A look at the major distributors’ financials provides some insight into the overall health of foodservice operators. Here are the quarterly reports for three of the largest U.S. foodservice distributors.

While the possibility exists the national distributors’ growth comes from taking business from smaller distributors, it is likely that higher operator sales played a role in driving case volume, too.

Economic News This Week

  • Initial jobless claims fell by 23,000 to a final level of 216,000 for the week ending Feb. 16. The 4-week moving average rose by 4,000 claims to a total of 235,750. The Department of Labor did not speculate as to the reason for recent swings in the number of claims being filed but the government shutdown is certainly a possibility.
  • The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index declined in January by a mere 0.1 percent. The three leading components in the Conference Board’s December Index are government statistics (manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials, manufacturers’ new orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft and building permits) which have not been available due to the government shutdown. The Conference Board has used estimates and will revise the index when the actual numbers are published.
  • Sales of existing homes likely “reached a cyclical low,” in January, per a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors. With home prices moderating and household incomes rising, the NAR feels sales could rebound.
  • Durable Goods Orders increased 1.2 percent in December led by transportation equipment, which rose 3.3 percent. Without transportation equipment durable goods orders were up 0.1 percent.

Foodservice News This Week

  • Fast Company chose Punch Bowl Social as one of its 50 most innovative companies. The 15-unit eatertainment concept offers bowling lanes, billiards and shuffle boards courts. Each Punch Bowl Social location features a unique design that pays homage to the area in which it operates. The Cleveland facility has a nine-hole mini golf course, the Arlington, Va., location has a giant Scrabble board and Punch Bowl Social in Chicago includes virtual reality. The creative menu (not just burgers and wings) focuses on sharable food. Ditto for the beverages, which include punches, booze-free craft cocktails, fresh juices, fizzes, floats and specialty sodas. The company plans to open eight locations this year.
  • Japanese-owned Ikinari Steak closed 7 of its 11 U.S. restaurants. The eating while standing style casual, lower price concept didn’t seem to catch on in the U.S. and the chain’s management said the company expanded too quickly. The restaurant chain will now introduce the pepper lunch, which is similar to Ikinari except guests cook their meat at the table using a temperature- controlled electromagnetic cooker.
  • Carrols Restaurant Group to acquire 166 Burger King and 55 Popeyes restaurants from Cambridge Franchise Holdings LLC. The units are in 10 southeastern and southern states. Cambridge will receive 7.36 million shares of Carols common stock plus Carrols convertible preferred that Cambridge can convert into approximately 7.45 million shares of Carrols common stock.
  • Amazon’s pullout from New York deal leaves some restaurant owners disappointed. The owners join the disappointment of land owners, realtors, potential employees and others in the Long Island City area where Amazon was planning to locate. Restaurant owners were eagerly looking forward to the business and the 25,000 new well-paid people it would bring. Some restaurant folks were philosophical over Amazon’s decision while others bitterly blamed some politicians and activists who opposed the deal.
  • Carrabba’s sales rise and beat expectations. The casual-dining 200-plus unit chain saw comparable store sales increase 0.8 percent as the result of rotating menu specials to drive sales on slower nights, increasing off-premise business and an aggressive loyalty program. More insights in Carrabba’s design and early mphasis on carryout in FE&S’ Facility Design Project of the Month 2013.
  • YUM Brands CEO Greg Creed intends to sell $2.3 million worth of shares of YUM Stock. He will still own 163,000 shares of YUM stock.
  • Corporate Stirrings: Texas Roadhouse says it will do it their way. The company has long been known for independent thinking. While many operators were rushing into the delivery business, Texas Roadhouse said last year the company would not pursue delivery because of food-quality issues. The steak chain said it will aggressively raise prices to offset higher labor costs. Many operators seek to avoid menu price increases as much as possible. Two “better for you” chains have agreed to merge. The Lemonade Restaurant Group and Modern Market Eatery will merge and become Modern Restaurant Concepts. Both firms are owned by Butterfly, a Los Angles-based private equity company. KKR, which has an investment in Lemonade, will become a shareholder in Modern Restaurant Concepts. The combined company will have a total of 58 locations. The financial terms of the deal were not announced.
  • Growth Chains: Poke chain Lemon Shark plans to open 7 locations in the first quarter and a total of 30 restaurants this year. Wing Zone will open a total of 12 locations in Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina in 2019. Dairy Queen opened 82 units in 2018 and plans on opening 70 more this year. Punch Bowl Social opened four locations in 2018 and plans to open eight locations this year.
  • Comparable Store Sales Reports: BJ’s Restaurants up 4.5 percent, Cheesecake Factory up 1.9 percent, Domino’s Pizza (U.S. up 5.6 percent, company owned up 3.6 percent and franchised up 5.7 percent), Jack in the Box (system down 0.1 percent, company owned up 0.5 percent and franchised down 0.1 percent), Ruth’s Chris Steak House down 0.1 percent, Texas Roadhouse (company owned up 5.6 percent and franchised up 4.8 percent) and Wendy’s up 1.4 percent.

For details and same-store sales of other chains, please click here for the latest Green Sheet.