sounds good and understood, I think, on the answer. And then secondly, as the intelligence in the market grows and franchisees have kind of have more time to think about it, the eventuality of breakfast kind of making profit at a store level on a couple of years basis, have you been able to hone in that number? I assume it's something south of 100, but I just wanted to get a sense at this point as we talk in February 2020, like how high that number might be? And then secondly, is there a push from the franchise community, kind of from the ground up to take certain stores or perhaps even certain markets to full 24 hours.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [31]

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Yes, from a full 24-hour perspective, not that push today. Those are always growth opportunities in the future for the right trade areas. From a breakfast perspective, we've really set it up for our franchisee to make money from Day 1, right? We've managed the upfront cost, we paid for the small wares, we've paid for some of the support on hiring and training, we've paid for the menu board work and a lot of that we got into last year's expenses. So they should be in a great spot to make money from Day 1. The work they had to do was hire and train, and we've got that now behind us so we're ready to execute going forward. GP, any thoughts?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [32]

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Yes, John, as Todd said, as we have taken away the need for them making any onetime investments, so there's immediate return. And we've obviously worked really hard on the breakeven points for the breakfast business. It was obviously a key hurdle we had to overcome with franchisees. And the combination of simple menu, only 3 crewmembers you need to run the daypart, gives us basically the financial flexibility. And then we got franchisees comfortable with those breakeven levels. As you know, we have introduced that new breakfast in about 300 restaurants beginning of last year, and we are seeing profitability levels as we expected in our modeling. So, so far, so good.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [33]

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And John, one last thing. I think you were asking about participation, right? So we've got roughly 5,850 restaurants in the U.S. business. We gave folks an opportunity if they're in a unique location to opt out. We only had about 80 restaurants that have opted out of breakfast. So we've got the whole system all-in to get ready to support the launch next week.

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John William Ivankoe, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Restaurant Analyst [34]

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And in terms of -- like if a franchisee, for example, has 10 stores and 9 of them make money and 1 of them doesn't, for whatever reason, it's outside of the original 80 that didn't opt in, is there something in the agreement that kind of requires all those stores, the franchise group stores to stay open? Or do you allow, I guess, some flexibility on a case-by-case basis? Just trying to get a sense of overall system penetration, not just in 2020 but over the next couple of years.

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [35]

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Hey, John, we're very confident with our breakfast offering EBITDA financials. But you're right, there is something in the agreement and on a case-by-case basis, on a very exceptional basis, we are willing to entertain the thought that franchisees can opt out after we have really aligned both franchisor and franchisee, that they have done everything they could to make the breakfast launch successful. Then we might help them out with a couple of actions.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [36]

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And John, that would be on a restaurant-by-restaurant basis, not on a franchise basis.

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Operator [37]

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Your next question comes from Andrew Strelzik of BMO Capital Markets.

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Andrew Strelzik, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - Restaurants Analyst [38]

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A couple of questions for me. First, just if you could give some color on the $5 million reduction on the cash flow guidance for 2020, that would be great.

And then my other question is just on the digital side. You have a number of things that you're working on there and seem pretty excited about the potential for digital mix to go higher over time. So I guess, in terms of 2020, what are you thinking to be kind of the key driver behind that to get that higher? And do we think about that starting early this year? Is that more of a back half type of inflection?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [39]

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So Andrew, on cash flow guidance, you're right. At Investor Day, we said cash flow would be $235 million to $245 million. You might remember beginning of December, we then filed the restructuring plan on our IT side of things that creates between $10 million -- $13 million and $15 million of onetime costs. That is hitting our after tax, our cash flow statement by about $10 million as a result. Beginning of December, we revised the cash flow outlook to $230 million to $240 million. So in other words, half of the headwind we covered internally, the other half, we lowered the guidance ever slightly. So in my book, we did not change our free cash flow guidance for next year.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [40]

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And on the digital front, we're excited about 3 things: one, we've got mobile offering out there, and we started to drive a lot of awareness in the back half of last year in our advertising campaigns. We'll continue to do that throughout the year. So I think you'll see a steady build on mobile ordering throughout the year. Delivery, I think you'll continue to see a build on that front. We're introducing new delivery partners with Grubhub and Uber Eats joining DoorDash. Working by the middle of the year to have it fully integrated into our POS to make for a more seamless experience at the restaurant and for the delivery drivers. So that will build as you get throughout the year. And then during the course of this year, we will introduce a loyalty program to really complete the ecosystem around our whole digital experience at the restaurants. So I think you'll see all of those things really contribute to adoption and retaining digital consumers. And we like the digital consumer, right? They're much more frequent with a higher average check, but I think you'll see that as a steady build throughout the year.

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Operator [41]

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Your next question comes from Andrew Charles of Cowen and Company.

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Andrew Michael Charles, Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - Director [42]

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Your largest franchisee in the U.S. experienced some challenges from other brands in their portfolio that very clearly do not stem from the Wendy's brand. And I have 2 questions about this. First, I was hoping you could talk about the contingency plan in place to avoid any disruption in store operations during this period of turbulence for them. And then secondly, if the Wendy's locations are sold to another franchisee, either in parts or in the entirety, is there any reason to think you wouldn't be eligible to collect the franchise flip fee? Basically, does the guidance for 100 franchise flips embed any locations from your largest franchisee?

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [43]

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Yes, thanks for the question, Andrew. And I know there's been a lot of press. So NPC is the largest franchise that you're referring to. They have about 400 Wendy's restaurants. And as of today, NPC is fully committed to growing their Wendy's business through operational excellence, reimaging, new development. They are big supporters of the breakfast launch, and they're all in on breakfast to grow the business. And their Wendy's business is performing quite well, and they have momentum in their business. We'll continue to stay close to them as they manage through their overall capital structure and their opportunities for the future. If they did want to do some things and wanted to partner with us on potentially selling some Wendy's restaurants, obviously, we'd be there to help, and we could manage those through a franchise flip. But their business is quite good on the Wendy's side, and they're fully committed to driving that into the future.

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Operator [44]

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Your next question comes from John Glass of Morgan Stanley.

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John Stephenson Glass, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - MD [45]

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Just going back to breakfast for a moment. One is how does breakfast interact or how does it change your average check? Are we going to be talking about in 2020, sort of higher transaction counts but pressure on check and by what degree of magnitude do you think? And just going back to the question about value and competitive response. I understand you say there's value across that menu, but you're also eager to show the franchisees this is profitable. So does that, in any way, limit your ability to offer value, real competitive value if the competitive set really goes there? Or do you feel like you've prenegotiated everything and even in the worst circumstances of competitive pressure, you've got the answer that you need?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [46]

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John, so on check related to breakfast. So we definitely expect in our core business. So rest of day, definitely check to increase behind pricing and continued positive mix behind one more visit, one more dollar. Breakfast daypart is definitely a daypart that has above-average profitability but below average check. So obviously, we are adding 6% to 8% of sales. That will mean that on the surface, that the good work we're doing on check expansion on the core business will be kind of offset partially by the lower average check we have on breakfast. But that downward pressure on average check will obviously be more than outweighed by very, very positive traffic growth that we are expecting. So that's kind of the check dynamics you should be expecting for 2020.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [47]

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And on value within the breakfast segment. Clearly, we do believe we got value across the menu, but we have built the economic model with a strong promotional calendar to drive trial and ingrain the habit with the consumer. And you can see this week, we had a national coupon drop that you probably picked up in your mail today or yesterday. We'll continue to monitor the competitive situation and make sure that we're competitive. And we've got those plans in place. And the great news is, in spirit of the partnership and alignment with the system, those plans have been pre-aligned, so we know where we need to go to compete and how we'll promote to compete if we need to go there.

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John Stephenson Glass, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - MD [48]

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Okay. And then just a follow-up modeling question. Is the sale of -- how much does the sale of the New York market ex Manhattan help store margins in the back half? I would think it would be a pretty significant benefit or could be a significant benefit. Do you anticipate that in the back half?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [49]

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Great question. Actually, impact on profitability is actually minor, right? We have actually very sizable restaurants there that have good profitability, so there's no material impact on the restaurant margin.

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Operator [50]

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Your next question comes from Jeff Farmer of Gordon Haskett.

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Jeffrey Daniel Farmer, Gordon Haskett Research Advisors - MD & Senior Analyst of Restaurants [51]

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I have a follow-up question on the $70 million to $80 million in breakfast advertising in 2020. I'm just curious what that implies about Wendy's corporate advertising contribution that goes above and beyond. I think it would be the royalty reallocation on those breakfast sale dollars. So I'm just curious what Wendy's corporate contribution to that $70 million to $80 million in breakfast advertising spending would be in 2020?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [52]

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Yes, Jeff, you're thinking about this correctly. The contribution that we are going to make is between $40 million and $50 million. So as you work through the P&L for breakfast, you will then come to the conclusion that we are making still a loss in breakfast in 2020, less of a loss than we obviously had in '19 as we did our initial investments. And again, we would expect, as the breakfast daypart grows, that we are starting to make a profit on the breakfast daypart as a company in 2021 while still actually contributing cash in '21 and '22 to make sure that habit gets ingrained with our consumers.

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Jeffrey Daniel Farmer, Gordon Haskett Research Advisors - MD & Senior Analyst of Restaurants [53]

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And just one other follow-up, a little bit more challenging, but what is the implied 2020 same-store sales guidance range that's captured in that $12 billion to $12.5 billion system sales guidance numbers -- guidance number. Obviously, there's a lot of moving pieces to that. So any color you can provide on that would be helpful.

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [54]

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Yes, as you have seen in the prepared remarks, our total global system sales growth is between 10% and 15%. We said unit growth is about 1.5% to 2% growth. So on a global basis, system sales growth is slightly north of 10%.

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Operator [55]

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

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Gregory Ryan Francfort, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate [56]

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I just had 2 questions. And I'm a big fan of the Black Bean Burger, so I'm going to make an unsolicited plug for that. But I had 2 questions. The first is just on NPC. Are they paying you today? I think there's been some comments that they might not be paying Yum!, and so I just wanted to kind of clear up -- are they paying you today, and if they would pay you through a bankruptcy?

And the other question I had was just on breakeven mixes. And you've sort of commented on kind of getting the breakeven mix down for the Wendy's system was a key priority around breakfast. Any sense or sort of clarifying what number that is either in 2020 or on a run rate basis in terms of where franchisees make money at breakfast?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [57]

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Greg, yes, so NPC is fully current with their receivables and the rent payments they owe to us. So we see no problem. We have a great working relationship with them and obviously are in regular contact with them. So no concerns on that side. The second question was...

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Gregory Ryan Francfort, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate [58]

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The second question was just on a breakeven mix rates for breakfast.

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [59]

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I don't want to comment on it, right? It was obviously compelling enough for franchisees to get over the hurdle and say like, yes, 99% of our restaurants are going to participate in breakfast because the stuff is compelling. And with all these financial information now today on media weight, so I'm not going to give any more [details].

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Operator [60]

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Your next question comes from Sara Senatore of Bernstein.

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Sara Harkavy Senatore, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [61]

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I have a question on international development, and then another follow-up question on breakfast. On the international growth, I know you mentioned leaving a couple of small markets. But I think about the track record of your expansion, I think there have been a little -- a bit more in the way of fits and starts than we've seen some -- with some other companies in terms of entering and exiting markets. Could you just talk a little bit about if there are any commonalities among the markets you've exited? Is it about the partners that you've had versus the end market and consumer demand? Just trying to understand kind of the -- what feels a little, like I said, a bit more choppy in terms of that growth.

And then on breakfast, could you just talk little bit about the product line? Are there significant differences between this launch and the last one, besides just you mentioned simplicity, but things that maybe are more compelling in terms of menu news this time around?

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [62]

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Yes. On the international, I think if you really want to come down to what the common thread is, it's really the economic model, right? We haven't been able to deliver a strong economic model in the markets that we had exited. And it was taking a disproportionate amount of time between the local franchise partner and us to really bring those opportunities to life. So we did exit Malaysia early in the year. We did exit Brazil, which was 5 restaurants. It was complicated. We had a 3-way joint venture, so some good learnings from that. But what we really wanted to do is pave the way for the team to really be focused around scaling up the existing markets that we have, as Abigail talked about at our Investor Day, and then get ready for our launch into the U.K., which is all on track to really support some growth, not just into the U.K., but into Europe over time.

On the breakfast side of the business, we do have a simple yet profitable menu that we've really set up with some very craveable food items. So if you think about taking some of our signature products and turning them into great craveable items in the morning daypart, The Breakfast Baconator is to die for, a great opportunity for folks to come in and experience our food on that front. Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit is another truly differentiated food item that is favorable. You have seasoned potatoes in the restaurants, which is a nice differentiator. You got Frosty-ccino with cold brew coffee with our Frosty mix. Half the fat, half the calories of a frappucino, which is another great one. And then we've got all the other lineups, products lined up against the competitive set. So fastball down the middle, all SKUs that will move nice and strong. And importantly, high-quality. Fresh cracked eggs on all of our sandwiches every single day. Our fresh, never frozen oven-baked Smoked Applewood Bacon (sic) [Applewood Smoked Bacon]. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it right now.

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Operator [63]

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Your next question comes from Katherine Fogertey of Goldman Sachs.

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Katherine Irene Fogertey, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - VP & Derivatives Research Strategist [64]

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I have a few questions here. So first of all, as we think about the cadence throughout the year, kind of taking breakfast aside and looking at the stand-alone rest of daypart businesses, is there anything we should be keeping in mind as far as periods in a year where maybe you had maybe some benefit from promotional activity from third-party delivery? Anything that we should have on our radar?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [65]

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No big kind of ups and downs. You obviously -- we had momentum in the second half. We had lower growth in the first half. That probably will be a little bit more evenly distributed as we go on the core growth side of things. As you know, breakfast is going to build. We only have 4 weeks of breakfast business in the first quarter, so that's obviously going to be a relatively small contribution. And that's going to build, obviously, for the remaining 3 quarters.

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Katherine Irene Fogertey, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - VP & Derivatives Research Strategist [66]

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Great. And you've made some comments in the press release about taking price in 4Q with some other drivers in there. How are you guys thinking about price this year with the consumer a little bit pretty strong? Do you see a stronger opportunity to take price? Or is this something that you're a little bit more mindful of?

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [67]

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Yes, we're going to stay careful on pricing and watch the situation carefully, especially in the context, obviously, of commodity inflation of north of 2%. If we price, we will not go ahead of food away-from-home inflation. If we price, we'll probably stay at the end or thereabouts, within that range.

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Operator [68]

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Your next question comes from Dennis Geiger of UBS.

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Dennis Geiger, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst of Restaurants [69]

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You commented earlier some on the profitability of the 300-or-so stores that already are running breakfast. But is there anything more that you can say with respect to what you've seen in those test stores over -- in recent months? Anything where it's added to your confidence around your plans? Or if you've made any tweaks over the last few months, even at a high level, if that's with respect to cannibalization that you've seen, the operations and the drive-through efficiency? Any kind of additional franchisee response? Anything new that you've seen over the last several months would be helpful.

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [70]

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Dennis, yes, so what we've seen in those restaurants, literally, a confirmation of what we thought would happen. We saw when we switched out in these restaurants, the old breakfast to the new one, we saw a couple of things. We saw happier crews because the breakfast is just much simpler to work. We definitely saw the breakfast business building slightly versus what we had previously. So it seemed to go a little bit of word-of-mouth there since we didn't have advertising on it to drive this business a little bit better. And thirdly, I would say is we got comfortable that the financials that we modeled and the profitability we would be getting, we are seeing those levels. And last but not least, as we explained in the Investor Day, right, we used volumetrics modeling to actually size the price here. And then as we switched models, and especially as we introduced the breakfast into our 40-company restaurants, the sales levels without advertising were exactly in line with what the model was predicting. So that obviously increases our confidence as we turn on national media and launch support that then the daypart is going to behave as modeled.

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Operator [71]

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Your next question comes from Nick Setyan of Wedbush Securities.

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Nerses Setyan, Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - Senior VP of Equity Research & Senior Equity Analyst [72]

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Obviously, menu innovation plays a big part in your business. How are you thinking about menu innovation when it comes to the breakfast daypart? Is that something that's going to be relevant in 2020, or is that more down the road?

And then the second question is on the incremental $70 million, $80 million advertising spend, are there any other expenses related to the breakfast rollout on top of the marketing spend that we should be aware of?

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [73]

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Yes, Nick, as we think about innovation, we are clearly focused to make sure that we have the appropriate level of innovation across our lunch and dinner day part to not lose focus on that strong business. And we've got some great platforms that we can continue to innovate into, as we said on the prepared remarks. On breakfast, we really want to make sure that we ingrain the habit, and we're great executionally. So we know what our breakfast lineup looks like today and for the foreseeable future. But again, it's an opportunity for us in the future as we ingrain the habit to continue to innovate and provide news into that space as we learn more on how the consumer is interacting with us.

On the breakfast investments, I'll turn it over to GP.

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [74]

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Yes, Nick. So as you know, we made a onetime investment in quarter 4 of about $17 million. We said previously we're going to spend $20 million, so the remaining $3 million are going to be spent actually in 2020. It's really related for the recruiting campaigns that we also run in the early part of 2020 to make sure we get the hiring done. And we also have a little bit of a G&A investment that we are making to make sure that we have enough people in our business that look after this new daypart. So there's a little bit of additional investment over and above the $70 million to $80 million that we talked about. And obviously, just to be clear, all of that has been contemplated in our guidance.

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Operator [75]

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Your next question comes from Josh Long of Piper Sandler.

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Joshua C. Long, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Assistant VP & Research Analyst [76]

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Wanted to switch gears to the International segment and as we now approach the launch here in the U.S. of breakfast, and you mentioned several times that the staffing went well, and that was a key part to getting the breakfast piece launch. Thinking about how you're going to be opening up some of these stores in the U.K., if you could talk about your efforts there to build the team and get the infrastructure set up to allow for a successful launch there as we go forward.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [77]

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Yes, Josh. So we're in the early innings, as you know, in the U.K., but we have hired our first employees. So we've already set ourselves on that journey. We've identified several sites, so we're feeling good about preparing for our first restaurant openings. We're finalizing the menu, we've locked down our brand positioning, working through the restaurant designs and our technology. So all is on track. And we're bringing a new concept, a new restaurant to the U.K. with new facilities. And I think folks are really excited about having Wendy's enter that market. And when you have that kind of excitement, it certainly helps on your recruiting efforts. And we'll leverage a lot of the things that we've done here in the U.S. and the learnings to really ramp up for hiring. So we don't see any challenges on that front.

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Operator [78]

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Today's final question comes from Jon Tower of Wells Fargo.

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Jon Michael Tower, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst [79]

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Just a quick couple of ones. First, can you discuss the rationale behind outsourcing the IT function to Accenture?

And then second, in looking at the initial coupons for the breakfast push, I see there's a promotion featuring free coffee with the purchase. But has the idea of offering just free coffee without any purchase been considered at the stores? And I know that in Canada, one of your larger competitors, that seemed to have worked well for them to break into the market and actually be fairly successful at expanding that daypart. So was hoping you could maybe discuss that.

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Gunther Plosch, The Wendy's Company - CFO [80]

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John, so on the technology side of things, so we definitely came to the conclusion that it's important that we are competitive on the technology front. Our thought process was around we wanted to have flexibility and access to capabilities of a global technology leader that we think couldn't potentially be done internally. So that was one of the reasons why we made the decision. It actually also helps us to create a service model that is slightly cost advantaged, and so we are committed to actually not flow that cost advantage to the bottom line but actually reinvest that back into our technology to make sure that we're staying on the forefront.

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Todd Allan Penegor, The Wendy's Company - President, CEO & Director [81]

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Yes. And Jon, on the promotional calendar, I'm not going to give out any of the specifics. So we've got a lot of tools in the toolbox to make sure that we continue to be competitive. And our real focus is ingrain the habit. How do we get folks to show up at our restaurants, how do we have them trial our food and then how do we create great experiences to bring them back? So we've designed the economic model with a promotional cadence that we feel good about. That's been locked and loaded with the franchise community. Thanks for the question.

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Greg Lemenchick, The Wendy's Company - Director of IR [82]

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Thank you, Jon. That was our last question of the call. Thank you, Todd and GP, and thank you, everyone, for participating this morning. We look forward to speaking with you again on our first quarter conference call in May. Have a great day. You may now disconnect.