Cracker Barrel not focused on Maple Street Biscuit Co.

The company launches initiatives to fix its main brand, which has been somewhat stagnant.

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Cracker Barrel had 662 locations at the end of the second quarter, but the company said it closed some stores in the third quarter. There are six open in Northeast Florida.
Cracker Barrel had 662 locations at the end of the second quarter, but the company said it closed some stores in the third quarter. There are six open in Northeast Florida.
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At the end of a 45-minute conference call to discuss initiatives to improve its primary brand, an analyst asked Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. CEO Julie Masino to comment on Maple Street Biscuit Co.

“We knew somebody was going to ask us this,” she said in the May 16 call. 

But Masino, who has been on the job for nine months, said she is focused on improving the performance of its Cracker Barrel chain.

“Maple Street is a brand that we really do love,” she said.


“We think the food is great. Today is really about Cracker Barrel.”

Maple Street has been expanding since Cracker Barrel acquired the chain then based in Orange Park in 2019, but Cracker Barrel has been somewhat stagnant.

“Cracker Barrel is a great concept and a great company,” Masino said.

However, “the brand has lost some of its shine.”

Cracker Barrel is scheduled to announce quarterly earnings May 30, when a company would typically announce new strategic initiatives. But the company apparently couldn’t wait.

The plan includes new menu items and store remodels.

Cracker Barrel also said it will focus on investing capital into the business, rather than distributing excess cash to shareholders. It is cutting its quarterly dividend from $1.30 a share to 25 cents.

The company had previously reported revenue in the six months ended Jan. 26 fell 1% to $1.76 billion and earnings fell by 70 cents a share to $1.44. 

Without giving numbers, it said results for the second half of the fiscal year will be below expectations.

Cracker Barrel’s stock dropped by $8.29 to $48.98 on May 17 after the late afternoon conference call the day before, its lowest level since 2011. The stock was trading above $100 a year ago.

Maple Street, which started with one Jacksonville restaurant in the San Marco neighborhood in 2012, has grown from 33 restaurants when it was acquired by Cracker Barrel to 63 at the end of the second quarter of the fiscal year, with plans to add more in the last two quarters of the year.

“We think it’s got great growth potential. The team there continues to work hard on enhancing the business model and positioning the brand for growth,” Masino said.

Cracker Barrel had 662 locations at the end of the second quarter but the company said it closed some stores in the third quarter.

Masino said Cracker Barrel stores and restaurants account for 98% of the company’s sales, which is why she is focused on that brand.

“We feel it is the first place where we’ve got to right the ship,” she said.

“We’ll talk about Maple Street in forthcoming quarterly updates.”

Duos Technologies adds AI subsidiary

Duos Technologies Group Inc. has been focused on technology for the railroad business but the Jacksonville-based company wants to expand with a new artificial intelligence subsidiary called Duos Edge AI.

“We have previously spoken about our keen interest in expanding and diversifying Duos into the broader AI value chain, where analysts predict significant and rapid growth in edge computing – and the IT infrastructure to support it,” CEO Chuck Ferry said in a May 13 conference call, according to a company transcript.

“Duos Edge AI is using the technical skills Duos already has and deploying those skills to take advantage of a significant opportunity to build out the broader Edge AI IT infrastructure that supports other sectors such as schools, oil and gas companies, utility companies, telecommunications fiber providers, manufacturing companies, and government agencies,” he said.

Ferry said Duos plans to hold a news conference in about a month to provide more details about the new subsidiary.

Duos reported first quarter revenue fell 60% to $1.07 million, with a net loss of $2.75 million.

The company said the lower revenue resulted from the timing of revenue recognition from a contract with a major customer.

“I want to remind everyone that we anticipated short-term financial headwinds as we transition from a pure play CapEx business focused on the rail sector to a recurring and more diversified business within the broader AI value chain that I believe will result in significant shareholder value over the next few years,” Ferry said.

GEE Group reports lower results

GEE Group Inc. reported lower revenue and a net loss for its second quarter ended March 31, which the Jacksonville-based staffing company attributed to economic uncertainty.

“We have faced very difficult and challenging conditions so far in the fiscal 2024 first half, mainly stemming from ongoing macroeconomic and labor market instability, volatility and uncertainty, particularly, as they have affected businesses’ use of contingent labor and the hiring of full-time personnel,” CEO Derek Dewan said in a May 16 conference call, according to a company transcript.

GEE Group said revenue fell 28% to $28 million and it recorded an adjusted net loss of $399,000.

“As we reported in the past, the demand environment for us and our industry peers began to soften in the middle part of calendar 2023 following a robust hiring of both contract labor and permanent employees in calendar 2021 and 2022, much of which was attributable to a post COVID-19 bounce in employment,” Dewan said.

He said GEE Group’s client retention has been strong despite the reduced demand and there are some indicators that the market is improving.

“These positive trends have been mentioned in recent reports covering the staffing industry and by other peer group companies in their press releases and public filings. It remains unclear at this juncture, however, whether they are sustainable and as to when exactly the challenges faced by us and the U.S. staffing industry, overall, may be expected to meaningfully subside,” he said.

Dewan said the company is looking to expand with potential mergers and acquisitions and the company is “socializing with several targets at this stage,” without giving further details.

Paysafe benefiting from office in Dun & Bradstreet building

Paysafe Ltd. never mentions its North American headquarters in Jacksonville in its financial reports, but the London-based payments processing company did describe a tangible benefit from the office in its first quarter report.

In its May 13 conference call, CEO Bruce Lowthers said Paysafe has established “referral partners” that bring new business to the company.

“One example is we’ve entered into a new partnership with Dun & Bradstreet, becoming one of their preferred payment partners to enhance our lead generation efforts, leveraging their extensive subscriber database and marketing capabilities,” he said. 

“This partnership will provide us with access to over 30,000 new Dun & Bradstreet subscribers each month.”

Lowthers did not say it but Paysafe moved into offices last year in Town Center Two, the St. Johns Town Center-area office building owned by business data firm Dun & Bradstreet. It seems likely that helped the company establish the partnership.

Paysafe reported adjusted first-quarter earnings of 57 cents a share, 3 cents higher than last year but 23 cents higher than the consensus forecast of analysts, according to Zacks Equity Research.

That positive earnings report sent Paysafe’s stock up as much as $4.16 to a 52-week high of $19.83 on May 14.

ParkerVision has patent infringement trials pending

ParkerVision Inc. reported no revenue in the first quarter, with no active business operations.

But the Jacksonville-based wireless technology company is actively pursuing patent infringement lawsuits alleging major telecommunications firms have been illegally using its technology.

In a May 14 news release, ParkerVision said it has four federal jury trials scheduled in Texas during the next 18 months. It also has cases pending in Florida, New Jersey and Texas that it said are stayed pending the outcome of other cases.

“We continue to be willing to negotiate a fair business arrangement with each of the defendants, however, we are also eager to present our facts to a jury,” CEO Jeff Parker said in the release.

ParkerVision reported a net loss of $693,000 in the quarter.

Patriot Rail hiring former Port of New Orleans head as CEO

Jacksonville-based Patriot Rail Co. announced May 15 that Brandy Christian, CEO of the Port of New Orleans, will join the short line railroad company as CEO on June 17.

Christian is succeeding John Fenton, who is retiring after 12 years on the job.


Patriot has grown from 13 short line freight railroads to 31 in the last five years since it was acquired by investment firm Igneo Infrastructure Partners.

 “We are grateful to John for his exemplary contributions in guiding the company through significant expansion for more than a decade,” Patriot board Chair Deb Butler said in a May 15 news release.

“Brandy is an exceptional global supply chain and freight rail executive with the vision, perspective and expertise to lead Patriot Rail in its accelerating growth and development,” she said.

Christian, CEO of the Port of New Orleans since 2017, has more than 25 years of freight transport experience, Patriot said.

During her tenure at the port, it acquired the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad and increased operating revenues by 70%, the port said in a news release.

LFTD Partners revenue falls

LFTD Partners Inc. reported May 15 that first-quarter revenue fell 14% to $10.7 million.

The Jacksonville-based company manufactures and sells hemp-derived and other psychoactive products mainly through a Wisconsin company called Lifted Made.

LFTD had a net loss of $1.1 million in the quarter, which included a $1.3 million charge related to termination of an agreement to manufacture products with a company doing business under the brand name Jeeter.



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