Papa John’s is executing around a solid strategy of restoring its upscale positioning which, while working for now, may need to be tweaked towards value depending on the economy.
• While AUV’s continue to benefit from the closure of underperforming stores over the last 2 years, significant 2022 sales headwinds reflect the need to pass along higher prices to consumers with less disposable income.
• The average 2021 unit-level EBITDAR margin for the $1B+ chains rebounded to just under the 2019 level as higher COGS were more than off-set by lower labor and operating costs, both of which benefitted from significant sales leverage.
Domino’s extended record of sales outperformance is now threatened by a necessary move away from its core equities in the form of price certain value and fast delivery while it pivots towards carryout and higher prices.
While Wendy’s has done well to magnify its significant menu prowess sufficient to generate a respectable +14% cumulative U.S. comp growth from 2019 – 2021, the chain must continue to work to translate its QSR+ positioning into increased frequency from a higher income demo sufficient to drive a higher check and in-line comp performance.
• Subway is the largest sub sandwich chain by far with an ad budget larger by multiples than the other sub chains.
• Notably, a +29% comp rebound in 2021 followed a -20% 2020 decline and 2021 digital sales are triple 2019 levels, supported by its FreshBuzz App and loyalty program.
• Subway’s well-conceived upscale Refresh must now pivot to value if the system is to endure an economic downturn that is disproportionately afflicting its lower income core demo.
• 1Q22 same store sales for the $1B+ Chains increased +6.1% (+14.7% 3-yr stack) on slowing momentum (relative to +11.5% during 4Q21) with 7 of 30 chains reporting negative sales (compared to just 1 in 4Q21).
• With food-away-from-home CPI up +6.7% during the quarter, it is easy to see that comp growth is primarily attributable to menu price increases as opposed to traffic.
While McDonald’s is currently well positioned with solid execution around very sound fundamentals, its core value oriented customers are caught in an inflationary spiral which may require a sacrificial pivot towards price value from this iconic brand which has worked so hard to earn America’s trust over the many decades.
• 2021 gross unit development rate of +2.6% for the $1B+ Chains was in-line with 2019 and is expected to grow +3.1% in 2022 despite headwinds.
• 2021 closure rates for the $1B+ chains improved from 2020’s elevated levels, but net unit growth was below the overall industry.
• Systemwide sales for the $1B+ Chains increased +15.7% during 2021 (+9.9% 2-year stacked basis) compared to +32.8% (+14.9% 2-year stacked basis) for the total restaurant industry and total restaurant industry market share for the $1B+ Chains has steadily declined to the lowest level in 19 years.
Total 2021 net marketing spend for the $1B+ Chain restaurants increased +8.9% y/y (+2.8% 2-yr. stack) to $6.9B, reflecting the benefit of +15.7% systemwide sales growth (+9.9% 2-yr. stack) somewhat off-set by lower net marketing spend as a percent of sales (continuing a longer-term trend in which marketing spend has declined from 3.1% in 2017 to 2.6% in 2021). Notably, total net restaurant marketing spend as a % of total domestic spend across all industries has declined from 3.2% in 2017 to 2.5% in 2021 as the chains appear less impressed with marketing ROI compared to other industries.
While Jimmy John’s has taken important steps to improve its relevancy, a sustained sales rebound for the chain would certainly benefit from a return of office workers and an increase in the availability of affordable delivery drivers sufficient to support the chain’s “freaky fast” core equity that distinguishes in a crowded field.