Cracker Barrel Shares Soar to New High on Strong 4Q Earnings

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (NASDAQ:CBRL) nearly doubled its fourth-quarter profit and posted stronger-than-expected sales on Wednesday, led by higher average checks and traffic.

Shares of Cracker Barrel jumped more than 7.5% to a lifetime high of $69.30. They are up more than 34% since January.

The Lebanon, Tenn.-based operator of a restaurant/gift shop chain posted net earnings of $34.7 million, or $1.47 a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $17.5 million, or 77 cents.

Adjusted for the extra week in the current year compared with the same period in 2011, earnings were $1.20.

Revenue for the three months ended Aug. 3 was up 14% to $700 million from $612.9 million a year ago, trumping the Street’s view of $685 million.

Same-store sales, a highly-watched growth metric that calculates sales at stores open longer than a year, grew by 3.8% at its restaurants and 3.1% at its gifts shops.

Looking toward fiscal 2013, the restaurant chain sees earnings in the range of $4.50 to $4.70 a share on sales of $2.6 billion to $2.65 billion, driven by the opening of 12 new Cracker Barrels. Analysts on average are looking for full-year earnings of $4.68 on sales of $2.63 billion.

Comparable-store restaurant and retail sales are forecast to grow in a range of 2% to 3% in 2013, while operating income margin is expected to be between 7.3% and 7.5% of revenues despite an expected 5% to 6% increase in food commodity costs.

For the first quarter of 2013, Cracker Barrel sees earnings of $1.00 to $1.05 a share, missing the consensus of $1.17.