DUBLIN, OHIO — Higher consumer satisfaction scores did not translate to stronger sales in the recent quarter for The Wendy’s Co., which appeared to lose ground in the fast-food burger battle during the summer months. An investment analyst on a Nov. 7 earnings call said the Dublin-based chain was outperformed by its burger peers “by a widening margin.”
In the third quarter ended Sept. 30, Wendy’s net income ballooned to $391,249,000, or $1.65 per share on the common stock, which compared with $14,257,000, or 6c, in the prior-year period. The sharp increase in net income resulted from Wendy’s sale of its stake in Inspire Brands, the parent company of Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, for $450 million, or approximately $353 million, net of tax.
Adjusted EBITDA in the quarter was $107.2 million, up 10% from $97.6 million, driven by a decrease in general and administrative expenses and revenue growth, including net rental income. The increase in adjusted earnings per share to 17c from 9c resulted from the positive impact of a lower tax rate related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, according to the company.
Revenues totaled $400,550,000, up 2.4% from $308,000,000.
During the quarter, global systemwide sales increased 1.7%, reflecting 1.2% growth in North America and 13.2% growth in international markets. North America same-restaurant sales declined 0.2%.
Todd Allan Penegor, president and chief executive officer, said the quick-service restaurant category is “still the place to be.”
“In the third quarter, we continued to stick to our playbook of utilizing a balanced marketing approach by kicking off with a high message on chicken tenders and on the low-end with the $1 Buffalo Ranch Crispy Chicken Sandwich,” Mr. Penegor said during the earnings call. “We followed this up with continued messaging around our 4 for $4 offering and a focus on our core with the Dave’s Double, featuring fresh, never-frozen North American beef. We rounded out the quarter with a balance between our new Harvest Chicken salad and brought back the 50c Frosty to close out the summer. Our high-low offerings in the third quarter did not create sales growth as planned in the context of a heightened competitive environment.”
He added, “the opportunity is how do we trade them up, how do we continue to move folks from the 4 for $4 offering into a higher price-point offering, like a $5 bundled meal? How do we continue to have exciting offerings on our core and premium menu, so once we get them to the restaurant with the appropriate upselling and the appropriate messaging, trade them into those more premium offerings? Those are all opportunities that are in front of us and the good news is, it plays off of our strengths, right? High-quality food at a very affordable price. And we’ll continue to work to make sure that we have a great experience in all those restaurants so they continue to come back.
“As we finish out the year and plan for 2019, we are partnering with our franchisees to ensure we are providing consumers with promotions that bring them into our restaurants more often, that are operationally sound and are profitable.”
Shares of Wendy’s in after-hours trading dropped more than 5% following the earnings release on Nov. 6, as same-restaurant sales fell short of analyst expectations.