Denny’s Corporation Reports Results for Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2017

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SPARTANBURG, S.C., Feb. 13, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Denny’s Corporation (NASDAQ:DENN), franchisor and operator of one of America's largest franchised full-service restaurant chains, today reported results for its fourth quarter and full year ended December 27, 2017.

John Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “Despite persistent challenges within the full-service dining environment, 2017 marked our seventh consecutive year of positive system same-store sales and our ninth consecutive year of net unit growth.  Our highly franchised business model, coupled with our efforts to further differentiate Denny’s as a relevant and compelling brand, continues to generate revenue growth and strong cash flows.  We remain committed to further elevating the guest experience through the focused execution of our brand revitalization strategies, leading to a consistent growth in same-store sales, an expanding global reach and value creation for our franchisees and shareholders.”

Denny’s total operating revenue grew 4.5% to $135.5 million primarily due to an increase in company restaurant sales.  Company restaurant sales were up 6.0% to $100.3 million due to a greater number of company restaurants compared to the prior year quarter and same-store sales growth.  Franchise and license revenue grew 0.5% to $35.2 million compared to $35.0 million in the prior year quarter as increases in royalty revenue and initial fees from restaurant openings were partially offset by lower occupancy revenue due to scheduled lease terminations.

Company Restaurant Operating Margin* was $16.4 million, or 16.4% of company restaurant sales, compared to $16.6 million, or 17.5%, in the prior year quarter, due to an expected rise in product costs and minimum wages, partially offset by higher sales and favorable workers' compensation experience.  Franchise Operating Margin* was $25.4 million, or 72.1% of franchise and license revenue, compared to $25.2 million, or 72.1%, in the prior year quarter, as growth in royalty revenue and initial fees from restaurant openings were partially offset by other direct costs and a reduction in occupancy margin.

Total general and administrative expenses were to $15.9 million compared to $17.3 million in the prior year quarter primarily due to a reduction in professional fees and lower incentive compensation.  Interest expense, net was $4.3 million versus $3.3 million in the prior year quarter.  Denny’s ended the quarter with $289.2 million of total debt outstanding, including $259.0 million of borrowings under its revolving credit facility. 

The provision for income taxes was $2.1 million, reflecting an effective tax rate of 13.8%.  The enactment of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 during the fourth quarter required the Company to revalue its deferred tax assets and liabilities using the new 21% federal statutory income tax rate.  Accordingly, the Company recorded a one-time non-cash benefit of $1.6 million to the provision for income taxes.  Excluding this tax reform impact and a $1.8 million benefit associated with settlement of stock based compensation, the Company's effective tax rate for the fourth quarter would have been approximately 35.6%.  Due to the use of tax credit carryforwards, the Company paid only $0.8 million in cash taxes during the quarter.

Net Income was $13.1 million, or $0.19 per diluted share, compared to $11.3 million, or $0.15 per diluted share, in the prior year quarter.  Adjusted Net Income per Share* grew 7.0% to $0.18 compared to the prior year quarter.

Denny’s generated $15.3 million of Adjusted Free Cash Flow* in the quarter after investing $7.6 million in cash capital expenditures, including the acquisition of three franchised restaurants and the remodel of two company restaurants.

During the quarter, the Company allocated $16.5 million to share repurchases.  As of December 27, 2017, the Company had approximately $196 million remaining in authorized share repurchases under its existing $200 million share repurchase authorization.

In May 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board issued new guidance which clarifies the principles used to recognize revenue.  This new guidance is effective for the Company in fiscal year 2018, and is not expected to impact the recognition of company restaurant sales or royalties from franchised restaurants.  However, the adoption will have an impact on initial franchise fees, advertising arrangements with franchisees and certain other fees.

Initial franchise fees, which are currently recognized upon the opening of a franchise restaurant, will be deferred and recognized over the term of the underlying franchise agreement.  Upon adoption, we expect to record deferred revenue of approximately $21 million as of December 28, 2017 (the first day of fiscal 2018) related to previously recognized initial franchise fees. The deferred revenue will be amortized over the remaining term of the related franchise agreements.

Additionally, advertising fees, including local co-operatives, and certain other fees have been historically recorded net of related franchise expenses.  Upon adoption, we will record advertising and certain other fees and related expenses on a gross basis within the Consolidated Statements of Income.  Advertising fees and certain other fees for 2017 were approximately $80 million and $3 million, respectively.  While this change will materially impact the gross amount of reported franchise and license revenue and costs of franchise and license revenue, the impact will generally be an offsetting increase to both revenue and expense with no significant, if any, impact on operating income and net income.

The following full year 2018 estimates are based on management's expectations at this time and include the impacts of recent tax reform and revenue recognition changes.

Denny’s will provide further commentary on the results for the fourth quarter ended December 27, 2017 on its quarterly investor conference call today, Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  Interested parties are invited to listen to a live broadcast of the conference call accessible through the investor relations section of Denny’s website at .  A replay of the call may be accessed at the same location later in the day and will remain available for 30 days.

Denny's Corporation is the franchisor and operator of one of America's largest franchised full-service restaurant chains, based on the number of restaurants.  As of December 27, 2017, Denny’s had 1,735 franchised, licensed, and company restaurants around the world including 128 restaurants in Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, New Zealand, Honduras, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, the United Arab Emirates, Guam, Curaçao, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the United Kingdom.  For further information on Denny's, including news releases, links to SEC filings, and other financial information, please visit the Denny's investor relations website at .

The Company believes that, in addition to GAAP measures, certain other non-GAAP financial measures are appropriate indicators to assist in the evaluation of operating performance on a period-to-period basis.  The Company uses Adjusted Income Before Taxes, Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted Free Cash Flow and Adjusted Net Income internally as performance measures for planning purposes, including the preparation of annual operating budgets, and for compensation purposes, including bonuses for certain employees.  Adjusted EBITDA is also used to evaluate the ability to service debt because the excluded charges do not have an impact on prospective debt servicing capability and these adjustments are contemplated in our credit facility for the computation of our debt covenant ratios.  We define Adjusted Free Cash Flow for a given period as Adjusted EBITDA less the cash portion of interest expense net of interest income, capital expenditures, and cash taxes.  Management believes that the presentation of Adjusted Free Cash Flow provides useful information to investors because it represents a liquidity measure used to evaluate, among other things, operating effectiveness and is used in decisions regarding the allocation of resources.  However, each of these non-GAAP financial measures should be considered as a supplement to, not a substitute for, operating income, net income or other financial performance measures prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles.

The Company believes that, in addition to GAAP measures, certain other non-GAAP financial measures are appropriate indicators to assist in the evaluation of restaurant-level operating efficiency and performance of ongoing restaurant-level operations.  The Company uses Total Operating Margin, Company Restaurant Operating Margin and Franchise Operating Margin internally as performance measures for planning purposes, including the preparation of annual operating budgets, and these three non-GAAP measures are used to evaluate operating effectiveness.

We define Total Operating Margin as operating income excluding the following three items: general and administrative expenses, depreciation and amortization, and operating (gains), losses and other charges, net.  We present Total Operating Margin as a percent of total operating revenue.  We exclude general and administrative expenses, which includes primarily non-restaurant-level costs associated with support of company and franchise restaurants and other activities at our corporate office. We exclude depreciation and amortization expense, substantially all of which is related to company restaurant-level assets, because such expenses represent historical sunk costs which do not reflect current cash outlays for the restaurants. We exclude special items, included within operating (gains), losses and other charges, net, to provide investors with a clearer perspective of the Company’s ongoing operating performance and a more relevant comparison to prior period results.

Total Operating Margin is the total of Company Restaurant Operating Margin and Franchise Operating Margin. We define Company Restaurant Operating Margin as company restaurant sales less costs of company restaurant sales (which include product costs, company restaurant level payroll and benefits, occupancy costs, and other operating costs including utilities, repairs and maintenance, marketing and other expenses) and present it as a percent of company restaurant sales. We define Franchise Operating Margin as franchise and license revenue (which includes franchise royalties and other non-food and beverage revenue streams such as initial franchise fees and occupancy revenue) less costs of franchise and license revenue and present it as a percent of franchise and license revenue.

These non-GAAP financial measures provide a meaningful comparison between periods and enable investors to focus on the performance of restaurant-level operations by excluding revenues and costs unrelated to food and beverage sales in addition to corporate general and administrative expense, depreciation and amortization, and other gains and charges. However, each of these non-GAAP financial measures should be considered as a supplement to, not a substitute for, operating income, net income or other financial performance measures prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Total Operating Margin, Company Restaurant Operating Margin and Franchise Operating Margin do not accrue directly to the benefit of shareholders because of the aforementioned excluded costs, and are not indicative of the overall results for the Company.

Investor Contact:
Curt Nichols
877-784-7167

Media Contact:
Jennifer Mazzabufi, ICR
203-682-8254

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Globe Newswire: 21:05 GMT Tuesday 13th February 2018

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