Cracker Barrel Old Country Store on Tuesday morning said its fiscal third-quarter profits rose 25 percent from a year ago to $19 million, helped by same-store sales growth and cost controls.
Adjusted for one-time charges this year and last, profits per diluted share came in at 81 cents, six cents better than what analysts had been looking for. Operating income jumped 25 percent to $39.1 million, helped by a rise of less than 2 percent in labor and other store operating expenses. Revenues for the quarter rose 5 percent to $609 million, with same-store restaurant sales climbing 3.1 percent.
"The plan we laid out in September of last year continues to generate the steady improvements in both revenue and profitability that we expected," said CEO Sandy Cochran. "We continued to control our expenses and realize the expected benefits from our cost reduction initiatives."
One potential source of concern for Cochran and her team: Sales and traffic trends worsened during the quarter after starting strong in February, with traffic actually falling year over year in March and April. Whether that's indicative of broader consumer caution — executives at home goods retailer Kirkland's last week said they saw "a distinct change in customer sentiment" in the spring — or a company-specific sign likely won't matter to Sardar Biglari, CEO of Steak n Shake and Cracker Barrel's largest shareholder. For the past year, Biglari has been calling for an overhaul of Cracker Barrel's board and strategy, with traffic trends being an area of particular focus.
Cochran also raised Cracker Barrel's guidance for fiscal 2012 to a range of $4.35 to $4.45 after adjustments. That's up from $4.20 to $4.35 three months ago.
Shares of Cracker Barrel (Ticker: CBRL) were up slightly in pre-market action to $58.26. Year to date, they've risen about 15 percent.
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