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Burger King sales rebound as states reopen after COVID-19 lockdown

Brian Sozzi

Life after quarantine for many people apparently consists of a Burger King Whopper, fries and soda handed out by someone wearing gloves at the drive-thru on the return back from a reopened office.

Restaurant Brands CEO Jose Cil said in an open letter on Monday sales have rallied back at its Burger King brand as states reopen after COVID-19 lockdowns. Burger King’s North America same-store sales as of last week were trending “flat” after being down by mid-30% in mid-March. Nearly all Burger King restaurants in North America are now open, mostly for drive-thru service.

This is a Burger King Whopper meal combo at a restaurant in Punxsutawney, Pa., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
This is a Burger King Whopper meal combo at a restaurant in Punxsutawney, Pa., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Meanwhile, Restaurant Brands’ (QSR) Popeyes brand has continued its unworldly growth during the pandemic thanks to its popular fried chicken sandwich. U.S. same store sales are trending up by a high 20%, Cil said. The chicken sandwich has done so well Cil noted a test of it began at Popeye’s Canadian locations in mid-June. Speaking of Canada, the coffee and donut chain Tim Horton’s has climbed back out of mid-40% sales slump seen in mid-March to being down high-teens as of last week. But sales for the brand continues to be constrained by their positioning inside closed malls and sports complexes.

The sales update comes as Restaurant Brands winds down on the second quarter this week. Cil added the company has repaid the $1 billion it tapped from its credit revolver in late March at the height of COVID-19 uncertainty. And, he disclosed a commitment to ensure that at least half of all final round candidates interviewing at company headquarters qualify as diverse, including race.

Recovery mode

Restaurant Brands joins a growing list of restaurant chains on the comeback trail after seeing sales get nailed in the spring.

McDonald’s (MCD) said in mid-June that U.S. same-store sales fell 5.1% in May. The Golden Arch’s U.S. same-store sales plunged 19.2% in April. As for sit-down restaurants, Brinker International (EAT) CEO Wyman Roberts recently said on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade a sales recovery is underway as it reopens for dine-in service and caters to take-out orders. The company is also cash flow positive.

“We’re happy with the performance of the business. We feel good about our value propositions and the things that we’ve been leveraging going into the pandemic,” said Roberts.

Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurant’s (DRI) sales have climbed off the bottom, too.

Despite sales moving in the right direction, investors don’t appear convinced a prolonged stretch of positive sales is in offing near-term. The S&P 500 Restaurants Index has mostly lagged the S&P 500’s rebound off the March 23 lows. On the year, the S&P 500 Restaurants Index is down about 12%.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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