Jack in the Box

Apr 7, 2021 | Report Announcements

Jack’s traditional burger/chicken menu is known for variety, innovation and a taco distinction (addressing cravings throughout the day & munchies at night) with 4 strong dayparts, including late-night which benefits from 24/7 drive-thru access. Although this is a regional system with almost 70% of its stores located in California & Texas, the brand enjoys leading QSR hamburger share in 8 of its 10 major markets. Brand positioning benefits from an improvement in its value equation with price point offers spanning $1, $3 & up. Notably, discounting is kept to LTOs as opposed to core products. New product news sharply ramped-up from ~1/2 of the segment average during 2019 to ~2x the segment average in 2020 and its chicken upgrade improved the quality, thickness and flavor of its new Cluck sandwich & all-white meat crispy strips. The chain is also enjoying success with sales of its lower priced snacks and sides which appeal to value seekers while also driving incremental add-on sales from its more premium customers (without causing trade-down). Notably, its 4Q20 average check increased +26% y/y, reflecting more items per order, a higher premium mix and a doubling of its app & delivery sales. Fortunately, the chain’s CMO role finally has been filled by an exec with experience as KFC’s chief digital officer. Jack’s going forward sales should continue to benefit from: strong direction from a new senior management team; the chain’s improved value/upsell equation; menu innovation strength; operational improvements (including faster speeds at the drive-thru); and its drive-thru model which works so well post-lockdown (particularly in California). All-the-same, it is important to note that the brand is challenged to compete around price value given the high labor and real estate costs associated with its West Coast orientation. To this point, its EBITDAR margin has declined 3 out of the last 4 years since its 2016 peak despite a system high AUV. Will Jack be able to maintain its value orientation after a return to normal reduces the number of items per check? In conclusion, while Jack has strengthened its very important value positioning, it must be prepared for a return to normal when margin support will require high tickets without the luxury of a high item count, and this may require a continued move towards increasing its premium mix without alienating its core value-oriented customers.

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