Buffalo Wild Wings 10-K 2010
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, DC 20549
x Annual Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for the fiscal year ended December 27, 2009
¨ Transition Report Under Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for the transition period from to .
Commission File Number: 000-24743
BUFFALO WILD WINGS, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)>
5500 Wayzata Boulevard, Suite 1600, Minneapolis, MN 55416
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)
Registrant’s telephone number (952) 593-9943>
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. YES ¨ NO x
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. YES ¨ NO x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. YES x NO ¨
Indicate by a checkmark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). YES ¨ NO ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large Accelerated Filer ¨ Accelerated Filer x Non-Accelerated Filer ¨ Smaller Reporting Company ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Exchange Act Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). YES ¨ NO x
The aggregate market value of the voting stock held by non-affiliates was $573 million based on the closing sale price of the Company’s Common Stock as reported on the NASDAQ Stock Market on June 26, 2009.
The number of shares outstanding of the registrant’s common stock as of February 17, 2010: 18,059,205 shares.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the Proxy Statement for the 2010 Annual Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated by reference into Part III of this report.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
References in this document to “Buffalo Wild Wings,” “company,” “we,” “us” and “our” refer to the business of Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. and our subsidiaries. We maintain an Internet website address at www.buffalowildwings.com. We make available free of charge through our website our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and all amendments to those reports as soon as they are reasonably available after these materials are electronically filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). These materials are also accessible on the SEC’s web site at www.sec.gov. The public may read and copy any materials we file with the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, NE, Washington, DC 20549. The public may obtain information for the Public Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330.
We are an established and growing owner, operator, and franchisor of restaurants featuring a variety of boldly-flavored, cravable menu items including our Buffalo, New York-style chicken wings spun in any of our 14 signature sauces. Our restaurants create a welcoming neighborhood atmosphere that includes an extensive multi-media system, a full bar and an open layout, which appeals to sports fans and families alike. We differentiate our restaurants by the social environment we create and the connection we make with our team members, guests and the local community. Our guests have the option of watching sporting events or other popular programs on our projection screens and approximately 40 additional televisions, playing Buzztime® Trivia or video games. The open layout of our restaurants offers dining and bar areas that provide distinct seating choices for sports fans and families. Our unique service model, which provides the flexibility of ordering at the counter or table, allows our guests to customize their Buffalo Wild Wings® experience to meet their time demands, service preferences or the experience they are seeking of a workday lunch, a dine-in dinner, a take-out meal, an afternoon or evening enjoying a sporting event or a late-night craving. Buffalo Wild Wings® restaurants are the place people want to be; where any excuse to get together is a good one.
Buffalo Wild Wings® restaurants have widespread appeal and have won dozens of “Best Wings” and “Best Sports Bar” awards across the country. Our menu, competitively priced between the quick casual and casual dining segments, features traditional chicken wings, boneless wings, and other items including chicken tenders, Wild Flatbreads™, popcorn shrimp, specialty hamburgers and sandwiches, wraps, Buffalito® soft tacos, appetizers and salads. Our made-to-order menu items are enhanced by the bold flavor profile of our 14 signature sauces, ranging from Sweet BBQ™ to Blazin’®. Our restaurants offer approximately 20 domestic and imported beers on tap, including several local or regional micro-brews and a wide selection of bottled beers, wines, and liquor. This award-winning food and memorable experience drives guest visits and loyalty.
We have established our brand through coordinated marketing and operational execution that ensures brand recognition and quality and consistency throughout our concept. These efforts include marketing programs and irreverent, award-winning advertising to support both our company-owned and franchised restaurants. We also prominently feature our trademark Buffalo insignias, yellow and black colors, stylized buffalo images, sports memorabilia, dozens of televisions and projection screens, and exterior trade dress at our restaurants and as branding for our company materials. Our concept is further strengthened by our emphasis on operational excellence supported by stringent operating guidelines and comprehensive employee training in both company-owned and franchised restaurants.
Buffalo Wild Wings was founded in 1982 at a location near The Ohio State University. Our original name was Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck® and we became more popularly known as bw-3®. In 1991, we began our franchising program. In 2003, we completed an initial public offering and became a publicly-held company. Today, we are popular throughout the United States and widely recognized as Buffalo Wild Wings. As our tagline shouts, and our guests attest, You Have To Be Here™.
Our Concept and Business Strategy
Our goal is to continue to grow and develop the Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar® concept into a leading nationally and internationally recognized restaurant chain. To do so, we plan to execute the following strategies:
Our growth strategy involves opening company-owned and franchised restaurants in both new and existing markets. We believe that we have established and continue to expand the necessary infrastructure and control systems to support our disciplined growth strategy and that our concept can support over 1,000 restaurants in the United States. We have developed procedures for identifying new market opportunities, determining our expansion strategy in those markets and identifying sites for company-owned and franchised restaurants. Our growth strategy is moving toward a mix of approximately 40% company-owned restaurants and approximately 60% franchised restaurants. At the end of 2010, we anticipate that approximately 36% of the restaurants will be company-owned.
We intend to build additional company-owned restaurants in both new and existing markets. In most of our existing markets, we plan to continue to develop new company-owned restaurants until a market is penetrated to a point that will enable us to gain marketing and cost efficiencies. We intend to enter new markets by opening several restaurants within a one-year period to quickly build our brand awareness. We intend to grow our franchise system through the development of new restaurants by existing and new franchisees, focusing on multiple-unit area development agreements.
The Buffalo Wild Wings® Menu>
Our restaurants feature a variety of menu items including our Buffalo, New York-style chicken wings spun in one of our signature sauces from sweet to screamin’ hot: Sweet BBQ™, Teriyaki™, Mild™, Parmesan Garlic™, Medium™, Honey BBQ™, Spicy Garlic™, Asian Zing®, Caribbean Jerk™, Hot BBQ™, Hot™, Mango Habanero™, Wild® and Blazin’® . Our chicken wings can be ordered in sizes ranging from six to 100 wings, with larger orders available for parties. Our sauces complement and distinguish our wings to create a bold flavor profile for our guests. In addition to traditional and boneless chicken wings, our menu features a wide variety of food items including chicken tenders, Wild Flatbreads™, popcorn shrimp, specialty hamburgers and sandwiches, wraps, Buffalito® soft tacos, finger foods and salads. We also provide a 12 & Under Menu option for kids.
Our restaurants feature a full bar which offers an extensive selection of approximately 20 domestic and imported beers on tap as well as bottled beers, wine and liquor. Additionally, in order to continually improve our menu, our research and development department continuously tests and implements new menu items. Our goal is to balance the established menu offerings that appeal to our loyal guests with new menu items that increase guest frequency and attract new guests.
Restaurant Atmosphere and Layout
Our restaurants are sports grill and bars that provide a high-energy atmosphere where friends gather for camaraderie and to celebrate competition, as well as allow our guests the flexibility to customize their dining experience. The inviting and energetic environment of our restaurants is created using furnishings that can be easily rearranged to accommodate parties of various sizes. Our restaurants also feature distinct dining and bar areas with many of the restaurants having patio seating.
We strategically place approximately 50 HD flat-screen monitors and up to 10 projection screens throughout the restaurant to allow for easy viewing. These televisions, combined with our sound system, Buzztime® Trivia and assorted video games, provide a source of entertainment for our guests and reinforce the energetic nature of our concept. We tailor the content and volume of our video and audio programming to reflect our guests’ tastes. We believe the design of our restaurants enhances our guests’ experiences, drives repeat visits and solidifies the broad appeal of our concept.
All of our menu items are made-to-order and are available for take-out, which approximated 13% of restaurant sales for company-owned restaurants in 2009. Many of our restaurants have separate parking spots for our take-out guests.
Current Restaurant Locations
As of December 27, 2009, we owned or franchised 652 Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants in 42 states, of which 232 were company-owned and 420 were franchised. In 2010, our goal is to achieve 13 to 15% unit growth and open a net of approximately 88 new company-owned and franchised restaurants.
Our company-owned restaurants range in size from 3,900 to 9,700 square feet, with an average of approximately 5,700 square feet for restaurants that have opened in the last three years. We anticipate that future restaurants will range in size from 4,500 square feet to 6,500 square feet with an average cash investment per restaurant of approximately $1.75 million, excluding preopening expenses of approximately $225,000. From time to time, we expect that our restaurants may be smaller or larger or cost more or less than our targeted range, depending on the particular circumstances of the selected site or market. Also, from time to time, we expect to purchase the building or the land and building for certain restaurants, in which case the cash investment would be significantly higher. In 2008, we acquired eight restaurants from Avado Brands which are larger than our typical restaurant, ranging from 6,500 square feet to 9,800 square feet.
Our restaurants are typically open on a daily basis from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., although closing times vary depending on the day of the week and city and state regulations governing the sale of alcoholic beverages. Our franchise agreements require franchisees to operate their restaurants for a minimum of 12 hours a day.
Site Selection and Development
Our site selection process is integral to the successful execution of our growth strategy. We have processes for identifying, analyzing and assigning undeveloped markets for both company-owned and franchise development. Once a market is assigned, we use a trade area and site selection evaluation system, which has been customized for the requirements of the Buffalo Wild Wings® system, to assist in identifying suitable trade areas within that market and suitable sites within identified trade areas. Criteria examined to determine appropriate trade areas include the presence of a casual dining corridor, projected growth within the trade area, the locations of key big box retailers, key demographics and population density, drive time and trade area analysis and other quantitative and qualitative measures. Once a suitable trade area is identified, we examine site-specific details including visibility, signage, access, ability to get trade dress, and parking. Final approval by one or more members of our executive management team is required for each company-owned site. At least one senior franchise executive reviews each franchise site.
Marketing and Advertising
We have developed a unique marketing program designed to communicate a distinct and consistent brand that differentiates Buffalo Wild Wings® restaurants from our competitors and that showcases our food and our brand in a fun and energetic atmosphere. These efforts include national marketing campaigns and irreverent, award-winning advertising to support both our company-owned and franchised restaurants. The primary goal of these efforts is to build brand awareness throughout the United States. In addition, advertising campaigns are also designed to: i) drive positive same-store sales through additional visits by our existing guests and visits by new guests, ii) increase margins, iii) increase average order size, and iv) support strong restaurant openings.
Marketing Campaigns. Our primary marketing campaigns focus on our experience or a particular menu item, day or daypart in an attempt to drive traffic and build brand awareness. For example, in 2009 we promoted Wing Tuesdays, Boneless Thursdays, late night, and football. Our secondary marketing campaigns focus on reaching beyond the core Buffalo Wild Wings® guest. Given our strategy to be a neighborhood destination, community marketing is also a key to driving sales and developing brand awareness in each market. Our restaurants actively sponsor local sporting teams and sporting events to drive guest traffic associated with those activities.
Advertising. Our media advertising focuses on positioning the Buffalo Wild Wings® brand as an inviting neighborhood dining location. Our commercials, print advertisements and radio spots are irreverent by design and have been recognized in the restaurant and advertising industries for their creativity.
Franchise Involvement. System-wide campaigns and promotions are developed and implemented with input from the Buffalo Wild Wings National Advertising Advisory Board. This volunteer board includes six franchisees, elected annually by their peers, and meets regularly to review marketing strategies, provide input on advertising messages and vendor co-op programs, and discuss marketing objectives.
Our management team strives for operational excellence by recruiting, developing and supporting our highly qualified management teams and employees and implementing operational standards and best practices within our restaurants.
Restaurant Management. Our management structure consists of a General Manager, an Assistant General Manager and up to four other managers depending on sales volume of the restaurant. We utilize Regional Managers to oversee our General Managers in our company-owned locations, ensuring that they receive the training and support necessary to effectively operate their restaurants. Currently, we have 36 Regional Managers who oversee 4 to 8 restaurants each. As we expand geographically, we expect to add additional Regional Managers. Similarly, our franchised restaurants receive operational guidance from our 12 Franchise Consultants, who oversee 25 to 42 restaurants each. We have three Divisional Directors of Operations who have responsibility for all company and franchise operations and seven Directors of Operations who provide leadership to the Regional Managers and Franchise Consultants.
Kitchen Operations. An important aspect of our concept is the efficient design, layout and execution of our kitchen operations. Due to the relatively simple preparation of our menu items, the kitchen consists of fryers, grill and food prep stations that are arranged assembly-line style for maximum productivity. Given our menu and kitchen design, we are able to staff our kitchen with hourly Team Members who require only basic training before reaching full productivity. Additionally, we do not require the added expense of an on-site chef. The ease and simplicity of our kitchen operations allows us to achieve our goal of preparing casual dining quality food with minimal wait times. We also believe the ease of our kitchen operations creates a competitive advantage for our concept.
Training. We provide thorough training for management and hourly Team Members, with the goal of providing an excellent guest experience based on our service, food quality and engaging environment.
Our managers are trained using a hands-on education process during a seven-week period at one of our Certified Training Restaurants. During this training period, our manager trainees work in every aspect of the business, including both hourly and management functions. In addition, our General Managers and high-potential Assistant General Managers attend an off-site management skills class.
Our hourly Team Members complete a comprehensive position certification process. Station certification requires 16 to 20 hours of hands-on training. Team Members must also successfully pass position validations, menu certifications, responsible alcohol service training, and training on the safe handling of food.
Team Members who have demonstrated outstanding performance are provided opportunities for career advancement. Those with a high level of knowledge in one or more positions within the restaurant are encouraged to apply to enter the Wing Certified Trainer (WCT) program. The WCT candidate completes a training plan, which includes developing and evaluating his/her ability to train and influence the performance of Team Members. Our objective is to have at least four WCTs in each restaurant. Team Members who have performed successfully as Wing Certified Trainers in three or more station areas can apply to become All-Star Trainers. Our All-Star Trainers have the opportunity to travel around the country to assist with training at new restaurant openings.
Further, Team Members with management potential can participate in the Shift Leader program, which is a developmental program that provides hourly Team Members with the opportunity to build and demonstrate leadership capabilities while providing the restaurants with leaders who are trained to support management. The Shift Leader program helps us to identify talent and build bench strength throughout the organization – through the selection and training of those who have demonstrated the initiative, desire, behaviors and competencies necessary for success in restaurant management, or other positions of leadership.
Career Opportunities. Through our dynamic and progressive training programs, we are able to motivate and retain our field operations team by providing them with opportunities for increased responsibilities and advancement. In addition, we offer performance-based cash incentives tied to sales, profitability and qualitative measures such as guest and team-related metrics. We strive for a balance of internal promotion and external hiring. This provides us with the ability to retain and grow our Team Members and to infuse our organization with talented individuals from outside of Buffalo Wild Wings.
Recruiting. We actively recruit and select individuals who demonstrate enthusiasm and dedication and who share our passion for high quality guest service delivered through teamwork and commitment. To attract high caliber managers, we have developed a competitive compensation plan that includes a base salary and an attractive benefits package, including participation in a management incentive plan that rewards managers for achieving restaurant performance objectives.
Food Preparation, Quality Control and Purchasing
We strive to maintain high quality standards. Our systems are designed to protect our food supply at all times, from procurement through the preparation process. We provide detailed specifications to suppliers for our food ingredients, products and supplies. Our restaurant managers are certified in a comprehensive food safety and sanitation course, ServSafe®, developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.
We negotiate directly with independent suppliers for our supply of food and paper products. We use members of UniPro Food Services, Inc., a national cooperative of independent food distributors, to distribute these products to our restaurants. To maximize our purchasing efficiencies and obtain the lowest possible prices for our ingredients, products and supplies, our purchasing team negotiates prices based on the system-wide usage of both company-owned and franchised restaurants. We believe that competitively priced, high quality alternative manufacturers, suppliers, growers and distributors are available should the need arise.
T. Marzetti Company produces our signature sauces, and they maintain sufficient inventory levels to ensure consistent supply to our restaurants. We have a confidentiality agreement with Marzetti which prevents our sauces from being supplied to, or manufactured for, anyone else.
Chicken wings are an important component of our cost of sales. We work to counteract the effect of the volatility of chicken wing prices, which can affect our cost of sales and cash flow, with the introduction of new menu items, effective marketing promotions, focused efforts on food costs and waste, and menu price increases. We also explore purchasing strategies to reduce the severity of cost increases and fluctuations. We currently purchase our chicken wings at market price. If a satisfactory long-term pricing agreement for chicken wings were to arise, we would consider locking in prices to reduce our price volatility.
Restaurant Franchise Operations
Our concept continues to attract a strong group of franchisees, many of whom have substantial prior restaurant operations experience. Our franchisees execute a separate franchise agreement for each restaurant opened, typically providing for a 20-year initial term, with an opportunity to enter into a renewal franchise agreement subject to certain conditions. The initial franchise fee for a single restaurant is $42,500. If a franchisee signs an area development agreement, the initial franchise fee is $42,500 for the first restaurant and $30,000 for each subsequent restaurant. If the franchisee is an existing franchisee who has operated a restaurant for a minimum of one year and is signing an area development agreement, the initial franchise fee is $30,000 for the first restaurant and $25,000 for each subsequent restaurant. If the franchisee signs a franchise agreement for a restaurant whose trade area is wholly within the designated area of another restaurant they own, the franchisee will only reimburse the costs incurred by us in assisting with the restaurant opening, and need not pay an initial franchise fee.
Franchisees also pay us a royalty fee of 5.0% of their restaurant sales. Franchise agreements typically allow us to assess franchisees an advertising fee in the amount of 3.5% of their restaurant sales, of which 3.0% was contributed to our Advertising Fund in 2009 and the remaining 0.5% was spent directly by the franchisee in the applicable local market. Our current form of franchise agreement permits us to increase the required contribution to the Advertising Fund by 0.5% once every three years. The amount contributed to the Advertising Fund increased from 2.5% to 3.0% on December 26, 2005 and is not expected to increase in 2010.
All of our franchise agreements require that each franchised restaurant be operated in accordance with our defined operating procedures, adhere to the menu established by us, meet applicable quality, service, health and cleanliness standards and comply with all applicable laws. We ensure these high standards are being followed through a variety of means including mystery shoppers and announced and unannounced quality assurance inspections by our franchise consultants. We may terminate the franchise rights of any franchisee who does not comply with our standards and requirements. We believe that maintaining superior food quality, an inviting and energetic atmosphere and excellent guest service are critical to the reputation and success of our concept; therefore, we aggressively enforce the contractual requirements of our franchise agreements.
The area development agreement establishes the number of restaurants that must be developed in a defined geographic area and the deadlines by which these restaurants must open. For area development agreements covering three to seven restaurants, restaurants are often required to open in approximately 12-month intervals. For larger development agreements, the interval is typically shorter. The area development agreement can be terminated by us if, among other reasons, the area developer fails to open restaurants on schedule.
We work hard to maintain positive and productive relationships with our franchisees. In 2005, we formed the Buffalo Wild Wings Leadership Council, which is an advisory board made up of six franchisees elected by their peers that meets three times a year with our senior leaders.
We utilize a standard point-of-sale system in all of our company-owned restaurants which is integrated to our central offices through a secure, high-speed connection. Visibility to sales, cost of sales, labor and other operating metrics is provided to restaurant management through web-based decision support and analysis tools. Franchisees are required to report sales on a daily basis through an on-line reporting network and submit their restaurant-level financial statements on a quarterly and annual basis. Based on custom-developed software as well as industry-specific applications, this technology allows us to monitor business performance and optimizes food and labor costs.
We are currently implementing an automated kitchen management system that provides automation and reporting of cook line performance, including speed-of-service and order accuracy. Beginning in 2010, we will pilot test a new generation of restaurant technology focused on further optimizing costs and simplifying restaurant operations.
The restaurant industry is intensely competitive. We compete on the basis of the taste, quality and price of food offered, guest service, ambience, location, and overall dining experience. We believe that our attractive price-value relationship, the atmosphere of our restaurant, our flexible service model and the quality and distinctive flavor of our food enable us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We believe we compete primarily with local and regional sports bars and casual dining and quick casual establishments, and to a lesser extent with quick service restaurants such as wing-based take-out concepts. Many of our direct and indirect competitors are well-established national, regional or local chains and some have substantially greater financial and marketing resources than we do. We also compete with other restaurant and retail establishments for site locations and restaurant team members.
We own the rights to the “Buffalo Wild Wings®” service mark and to certain other service marks and trademarks used in our system. We attempt to protect our sauce recipes as trade secrets by, among other things, requiring a confidentiality agreement with our sauce supplier and executive officers. It is possible that competitors could develop recipes and procedures that duplicate or closely resemble our recipes and procedures. We believe that our trademarks, service marks and other proprietary rights have significant value and are important to our brand-building efforts and the marketing of our restaurant concept. We vigorously protect our proprietary rights. We cannot predict, however, whether steps taken by us to protect our proprietary rights will be adequate to prevent misappropriation of these rights or the use by others of restaurant features based upon, or otherwise similar to, our concept. It may be difficult for us to prevent others from copying elements of our concept and any litigation to enforce our rights will likely be costly and may not be successful. Although we believe that we have sufficient rights to all of our trademarks and service marks, we may face claims of infringement that could interfere with our ability to market our restaurants and promote our brand. Any such litigation may be costly and divert resources from our business. Moreover, if we are unable to successfully defend against such claims, we may be prevented from using our trademarks or service marks in the future and may be liable for damages.
The restaurant industry is subject to numerous federal, state and local governmental regulations, including those relating to the preparation and sale of food and alcoholic beverages, sanitation, public health, fire codes, zoning and building requirements. Each restaurant requires appropriate licenses from regulatory authorities allowing it to sell liquor, beer and wine, and each restaurant requires food service licenses from local health authorities. Our licenses to sell alcoholic beverages must be renewed annually and may be suspended or revoked at any time for cause, including violation by us or our employees of any law or regulation pertaining to alcoholic beverage control, such as those regulating the minimum age of employees or patrons who may serve or be served alcoholic beverages, the serving of alcoholic beverages to visibly intoxicated patrons, advertising, wholesale purchasing and inventory control. The failure of a restaurant to retain liquor or food service licenses could have a material adverse effect on our operations. In order to reduce this risk, restaurant employees are trained in standardized operating procedures designed to assure compliance with all applicable codes and regulations.
We and our franchisees are also subject to laws governing our relationships with employees, including laws and regulations relating to benefits, wages, hours, workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment and other taxes, working and safety conditions and citizenship or immigration status. We may also be subject in certain states to “dram-shop” statutes, which generally allow a person injured by an intoxicated person to recover damages from an establishment that wrongfully served alcoholic beverages to the intoxicated person. In addition, we are subject to various state and federal laws relating to the offer and sale of franchises and the franchisor-franchisee relationship. In general, these laws and regulations impose specific disclosure and registration requirements prior to the sale and marketing of franchises and regulate certain aspects of the relationship between franchisor and franchisee.
Because of gaming operations in our Nevada facilities, the ownership and operation of those facilities are subject to the Nevada Gaming Control Act and the regulations promulgated thereunder, as well as various local regulations related to gaming. Our gaming operations are also subject to the licensing and regulatory control of the Nevada Gaming Commission, the Nevada State Gaming Control Board and various county and city licensing agencies. These gaming laws, regulations, and supervisory procedures are based upon declarations of public policy that are concerned with, among other things:
Any change in such laws, regulations, and procedures could have an adverse effect on the gaming operations in our Nevada facilities. Additional information regarding regulation related to gaming in our Nevada facilities can be found in Exhibit 99.1 to this Form 10-K.
As of December 27, 2009, we employed approximately 14,000 employees. We have 1,000 full-time and 12,800 part-time employees working in our company-owned restaurants and 200 employees based out of our home office or field support management positions. Our employees are not covered by any collective bargaining agreement, and we have never experienced an organized work stoppage or strike. We believe that our working conditions and compensation packages are competitive and consider our relations with our employees to be good.
The following sets forth certain information about our executive officers:
Sally J. Smith, 52, has served as our Chief Executive Officer and President since July 1996 and as a director since August 1996. She served as our Chief Financial Officer from 1994 to 1996. Prior to joining Buffalo Wild Wings, she was the Chief Financial Officer of Dahlberg, Inc., the manufacturer and franchisor of Miracle-Ear hearing aids, from 1983 to 1994. Ms. Smith began her career with KPMG LLP, an international accounting and auditing firm. Ms. Smith holds an inactive CPA license. She serves on the boards of the National Restaurant Association and Alerus Financial Corporation.
Mary J. Twinem, 49, has served as our Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer since July 1996. She served as our Controller from January 1995 to July 1996. Ms. Twinem also served as a director on our Board from June 2002 to September 2003. Prior to joining Buffalo Wild Wings, she served as the Director of Finance/Controller of Dahlberg, Inc. from 1989 to December 1994. Ms. Twinem began her career in public accounting and holds an inactive CPA license.
Kathleen M. Benning, 47, has served as our Executive Vice President, Global Marketing and Brand Development since January 2010. She joined us in March 1997 as Vice President of Marketing and served as Senior Vice President, Marketing and Brand Development from January 2002 until December 2009. From 1992 to 1997, Ms. Benning was employed by Nemer, Fieger & Associates, an advertising agency, where she was a partner from 1994 to 1997.
Mounir N. Sawda, 52, has served as our Senior Vice President, Franchise and Development since August 2007. Prior to joining us, Mr. Sawda managed his own consulting company from 2005 to 2007. From 1998 to 2005, Mr. Sawda served in various executive positions at Denny’s Corporation, most recently as Vice President Development, Property Management, Construction and Facilities. From 1984 to 1993 and from 1996 to 1997, Mr. Sawda held several positions with Burger King Corporation. From 1993 to 1996, Mr. Sawda worked with Hanna International in Saudi Arabia.
James M. Schmidt, 50, has served as our Executive Vice President since December 2006 and as General Counsel since April 2002. He served as either Vice President or Senior Vice President from April 2002 until December 2006. Mr. Schmidt has also served as our Secretary since September 2002, and he served as a director on our Board from 1994 to September 2003. From 1985 to 2002, Mr. Schmidt was an attorney with the law firm of Robbins, Kelly, Patterson & Tucker, which provides legal services to us from time to time.
Judith A. Shoulak, 50, has served as our Executive Vice President, Global Operations and Human Resources since January 2010. She served as our Senior Vice President, Operations, from March 2004 to December 2009, Senior Vice President, Human Resources from January 2003 to February 2004 and Vice President of Human Resources from October 2001 to January 2003. From 1993 to 2001, Ms. Shoulak served as Vice President of Field Human Resources of OfficeMax Incorporated.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
The foregoing discussion and the discussion contained in Item 7 of this Form 10-K contain various “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations or beliefs concerning future events. Such statements can be identified by the use of terminology such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “could,” “possible,” “plan,” “project,” “will,” “forecast” and similar words or expressions. Our forward-looking statements generally relate to our growth strategy, financial results, sales efforts, franchise expectations, store openings and related expense, and cash requirements. Although it is not possible to foresee all of the factors that may cause actual results to differ from our forward-looking statements, such factors include, among others, the risk factors that follow. Investors are cautioned that all forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties and speak only as of the date on which they are made. We believe that all material risk factors have been discussed below.
Fluctuations in chicken wing prices could reduce our operating income.
The primary food product used by our company-owned and franchised restaurants is chicken wings. We work to counteract the effect of the volatility of chicken wing prices, which can significantly change our cost of sales and cash flow, with the introduction of new menu items, effective marketing promotions, focused efforts on food costs and waste, and menu price increases. We also explore purchasing strategies to reduce the severity of cost increases and fluctuations. We currently purchase our chicken wings at market price. If a satisfactory long-term pricing agreement for chicken wings were to arise, we would consider locking in prices to reduce our price volatility. Chicken wing prices in 2009 averaged 39.3% higher than 2008 as the average price per pound increased to $1.70 in 2009 from $1.22 in 2008. If there is a significant rise in the price of chicken wings, and we are unable to successfully adjust menu prices or menu mix or otherwise make operational adjustments to account for the higher wing prices, our operating results could be adversely affected. For example, chicken wings accounted for approximately 25%, 21%, and 24% of our cost of sales in 2009, 2008, and 2007, respectively, with an annual average price per pound of $1.70, $1.22, and $1.28, respectively. A 10% increase in the chicken wing costs for 2009 would have increased restaurant cost of sales by approximately $3.8 million. If the avian flu were to affect our supply of chicken wings, our operations may be negatively impacted, as prices may rise due to limited supply. Additional information related to chicken wing prices is included in Item 7 under “Results of Operations.”
If we are unable to successfully open new restaurants, our revenue growth rate and profits may be reduced.
To successfully expand our business, we must open new Buffalo Wild Wings® restaurants on schedule and in a profitable manner. In the past, we and our franchisees have experienced delays in restaurant openings and we may experience similar delays in the future. Delays or failures in opening new restaurants could hurt our ability to meet our growth objectives, which may affect our results of operations, the expectations of securities analysts and shareholders and thus our stock price. We cannot guarantee that we or our franchisees will be able to achieve our expansion goals. Further, any restaurants that we, or our franchisees, open may not achieve operating results similar or better than our existing restaurants. If we are unable to generate positive cash flow from a new restaurant, we may be required to recognize an impairment loss with respect to the assets for that restaurant. Our ability to expand successfully will depend on a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control. These factors include:
We must identify and obtain a sufficient number of suitable new restaurant sites for us to sustain our revenue growth rate.
We require that all proposed restaurant sites, whether for company-owned or franchised restaurants, meet our site selection criteria. We may make errors in selecting these criteria or applying these criteria to a particular site, or there may be an insignificant number of new restaurant sites meeting these criteria that would enable us to achieve our planned expansion in future periods. We face significant competition from other restaurant companies and retailers for sites that meet our criteria and the supply of sites may be limited in some markets. Further, we may be precluded from acquiring an otherwise suitable site due to an exclusivity restriction held by another tenant. As a result of these factors, our costs to obtain and lease sites may increase, or we may not be able to obtain certain sites due to unacceptable costs. Our inability to obtain suitable restaurant sites at reasonable costs may reduce our growth rate.
Shortages or interruptions in the availability and delivery of food and other supplies may increase costs or reduce revenues.
Possible shortages or interruptions in the supply of food items and other supplies to our restaurants caused by inclement weather, terrorist attacks, natural disasters such as floods, drought and hurricanes, pandemics, the inability of our vendors to obtain credit in a tightened credit market, food safety warnings or advisories or the prospect of such pronouncements, or other conditions beyond our control could adversely affect the availability, quality and cost of items we buy and the operations of our restaurants. Our inability to effectively manage supply chain risk could increase our costs and limit the availability of products critical to our restaurant operations.
We may experience higher-than-anticipated costs associated with the opening of new restaurants or with the closing, relocating, and remodeling of existing restaurants, which may adversely affect our results of operations.
Our revenues and expenses can be impacted significantly by the number and timing of the opening of new restaurants and the closing, relocating, and remodeling of existing restaurants. We incur substantial pre-opening expenses each time we open a new restaurant and other expenses when we close, relocate, or remodel existing restaurants. The expenses of opening, closing, relocating or remodeling any of our restaurants may be higher than anticipated. An increase in such expenses could have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
Our restaurants may not achieve market acceptance in the new geographic regions we enter.
Our expansion plans depend on opening restaurants in new markets where we or our franchisees have little or no operating experience. We may not be successful in operating our restaurants in new markets on a profitable basis. The success of these new restaurants will be affected by the different competitive conditions, consumer tastes, and discretionary spending patterns of the new markets as well as our ability to generate market awareness of the Buffalo Wild Wings® brand. Sales at restaurants opening in new markets may take longer to reach average annual restaurant sales, if at all, thereby affecting their profitability.
New restaurants added to our existing markets may take sales from existing restaurants.
We and our franchisees intend to open new restaurants in our existing markets, which may reduce sales performance and guest visits for existing restaurants in those markets. In addition, new restaurants added in existing markets may not achieve sales and operating performance at the same level as established restaurants in the market.
An impairment in the carrying value of our goodwill or other intangible assets could adversely affect our financial condition and consolidated results of operations.
Goodwill represents the difference between the purchase price of acquired companies and the related fair values of net assets acquired. We test goodwill for impairment annually and whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that impairment may have occurred. We compare the carrying value of a reporting unit, including goodwill, to the fair value of the unit. Carrying value is based on the assets and liabilities associated with the operations of that reporting unit. If the carrying value is less than the fair value, no impairment exists. If the carrying value is higher than the fair value, there is an indication of impairment. A significant amount of judgment is involved in determining if an indication of impairment exists. Factors may include, among others: a significant decline in our expected future cash flows; a sustained, significant decline in our stock price and market capitalization; a significant adverse change in legal factors or in the business climate; unanticipated competition: the testing for recoverability of a significant asset group within a reporting unit; and slower growth rates. Any adverse change in these factors would have a significant impact on the recoverability of these assets and negatively affect our financial condition and consolidated results of operations. We compute the amount of impairment by comparing the implied fair value of reporting unit goodwill with the carrying amount of that goodwill. We are required to record a non-cash impairment charge if the testing performed indicates that goodwill has been impaired.
We evaluate the useful lives of our intangible assets to determine if they are definite- or indefinite-lived. Reaching a determination on useful life requires significant judgments and assumptions regarding the future effects of obsolescence, demand, competition, other economic factors (such as the stability of the industry, legislative action that results in an uncertain or changing regulatory environment, and expected changes in distribution channels), the level of required maintenance expenditures, and the expected lives of other related groups of assets.
We cannot accurately predict the amount and timing of any impairment of assets. Should the value of goodwill or other intangible assets become impaired, there could be an adverse effect on our financial condition and consolidated results of operations.
Failure of our internal controls over financial reporting could harm our business and financial results.
Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting. Internal control over financial reporting is a process to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting for external purposes in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting is not intended to provide absolute assurance that we would prevent or detect a misstatement of our financial statements or fraud. Any failure to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting could limit our ability to report our financial results accurately and timely or to detect and prevent fraud. A significant financial reporting failure or material weakness in internal control over financial reporting could cause a loss of investor confidence and decline in the market price of our stock.
The current economic crisis could have a material adverse impact on our landlords or other tenants in retail centers in which we or our franchisees are located, which in turn could negatively affect our financial results.
If the recession continues or increases in severity, our landlords may be unable to obtain financing or remain in good standing under their existing financing arrangements, resulting in failures to pay required construction contributions or satisfy other lease covenants to us. In addition other tenants at retail centers in which we or our franchisees are located or have executed leases may fail to open or may cease operations. If our landlords fail to satisfy required co-tenancies, such failures may result in us or our franchisees terminating leases or delaying openings in these locations. Also, decreases in total tenant occupancy in retail centers in which we are located may affect guest traffic at our restaurants. All of these factors could have a material adverse impact on our operations.
We are dependent on franchisees and their success.
Currently, approximately 64% of our restaurants are franchised. Franchising royalties and fees represented approximately 9.3%, 10.1%, and 11.2% of our revenues during fiscal 2009, 2008, and 2007, respectively. Our performance depends upon (i) our ability to attract and retain qualified franchisees, (ii) the franchisees’ ability to execute our concept and capitalize upon our brand recognition and marketing, and (iii) franchisees’ ability to timely develop restaurants. We may not be able to recruit franchisees who have the business abilities or financial resources necessary to open restaurants on schedule, or who will conduct operations in a manner consistent with our concept and standards. Also, our franchisees may not be able to operate restaurants in a profitable manner.
Franchisees may take actions that could harm our business.
Franchisees are independent contractors and are not our employees. We provide training and support to franchisees, but the quality of franchised restaurant operations may be diminished if franchisees do not operate restaurants in a manner consistent with our standards and requirements, or if they do not hire and train qualified managers and other restaurant personnel. If franchisees do not adequately manage their restaurants, our image and reputation, and the image and reputation of other franchisees, may suffer materially and system-wide sales could significantly decline. In addition, we may also face potential claims and liabilities due to the acts of our franchisees based on agency or vicarious liability theories.
We could face liability from our franchisees.
A franchisee or government agency may bring legal action against us based on the franchisee/franchisor relationships. Various state and federal laws govern our relationship with our franchisees and our potential sale of a franchise. If we fail to comply with these laws, we could be liable for damages to franchisees and fines or other penalties. Expensive litigation with our franchisees or government agencies may adversely affect both our profits and our important relations with our franchisees.
We may be unable to compete effectively in the restaurant industry.
The restaurant industry is intensely competitive. We believe we compete primarily with regional and local sports bars, casual dining and quick casual establishments, and to a lesser extent, quick service wing-based take-out concepts. Many of our direct and indirect competitors are well-established national, regional, or local chains with a greater market presence than us. Further, some competitors have substantially greater financial, marketing, and other resources than us. In addition, independent owners of local or regional establishments may enter the wing-based restaurant business without significant barriers to entry and such establishments may provide price competition for our restaurants. Competition in the casual dining, quick casual and quick service segments of the restaurant industry is expected to remain intense with respect to price, service, location, concept and the type and quality of food. We also face intense competition for real estate sites, qualified management personnel, and hourly restaurant staff.
Our success depends substantially on the value of our brands and our reputation for offering guests an unparalleled total experience.
We believe we have built a strong reputation for the quality and breadth of our menu items as part of the total experience that guests enjoy in our restaurants. We believe we must protect and grow the value of our brand to continue to be successful in the future. Any incident that erodes consumer trust in or affinity for our brand could significantly reduce its value. If consumers perceive or experience a reduction in food quality, service, ambiance or in any way believes we failed to deliver a consistently positive experience, our brand value could suffer.
Our inability to successfully and sufficiently raise menu prices could result in a decline in profitability.
We utilize menu price increases to help offset cost increases, including increased cost for commodities, minimum wages, employee benefits, insurance arrangements, construction, utilities, and other key operating costs. If our selection and amount of menu price increases are not accepted by consumers and reduce guest traffic, or are insufficient to counter increased costs, our financial results could be harmed.
A reduction in vendor allowances currently received could affect our costs of goods sold.
During fiscal 2009, 2008, and 2007, vendor allowances were recorded as a reduction in inventoriable costs, and cost of sales was reduced by $6.0 million, $5.2 million, and $4.6 million, respectively. If the amount of vendor allowances is reduced, inventoriable costs may increase, as may the cost of sales.
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate due to the timing of special events and other factors, including the recognition of impairment losses.
Our quarterly operating results depend, in part, on special events, such as the Super Bowl® and other popular sporting events, and thus are subject to fluctuations based on the dates for such events. Historically, sales in most of our restaurants have been higher during fall and winter months based on the relative popularity of national, regional and local sporting and other events. Further, our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly because of other factors, including:
As a result of the factors discussed above, our quarterly and annual operating results may fluctuate significantly. Accordingly, results for any one quarter are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected for any other quarter or for any year. These fluctuations may cause future operating results to fall below the expectations of securities analysts and shareholders. In that event, the price of our common stock would likely decrease.
We may not be able to attract and retain qualified team members to operate and manage our restaurants.
Our success and the success of our individual restaurants depends on our ability to attract, motivate, develop and retain a sufficient number of qualified restaurant employees, including restaurant managers, kitchen staff and wait staff. The inability to recruit, develop and retain these individuals may delay the planned openings of new restaurants or result in high employee turnover in existing restaurants, thus increasing the cost to efficiently operate our restaurants. This could inhibit our expansion plans and business performance and, to the extent that a labor shortage may force us to pay higher wages, harm our profitability.
The loss of key executives or difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified personnel could jeopardize our ability to meet our financial targets.
Our success depends substantially on the contributions and abilities of key executives and other employees, and on our ability to recruit and retain high quality employees. We must continue to recruit, retain, and motivate management and other employees sufficient to maintain our current business and support our projected growth. The loss of any of our executive officers and senior leaders could jeopardize our ability to meet our financial targets.
We may not be able to obtain and maintain licenses and permits necessary to operate our restaurants.
The restaurant industry is subject to various federal, state, and local government regulations, including those relating to the sale of food and alcoholic beverages. In addition, we are subject to gaming regulations with respect to our gaming operations within our nine company-owned stores in Las Vegas. The failure to obtain and maintain these licenses, permits and approvals, including food, liquor and gaming licenses, could adversely affect our operating results. Difficulties or failure to obtain the required licenses and approvals could delay or result in our decision to cancel the opening of new restaurants. Local authorities may revoke, suspend, or deny renewal of our food and liquor licenses if they determine that our conduct violates applicable regulations.
The sale of alcoholic beverages at our restaurants subjects us to additional regulations and potential liability.
Because our restaurants sell alcoholic beverages, we are required to comply with the alcohol licensing requirements of the federal government, states and municipalities where our restaurants are located. Alcoholic beverage control regulations require applications to state authorities and, in certain locations, county and municipal authorities for a license and permit to sell alcoholic beverages on the premises and to provide service for extended hours and on Sundays. Typically, the licenses are renewed annually and may be revoked or suspended for cause at any time. Alcoholic beverage control regulations relate to numerous aspects of the daily operations of the restaurants, including minimum age of guests and employees, hours of operation, advertising, wholesale purchasing, inventory control and handling, storage and dispensing of alcoholic beverages. If we fail to comply with federal, state or local regulations, our licenses may be revoked and we may be forced to terminate the sale of alcoholic beverages at one or more of our restaurants.
In certain states we are subject to “dram shop” statutes, which generally allow a person injured by an intoxicated person the right to recover damages from an establishment that wrongfully served alcoholic beverages to the intoxicated person. Some dram shop litigation against restaurant companies has resulted in significant judgments, including punitive damages.
Changes in employment laws or regulation could harm our performance.
Various federal and state labor laws govern our relationship with our employees and affect operating costs. These laws include minimum wage requirements, overtime pay, unemployment tax rates, workers’ compensation rates, citizenship requirements, and sales taxes. A number of factors could adversely affect our operating results, including additional government-imposed increases in minimum wages, overtime pay, paid leaves of absence and mandated health benefits, mandated training for employees, increased tax reporting and tax payment requirements for employees who receive tips, a reduction in the number of states that allow tips to be credited toward minimum wage requirements, and increased employee litigation including claims relating to the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public accommodations and employment. Although our restaurants are designed to be accessible to the disabled, we could be required to make modifications to our restaurants to provide service to, or make reasonable accommodations for disabled persons.
Changes in consumer preferences or discretionary consumer spending could harm our performance.
Our success depends, in part, upon the continued popularity of Buffalo, New York-style chicken wings, our other menu items, sports bars and casual dining restaurant styles. We also depend on trends toward consumers eating away from home more often. Shifts in these consumer preferences could negatively affect our future profitability. Such shifts could be based on health concerns related to the cholesterol, carbohydrate, or fat content of certain food items, including items featured on our menu. Negative publicity over the health aspects of such food items may adversely affect consumer demand for our menu items and could result in a decrease in guest traffic to our restaurants, which could materially harm our business. Smoking bans imposed by state or local laws could also adversely impact our restaurants’ performance. In addition, our success depends to a significant extent on numerous factors affecting discretionary consumer spending, including economic conditions, disposable consumer income and consumer confidence. A decline in consumer spending or in economic conditions could reduce guest traffic or impose practical limits on pricing, either of which could harm our business, financial condition, operating results or cash flow.
Changes in public health concerns may impact our performance.
Changes in public health concerns may affect consumer preferences for our products. For example, if incidents of the avian flu occur in the United States, consumer preferences for poultry products may be negatively impacted, resulting in a decline in demand for our products. Similarly, public health concerns over smoking have seen a rise in smoking bans. Such smoking bans may adversely affect our operations to the extent that such bans are imposed in specific locations, rather than state-wide, or that exceptions to the ban are given to bars or other establishments, giving patrons the ability to choose nearby locations that have no such ban. Further, growing movements to change laws relating to alcohol may result in a decline in alcohol consumption at our stores or increase the number of dram shop claims made against us, either of which may negatively impact operations or result in the loss of liquor licenses. We are carefully monitoring new laws regulating the use of transfats and requiring nutritional fact disclosures.
A regional or global health pandemic could severely affect our business.
A health pandemic is a disease outbreak that spreads rapidly and widely by infection and affects many individuals in an area or population at the same time. If a regional or global health pandemic were to occur, depending upon its duration and severity, our business could be severely affected. We have positioned our brand as a place where people can gather together. Customers might avoid public gathering places in the event of a health pandemic, and local, regional or national governments might limit or ban public gatherings to halt or delay the spread of disease. A regional or global health pandemic might also adversely impact our business by disrupting or delaying production and delivery of materials and products in its supply chain and by causing staffing shortages in our stores. The impact of a health pandemic might be disproportionately greater than on other companies that depend less on the gathering of people together for the sale or use of their products and services.
A decline in visitors to any of the business districts near the locations of our restaurants could negatively affect our restaurant sales.
Some of our restaurants are located near high activity areas such as retail centers, big box shopping centers and entertainment centers. We depend on high visitor rates at these businesses to attract guests to our restaurants. If visitors to these centers decline due to economic conditions, closure of big-box retailers, road construction, changes in consumer preferences or shopping patterns, changes in discretionary consumer spending or otherwise, our restaurant sales could decline significantly and adversely affect our results of operations.
The acquisition of existing restaurants from our franchisees or other acquisitions may have unanticipated consequences that could harm our business and our financial condition.
We may seek to selectively acquire existing restaurants from our franchisees. To do so, we would need to identify suitable acquisition candidates, negotiate acceptable acquisition terms and obtain appropriate financing. Any acquisition that we pursue, whether or not successfully completed, may involve risks, including:
Future acquisitions of existing restaurants from our franchisees or other acquisitions, which may be accomplished through a cash purchase transaction, the issuance of our equity securities or a combination of both, could result in potentially dilutive issuances of our equity securities, the incurrence of debt and contingent liabilities and impairment charges related to goodwill and other intangible assets, any of which could harm our business and financial condition.
Unfavorable publicity could harm our business.
Multi-unit restaurant businesses such as ours can be adversely affected by publicity resulting from complaints or litigation or general publicity regarding poor food quality, food-borne illness, personal injury, food tampering, adverse health effects of consumption of various food products or high-calorie foods (including obesity), or other concerns. Negative publicity may also result from actual or alleged violations by our restaurants of "dram shop" laws which generally provide an injured party with recourse against an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated party who then causes injury to himself or to a third party. Regardless of whether the allegations or complaints are valid, unfavorable publicity relating to a limited number of our restaurants, or only to a single restaurant, could adversely affect public perception of the entire brand. Adverse publicity and its effect on overall consumer perceptions of food safety, or our failure to respond effectively to adverse publicity, could have a material adverse effect on our business.
There is volatility in our stock price.
The market for our stock has, from time to time, experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations. Factors such as announcements of variations in our quarterly financial results and fluctuations in revenue could cause the market price of our stock to fluctuate significantly. In addition, the stock market in general, and the market prices for restaurant companies in particular, have experienced volatility that often has been unrelated to the operating performance of such companies. These broad market and industry fluctuations may adversely affect the price of our stock, regardless of our operating performance. Additionally, volatility or a lack of positive performance in our stock price may adversely affect our ability to retain key employees, many of whom have been granted equity compensation.
The market price of our stock can be influenced by stockholders' expectations about the ability of our business to grow and to achieve certain profitability targets. If our financial performance in a particular quarter does not meet the expectations of our stockholders, it may adversely affect their views concerning our growth potential and future financial performance. In addition, if the securities analysts who regularly follow our stock lower their ratings of our stock, the market price of our stock is likely to drop significantly.
We may be subject to increased labor and insurance costs.
Our restaurant operations are subject to federal and state laws governing such matters as minimum wages, working conditions, overtime, and tip credits. As federal and state minimum wage rates increase, we may need to increase not only the wages of our minimum wage employees but also the wages paid to employees at wage rates that are above minimum wage. Labor shortages, increased employee turnover, and health care mandates could also increase our labor costs. This in turn could lead us to increase prices which could impact our sales. Conversely, if competitive pressures or other factors prevent us from offsetting increased labor costs by increases in prices, our profitability may decline. In addition, the current premiums that we pay for our insurance (including workers' compensation, general liability, property, health, and directors' and officers' liability) may increase at any time, thereby further increasing our costs. The dollar amount of claims that we actually experience under our workers' compensation and general liability insurance, for which we carry high per-claim deductibles, may also increase at any time, thereby further increasing our costs. Further, the decreased availability of property and liability insurance has the potential to negatively impact the cost of premiums and the magnitude of uninsured losses.
Our current insurance may not provide adequate levels of coverage against claims.
We currently maintain insurance customary for businesses of our size and type. However, there are types of losses we may incur that cannot be insured against or that we believe are not economically reasonable to insure, such as losses due to natural disasters. Such damages could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
We are dependent on information technology and any material failure of that technology could impair our ability to efficiently operate our business.
We rely on information systems across our operations, including, for example, point-of-sale processing in our restaurants, management of our supply chain, collection of cash, payment of obligations, and various other processes and procedures. Our ability to efficiently manage our business depends significantly on the reliability and capacity of these systems. The failure of these systems to operate effectively, problems with maintenance, upgrading or transitioning to replacement systems, or a breach in security of these systems could cause delays in customer service and reduce efficiency in our operations. Significant capital investments might be required to remediate any problems.
If we are unable to maintain our rights to use key technologies of third parties, our business may be harmed.
We rely on certain technology licensed from third parties, and may be required to license additional technology in the future for use in managing our Internet sites and providing related services to users and advertising customers. These third-party technology licenses may not continue to be available to us on acceptable commercial terms or at all. The inability to enter into and maintain any of these technology licenses could significantly harm our business, financial condition and operating results.
We may not be able to protect our trademarks, service marks or trade secrets.
We place considerable value on our trademarks, service marks and trade secrets. We intend to actively enforce and defend our marks and if violations are identified, to take appropriate action to preserve and protect our goodwill in our marks. We attempt to protect our sauce recipes as trade secrets by, among other things, requiring confidentiality agreements with our sauce suppliers and executive officers. However, we cannot be sure that we will be able to successfully enforce our rights under our marks or prevent competitors from misappropriating our sauce recipes. We can also not be sure that: (i) our marks are valuable, (ii) using our marks does not, or will not, violate others’ marks, (iii) the registrations of our marks would be upheld if challenged, or (iv) we would not be prevented from using our marks in areas of the country where others might have already established rights to them. Any of these uncertainties could have an adverse effect on us and our expansion strategy.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
We are headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our home office has approximately 44,000 square feet of office space. We occupy this facility under a lease that terminates on November 30, 2017, with an option to renew for one five-year term. As of December 27, 2009, we owned and operated 232 restaurants. We lease the land and building for most of these sites. The majority of our existing leases are for 10 or 15-year terms, generally including options to extend the terms. We typically lease our restaurant facilities under “triple net” leases that require us to pay minimum rent, real estate taxes, maintenance costs and insurance premiums and, in some instances, percentage rent based on sales in excess of specified amounts. Most of our leases include “exclusive use” provisions prohibiting our landlords from leasing space to other restaurants that fall within certain specified criteria. Under our franchise agreements, we have certain rights to gain control of a restaurant site in the event of default under the lease or franchise agreement. The following table sets forth the 42 states in which Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants are located and the number of restaurants in each state as of December 27, 2009:
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
Occasionally, we are a defendant in litigation arising in the ordinary course of our business, including claims arising from personal injuries, contract claims, franchise-related claims, dram shop claims, employment-related claims and claims from guests or employees alleging injury, illness or other food quality, health or operational concerns. To date, none of these types of litigation, most of which are typically covered by insurance, has had a material effect on us. We have insured and continue to insure against most of these types of claims. A judgment on any claim not covered by or in excess of our insurance coverage could adversely affect our financial condition or results of operations.
ITEM 4. SUBMISSION OF MATTERS TO A VOTE OF SECURITY HOLDERS
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Our Common Stock trades on the NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol “BWLD”. The following table sets forth the high and low closing sale prices of our Common Stock.
As of February 17, 2010, there were approximately 162 record holders of our Common Stock, excluding shareholders whose stock is held either in nominee name and/or street name brokerage accounts. Based on information which we have obtained from our transfer agent, there are approximately 30,000 holders of our Common Stock whose stock is held either in nominee name and/or street name brokerage accounts.
We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our Common Stock. It is our policy to preserve cash for development and other working capital needs and, therefore, do not currently have plans to pay any cash dividends. Our future dividend policy will be determined by our Board of Directors and will depend on various factors, including our results of operations, financial condition, anticipated cash needs and plans for expansion.
Stock Performance Chart
The following graph compares the yearly percentage change in the cumulative total shareholder return on our Common Stock for the five-year period ended December 27, 2009 with the cumulative total return on the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 600 Restaurants Index. The comparison assumes $100 was invested in Buffalo Wild Wings Common Stock on December 26, 2004, and in each of the foregoing indices on December 26, 2004 and assumes reinvestment of dividends.
The preceding stock performance chart is not deemed filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary set forth in any of our previous filings made under the Securities Act of 1933 or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 that incorporate future filings made by us under those statutes, the above stock performance chart is not to be incorporated by reference in any prior filings, nor shall it be incorporated by reference into any future filings made by us under those statutes.
ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
The following summary information should be read in conjunction with the Consolidated Financial Statements and related notes thereto set forth in Item 8 of this Form 10-K.
ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and related notes. This discussion and analysis contains certain statements that are not historical facts, including, among others, those relating to our anticipated financial performance for fiscal 2010, cash requirements, and our expected store openings. Such statements are forward-looking and speak only as of the date on which they are made. There are risks and uncertainties including those discussed in Item 1A of this 10-K under “Risk Factors.” Information included in this discussion and analysis includes commentary on company-owned and franchised restaurant units, restaurant sales, same-store sales, and average weekly sales volumes. Management believes such sales information is an important measure of our performance, and is useful in assessing consumer acceptance of the Buffalo Wild Wings® Grill & Bar concept and the overall health of the concept. Franchise information also provides an understanding of our revenues because franchise royalties and fees are based on the opening of franchised units and their sales. However, franchise sales and same-store sales information does not represent sales in accordance with U. S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for other measures of performance prepared in accordance with GAAP and may not be comparable to financial information as defined or used by other companies.
As of December 27, 2009, we owned and operated 232 and franchised an additional 420 Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar® restaurants in 42 states. The restaurants have elements of both the quick casual and casual dining styles, both of which are part of a growing industry. Our long-term focus is to grow to a national chain of over 1,000 locations, continuing the strategy of developing both company-owned and franchised restaurants.
Our growth targets for 2010 are 13 to 15% unit growth and 20% net earnings growth. Our growth and success depend on several factors and trends. First, we continue to monitor and react to changes in our cost of goods sold. The costs of goods sold is difficult to predict, as it ranged from 29.3% to 30.5% of restaurant sales per quarter in 2009 and 2008, mostly due to the price fluctuation in chicken wings. We are working to counteract the volatility of chicken wing prices with the introduction of new menu items, effective marketing promotions, focused efforts on food costs and waste, and menu price increases. We will continue to monitor the cost of chicken wings, as it can significantly change our cost of sales and cash flow from company-owned restaurants. We are also exploring purchasing strategies to lessen the severity of cost increases and fluctuations, and are reviewing menu additions and other strategies that may decrease the percentage that chicken wings represent in terms of total restaurant sales. The chart below illustrates the fluctuation in chicken wing prices from quarter to quarter in the last five years.
A second factor is our success developing new markets. There are inherent risks in opening new restaurants, especially in new markets, including the lack of experience, logistical support, and brand awareness in a new market. These factors may result in lower than anticipated sales and cash flow for restaurants in new markets. In 2010, we plan to develop company-owned restaurants primarily in markets where we currently have either company-owned or franchised restaurants. We believe this development focus, together with our focus on our new restaurant opening procedures, will help to mitigate the overall risk associated with opening restaurants in new markets.
Third, we will continue our focus on trends in company-owned and franchised same-store sales as an indicator of the continued acceptance of our concept by consumers. We also review the overall trend in average weekly sales as an indicator of our ability to increase the sales volume, and, therefore, cash flow per location. We remain committed to high quality operations and guest hospitality.
Our revenue is generated by:
We generate cash from the operation of our company-owned restaurants and also from franchise royalties and fees. We highlight the specific costs associated with the on-going operation of our company-owned restaurants in the statement of earnings under “Restaurant operating costs.” Nearly all of our depreciation expense relates to assets used by our company-owned restaurants. Preopening costs are those costs associated with opening new company-owned restaurants and will vary annually based on the number of new locations opening. Loss on asset disposals and impairment expense is related to company-owned restaurants, and includes the write-down of underperforming locations, the costs associated with closures of locations and normal asset retirements. Certain other expenses, such as general and administrative, relate to both company-owned restaurant and franchising operations.
We operate on a 52 or 53-week fiscal year ending on the last Sunday in December. Each of the fiscal years in the five years ended December 27, 2009 were 52-week years except for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2006, which was a 53-week year.
Critical Accounting Policies and Use of Estimates
Our significant accounting policies are described in Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements, which were prepared in accordance with GAAP. Critical accounting policies are those that we believe are both important to the portrayal of our financial condition and results and require our most difficult, subjective or complex judgments, often as a result of the need to make estimates about the effect of matters that are inherently uncertain.
We believe that the following discussion represents our more critical accounting policies and estimates used in the preparation of our consolidated financial statements, although it is not inclusive.
Valuation of Long-Lived Assets and Store Closing Reserves
We review long-lived assets quarterly to determine if triggering events have occurred which would require a test to determine if the carrying amount of these assets may not be recoverable based on estimated future cash flows. Assets are reviewed at the lowest level for which cash flows can be identified, which is at the individual restaurant level. In the absence of extraordinary circumstances, restaurants are included in the impairment analysis after they have been open for 15 months. We evaluate the recoverability of a restaurant’s long-lived assets, including leasehold improvements, equipment and fixtures over its remaining lease term, after considering the potential impact of planned operational improvements, marketing programs, and anticipated changes in the trade area. In determining future cash flows, significant estimates are made by us with respect to future operating results of each restaurant over its remaining lease term. If assets are determined to be impaired, the impairment charge is measured by calculating the amount by which the asset carrying amount exceeds its fair value based on our estimate of discounted future cash flows. The determination of asset fair value is also subject to significant judgment. During fiscal 2009 and 2008, we recognized $237,000 and $549,000, respectively, of asset impairment charges. No asset impairment charges were recognized during 2007.
In addition to the valuation of long-lived assets, we also record a store closing reserve when a restaurant is abandoned due to closure or relocation. The store closing reserve is subject to significant judgment as accruals are made for lease payments on abandoned leased facilities. Many factors, including the local business environment, other available lease sites, the willingness of lessors to negotiate lease buyouts, and the ability to sublease our sites are considered in making the accruals. We estimate future lease obligations based on these factors and evaluate quarterly the adequacy of the estimated reserve based on current market conditions. During 2009, 2008, and 2007, we recorded reserves of $31,000, $85,000, and $85,000, respectively, for restaurants that closed.
We review goodwill for impairment annually, or whenever circumstances change in a way which could indicate that impairment may have occurred. Goodwill is associated with a reporting unit, which we define as a number of locations within a geographic market which experience similar economic characteristics.
We identify potential goodwill impairments by using both an income and market approach, which involves comparing the fair value of the reporting unit to its carrying amount, which includes goodwill and other intangible assets. Fair value is calculated as the present value of expected future cash flows. In determining future cash flows, significant estimates are made by us with respect to future operating results of each restaurant.
If the carrying amount of the market exceeds the fair value, this is an indication that impairment may exist. We calculate the amount of the impairment by comparing the implied fair value of the assets and liabilities of the reporting unit with the carrying amount. The fair value of the reporting unit in excess of the value of the assets and liabilities is the implied fair value of the goodwill. If this amount is less than the carrying amount of goodwill, impairment is recognized for the difference. As of December 27, 2009, our analysis of the fair value of our goodwill substantially exceeded the carrying value and therefore we concluded that our goodwill was not impaired. Our analysis is based on improvement in the Las Vegas economic conditions. If such improvement does not occur, goodwill impairment could occur. No goodwill impairment charges were recognized during 2009, 2008, or 2007.
Vendor allowances include allowances and other funds received from vendors. Certain of these funds are determined based on various quantitative contract terms. We also receive vendor allowances from certain manufacturers and distributors calculated based upon purchases made by franchisees. Amounts that represent a reimbursement of costs incurred, such as advertising, are recorded as a reduction of the related expense. Amounts that represent a reduction of inventory purchase costs are recorded as a reduction of inventoriable costs. We record an estimate of earned vendor allowances that are calculated based upon monthly purchases. We generally receive payment from vendors approximately 30 days after the end of a month for that month’s purchases. During fiscal 2009, 2008, and 2007, vendor allowances were recorded as a reduction in inventoriable costs, and cost of sales was reduced by $6.0 million, $5.2 million, and $4.6 million, respectively.
Revenue Recognition — Franchise Operations
Our franchise agreements have terms ranging from 10 to 20 years. These agreements also convey extension terms of 5 or 10 years depending on contract terms and if certain conditions are met. We provide training, preopening assistance and restaurant operating assistance in exchange for area development fees, franchise fees and royalties of 5% of the franchised restaurant’s sales. Franchise fee revenue from individual franchise sales is recognized upon the opening of the restaurant when we have performed all of our material obligations and initial services. Area development fees are dependent upon the number of restaurants granted in the agreement as are our obligations under the area development agreement. Consequently, as our obligations are met, area development fees are recognized in relation to the expenses incurred with the opening of each new restaurant and any royalty-free periods. Royalties are accrued as earned and are calculated each period based on reported franchisees’ sales.
We are self-insured for a significant portion of our risks and associated liabilities with respect to workers’ compensation, general liability, and employee health benefits. The accrued liabilities associated with these programs are based on our estimate of the ultimate costs to settle known claims as well as claims that may have arisen but have not yet been reported to us as of the balance sheet date. Our estimated liabilities are not discounted and are based on information provided by our insurance brokers and insurers, combined with our judgments regarding a number of assumptions and factors, including the frequency and severity of claims, and claims development history. We maintain stop-loss coverage with third-party insurers to limit our total exposure for each of these programs. Significant judgment is required to estimate claims incurred but not reported as parties have yet to assert such claims. If actual claims trends, including the frequency or severity of claims, differ from our estimates, our financial results could be impacted.
We account for stock-based compensation in accordance with the fair value recognition provisions, under which we use the Black-Scholes-Merton pricing model, which requires the input of subjective assumptions. These assumptions include the expected life of the options, expected volatility over the expected term, the risk-free interest rate, and the expected forfeitures.
Compensation expense for restricted stock units is recognized for the expected number of shares vesting at the end of each annual period. Restricted stock units granted in 2008 are subject to cumulative one-year, two-year, and three-year net earnings targets. The number of units that vest each year is based on performance against those targets. The expense recognized in the first year includes the full expense for units vesting at the end of the first year, half of the expense for units vesting at the end of the second year, and a third of the expense for units vesting at the end of the third year. Restricted stock units granted in 2009 are subject to three-year cliff vesting and a cumulative three-year earnings target. For both of these restricted stock unit grants, significant assumptions are made to estimate the expected net earnings levels for future years.
Results of Operations
Our operating results for 2009, 2008, and 2007 are expressed below as a percentage of total revenue, except for the components of restaurant operating costs, which are expressed as a percentage of restaurant sales.
The number of company-owned and franchised restaurants open are as follows:
The restaurant sales for company-owned and franchised restaurants are as follows (in thousands of dollars):
Increases in comparable same-store sales are as follows (based on restaurants operating at least fifteen months):
The annual average price paid per pound for chicken wings for company-owned restaurants is as follows:
Fiscal Year 2009 Compared to Fiscal Year 2008
Restaurant sales increased by $109.0 million, or 28.7%, to $488.7 million in 2009 from $379.7 million in 2008. The increase in restaurant sales was due to a $97.9 million increase associated with the opening of 36 new company-owned restaurants in 2009, nine restaurants acquired from our franchisee in Nevada in 2008, and the 52 company-owned restaurants opened before 2009 that did not meet the criteria for same-store sales for all, or part, of the year and $11.1 million related to a 3.1% increase in same-store sales.
Franchise royalties and fees increased by $7.5 million, or 17.5%, to $50.2 million in 2009 from $42.7 million in 2008. The increase was due primarily to additional royalties collected from the 59 new franchised restaurants that opened in 2009 and a full year of operations for the 46 franchised restaurants that opened in 2008. Same-store sales for franchised restaurants increased 3.4%.
Cost of sales increased by $34.4 million, or 30.4%, to $147.7 million in 2009 from $113.3 million in 2008 due primarily to more restaurants being operated in 2009. Cost of sales as a percentage of restaurant sales increased to 30.2% in 2009 from 29.8% in 2008. The increase in cost of sales as a percentage of restaurant sales was primarily due to the increase in chicken wing prices partially offset by the leverage of food and alcohol costs as a result of menu price increases. Chicken wing costs rose to $1.70 per pound in 2009 from $1.22 per pound in 2008.
Labor expenses increased by $31.9 million, or 27.9%, to $146.6 million in 2009 from $114.6 million in 2008 due primarily to more restaurants being operated in 2009. Labor expenses as a percentage of restaurant sales decreased to 30.0% in 2009 compared to 30.2% in 2008. Labor costs in our restaurants were lower than prior year due to restaurants having lower hourly labor costs which were partially offset by higher medical costs.
Operating expenses increased by $16.2 million, or 26.8%, to $76.4 million in 2009 from $60.2 million in 2008 due primarily to more restaurants being operated in 2009. Operating expenses as a percentage of restaurant sales decreased to 15.6% in 2009 from 15.9% in 2008. The decrease in operating expenses as a percentage of restaurant sales was primarily due to lower natural gas and utility costs partially offset by higher general liability insurance costs.
Occupancy expenses increased by $7.2 million, or 28.6%, to $32.4 million in 2009 from $25.2 million in 2008 due primarily to more restaurants being operated in 2009. Occupancy expenses as a percentage of restaurant sales was flat at 6.6% for both 2009 and 2008.
Depreciation and amortization increased by $9.0 million, or 38.0%, to $32.6 million in 2009 from $23.6 million in 2008. The increase was primarily due to the additional depreciation on 36 new restaurants in 2009 and 40 new restaurants opened in 2008 and operated for a full year in 2009.
General and administrative expenses increased by $9.3 million, or 23.0%, to $49.4 million in 2009 from $40.2 million in 2008. General and administrative expenses as a percentage of total revenue decreased to 9.2% in 2009 from 9.5% in 2008. Exclusive of stock-based compensation, our general and administrative expenses decreased to 8.0% of total revenue in 2009 from 8.3% in 2008. This decrease was primarily due better leverage of our wage-related expenses.
Preopening costs decreased by $228,000, or 2.9%, to $7.7 million in 2009 from $7.9 million in 2008. In 2009, we incurred costs of $7.4 million for 36 new company-owned restaurants opened in 2009 and costs of $242,000 for restaurants opening in 2010. In 2008, we opened 31 new company-owned restaurants, incurred costs of approximately $490,000 for restaurants opening in 2009, and incurred $197,000 related to the acquisition of the nine franchised restaurants located in Nevada. Average preopening cost per restaurant in 2009 was $220,000. Preopening costs for 2008 averaged $203,000 per restaurant, excluding the eight Don Pablo’s conversions which averaged $316,000.
Loss on asset disposals and impairment decreased by $155,000 to $1.9 million in 2009 from $2.1 million in 2008. The expense in 2009 represented the asset impairment of one underperforming restaurant of $237,000, closure costs for one restaurant of $31,000, and $1.6 million for the write-off of miscellaneous equipment. The expense in 2008 represented the asset impairment of one relocated restaurant of $395,000 and two underperforming restaurants of $154,000, the closure costs for three relocated restaurants of $85,000, and $1.4 million for the write-off of miscellaneous equipment.
Investment income increased by $107,000 to $1.1 million in 2009 from $970,000 in 2008. The majority of our investments were in short-term municipal securities. The increase in investment income was primarily due to higher rates of return on our investments related to our deferred compensation plan partially offset by lower rates of return on our cash and marketable securities balances. Cash and marketable securities balances at the end of the year were $53.2 million in 2009 compared to $44.5 million in 2008.
Provision for income taxes increased $2.8 million to $14.8 million in 2009 from $11.9 million in 2008. The effective tax rate as a percentage of income before taxes decreased to 32.5% in 2009 from 32.8% in 2008. The rate decrease was primarily due to higher employee related federal tax credits offset partially by a reduction in tax exempt interest income. For 2010, we believe our effective tax rate will be between 32.5% and 33.5%.
Fiscal Year 2008 Compared to Fiscal Year 2007
Restaurant sales increased by $86.9 million, or 29.7%, to $379.7 million in 2008 from $292.8 million in 2007. The increase in restaurant sales was due to a $70.6 million increase associated with the opening of 40 new company-owned restaurants in 2008, which includes eight locations acquired from Avado Brands, Inc. and nine restaurants acquired from our franchisee in Nevada, and the 34 company-owned restaurants opened before 2008 that did not meet the criteria for same-store sales for all, or part, of the year. A 5.9% increase in same-store sales accounted for $16.3 million of the increase in restaurant sales.
Franchise royalties and fees increased by $5.9 million, or 16.0%, to $42.7 million in 2008 from $36.8 million in 2007. The increase was due primarily to additional royalties collected from the 46 new franchised restaurants that opened in 2008 and a full year of operations for the 46 franchised restaurants that opened in 2007. Same-store sales for franchised restaurants increased 2.8%.
Cost of sales increased by $23.2 million, or 25.8%, to $113.3 million in 2008 from $90.1 million in 2007 due primarily to more restaurants being operated in 2008. Cost of sales as a percentage of restaurant sales decreased to 29.8% in 2008 from 30.8% in 2007. The decrease in cost of sales as a percentage of restaurant sales was primarily due to the leverage of food and alcohol costs as a result of menu price increases and lower chicken wing prices. Chicken wing costs dropped to $1.22 per pound in 2008 from $1.28 per pound in 2007. Also, boneless wings sales increased in 2008 as a part of our menu mix, providing better margins and a corresponding lower cost of sales percentage.
Labor expenses increased by $26.8 million, or 30.6%, to $114.6 million in 2008 from $87.8 million in 2007 due primarily to more restaurants being operated in 2008. Labor expenses as a percentage of restaurant sales increased to 30.2% in 2008 compared to 30.0% in 2007. Labor costs in our restaurants were higher than prior year due to restaurants having higher management salaries which were partially offset by lower workers’ compensation costs.
Operating expenses increased by $12.2 million, or 25.5%, to $60.2 million in 2008 from $48.0 million in 2007 due primarily to more restaurants being operated in 2008. Operating expenses as a percentage of restaurant sales decreased to 15.9% in 2008 from 16.4% in 2007. The decrease in operating expenses as a percentage of restaurant sales was primarily due to lower repair and maintenance costs and general liability insurance costs offset by higher natural gas hedging cost for future months.
Occupancy expenses increased by $5.2 million, or 25.9%, to $25.2 million in 2008 from $20.0 million in 2007 due primarily to more restaurants being operated in 2008. Occupancy expenses as a percentage of restaurant sales decreased to 6.6% in 2008 from 6.8% in 2007, primarily due to better leverage of rent expense with the higher sales levels.
Depreciation and amortization increased by $6.6 million, or 39.1%, to $23.6 million in 2008 from $17.0 million in 2007. The increase was primarily due to the additional depreciation on 40 new restaurants in 2008 and 23 new restaurants opened in 2007 and operated for a full year in 2008. Accelerated depreciation related to three restaurants which were relocated due to the Avado Brands, Inc. site acquisitions also contributed to the increase.
General and administrative expenses increased by $4.4 million, or 12.3%, to $40.2 million in 2008 from $35.7 million in 2007. General and administrative expenses as a percentage of total revenue decreased to 9.5% in 2008 from 10.8 % in 2007. Exclusive of stock-based compensation, our general and administrative expenses decreased to 8.3% of total revenue in 2008 from 9.7% in 2007. This decrease was primarily due to lower professional fees, conference costs, and better leverage of our wage-related expenses.
Preopening costs increased by $3.4 million, or 75.4%, to $7.9 million in 2008 from $4.5 million in 2007. In 2008, we opened 31 new company-owned restaurants, incurred costs of approximately $490,000 for restaurants opening in 2009, and incurred $197,000 related to the acquisition of the nine franchised restaurants located in Nevada. In 2007, we opened 23 new company-owned restaurants and incurred cost of approximately $47,000 for restaurants opening in 2008. Average preopening cost per restaurant in 2008 was $203,000, excluding the eight Don Pablo’s conversions which averaged $316,000. Preopening costs for 2007 averaged $195,000 per restaurant.
Loss on asset disposals and impairment increased by $1.1 million to $2.1 million in 2008 from $987,000 in 2007. The expense in 2008 represented the asset impairment of one relocated restaurant of $395,000 and two underperforming restaurants of $154,000, the closure costs for three relocated restaurants of $85,000, and $1.4 million for the write-off of miscellaneous equipment. During 2007 we closed one underperforming restaurant in North Carolina resulting in store closing costs and a write-down of equipment costs for $183,000. The remaining 2007 expense was for write-off of miscellaneous equipment.
Investment income decreased by $1.9 million to $970,000 in 2008 from $2.9 million in 2007. The majority of our investments were in short-term municipal securities. The decrease in investment income was primarily due to lower rates of return on investments and lower overall cash and marketable securities balances. Cash and marketable securities balances at the end of the year were $44.5 million in 2008 compared to $68.0 million in 2007.
Provision for income taxes increased $3.1 million to $11.9 million in 2008 from $8.9 million in 2007. The effective tax rate as a percentage of income before taxes increased to 32.8% in 2008 from 31.1% in 2007. The rate increase was primarily due to a reduction in tax exempt interest income.
Liquidity and Capital Resources
Our primary liquidity and capital requirements have been for new restaurant construction, remodeling and maintaining our existing company-owned restaurants, working capital, acquisitions, and other general business needs. We fund these expenses, except for acquisitions, primarily with cash from operations. Depending on the size of the transaction, acquisitions would generally be funded from cash and marketable securities balances. The cash and marketable securities balance at December 27, 2009 was $53.2 million. We invest our cash balances in debt securities with the focus on protection of principal, adequate liquidity and return on investment based on risk. As of December 27, 2009, nearly all excess cash was invested in high quality municipal securities.
During fiscal 2009, 2008, and 2007, net cash provided by operating activities was $79.3 million, $66.1 million, and $43.6 million, respectively. Net cash provided by operating activities in 2009 consisted primarily of net earnings adjusted for non-cash expenses and an increase in accrued expenses partially offset by an increase in accounts receivable and trading securities. The increase in accrued expenses was primarily due to increased payroll related costs including wages, incentive compensation, and deferred compensation costs. The increase in accounts receivable was primarily due to the timing of payments received related to credit cards and royalties which was affected by the Christmas holiday. The increase in trading securities was due to additional contributions to the Management Deferred Compensation Plan.
Net cash provided by operating activities in 2008 consisted primarily of net earnings adjusted for non-cash expenses and an increase in accounts payable, and accrued expenses, and a decrease in refundable income taxes. The increase in accounts payable was primarily due to the larger number of restaurants in operation, the amount of construction activity at the end of 2008, and the timing of payments. The increase in accrued expenses was due primarily to higher utility accruals and losses related to future natural gas contracts. The decrease in refundable income taxes was due to the timing of tax payments.
Net cash provided by operating activities in 2007 consisted primarily of net earnings adjusted for non-cash expenses and an increase in accounts payable and accrued expenses partially offset by an increase in accounts receivable, prepaid expenses, and income tax receivables. The increase in accounts payable is relative to the growth in the number of company-owned restaurants. The increase in accrued expenses was due primarily to the growth in the number of company-owned restaurants, and a higher gift card liability due to strong fourth quarter gift card sales. The increase in accounts receivable was primarily due to higher credit card receivables and landlord receivables for tenant improvements. The increase in prepaid expense is primarily due to the timing of payments related to our self insurance programs. The increase in income tax receivables was due to the timing of payments.
Net cash used in investing activities for 2009, 2008, and 2007, was $79.2 million, $60.1 million, and $54.7 million, respectively. Investing activities included purchases of property and equipment related to the opening of new company-owned restaurants and restaurants under construction in all periods. In 2009 we opened 36 new restaurants. In 2008 we purchased nine franchised locations in Nevada for $23.1 million and opened 31 new restaurants. In 2007 we opened 23 new restaurants. In 2010, we expect capital expenditures for approximately 42 new or relocated company-owned restaurants to cost approximately $1.75 million per location, and expenditures of approximately $20 million for the upgrades and remodels of existing restaurants. In 2009, we purchased $57.0 million of marketable securities and received proceeds of $51.6 million as investments in marketable securities matured or were sold. In 2008, we purchased $116.3 million of marketable securities and received proceeds of $146.6 million as investments in marketable securities matured or were sold. In 2007, we purchased $158.2 million of marketable securities and received proceeds of $144.8 million as investments in marketable securities matured.
Net cash provided by financing activities for 2009, 2008, and 2007, was $1.1 million, $853,000, and $873,000, respectively. Net cash provided by financing activities for 2009 resulted primarily from the issuance of common stock for options exercised and employee stock purchases of $1.2 million and excess tax benefits for restricted stock unit issuances of $1.5 million partially offset by tax payments for restricted stock units of $1.5 million. Net cash provided by financing activities for 2008 resulted from the issuance of common stock for options exercised and employee stock purchases of $1.2 million and excess tax benefits for restricted stock unit issuances of $615,000 partially offset by tax payments for restricted stock units of $989,000. Net cash provided by financing activities for 2007 resulted primarily from the issuance of common stock for options exercised and employee stock purchases of $1.4 million and excess tax benefits for restricted stock unit issuances of $1.0 million partially offset by tax payments for restricted stock units of $1.6 million. No additional funding from the issuance of common stock (other than from the exercise of options and employee stock purchases) is anticipated in 2010.
Our liquidity is impacted by minimum cash payment commitments resulting from operating lease obligations for our restaurants and our corporate offices. Lease terms are generally 10 to 15 years with renewal options and generally require us to pay a proportionate share of real estate taxes, insurance, common area maintenance and other operating costs. Some restaurant leases provide for contingent rental payments based on sales thresholds. We own the buildings in which 31 of our restaurants operate and therefore have a very limited ability to enter into sale-leaseback transactions as a potential source of cash.
The following table presents a summary of our contractual operating lease obligations and commitments as of December 27, 2009:
We believe the cash flows from our operating activities and our balance of cash and marketable securities will be sufficient to fund our operations and building commitments and meet our obligations in the foreseeable future. Our future cash outflows related to income tax uncertainties amounts to $566,000. These amounts are excluded from the contractual obligations table due to the high degree of uncertainty regarding the timing of these liabilities.
Recent Accounting Pronouncements
In June 2009, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued SFAS No. 168, “The FASB Accounting Standards Codification and the Hierarchy of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.” SFAS No. 168 approved the FASB Accounting Standards Codification (the Codification) as the single source of authoritative nongovernmental GAAP. All existing accounting standard documents, such as FASB, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Emerging Issues Task Force and other related literature, excluding guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission, have been superseded by the Codification. All other non-grandfathered, non-SEC accounting literature not included in the Codification has become nonauthoritative. The Codification is effective for interim or annual periods ending after September 15, 2009. There have been no changes to the content of our financial statements or disclosures as a result of implementing the Codification during the year ended December 27, 2009. However, as a result of implementation of the Codification, previous references to new accounting standards and literature are no longer applicable. In order to ease the transition to the Codification, we are providing the Codification cross-reference alongside the references to the standards issued and adopted prior to the adoption of the Codification. All future references to authoritative accounting literature in our consolidated financial statements will be referenced in accordance with the Codification.
Impact of Inflation
In the last three years we have not operated in a period of high general inflation; however, the cost of commodities, labor and certain utilities have generally increased or experienced price volatility. Our restaurant operations are subject to federal and state minimum wage laws governing such matters as working conditions, overtime and tip credits. Significant numbers of our food service and preparation personnel are paid at rates related to the federal and/or state minimum wage and, accordingly, increases in the minimum wage have increased our labor costs in the last three years. In addition, costs associated with our operating leases, such as taxes, maintenance, repairs and insurance, are often subject to upward pressure. To the extent permitted by competition, we have mitigated increased costs by increasing menu prices and may continue to do so if deemed necessary in future years.
Quarterly Results of Operations
The following table sets forth, by quarter, the unaudited quarterly results of operations for the two most recent years, as well as the same data expressed as a percentage of our total revenue for the periods presented. Restaurant operating costs are expressed as a percentage of restaurant sales. The information for each quarter is unaudited and we have prepared it on the same basis as the audited financial statements appearing elsewhere in this document. In the opinion of management, all necessary adjustments, consisting only of normal recurring adjustments, have been included to present fairly the unaudited quarterly results. All amounts, except per share amounts, are expressed in thousands.
Quarterly and annual operating results may fluctuate significantly as a result of a variety of factors, including increases or decreases in same-store sales, changes in chicken wing prices, the timing and number of new restaurant openings and their related expenses, asset impairment charges, store closing charges, general economic conditions and seasonal fluctuations.
Results of Quarterly Operations (unaudited)