We've spent a lot of time this year discussing the complete collapse of mall-based retailers, a collapse which has resulted in more store closures in Q1 2017 than all of 2016 and will likely claim more victims by the end of this year than any year since the great recession nearly a decade ago. Here are a couple of recent examples:
- Visualizing America's Retail Apocalypse
- 2017 Will Be The Worst Year For US Retail In History
- "The Retail Bubble Has Now Burst": A Record 8,640 Stores Are Closing In 2017
But those mall-based apparel companies aren't the only ones suffering the dire consequences of collapsing mall traffic. For years, the casual dining space has become more and more saturated with new concepts resulting in thinner and thinner margins for the restaurant industry. Now, with foot traffic in malls collapsing these same restaurants are about to experience the brutal realization that declining traffic, massive fixed costs, rising minimum wages and razor thin margins aren't a great combo.
Thankfully, Barclays' restaurant team, led by Jeffrey Bernstein, has identified which publicly-traded restaurants are about to get screwed the most. Here's a summary:
Of the large publicly-traded casual dining chains, Cheesecake Factory 'wins' the 'most screwed' award with 93% of their locations heavily dependent on mall traffic.
Meanwhile, proving they went full mall-tard (something you should never do, btw), CAKE's second largest casual dining concept, Grand Lux, is also over 90% dependent on mall traffic.
Here are more details from Barclays:
Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) operates 90%+ of their stores in a location we define as mall dependent. To be fair, CAKE is often viewed as a destination, with its own separate entrance, and therefore less mall-dependent. And most are in ‘A’ malls which house high-end retailers that draw a more affluent consumer. But the consumer shift to on-line shopping is less about affluence, and more about a change in behavior.
BJ’s Restaurants (BJRI) & Olive Garden (DRI) are the only other portfolio leading casual diners with an outsized percentage of stores mall dependent, at ~60% & ~50%, resp. With that said, we are Underweight BJRI & Overweight DRI. Importantly, this analysis is just one component of a mosaic when formulating our ratings. BJRI is expanding from regional to national, and competes within a very competitive varied menu segment, both of which pose challenges. Olive Garden is already a strong national brand, and the only one competing within the Italian segment, while offering a strong value platform.
As for the remaining casual diners, all operate 25-40% of their stores mall dependent. These include the three steak chains, Outback (BLMN), Texas Roadhouse (TXRH) and LongHorn (DRI), all at 30-40%. We are Overweight all three. Steak concepts are more special occasion, and therefore less mall-reliant, with resilience demonstrated by a positive comp for all in 1H17. Otherwise, Buffalo Wild (BWLD) is also Overweight. While comps have eased and wing prices are elevated, the brand is introducing a new c-suite, has three new activist board members, & potential for large refranchising / cost cutting. Lastly, Chili’s (EAT) also competes within a very competitive varied menu segment, and is viewed as over-stored, and is now looking to redefine a ‘very clear identity’.
Finally, here is a list of states that should probably start preparing for higher restaurant layoffs in the near future...yes, we're looking at you and your $15 minimum wage California.