Maple Street Biscuit Co. adding locations with caution

Parent Cracker Barrel plans 15-20 new stores of the chain for the full fiscal year.

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  • | 12:20 a.m. December 9, 2022
Maple Street Biscuit Co. opened its newest restaurant Nov. 29 in Katy, Texas. (Maple Street )
Maple Street Biscuit Co. opened its newest restaurant Nov. 29 in Katy, Texas. (Maple Street )
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Maple Street Biscuit Co. opened three new restaurants during parent company Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.’s first quarter.

However, Cracker Barrel CEO Sandra Cochran is expressing caution about the pace of expansion for the chain that started in Jacksonville.

The two new restaurants in Texas and in Georgia bring Maple Street to 54 locations in nine states, with the company targeting 15 to 20 new stores for the full fiscal year.

“Right now, I feel good that we will be able to open within the range,” Cochran said in Cracker Barrel’s quarterly conference call Dec. 2.

But she said the environment for new construction projects is uncertain.

“So I guess we could have some slippage as we have construction delays, and so on,” she said.

Maple Street had 33 restaurants in seven states when Cracker Barrel bought the company, then based in Orange Park, for $36 million in October 2019.

The company is growing Maple Street faster than its main Cracker Barrel chain, which has 664 restaurants across the country and only has plans for three or four new stores in fiscal 2023.

“So far, I’m comfortable and pleased with the progress we’re making” on Maple Street, Cochran said. 

“We are opening in a variety of real estate locations, so we’re trying to understand better as we build our model of what works and what doesn’t,” she said.

“One of the constraints to growth will be whether we think we have the resources and the infrastructure to support the growth in terms of managers and that kind of thing, and I’m very pleased with the progress that the team over there is making in putting that kind of infrastructure in place.”

Cracker Barrel reported revenue rose 7% to $839.5 million in its first quarter ended Oct. 28, but adjusted earnings dropped to 99 cents a share, from $1.52 the previous year.

The company does not break out separate earnings for its Maple Street division.

Cochran said the results were in line with the company’s expectations.

“We continue to face headwinds, especially from inflation, but expect to see significant improvements to our performance in the latter portion of the fiscal year as our initiatives gain further traction and the external environment becomes more favorable,” she said.

RBI upgraded on new executive chairman

Restaurant Brands International Inc., the other big public restaurant company that bought a Jacksonville-based chain, has a new executive chairman.

One analyst thinks that move will be a catalyst for RBI’s stock.

RBI, which bought the Firehouse Subs chain a year ago, already owned the Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons chains.

Toronto-based RBI announced Nov. 16 that former Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle is joining the company as executive chairman. Jose Cil remains CEO.

“Doyle’s reputation among shareholders is perhaps unrivaled in recent restaurant history, in our view,” Morgan Stanley analyst John Glass said in a research note as he upgraded his rating on RBI from “underweight” to “equal weight.”

“He presided over a more than 20-fold increase in Domino’s share price during his tenure (2010-18), making Domino’s not only the best performing restaurant stock during that period but one of the best performers in the S&P 500,” he said.

“These are four exceptional brands with real opportunities for accelerated growth. Working closely with each of the brands’ franchisees, with Jose, the whole RBI team, and the Board of Directors, I am confident we can create one of the most compelling growth stories in the industry,” Doyle said in a news release.

ComSovereign names permanent CEO

ComSovereign Holding Corp. said Nov. 29 that David Knight, who had been serving as interim CEO, was appointed permanent president and CEO.

Knight, who had been an adviser to the company, joined ComSovereign on an interim basis in September after CEO Daniel Hodges and President John Howell resigned.

The company was created in late 2019 by the merger of Jacksonville-based Drone Aviation Holding Corp. and ComSovereign Corp. 

Its Drone Aviation subsidiary continues to be headquartered in Jacksonville while ComSovereign’s main office is in Dallas. Besides the tethered drone business, it also operates telecommunications subsidiaries.

ComSovereign said in a news release Knight has been working since September on measures to streamline operations and reduce costs.

The company did not file its 2021 annual report until August and hasn’t filed any quarterly reports for 2022.

The annual report showed revenue of $12.6 million and a 2021 net loss of $153.2 million, which included $106.1 million in impairment charges for goodwill and intangible assets.

ComSovereign was threatened with delisting from the Nasdaq Capital Market but said Dec. 1 Nasdaq approved a request to continue its share listing subject to several conditions, including filing its required quarterly reports by Feb. 23.