Jack In The Box Earnings Call Insights: Speed of Service and 2013 Guidance

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Jack In The Box, Inc. (NASDAQ:JACK) reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Speed of Service

Joseph Buckley – Bank of America Merrill Lynch Research: I guess could you elaborate a little bit on the speed of service? I know sequentially you’re seeing improvement quarter after quarter? Is that a rolling market focus or on a specific initiatives that you’re implementing each subsequent quarter to achieve those gains and where do you think you stand in terms of the potential on speed of service?

Lenny Comma – President and COO: Joe, this is Lenny Comma. We’ve mentioned I guess about a year ago that we could improve speed of service almost a minute and still be slower than other QSRs that we compete directly with. We continue to see about that amount of opportunity for us with speed of service, and so we’ll continue to do what I mentioned to folks earlier, which is focus on improving speed of service while not doing anything that would negatively impact food quality. So we are going to move slowly, but we think that over the course of the next couple of years we’d improve speed of service to the same degree that we have improved it in the last two years, and so we think the opportunity is big. It’s not a rolling situation market-by-market while focusing on the entire country and each of the local markets has the same focus and the same toolkit that they are using to make these improvements, so we do think that there’s still lot of fruit left on the vine and that we intend to go after it, but like I said, it won’t be all in one fell swoop.

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Joseph Buckley – Bank of America Merrill Lynch Research: Then, just a follow up for Jerry, the more aggressive share buyback the last four months, does that reflect a greater commitment to share buybacks or is it more based around the distribution center and the freeing up of that $60 million of capital?

Jerry P. Rebel – EVP and CFO: Joe, I don’t know if I’ll call it a more aggressive focus on share buyback. We did purchase last year almost $200 million worth of stock in 2011. We did slow it down somewhat earlier in the beginning of this – in the beginning of ’12 as we were buying back Qdoba restaurants from franchisees. I would say that what we did in late in the fourth quarter and early into this quarter was to just continue with our focus of returning cash to shareholders. One thing I want to mention also is that the new credit facility also reloaded our share repurchase baskets. We now have $500 million worth of availability under that new facility and the $50 million that we purchased back late in the fourth quarter and early in the first quarter were under the prior credit facility, so we still have the entire $500 million basket available under the new credit facility. Also, I’ll mention that our changed business model generates a significant amount of free cash flow. So, I would expect that we would continue to be constructive with respect to returning cash to shareholders going forward.

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