4Q23 Chain Restaurant Financial Performance Wrap-Up

Mar 19, 2024 | Insights, Restaurant Research

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The chain restaurants proved their resiliency with mostly healthy 4Q23 enterprise financial performance, even as the economy continued to slow towards the end of last year. In general, we find that consumers continue to enjoy affordable dining experiences, even as they reduce spending on goods (like home improvement projects). While post-covid traffic continues to decline (for reasons that are not entirely clear to us), restaurant operators have been mostly successful in passing along menu price increases to the more affluent demos sufficient to drive profits.

Comments

  • The QSR sector’s 4Q23 +8% y/y median revenue growth & 11.5% reported EBITDA margin was quite respectable & reveals that fast food is really a consumer staple for today’s society, even during periods of economic weakness. 
  • Further, many fast-food chains have developed unparalleled brand strength that is easily identified by their financial outperformance relative to an already strong QSR sector.  
  • Notably, revenue results for the heavily franchised systems do not necessarily reflect global system growth driven by franchisees that most of the chains are enjoying.  

4Q23 QSR Results Chart

  • Full-serve (FSR) 4Q23 results were more bifurcated, with strong results from the top 4 chains (36%) offset by the bottom 6 chains (55%) that reported revenue declines. This contrasts with only 16% of the QSR chains reporting sales declines during the quarter.
  • In any case, it is notable that the FSR’s 11% median EBITDA margin was just slightly lower than the QSR median, revealing that the sit-down chains are less likely to compete around price to drive traffic & top-line sales growth.
  • Fortunately, the FSR names are well positioned for an economic rebound when consumers are more likely to trade-up from fast food to a more premium experience. Hopefully coming soon!

4Q23 FSR Results Chart

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