How casual dining can get its groove back

Restaurant industry consultant Nancy Kruse has some good thoughts on how casual-dining brands can better hold their own in a restaurant arena that increasingly prizes fast-casual concepts as well as more authentic and artisanal experiences. Kruse says chains can be forgiven for feeling like they're "being nibbled to death by ducks" but there is a way out.

They have leverageable assets of location and market presence, not to mention strategic competitive advantages in areas like the dinner daypart, bar business and culinary innovation. But while the old chain model prized sameness, the new model rewards a localized, personalized approach. This means that they should all step away from the flatbread and take a look at what they can learn from the upstart competitors. Their new formula can’t look formulaic, and success may require a wrenching but necessary reengineering of the brand to bring it in tune with the zeitgeist.

Apr 21, 2014 6:41 AM

From the mall to the diner

You don't have to look far these days to find a headline about a restaurant chain struggling to attract or retain diners. But there could be a growing opportunity in luring young people: John McDuling at Quartz has an interesting read on a Piper Jaffray report detailing teenagers' increasing proclivity to gather at restaurants rather than at shopping malls.

Apr 16, 2014 8:49 AM

Guggenheim: Buy Dollar General, peer as consumer spending recovers from weather disruptions

John Heinbockel at Guggenheim Securities expects growth in consumables spending to be slightly better this year than in 2013 but it will still be below the historical average. The recovery beyond that won't be swift, he says, which is why he advocates buying Dollar General and its biggest competitor as a way to tiptoe into the discretionary spending space. The next big tell will come as spring turns into summer.

When will we know how much of the current spending weakness is indeed weather-driven? Probably by late June. March will still be weather-impacted and the later Easter (April 20) reduces its importance. April results will not likely capture the full extent of any weather-oriented catch-up in demand. Therefore, May will likely prove critical, and we won’t get a complete read until the latter part of June.

Shares of Dollar General (Ticker: DG) closed Friday trading at $55.40 and have fallen about 8 percent so far this year.

Mar 31, 2014 8:42 AM

Will Walmart and winter benefit Dollar General?

Investors in the dollar-story sector shouldn't panic on the basis of Wal-Mart Stores' move last week to lower its fourth-quarter sales and profits guidance, Avondale Partners analyst Mark Montagna wrote Friday. The world's biggest retailer cited both food-stamp cuts and this winter's series of storms as hurting its business, but Montagna doesn't see Goodlettsville-based Dollar General or its main rival, Family Dollar, suffering in sympathy. If anything, he says, the winter storms will actually help dollar stores because they are typically closer to shoppers' homes. "This could drive higher average baskets, increased traffic, and increase the new customer count," Montagna says.

Dollar General (Ticker: DG) closed Friday at $56.32. The shares are down slightly over the past three months, but Montagna sees them climbing to $67 in the coming quarters.

Feb 3, 2014 7:14 AM

Cracker Barrel didn't escape winter storms, sluggish consumers

Traffic fell almost 5% in December
Jan 13, 2014 7:00 AM

Family Dollar's loss appears to be Dollar General's gain

It took a few hours, but investors took a real liking to Dollar General shares Thursday, pushing them higher by 3 percent after rival Family Dollar reported disappointing results, lowered its outlook and said goodbye to its COO. Family Dollar's same-store sales fell 2.8 percent during the quarter, a sharp contrast to Dollar General's recently reported fiscal third quarter, during which same-store sales rose every week. Investors took it a little easier on Family Dollar late in the day, but it was clear the market views Goodlettsville-based Dollar General (Ticker: DG) as leading the pack in early 2014.

Some perspective from flyonthewall.com:

WHATS NOTABLE: During the company's first quarter earnings conference call, the company said it was "not happy" with its first quarter results and cited an increase in competition from rivals such as Dollar Tree (DLTR) and Dollar General (DG) as a reason for the Q1 loss. It also cited a decrease in core lower-income customers due to the challenging financial market as another reason for the quarter's lower than expected outcome. In hindsight, the company said it would have made a different decision instead of limited assortment and layout changes in fiscal-year 2013, given the deteriorating customer trends.

SEE ALSO: Dollar General hits all-time high on Q3 report from last month

Jan 10, 2014 6:58 AM

'13 was one for the books at Nissan

December sales at Nissan came in at more than 96,000, a jump of 11.4 percent from 2012, on the back of strong gains for the big-selling Sentra, Rogue and Maxima models. (Infiniti sales climbed almost 5 percent.) For the year, Franklin-based Nissan sold a record 1.25 million cars, which was 9.4 percent more than in 2012.

Jan 6, 2014 8:41 AM

Restaurant index at five-month high

If the economy really is set to pick up steam in 2014, consumers will have to get out and open their wallets some more. A key National Restaurant Association index suggests they just might be ready to do that: In November, the trade group's Restaurant Performance Index clocked in at its highest point since June. The expectations component of the index has now been positive for more than a year.

Jan 2, 2014 8:43 AM

No respite yet for Logan's

Fiscal Q1 brings big same-store drop, $12M loss
Dec 10, 2013 2:34 PM

Dollar General hits all-time high on Q3 report

Retailer posts nice same-store numbers, launches large buyback
Dec 5, 2013 12:40 PM