Fast Food Restaurants

Domino’s Pizza Inc. – Intrinsic Value

Domino's Pizza

Domino’s Pizza is the third largest publicly traded fast-food chain in the world. With over 18,800 locations worldwide, the business model is three pronged with franchising as the primary profit center. However, it has one glaring flaw, the company is highly leveraged to the tune of more than $5 Billion. There is ZERO equity in this company. It’s average annual earnings over the last five years are around $380 Million. The interest expense alone has almost doubled from $99 Million in 2016 to $192 Million in five years. 

Even with an average annual earnings of $525 Million per year, it will take 10 years to get the debt under control. Domino’s Pizza Inc. keeps recapitalizing its debt every couple of years. This recapitalization process increases the aggregated interest paid and given the current Federal Reserve’s attitude towards interest rates, this is going to be a detrimental problem for Domino’s in a few years. The weighted average borrowing rate is currently 3.8% and will remain stable for several years due to timing issues. However, there is a $1.2 Billion refinancing requirement in 2025 which will most likely result in an increase the average borrowing rate. Thus, the ability of Domino’s to continue profitability at more than $600 Million per year after 2025 is questionable.

McDonald’s Intrinsic Value


President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of McDonald’s Inc. said it best in the earnings call in late January 2022, we are “… witnessing the beginning of the next great chapter at McDonald’s, …”. He continued with “2021 was a record-setting year for McDonald’s on many dimensions, …” Simply put, McDonald’s had the best financial performance ever in its history during 2021. It just didn’t marginally exceed records, McDonald’s dramatically surpassed all financial records in its entire history. McDonald’s was already the standard bearer in the informal-eating-out industry; it took this standard to a whole new level. When a company has net profits of more than 20%, it is labeled a ‘darling’; over 25%, it is just unheard of financial results; in 2021, McDonald’s net profit was greater than 32%. This sets such a high standard for fast-food restaurants; it is unlikely to be matched by others – EVER.

When a company performs to this level, intrinsic value soars. Intrinsic value is built on a company’s inherent worth. The more stable and reliable a company, the greater the intrinsic value for that company. The reason is simple, the discount rate used with evaluating earnings improves because management demonstrates that it can indeed perform and in this case, perform at exceptional levels.

What is even more fascinating is this: 

If you look at McDonald’s balance sheet, total assets on 12/31/21 are $53.8 Billion; total liabilities are $58.4 Billion. McDonald’s has a NEGATIVE EQUITY POSITION OF $4.6 BILLION. You read that correctly. In simple layman’s terminology, this is called ‘Bankrupt’. Every business textbook used in college defines bankruptcy as liabilities exceeding assets. This makes McDonald’s performance just that more impressive. They are so solid, even creditors ignore this situation and will still loan money to McDonald’s. During 2021, McDonald’s was able to acquire long-term loans totaling $1.154 Billion.  To further validate the incredible worthiness of McDonald’s, from page 57 of their filed SEC Form 10-K (annual report), “There are no provisions in the Company’s debt obligations that would accelerate repayment of debt as a result of a change in credit ratings or a material adverse change in the Company’s business.” You can only count on one hand the number of companies that have this level of credit. 

McDonald’s is financially rock solid.

Starbucks – Intrinsic Value for Value Investing


What would you pay for a stock that has the following negative attributes?

A book value of MINUS $7.33 per share (yes, you read that correctly, a negative book value);
A recorded deferred liability to Nestle Corporation for almost $6.6 Billion;
Decreased the company’s already negative equity position another 60%, i.e. $3.1 Billion more;
Has 5,358 locations in China which is 31% of its corporate owned stores;
Spent $3.5 Billion to buy back 3.1 Million shares when the price of its stock was at or near its historical high market value;
Has long-term debt and leases totaling $23.5 Billion with fixed assets of only $15.2 Billion.

Yet, with all these negative factors, Starbucks’ stock price is currently in the mid 90’s range and was selling at an all-time high of $126 per share back in the middle of the summer 2021. Mind you, the company’s stock price was a mere $5 per share just 13 years ago. If you exclude 2020’s financial results due to COVID-19 and average the last 3.25 years (2018, 2019, 2021 and the 1st quarter of 2022) you get an average annual earnings of $4,040.8 Million ($4.04 Billion). Using Graham & Dodd’s core formula to calculate value and assuming a 7% growth rate, total market value equals:

Average Earnings X ((8.5 plus (2 Times Average Expected Growth Rate)) = Market Value
$4,040.8 Million X (8.5 plus 14) = Market Value
$4, 040.8 Million X 22.5 = Market Value
Market Value = $90,918 Million ($91 Billion)

With 1,176.6 Million shares in the market, each share is worth about $77.27 per share. At a more realistic 5.5% growth rate, each share is worth about $67/share. Even using the best quarterly results in the last four years and extrapolating this as the average quarterly amount for an entire year, average earnings per year would equal $5.93 Billion and with an average annual growth rate of 5.5%, the market value would approximate $115.6 Billion or about $98 per share.

Thus, assuming some strong liberal values, at most, Starbucks is worth $98 per share. With more conservative elements of the formula, Starbucks is worth less than $67 per share. This article, will illustrate that the actual intrinsic value is less than $40 per share; and, this is using reasonable estimates for the elements of several different intrinsic value formulas.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. – Intrinsic Value for Value Investing

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.’s current (01/24/22) market price is around $1,400 per share, trading as high as $1,930 late last summer (summer of 2021). The market price is hyped up on the strong belief that this company will generate incredible results over the next few years. The truth of the matter is this: even if you took the absolute best quarterly results from the last five years, extrapolated that value as the normal value for Chipotle, then doubled its growth rate, the maximum best value for Chipotle would equal $480 per share. To put this succinctly, the market price for this stock is so overpriced that the best term to describe this is ‘irrational exuberance’ (Alan Greenspan, December 5, 1996). 

There is no doubt this company produces a great product that is loved by millions of consumers. Even more, Chipotle has grown in leaps and bounds with volume of restaurants over the last ten years (adding 1,300 restaurants in eight years); it currently has 2,900 locations. More importantly, Chipotle’s gross margin has improved to a respectable 11.9%. Add to this, Chipotle has not recorded a loss during the last ten years. However, Chipotle’s financial model does not mirror the fast-food restaurant financial model customarily found with franchised operations such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Restaurant Brands International and Dominos. Furthermore, the law of diminishing returns will begin to dampen growth and impact the ability of Chipotle to maintain a high quality meal served in a reasonable time frame. In effect, the growth experience that Chipotle has seen can not continue in the long-run. Instead of seven and eight percent annual growth rates experienced over the last ten years, growth will shrink to a more realistic four and five percent per year. 

Wendy’s – Intrinsic Value of Stock

Value Investing

Wendy’s is the second largest publicly traded informal eating-out (fast-food) hamburger chain. Its current market capitalization places it around $5 Billion. Therefore, it falls into the mid-cap arena of stocks. At the time of this article’s inception, November 2021, Wendy’s was trading on the NASDAQ at $23 per share. Its intrinsic value is a little less than half the market value and a value investor’s buy point is around $8 per share. The company does pay a small dividend. Current dividend yield is slightly less than 2%. Overall, the company is profitable but stagnant related to growth. Stated succinctly, Wendy’s is nowhere near worth a current market value of more than $20 per share. 

This company runs the industry financial model commonly used with other fast-food restaurant chains. It has three revenue and expense segments of operations. The first and core segment is the traditional corporate owned locations. Wendy’s has 361 company owned stores. As such, they have a traditional profit and loss calculation associated with this segment. A second segment and the real driving force of profit is the franchising arm of the company. There are 6,467 franchisees, with corporate owned stores, Wendy’s totals 6,828 restaurants. This segment is driven by the 4% franchise fee placed on all sales of the franchisees. Similar to McDonalds, the core source of profitability stems from the franchising aspect of operations. A third and not as profitable as franchising is the real estate arm. Just like McDonalds and other well managed restaurant chains, Wendy’s negotiates long-term leases of property in ideal locations and in turn negotiates beneficial long-term leases with franchisees to pay rent for the use of that land. The franchisee uses their capital to build the store, equip it and initiate operations at that site.

Shake Shack – Intrinsic Value of Stock

Shake Shack Intrinsic Value

One of the members of the informal eating out industry, fast-food restaurants, is Shake Shack. Shake Shack is one of the few fast-food restaurants that sells beer and wine at a limited number of its locations. The company is relatively young by any business standard opening its first restaurant back in 2001 and going public in 2014. Thus, the company does not qualify as a value investment opportunity but is used as a comparative tool in this site’s Value Investment Fund’s Fast-Food Restaurants’ Pool.

In general, Shake Shack’s market price is several times greater than the company’s intrinsic value. It is trading at this high price purely on conjecture that it will morph into the next McDonald’s. Based on its business plan, historical earnings, and capital raising capacity; it will take every bit of twenty (20) years to justify the current market price – trading at more than $70 per share (November 2021). No value investor in their right mind would spend $70 plus on hope. It is simply irresponsible.

Fixed and Variable Costs in a Restaurant

Fixed and Variable Costs in a Restaurant

Many restaurant owners and managers do not understand the difference between their fixed and variable costs. The problem with defining fixed and variable costs in a restaurant relate to their connection with sales. In addition, reasonable assumptions have to be made in order to delineate between fixed and variable costs in the food service industry. 

This article will explain the difference between fixed and variable costs in a restaurant, provide examples of both and educate the reader on proper analysis procedures to create baselines for improvement.  I am a big believer in the feedback loop method of business operations in order to maximize profit and reduce overall stress for the owners and management team. 

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