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EX-32.1 - EXHIBIT 32.1 - Zoe's Kitchen, Inc.ex321906certification2017.htm
EX-31.2 - EXHIBIT 31.2 - Zoe's Kitchen, Inc.ex312cfo302certification20.htm
EX-31.1 - EXHIBIT 31.1 - Zoe's Kitchen, Inc.ex311ceo302certification20.htm
EX-23.2 - EXHIBIT 23.2 - Zoe's Kitchen, Inc.ex232deloitteconsent2017.htm
EX-23.1 - EXHIBIT 23.1 - Zoe's Kitchen, Inc.a231pwcconsent2017.htm
 

UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
FORM 10-K
(Mark One)
þ ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 25, 2017
or
o TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission File No. 001-36411
ZOE'S KITCHEN, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 
 
 
Delaware
 
51-0653504
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
 
(IRS Employer
Identification No.)
 
5760 State Highway 121, Suite 250
Plano, Texas
 
75024
(Address of principal executive offices)
 
(Zip Code)
 
 
 
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (214) 436-8765
 
 
 
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
 
 
Title of each class
 
Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share
 
New York Stock Exchange
 
 
 
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.   Yes o  No  þ
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.   Yes    o   No  þ
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.   Yes    þ   No  o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes    þ   No  o



Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. 
Large accelerated filer o
 
 
 
Accelerated filer    þ
Non-accelerated filer   o
 
(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)
 
Smaller reporting company  o
 
 
 
 
Emerging growth company  o
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).     Yes  o    No  þ
As of July 10, 2017, the last trading day of the registrant's most recently completed second fiscal quarter, the aggregate market value of the registrant's outstanding common equity held by non-affiliates was $181 million, based on the closing price of the registrant's common stock on such date. For purposes of this calculation, shares of common stock held by each executive officer and director and by holders of more than 5% of the outstanding common stock have been excluded since those persons may under certain circumstances be deemed to be affiliates. This determination of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.
As of February 22, 2018, there were 19,588,007 shares of common stock outstanding, par value of $0.01 per share outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Part III hereof incorporates certain information by reference from the registrant's definitive proxy statement for its 2018 annual meeting of shareholders, which will be filed no later than 120 days after the close of the registrant's fiscal year ended December 25, 2017.
    





 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I
 
 
 
Page
Item 1.
 
Item 1A.
 
Item 1B.
 
Item 2.
 
Item 3.
 
Item 4.
 
 
 
 
 
PART II
Item 5.
 
Item 6.
 
Item 7.
 
Item 7A.
 
Item 8.
 
Item 9.
 
Item 9A.
 
Item 9B.
 
 
 
 
 
PART III
Item 10.
 
Item 11.
 
Item 12.
 
Item 13.
 
Item 14.
 
 
 
 
 
PART IV
Item 15.
 
Signatures
 
 
 
Exhibits
 
 
 
 
 
 
 






PART I
Item 1. Business
Our Company
Live Mediterranean. Live Zoes!
Zoës Kitchen (the "Company", "Zoës", "we" or "us") is a fast growing, fast-casual restaurant concept serving a distinct menu of fresh, wholesome, Mediterranean-inspired dishes delivered with warm hospitality. Founded in 1995 in Birmingham, Alabama, Zoës Kitchen has never wavered from our commitment to make our food fresh daily and to serve our customers in a warm and welcoming environment.
We believe our brand delivers on our customers' desire for freshly-prepared food and convenient, high-quality experiences. We have grown from 21 restaurants across seven states, including five franchised locations, as of December 29, 2008 to 243 restaurants across 20 states, including three franchised locations, as of December 25, 2017, representing a compound annual growth rate of 31.1%. We have grown our Company-owned restaurant average unit volumes ("AUVs") from approximately $1.1 million in 2009 to approximately $1.4 million in 2017, representing an increase of 27.7% over that time period. Our growth in comparable restaurant sales since 2009 has allowed us to invest significant amounts of capital to drive growth through the opening of new restaurants and the hiring of personnel required to support our growth plans.
 
Total Restaurants at End of Fiscal Year
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Our Concept
Delivering Goodness, through our food and our people, in the communities we serve.
The word "zoë," which means "life" in Greek, is a key component of the Zoës Kitchen culture. Our mission is to "deliver goodness from the inside out" by: (i) offering a differentiated menu of simple, tasty and fresh cuisine inspired by the 21 countries of the Mediterranean; (ii) extending genuine hospitality with personality, including food delivered to your table; (iii) providing an inviting, casually sophisticated environment in our restaurants; and (iv) delivering an outstanding catering experience for business and social events. Our menu offers meals made from scratch using produce, proteins and other ingredients that are predominantly preservative- and additive-free, including our starters, soups, salads, sandwiches, bowls and kabobs. With no microwaves or fryers, grilling is the predominate method of cooking along with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, olive oil and lean proteins. We promote our brand as an extension of our guests' own kitchens. We offer meals inspired by family recipes that remind our guests of food they would prepare at home, while allowing them to spend extra time with family and friends and fueling a more balanced and active lifestyle. Our food, including both hot and cold items, is well suited for catering to a variety of business and social occasions. We believe our catering offering is a significant competitive differentiator that generates consumer trial of our menu and provides additional opportunities for existing customers to enjoy our food off-premises.

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Our Strengths
Live Mediterranean. Simple. Tasty. Fresh! We believe the following strengths serve as the foundation for our continued growth.
Our Food-Simple. Tasty. Fresh!    We believe the Zoës Kitchen experience is driven by providing simple, tasty and fresh Mediterranean food at a compelling value to our customers. We aim to provide food that makes our customers feel good about themselves and their decision to choose Zoës Kitchen.
Simple.  Our food is simply prepared and made to order in our scratch kitchens. Our cooking philosophy is rooted in rich traditions that celebrate food, rather than in fads or trends. We serve food using high-quality, wholesome ingredients and time honored preparations inspired by Mediterranean culinary traditions.
Tasty.  We seek to provide guests with flavorful menu offerings that align with the Mediterranean diet. The flavor profiles in our menu are inspired by the diverse ingredients found across the 21 countries of the Mediterranean, which range from bright and citrusy to bold and spicy, appealing to a variety of palettes.
Fresh.  Fresh ingredients are delivered to our kitchens, where our Zoës team members wash, cut and prepare food in our kitchens daily. We cater to a variety of dietary needs by offering vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and low calorie options.
Differentiated Fast-Casual Lifestyle Brand with a Desirable and Loyal Customer Base.    We believe the Zoës Kitchen brand reflects our customers' desire for convenient, unique and high-quality experiences and their commitment to family, friends and enjoying every moment. We believe we are an aspirational brand with broad appeal that our customers embrace as a reflection of their desired self-image - active, vibrant, sophisticated, genuine, caring and passionate, which results in customer advocacy and repeat visits.
We provide a welcoming environment, attracting customers from a variety of demographic groups. Our combination of menu offerings, ambiance and location is designed to appeal to educated and health-conscious women, who along with their families, represent a substantial majority of our customer visits. We believe this demographic represents a highly-desirable customer base with strong influence on a family's mealtime decision-making and are strong brand advocates.
Delivering a Contemporary Mediterranean Experience with Warm Hospitality.    We strive to provide an inviting and enjoyable customer experience through the atmosphere of our restaurants and the friendliness of our team members. Our restaurants, highlighted by our distinct Zoës Kitchen stripes drawn from the color palette of many seaside Mediterranean neighborhoods, are designed to be warm, welcoming and full of energy. Our patios, a core feature of our restaurants, are an authentic part of both our Southern and Mediterranean heritage and we believe they provide a relaxing and welcoming dining environment.
We aim to deliver hospitality and attentive service whether our customers choose to dine-in, take-out or host a catered event. Our team members are the heart and soul of what we call "delivering goodness from the inside out" - making sure our customers feel as welcome as they are well fed. We believe the atmosphere of our restaurants and the dedication of our team members encourages repeat visits, inspires advocacy and drives increased sales.
Diverse Revenue Mix Provides Multiple Levers for Growth.    We believe our differentiated menu of both hot and cold food enables our customers to utilize our restaurant for multiple occasions throughout the day. We had a balanced day-part mix of approximately 60% lunch and 40% dinner (excluding catering), and our catering business represented approximately 16% of revenue, for 2017. We believe we effectively serve both small and large groups in our restaurants, as well as outside of our restaurants with our catering and home meal replacement alternatives, such as our Zoës Fresh Take grab-and-go coolers and our Mediterranean Family Meals options.
Attractive Unit Economic Model with Proven Portability. Our restaurant model is designed to generate strong cash flow, attractive restaurant-level financial results and attractive returns on invested capital. Our new restaurant investment model targets AUVs of $1.3 million and cash-on-cash returns in excess of 30% by the end of the third full year of operation. On average, new restaurants opened since the beginning of 2009 have exceeded these AUVs and cash-on-cash return targets within the third year of operations.
We believe our strong performance and unit economics across a variety of geographic areas are validation of our concept's portability. For 2017, our top 20 performing restaurants were spread across eight different states.
Experienced Management Team.   Our strategic vision and results-driven culture are directed by our senior management team under the leadership of Kevin Miles, who has guided the growth of our Company from 22 to 243 restaurants as of December 25, 2017. Mr. Miles is a fast-casual industry veteran with over 20 years of relevant experience including leadership roles at La Madeleine French Bakery and Café, Baja Fresh Mexican Grill and Pollo Campero. He directs a team of highly experienced and progressive leaders who are focused on executing our business plan and implementing our growth strategy.

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Our Growth Strategies
Bringing Mediterranean Mainstream.    We plan to execute the following strategies to continue to enhance our brand awareness and grow our revenue.
Grow Our Restaurant Base.     We believe we are in the early stages of our growth story and estimate a long-term total restaurant potential in the United States in excess of 1,600 locations. We utilize a sophisticated site selection process using proprietary methods to identify target markets and expansion opportunities within those markets. Based on this analysis, we believe there is substantial development opportunity in both new and existing markets.
Increase Comparable Restaurant Sales.    We intend to focus on generating future comparable restaurant sales growth with an emphasis on the following goals:
Heighten brand awareness to drive new customer traffic.  We intend to generate new traffic growth at our restaurants through the application of enhanced digital marketing, targeted advertising programs, local restaurant-level marketing and the word-of-mouth of our existing customers. Our targeted marketing strategy seeks to generate brand loyalty and promote advocacy by appealing to customers' emotional needs and desired self-image.
Increase existing customer frequency.  We expect to increase customer frequency through new menu innovation that provides craveable, fresh Mediterranean cuisine at a compelling value. We explore new menu additions by drawing upon the rich heritage and flavors of 21 Mediterranean countries to enhance our offerings. Additionally, we expect to increase return visits through our focused digital and traditional marketing efforts and our loyalty program - ZK Rewards. We will continue to explore ways to increase the number of occasions (lunch, dinner and catering), increase the flexibility of dining options (dine-in, to-go/take home, delivery, call-in and online) and capitalize on the increasing demand for convenient and healthy high-quality home meal replacement alternatives.
Grow our catering business.  Our management team has developed innovative solutions, including an online ordering platform and a catering loyalty program, as well as a dedicated team of sales professionals, to enhance our catering offering. We believe our strong catering offering is a significant competitive differentiator and generates consumer trial of our brand as well as provides our existing customers additional ways to enjoy our food off-premises.
Integrated Technology Platform. We have invested heavily in our technology infrastructure in order to build a more scalable and flexible technology platform. This allows us to create a seamless, omni-channel guest experience across mobile, web and in-store ordering. Our technology infrastructure allows us to build customer loyalty and deepen insights in to customer behavior. It also enables us to easily deploy proprietary technology and third party integration.
Expand our reach through delivery. Our food’s proven portability, unique and diverse menu, and dinner relevancy create the strategic advantages necessary to successfully capture incremental growth from delivery. We continue to approach delivery through the traditional lunch and dinner dayparts, and through catering, focusing on protecting the brand and guest experience. We continue to test delivery programs utilizing internal team members, as well as work with external, third-party delivery partners with a focus on operational execution, marketing capabilities and deeper technology integration.
Improve Margins and Leverage Infrastructure.   We have invested in our business, and we believe our corporate infrastructure can support a restaurant base greater than our existing footprint. As we continue to grow, we expect to drive greater efficiencies in our supply chain and leverage our technology. Additionally, we believe we will be able to optimize labor costs at existing restaurants as our restaurant base matures and AUVs increase, and leverage corporate costs over time to enhance earnings as general and administrative expenses grow at a slower rate than our restaurant base and revenues.
Site Development and Expansion
Site Selection Process. We consider site selection and real estate development to be critical to our long-term success and devote significant resources to create predictable and successful new restaurant results. We have developed a targeted site evaluation and acquisition process incorporating management's experience as well as comprehensive data collection, analysis and interpretation. Our in-house real estate management team has over 50 years of combined experience with top restaurant brands.
When making site selection decisions, we use sophisticated analytical tools designed to uncover key demographic and psychographic characteristics in addition to site specific characteristics, such as visibility, access, signage and traffic patterns, which we believe drive successful restaurant placement. We consider factors including daytime population characteristics and residential density, which impact our catering and dine-in businesses. On the ground research is also an important part of the site evaluation process. This includes evaluation of customer traffic patterns, future development in the market, retail synergy and the competitive restaurant landscape.

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Our sophisticated, predictive site selection strategy and flexible new restaurant model have resulted in growth in markets of varying sizes as we have expanded our restaurant base. We are able to utilize in-line, end-cap and free-standing restaurant formats to penetrate markets with a combination of suburban and urban restaurant locations.
Our real estate process is governed by our internal Development Committee, which is composed of senior management and led by our Chief Development Officer. Our Development Committee meets periodically to review new site opportunities and to approve new locations. Once a location has been approved by our Development Committee, we begin a design process to align the characteristics and feel of the location to the trade area.
Expansion Strategy. While we continue to be positioned for additional restaurant growth in existing markets, expansion into new territories will be vital to executing our growth strategy. We employ a hub and spoke method to expansion whereby certain markets are denoted as hubs based on total market potential and geographic spacing. After hub markets are penetrated and have reached sufficient brand awareness, surrounding spoke markets are subsequently developed.
Expansion into new markets is triggered through the ongoing evaluation of existing market penetration with a goal of maintaining a deep pipeline of top-tier development opportunities. Our approach to identifying new markets for development is robust and systematic, providing an objective review of each market under consideration.
Restaurant Design. Restaurant design is handled by our in-house construction team interfacing with outsourced contractor relationships. Our restaurant size averages approximately 2,750 square feet. The dining area of a typical restaurant can seat approximately 80 guests, with patios that seat approximately 30 guests.
Construction. Each new restaurant typically requires an initial cash build-out cost of approximately $750,000, net of tenant allowances, but this figure could be significantly higher or lower depending on the market, materials used, restaurant size and condition of the premises upon landlord delivery. We generally construct restaurants in third-party leased retail shopping centers and in free-standing buildings on leased properties. For additional information regarding our leases, see "Item 2 - Properties."
Restaurant Management and Operations
We endeavor to run our Company to create a superior customer experience by putting people first.
Talent Acquisition and Training.    Our ability to grow our restaurant base depends on hiring and investing in the growth of great talent. Acquiring and training our team members effectively is a significant focus for our company. We aim to hire people with a high desire to serve and please, that embrace the Zoës culture and are a reflection of our customers: active, passionate and full of life.
We embrace technology and use it extensively to communicate with our employees. Our proprietary Lifeworks platform is designed to engage employees and create real connections, allowing both hourly and salaried employees to learn, connect and collaborate. Our entire training process is now paperless, with online videos replacing traditional operating manuals. Lifeworks also includes a learning methodology that embraces community generated content, allowing employees to make a tangible impact on the business, which we believe ultimately empowers them to deliver a superior customer experience.
Restaurant Management and Employees.    Each restaurant typically is staffed with a restaurant manager, an assistant manager and 20 to 30 team members. We cross-train our employees in an effort to create a depth of competency in our critical restaurant functions. Consistent with our emphasis on customer interaction, we encourage our restaurant managers and team members to welcome and engage with customers throughout the day. To lead our restaurant management teams, we have Regional Operators (each of whom is responsible for between five and ten restaurants), and Regional Directors (each of whom is responsible for between four and six Regional Operators).
We employ an extensive screening process for our managers, including both behavioral and working interviews. Once hired, these team members participate in a seven week in-restaurant management training program that includes both functional learnings in their own restaurants and leadership and management learning with one of our 40+ Mentor General Managers. Each quarter, we have approximately 30 new manager-in-training candidates that complete this process. This pipeline of candidates is intended to assure us that future growth can be supported and that every new Zoës location is staffed with managers that are trained in both our brand and our standards.
Food Preparation and Quality.    We operate scratch kitchens, where food is prepared and cooked on site. We do not utilize pre-cooked proteins in our restaurants and do not use microwaves or fryers. We are committed to the hand-preparation of our food, including details like cutting fruit and vegetables in store and hand-crumbling feta cheese each morning because we believe that customers can taste the difference.


7


Food safety is a top priority and we dedicate substantial resources to help ensure that our customers enjoy safe, quality food products. We have taken various steps to mitigate risks related to food quality and safety, including having our quality assurance team focus on this mitigation in coordination with our supply chain team. Our restaurants undergo third-party food safety reviews, internal safety audits and routine health inspections. We also consider the strength of a vendor's food safety program and quality assurance when selecting our distributors and suppliers.
Restaurant Marketing
Our marketing efforts seek to build brand awareness and increase sales through a variety of customer interactions and marketing initiatives. We focus our marketing strategy on showcasing our ability to provide our customers with a convenient dining experience that highlights a better-for-you menu inspired by the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. We endeavor to connect emotionally with our guests and provide not only food, but lifestyle content that encourages them to "Live Mediterranean" and live life to the fullest. We utilize community-based restaurant marketing, as well as digital, social, public relations and traditional media tools, to highlight our competitive strengths, including our varied and healthful menu offerings and the value we offer our customers.
Shared, Earned, Owned. Through a variety of channels, we engage with our customers to drive awareness and trial of our brand. Across our new website, mobile app, loyalty program and through a robust email marketing program, we connect with customers to drive online ordering, as well as keep them informed about new menu offerings, promotions and events. Through our social channels including Facebook, Instragram, Twitter, Pinterest and The Zoes Life blog, we connect with our guests directly by presenting meaningful, engaging content designed to inspire action and brand loyalty. Integrating these solutions has enabled us to reach a significant number of people in a timely and targeted fashion at a fraction of the cost of traditional media.
Local Restaurant Marketing. We empower our restaurant managers to selectively organize events to bring new customers into our restaurants. Additionally, we engage in a variety of promotional activities, such as contributing food, time and money to charitable, civic and cultural programs, for the purposes of giving back to the communities that we serve and increasing public awareness and appreciation of our restaurants and our employees. We use a wide range of local marketing initiatives to increase the frequency of and occasions for visits, and to encourage people to "Live Mediterranean."
New Menu Introductions. We focus efforts on new menu offerings to broaden our appeal to customers and further substantiate our position as a leading brand in Mediterranean cuisine. We believe these additions deliver prompt consumer action, resulting in more immediate increases in customer trial and frequency.
Internal Marketing. We believe our employees are one of our best marketing assets. We invest time, energy and resources towards education on our brand and developing long-term brand advocates from each employee. These employees help propagate the mission of "Delivering Goodness" and promote key points of differentiation.
Suppliers
Maintaining a high degree of quality in our restaurants depends in part on our ability to acquire fresh ingredients and other necessary products that meet our specifications from reliable suppliers. We carefully select suppliers based on quality and their understanding of our brand, and we seek to develop mutually beneficial long-term relationships with them. We work closely with our suppliers and use a mix of forward, fixed and formula pricing protocols. We have tried to increase, in some cases, the number of suppliers for our ingredients, which we believe can help mitigate pricing volatility, and we monitor industry news, trade issues, weather, crises and other world events that may affect supply prices.
We contract with multiple suppliers including Sysco Corporation ("Sysco"), one of the largest distributors of food and related products to the U.S. food service industry. In 2017, our Sysco spend was approximately 90% of our cost of sales. Our remaining food supplies are distributed by other distributors under separate contracts. Our distributors deliver supplies to our restaurants approximately two to four times per week.
We negotiate pricing and volume terms directly with certain suppliers and distributors, including Sysco. Poultry represented approximately 13% of our total cost of sales for 2017. We are subject to weekly market fluctuations under our current pricing agreements with respect to poultry. Beef represented approximately 10% of our total costs of sales for 2017. Produce and paper products represented approximately 21% and 12%, respectively, of our total cost of sales for 2017. Feta cheese represented approximately 3% of our total cost of sales for 2017. Many of our pricing agreements reset annually. We have identified secondary suppliers for many of our significant products, and we believe we would be able to source our product requirements from multiple suppliers, if necessary.



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Competition
We compete in the restaurant industry, primarily in the fast-casual segment but also with restaurants in other segments. We face significant competition from a wide variety of restaurants, grocery stores and other outlets on a national, regional and local level. We believe that we compete primarily based on product quality, concept, ambiance, service, location, convenience, value perception and price. Our competition continues to intensify as competitors increase the breadth and depth of their product offerings and open new restaurants. Additionally, we compete with local and national fast-casual restaurant concepts, specialty restaurants and other retail concepts for prime restaurant locations.
Seasonality
Seasonal factors and the timing of holidays cause our revenue to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Our sales per restaurant is typically lower in the first and fourth quarters due to reduced winter and holiday traffic and higher in the second and third quarters. Adverse weather conditions may also negatively impact customer traffic, resulting in lower revenues for the affected locations. For example, since we operate a substantial number of our restaurants in the Southern part of the United States, any adverse weather pattern across this region may adversely affect our guests’ visits in this region throughout the duration of such pattern. In addition, we have outdoor seating at all of our restaurants, and the effects of adverse weather may restrict the use of these areas, and negatively impact our revenues as well.
Intellectual Property and Trademarks
We own a number of trademarks and service marks registered or pending with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO"). We have registered the following marks with the PTO: Zoës Kitchen; Zoe's Kitchen; Simple. Tasty. Fresh!; Zoës Fresh Take; Eat Smart Eat Fresh; and Simply 500. We have also registered our trademarks and service marks in certain foreign countries as well. In addition, we have registered the Internet domain name www.zoeskitchen.com. The information on, or that can be accessed through, our website is not part of this report.
An important part of our intellectual property strategy is the monitoring and enforcement of our rights in markets in which our restaurants currently exist or markets which we intend to enter in the future. We also monitor trademark registers to oppose the applications to register confusingly similar trademarks or to limit the expansion of the scope of goods and services covered by existing similar trademarks. We enforce our rights through a number of methods, including the issuance of cease-and-desist letters or making infringement claims in federal court.
We believe that our trademarks, service marks and other intellectual property rights have significant value and are important to the marketing of our brand, and it is our policy to protect and defend vigorously our rights to such intellectual property. However, we cannot predict whether steps taken to protect such rights will be adequate. See "Item 1A. Risk Factors-Risks Related to Our Business and Industry-We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could harm the value of our brand and adversely affect our business."
Governmental Regulation and Environmental Matters
We are subject to extensive and varied federal, state and local government laws and regulations, including, but not limited to, regulations related to zoning, licensing, employment, food safety, nutritional content, information security, sanitation, fire prevention and other environmental matters. New laws and regulations or new interpretations of existing laws and regulations may also impact our business. The costs of compliance with existing and new laws and regulations are high and are likely to increase in the future and any failure on our part to comply with these laws may subject us to significant liabilities and other penalties. In addition, we operate each of our restaurants in accordance with standards and procedures designed to comply with applicable licensing requirements. However, an inability to obtain or retain health department or other licenses would adversely affect our operations. Although we have not experienced, and do not anticipate, any significant difficulties, delays or failures in obtaining required licenses, permits or approvals, any such problem could delay or prevent the opening of, or adversely impact the viability of, a particular restaurant or group of restaurants. For additional information regarding regulations that we face in our business, please see “Item 1A. Risk Factors-Governmental regulation may adversely affect our ability to open new restaurants or otherwise adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations,” and “-Legislation and regulations requiring the display and provision of nutritional information for our menu offerings, and new information or attitudes regarding diet and health could result in changes in regulations and consumer consumption habits that could adversely affect our business.” We are not aware of any federal, state or local provisions that have been enacted or adopted regulating the discharge of materials into the environment, or otherwise relating to the protection of the environment, that have materially affected, or are reasonably expected to materially affect, our results of operations, competitive position, or capital expenditures.”



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Management Information Systems
All of our restaurants use computerized point-of-sale and back-office systems that we believe are scalable to support our future growth plans. These point-of-sale computers are designed specifically for the restaurant industry. The system provides a touch screen interface, a graphical order confirmation display and integrated, high-speed credit card and gift card processing. The point-of-sale system is used to collect daily transaction data, which generates information about daily sales, product mix and average check size. All products sold and prices at our restaurants are programmed into the system from our home office.
Our in-restaurant back office computer system is designed to assist in the management of our restaurants and provide labor and food cost management tools. These tools provide home office and restaurant operations management quick access to detailed business data and reduces restaurant managers' time spent on administrative needs. The system provides our restaurant managers the ability to submit orders electronically with our distribution network. The system also supplies sales, bank deposit and variance data to our accounting department on a daily basis. We use this data to generate daily sales information and weekly consolidated reports regarding sales and other key measures, as well as preliminary weekly detailed profit and loss statements for each location with final reports following the end of each period.
Employees
As of December 25, 2017, we had 5,473 employees, including 159 home office and regional personnel, 484 restaurant level managers and assistant managers and 4,830 hourly employees. None of our employees are unionized or covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and we consider our current employee relations to be good.
Franchising
As of December 25, 2017, we had three franchised restaurants in one state. Our franchise arrangement grants a third-party a license to establish and operate a restaurant using our systems and our trademarks in a given area. The franchisee pays us for the ideas, strategy, marketing, operating system, training, purchasing power and brand recognition. Franchised restaurants must be operated in compliance with our methods, standards and specifications, regarding menu items, ingredients, materials, supplies, services, fixtures, furnishings, décor and signs.
Available Information
We are subject to the information and periodic and current reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the "Exchange Act"), and, in accordance therewith, we file periodic and current reports, proxy statements and other information with the SEC. Such periodic and current reports, proxy statements and other information will be available to the public on the SEC's website at www.sec.gov and free of charge through our website at www.zoeskitchen.com. To receive copies of public records not posted to the SEC's website at prescribed rates, you may complete an online form at www.sec.gov, send a fax to (202) 772-9337 or submit a written request to the SEC, Office of FOIA/PA Operations, 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20549-2736. Please call the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330 for further information. Please note that our website address is provided as an inactive textual reference only. The information contained on, or accessible through, our website is not part of this report and is therefore not incorporated by reference.


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Item 1A. Risk Factors
Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.
This report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 that involve risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to the risks and uncertainties discussed under "Item 1A - Risk Factors," "Item 7 - Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" and "Item 1 - Business." In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terms such as "may," "might," "will," "objective," "intend," "should," "could," "can," "would," "expect," "believe," "design," "estimate," "predict," "potential," "plan" or the negative of these terms, and similar expressions intended to identify forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performances or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. We discuss these risks, uncertainties and other factors in greater detail below. These statements reflect our current views with respect to future events and are based on currently available operating, financial and competitive information. Unless required by United States federal securities laws, we do not intend to update any of these forward-looking statements to reflect circumstances or events that occur after the statement is made.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
Our long-term success is highly dependent on our ability to open new restaurants and is subject to many unpredictable factors.
One of the key means of achieving our growth strategy will be through opening and operating new restaurants on a profitable basis. We expect this to be the case for the foreseeable future. In 2017, we opened 39 Company-owned restaurants and we plan to open approximately 25 Company-owned restaurants in 2018. We may not be able to open new restaurants as quickly as planned.
In addition, one of our biggest challenges is locating and securing an adequate supply of suitable new restaurant sites in our target markets. Competition for those sites is intense, and other restaurant and retail concepts that compete for those sites may have unit economic models that permit them to bid more aggressively for those sites than we can. There is no guarantee that a sufficient number of suitable sites will be available in desirable areas or on terms that are acceptable to us in order to achieve our growth plan. Our ability to open new restaurants during any given period may be negatively impacted by a number of factors, including:
negotiating leases with acceptable terms;
identifying, hiring and training qualified employees in each local market;
timely delivery of leased premises to us from our landlords and punctual commencement of our build-out construction activities;
managing construction and development costs of new restaurants, particularly in competitive markets;
obtaining construction materials and labor at acceptable costs, particularly in urban markets;
unforeseen engineering or environmental problems with leased premises;
generating sufficient funds from operations or obtaining acceptable financing to support our future development;
securing required governmental approvals, permits and licenses (including construction permits and liquor licenses) in a timely manner and responding effectively to any changes in local, state or federal laws and regulations that adversely affect our costs or ability to open new restaurants;
failure of landlords to timely deliver real estate to us and other landlord delays; and
avoiding the impact of inclement weather, natural disasters and other calamities.
Our progress in opening new restaurants from quarter to quarter may occur at an uneven rate. In addition, as we operate more restaurants, our rate of expansion relative to the size of our restaurant base will eventually decline. Our substantial investment associated with the development of each new restaurant, as well as reinvestment into our older restaurants to bring them up to current competitive standards, may cause our operating results to fluctuate and be unpredictable or adversely affect our business. If we do not open new restaurants in the future according to our current plans, the delay could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. If we are unable to effectively implement our development plan, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Changes in economic conditions and adverse weather and other unforeseen conditions could materially affect our ability to maintain or increase sales at our restaurants or open new restaurants.
Our business results depend on a number of industry-specific and general economic factors, many of which are beyond our control. The United States in general and the restaurant industry in which we operate may suffer from depressed economic activity, recessionary economic cycles, higher fuel or energy costs, low consumer confidence, high levels of unemployment, reduced home values, increases in home foreclosures, investment losses, personal bankruptcies, tax rates and policy, reduced access to credit or other economic factors that may affect consumer confidence and discretionary spending. Traffic in our

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restaurants could decline if consumers choose to dine out less frequently or reduce the amount they spend on meals while dining out. Negative economic conditions might cause consumers to make long-term changes to their discretionary spending behavior, including dining out less frequently on a permanent basis. In addition, given our geographic concentrations, economic conditions in those particular areas of the country could have a disproportionate impact on our overall results of operations, and regional occurrences such as local strikes, terrorist attacks, increases in energy prices, adverse weather conditions, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, fires or other natural or man-made disasters could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Adverse weather conditions may also impact customer traffic at our restaurants, and, in more severe cases, cause temporary restaurant closures, sometimes for prolonged periods. These risks may be exacerbated in the future as some climatologists predict that the long-term effects of climate change may result in more severe, volatile weather. A majority of our restaurants have outdoor seating, and the effects of adverse weather may impact the use of these areas and may negatively impact our revenues. If restaurant sales decrease, our profitability could decline as we spread fixed costs across a lower level of sales. Reductions in staff levels, potential restaurant closures and related asset impairment charges could result from prolonged negative restaurant sales, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our expansion into new markets may present increased risks.
We intend to develop new restaurants in our existing markets, expand our footprint into adjacent markets and selectively enter into new markets. Some of our new restaurant locations may be located in areas where we have less operating experience than in our traditional, existing markets. Restaurants we open in new markets may take longer to reach, or may never reach, expected sales and profit levels on a consistent basis and may have higher construction, pre-opening, occupancy or operating costs than restaurants we open in existing markets, thereby affecting our overall financial condition and results of operations. New markets may have competitive conditions, consumer tastes and discretionary spending patterns that are more difficult to predict or satisfy than our existing markets. Our competitors in new markets may harm our business by taking away customers or employees through aggressive and costly advertising, promotions or hiring practices. As has happened when other restaurant concepts have tried to expand into new markets, we may find that our concept has limited appeal or we may experience a decline in the popularity of our concept in the markets in which we operate. Additionally, we may need to make greater investments than we originally planned in advertising and promotional activity to build brand awareness and may find it more difficult to hire, motivate and keep management and hourly employees who share our vision, passion and culture in new markets. We may also incur higher costs from entering new markets if, for example, we assign regional managers to manage comparatively fewer restaurants than in more developed markets. As a result, these new restaurants may be less successful or may achieve target AUVs at a slower rate, or not at all. If we do not successfully execute our plans to enter new markets, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
New restaurants, once opened, may not be profitable, and the increases in average restaurant sales and comparable restaurant sales that we have experienced in the past may not be indicative of future results.
Some of our restaurants open with an initial start-up period of higher than normal sales volumes, which subsequently decrease to stabilized levels. Typically, our new restaurants have stabilized sales after approximately 12 to 24 weeks of operation, at which time the restaurant's sales typically begin to grow on a consistent basis. However, we cannot assure you that this will occur for future restaurant openings. In new markets, the length of time before average sales for new restaurants stabilize is less predictable and can be longer as a result of our limited knowledge of these markets and consumers' limited awareness of our brand. New restaurants may not be profitable and their sales performance may not follow historical patterns. Our ability to operate new restaurants profitably and increase AUVs and comparable restaurant sales will depend on many factors, some of which are beyond our control, including:
consumer awareness and understanding of our brand;
general economic conditions, which can affect restaurant traffic, local labor costs and prices we pay for the food products and other supplies we use;
changes in consumer preferences and discretionary spending;
competition, either from our competitors in the restaurant industry or our own restaurants;
temporary and permanent site characteristics of new restaurants;
changes in government regulation; and
other unanticipated increases in costs, any of which could give rise to delays or cost overruns.
Our average restaurant sales and comparable restaurant sales may not increase at the rates achieved over the past several years. If our new restaurants do not perform as planned, our business and future prospects could be harmed.



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Our sales growth and ability to achieve profitability could be adversely affected if comparable restaurant sales are less than we expect.
The level of comparable restaurant sales, which represents the change in year-over-year sales from restaurants opened for at least 18 full periods, will affect our sales growth and will continue to be a critical factor affecting our ability to generate profits because the profit margin on comparable restaurant sales is generally higher than the profit margin on new restaurant sales. Our ability to increase comparable restaurant sales depends in part on our ability to successfully implement our initiatives to build sales. It is possible such initiatives will not be successful, that we will not achieve our target comparable restaurant sales growth or that the change in comparable restaurant sales could be negative, which may cause a decrease in sales growth and ability to achieve profitability that would materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. See "Item 7 - Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations-Key Measures We Use to Evaluate Our Performance-Comparable Restaurant Sales Growth."
Our failure to manage our growth effectively could harm our business and operating results.
Our growth plan includes developing and opening a significant number of new restaurants. While we have continued to invest heavily in our infrastructure including our restaurant management systems, administrative staff, financial and management controls and information systems, such infrastructure may be inadequate to support our planned expansion. Any constraints on our infrastructure and resources may also adversely affect our ability to open and operate our existing restaurants. Managing our growth effectively will require us to continue to upgrade our infrastructure as well as our process and controls relating to hiring, training and retaining our managers and team members. We may not respond quickly enough to the changing demands that our expansion will impose on our management, restaurant teams and existing infrastructure, any of which could harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our failure to maintain our culture and our relationships with our team members and guests could be negatively affected.
We are very proud of our unique culture, from the restaurant-level up through senior management, and truly believe it is integral to our company’s growth to date. Among other important factors, our culture depends on our ability to attract, retain and motivate team members who share our enthusiasm and dedication to delivering goodness to our guests and all others. As we continue to grow, we may have difficulty adapting to sufficiently meet the needs of our operations and simultaneously continuing to maintain our culture. The restaurant labor market remains highly competitive, and we may find it challenging to hire and retain qualified team members who will support and promote our culture. Any inability to attract and retain such persons would limit the success of our business. Our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected if we do not maintain our culture as we grow.
We have experienced net losses in the past, and we may experience net losses in the future.
We experienced a net loss of $2.0 million in 2017, while in 2016 and 2015, we achieved net income of $1.8 million and $1.1 million, respectively. As a participant in the competitive restaurant industry, we may experience net losses in the future and we cannot assure you that we will achieve profitability in future periods.
Opening new restaurants in existing markets may negatively affect sales at our existing restaurants.
The consumer target area of our restaurants varies by location, depending on a number of factors, including population density, other local retail and business attractions, area demographics and geography as well as the proximity of potential site locations in relation to our existing restaurants. As a result, the opening of a new restaurant in or near markets in which we already have restaurants could adversely affect sales at these existing restaurants. Existing restaurants could also make it more difficult to build our consumer base for a new restaurant in the same market. Sales cannibalization between our restaurants may become significant in the future as we continue to expand our operations and could affect our sales growth, which could, in turn, materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We face significant competition from other restaurant companies, and our inability to compete effectively may adversely affect our traffic, sales and restaurant contribution.
The restaurant industry is intensely competitive with many well-established companies that compete directly and indirectly with us. We compete in the restaurant industry with national, regional and locally-owned limited service restaurants and full-service restaurants. We face competition from the casual dining, quick-service and fast-casual segments of the restaurant industry. We also face competition as a result of convergence in grocery, convenience, deli and restaurant services, including the offering by the grocery industry of convenient meals. Our competition includes a variety of locally owned restaurants and national and regional chains offering dine-in, carry-out, delivery and catering services. Many of our competitors have existed longer and have a more established market presence with substantially greater financial, marketing, personnel and other resources than we do. In addition, competition from delivery aggregators and other food delivery services has also increased in recent years, particularly in

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urbanized areas.  As we expand, we will face competition from these concepts as well as new competitors that strive to compete with our market segments. These competitors may have, among other things, lower operating costs, better locations, better facilities, better management, more effective marketing and more efficient operations. Additionally, we face the risk that new or existing competitors will copy our business model, menu options, presentation or ambiance, among other things.
Several of our competitors compete by offering menu items that are specifically tailored to dietary trends and limitations or health-conscious consumers. Many of our quick-service restaurant competitors offer lower-priced menu options. Any inability to successfully compete with the restaurants in our markets will place downward pressure on our customer traffic and may prevent us from increasing or sustaining our revenues and profitability. Consumer tastes, nutritional and dietary trends, traffic patterns and the type, number and location of competing restaurants often affect the restaurant business, and our competitors may react more efficiently and effectively to those conditions. If we are unable to continue to compete effectively, our traffic, sales and restaurant contribution could decline and our business, financial condition and results of operations would be adversely affected.
Food safety and foodborne illness concerns could have an adverse effect on our business.
We cannot guarantee that our internal controls and training will be fully effective in preventing all food safety issues at our restaurants, including food tampering or any occurrences of foodborne illnesses. Our quality assurance, health and sanitation internal controls and conditions are inspected by a third-party periodically. If the third-party inspector fails to report unsafe or unsanitary conditions or insufficient internal controls, we cannot guarantee that our internal controls will be fully effective in preventing all food safety issues. Furthermore, since we rely on third-party suppliers, it is difficult to monitor food safety compliance and increases the risk that foodborne illness would affect multiple locations rather than a single restaurant. Some foodborne illness incidents could be caused by third-party vendors and transporters outside of our control. We cannot assure you that all food items are properly maintained during transport throughout the supply chain and that we will identify all products that should not be used in our restaurants. New illnesses resistant to our current precautions may develop in the future, or diseases with long incubation periods could arise, that could give rise to claims or allegations on a retroactive basis. One or more instances of foodborne illness or food safety issues relating to any of our restaurants or markets could adversely affect our brand and negatively affect our restaurant sales nationwide. This risk exists even if it were later determined that the illness was wrongly attributed to us or one of our restaurants. A number of other national restaurant chains have experienced incidents related to foodborne illnesses that have had a material adverse effect on their operations. The occurrence of a similar incident at one or more of our restaurants, or negative publicity or public speculation about an incident, could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Damage to our reputation could negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our growth is dependent in part upon our ability to maintain and enhance the value of our brand, consumers' connection to our brand and positive relationships with our guests and employees. Brand value is based in part on consumer perception of a variety of subjective qualities. We believe we have built our reputation on the high-quality of our food, service and staff, as well as on our culture and the ambience in our restaurants, and we must protect and grow the value of our brand to continue to be successful in the future. Any incident that erodes consumer affinity for our brand could significantly reduce its value and damage our business. For example, our brand value could suffer and our business could be adversely affected if customers perceive a reduction in the quality of our food, service or staff, or an adverse change in our culture or ambience, or otherwise believe we have failed to deliver a consistently positive experience.
We may be adversely affected by news reports or other negative publicity regardless of their accuracy, regarding food quality issues, public health concerns, illness, safety, injury, customer complaints or litigation, health inspection scores, integrity of our or our suppliers' food processing, employee relationships or government or industry findings concerning our restaurants, restaurants operated by other foodservice providers or others across the food industry supply chain. The risks associated with such negative publicity cannot be completely eliminated or mitigated and may materially harm our results of operations and result in damage to our brand. Additionally, employee claims against us based on, among other things, wage and hour violations, discrimination, harassment or wrongful termination may also create negative publicity that could adversely affect us and divert financial and management resources that would otherwise be used to benefit our operations. A significant increase in the number of these claims or an increase in the number of successful claims could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Consumer demand for our products and our brand's value could diminish significantly if any such incidents or other matters create negative publicity or otherwise erode consumer confidence in us or our products, which would likely result in lower sales and could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.



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Our inability or failure to recognize, respond to and effectively manage the accelerated impact of social media could adversely impact our business.
In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the use of social media platforms and similar networks, including weblogs (blogs), social media websites, Twitter and other forms of Internet-based communications which allow individuals to access to a broad audience of consumers and other interested persons. The availability of information on social media platforms is virtually immediate as is its impact. Many social media platforms immediately publish the content that their subscribers and participants post, often without filters or checks on accuracy of such posted content. The opportunity for dissemination of information, including inaccurate or incomplete information, is readily available. Information concerning our Company may be posted on such platforms at any time. Information posted may be adverse to our interests or may be inaccurate, each of which may harm our performance, prospects or business. The harm may be immediate without affording us an opportunity for redress or correction. Any dissemination of adverse, inaccurate or incomplete information online could harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
Governmental regulation may adversely affect our ability to open new restaurants or otherwise adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are subject to various federal, state and local regulations, including those relating to building and zoning requirements and those relating to the preparation and sale of food. The development and operation of restaurants depends to a significant extent on the selection and acquisition of suitable sites, which are subject to zoning, land use, environmental, traffic and other regulations and requirements. Our restaurants are also subject to state and local licensing and regulation by health, alcoholic beverage, sanitation, food and occupational safety and other agencies. We may experience material difficulties or failures in obtaining the necessary licenses, approvals or permits for our restaurants, which could delay planned restaurant openings or affect the operations at our existing restaurants. In addition, stringent and varied requirements of local regulators with respect to zoning, land use and environmental factors could delay or prevent development of new restaurants in particular locations.
We are subject to the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and similar state laws that give civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in the context of employment, public accommodations and other areas, including our restaurants. We may in the future need to modify restaurants by adding access ramps or redesigning certain architectural fixtures to provide service to or make reasonable accommodations for disabled persons. The expenses associated with these modifications could be material.
Our operations are also subject to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act, which governs worker health and safety, the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs such matters as minimum wages and overtime, and a variety of similar federal, state and local laws that govern these and other employment law matters. We may also be subject to lawsuits from our employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or others alleging violations of federal and state laws regarding workplace and employment matters, discrimination and similar matters, and we have been party to such matters in the past. In addition, federal, state and local changes in minimum wages, paid sick leave or labor law matters could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
There is also a potential for increased regulation of certain food establishments in the United States, where compliance with a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Policies ("HAACP") approach would be required. HACCP refers to a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of potential hazards from production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product. Many states have required restaurants to develop and implement HACCP Systems, and the United States government continues to expand the sectors of the food industry that must adopt and implement HACCP programs. For example, the Food Safety Modernization Act ("FSMA"), grants the FDA authority regarding the safety of the entire food system, including through increased inspections and mandatory food recalls. In certain instances, these requirements may be challenging to meet which may result in substantial costs. For example, our suppliers may initiate or otherwise be subject to food recalls that may impact the availability of certain products, result in adverse publicity or require us to take actions that could be costly for us or otherwise impact our business. We may be required to incur additional time and resources to comply with new food safety requirements made under FSMA or other federal or state food safety regulations. Failure to comply with the laws and regulatory requirements of federal, state and local authorities could result in, among other things, revocation of required licenses, administrative enforcement actions, fines and civil and criminal liability. In addition, many applicable laws could require us to expend significant funds to make modifications to our restaurants or operations to comply with such laws. Compliance with these laws can be costly and may increase our exposure to litigation or governmental investigations or proceedings.


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Legislation and regulations requiring the display and provision of nutritional information for our menu offerings, and new information or attitudes regarding diet and health could result in changes in regulations and consumer consumption habits that could adversely affect our business.
Regulations and consumer eating habits may change as a result of new information or attitudes regarding diet and health or new information regarding the adverse health effects of consuming certain menu offerings. Such changes may include federal, state and local regulations that impact the ingredients and nutritional content of the food and beverages we offer. The growth of our restaurant operations is dependent, in part, upon our ability to effectively respond to changes in any consumer health regulations and our ability to adapt our menu offerings to trends in food consumption. If consumer health regulations or consumer eating habits change significantly, we may choose or be required to modify or delete certain menu items or ingredients, which may adversely affect the attractiveness of our restaurants to new or returning customers. We may also experience higher costs associated with the implementation of those changes. To the extent we are unwilling or unable to respond with appropriate changes to our menu offerings, it could materially affect consumer demand and have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Such changes have also resulted in, and may continue to result in, laws and regulations requiring us to disclose the nutritional content of our food offerings, and they have resulted, and may continue to result in, laws and regulations affecting permissible ingredients and menu offerings. For example, federal, state and local menu labeling laws require multi-unit restaurant operators to disclose to consumers certain nutritional information, and have enacted legislation restricting the use of certain types of ingredients in restaurants. Specifically, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 ("PPACA") requires chain restaurants with 20 or more locations operating under the same name and offering substantially the same menus to publish the total number of calories of standard menu items on menus and menu boards, along with a statement that puts this calorie information in the context of a total daily calorie intake. Disclosure of the nutritional value and calorie count of our menu items could be challenging for us to comply with in an efficient manner. Additionally, we use third-party nutritional groups to evaluate the nutritional value and calorie count of our menu items. If any third party evaluation report is inaccurate or incomplete, we may fail to comply with PPACA or other consumer health regulations. The PPACA also requires covered restaurants to provide to consumers, upon request, a written summary of detailed nutritional information for each standard menu item, and to provide a statement on menus and menu boards about the availability of this information upon request. An unfavorable report on, or reaction to, our menu ingredients, the size of our portions or the nutritional content of our menu items could negatively influence the demand for our offerings.
Compliance with current and future laws and regulations regarding the ingredients and nutritional content of our menu items may be costly and time-consuming. The risks and costs associated with nutritional disclosures on our menus could also impact our operations, particularly given differences among applicable legal requirements and practices within the restaurant industry with respect to testing and disclosure, ordinary variations in food preparation among our own restaurants, and the need to rely on the accuracy and completeness of nutritional information obtained from third-party suppliers. We may not be able to effectively respond to changes in consumer health perceptions or to successfully implement the nutrient content disclosure requirements. We also may not be able to effectively adapt any new menu offerings to such perceptions and requirements. The imposition of menu labeling laws could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations, as well as our position within the restaurant industry in general.
We rely heavily on certain vendors, suppliers and distributors, which could adversely affect our business.
Our ability to maintain consistent price and quality throughout our restaurants depends in part upon our ability to acquire specified food products and supplies in sufficient quantities at a reasonable cost from third-party vendors, suppliers and distributors. We contract with multiple suppliers including Sysco, one of the largest distributors of food and related products to the U.S. food service industry. In 2017, our payments to Sysco constituted most of our cost of sales. Our remaining food supplies are distributed by other distributors under separate contracts and purchase orders. We do not control the businesses of our vendors, suppliers, and distributors, and our efforts to specify and monitor the standards under which they perform may not be successful. Furthermore, certain food items are perishable, and we have limited control over whether these items will be delivered to us in appropriate condition for use in our restaurants. A shortage or interruption in the availability of certain food products or supplies could increase costs and limit the availability of products critical to restaurant operations, which in turn could lead to restaurant closures or a decrease in sales which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, we use various third-party vendors to provide, support and maintain most of our management information systems. We also outsource certain accounting, payroll and human resource functions to business process service providers. The failure of such vendors to fulfill their obligations could disrupt our operations. Additionally, any changes we may make to the services we obtain from our current or new vendors may disrupt our operations. These disruptions could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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Changes in food and supply costs or failure to receive frequent deliveries of fresh food ingredients and other supplies could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Our financial condition and results of operations depend in part on our ability to anticipate and react to changes in food and supply costs, and our ability to maintain our menu depends in part on our ability to acquire ingredients that meet our specifications from reliable suppliers. Our menu offerings rely on local suppliers to provide fresh foods. Shortages or interruptions in the availability of certain supplies caused by unanticipated demand, problems in production or distribution, food contamination, inclement weather or other conditions could adversely affect the availability, quality and cost of our ingredients, which could harm our operations. Any increase in the prices of the food products most critical to our menu, such as fresh produce, feta cheese and chicken, could adversely affect our operating results. Although we try to manage the impact that these fluctuations have on our operating results, we remain susceptible to increases in food costs as a result of factors beyond our control, such as general economic conditions, seasonal fluctuations, weather conditions, demand, food safety concerns, generalized infectious diseases, product recalls and government regulations.
If any of our distributors or suppliers performs inadequately, or our distribution or supply relationships are disrupted for any reason, our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows could be adversely affected. Although we often enter into contracts for the purchase of food products and supplies, we do not have long-term contracts for the purchase of some of these food products and supplies. As a result, we may not be able to anticipate or react to changing food costs by adjusting our purchasing practices or menu prices, which could cause our operating results to deteriorate. If we cannot engage replacement distributors or suppliers who meet our specifications in a short period of time, that could increase our expenses and cause shortages of food and other items at our restaurants, which may cause a restaurant to remove items from its menu. Any affected restaurants could experience significant reductions in sales during the shortage or thereafter, if customers change their dining habits as a result. In addition, because we provide moderately priced food, we may choose not to, or may be unable to, pass along commodity price increases to consumers. These potential changes in food and supply costs could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The effect of changes to healthcare laws in the United States may increase the number of employees who choose to participate in our healthcare plans, which may significantly increase our healthcare costs and negatively impact our financial results.
The PPACA requires health care coverage for many uninsured individuals and expand coverage to those already insured. We currently offer and subsidize a portion of comprehensive healthcare coverage, primarily for our salaried employees. Starting in 2015, the healthcare reform law required us to offer healthcare benefits to all full-time employees (including full-time hourly employees) that met certain minimum requirements of coverage and affordability, or face penalties. In offering such benefits we cannot assure you that the expense will be insubstantial in the future. If the benefits we elect to offer do not meet the applicable requirements, then we may incur penalties and potential liability. The healthcare reform law also requires individuals to obtain coverage or face individual penalties, so employees who are currently eligible but elect not to participate in our healthcare plans may find it more advantageous to participate in the future. It is also possible that by making changes or failing to make changes in the healthcare plans we offer, we will become less competitive in the market for our labor. Finally, we are anticipating changes to the PPACA requirements in the future, which may impose additional compliance and administrative costs that we cannot predict. While any effects of these new and existing healthcare requirements cannot be determined with certainty, they may significantly increase our overall healthcare coverage costs and could materially adversely affect our, business, financial condition and results of operations.
Changes in, or noncompliance with, labor laws may adversely affect our business.
Various federal and state labor laws govern the relationship with our team members and affect operating costs. These laws include employee classification as exempt/non-exempt for overtime and other purposes, minimum wage requirements, unemployment tax rates, workers' compensation rates, immigration status and other wage and benefit requirements. Significant additional government-imposed increases in the following areas could materially affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations:
minimum wages;
mandatory health benefits;
vacation accruals;
paid leaves of absence, including paid sick leave; and
tax reporting.


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In addition, various states in which we operate are considering or have already adopted new immigration laws or enforcement programs, and the U.S. Congress and Department of Homeland Security from time to time consider and may implement changes to federal immigration laws, regulations or enforcement programs as well. Some of these changes may increase our obligations for compliance and oversight, which could subject us to additional costs and make our hiring process more cumbersome, or reduce the availability of potential employees. Although we require all workers to provide us with government-specified documentation evidencing their employment eligibility, some of our employees may, without our knowledge, be unauthorized workers. We currently participate in the E-Verify program, an Internet-based, free program run by the United States government to verify employment eligibility, in states in which participation is required. However, use of the E-Verify program does not guarantee that we will properly identify all applicants who are ineligible for employment. Unauthorized workers are subject to deportation and may subject us to fines or penalties, and if any of our workers are found to be unauthorized we could experience adverse publicity that negatively impacts our brand and may make it more difficult to hire and keep qualified employees. Termination of a significant number of employees who were unauthorized employees may disrupt our operations, cause temporary increases in our labor costs as we train new employees and result in additional adverse publicity. We could also become subject to fines, penalties and other costs related to claims that we did not fully comply with all recordkeeping obligations of federal and state immigration compliance laws. These factors could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Unionization activities or labor disputes may disrupt our operations and affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Although none of our employees are currently covered under collective bargaining agreements, our employees may elect to be represented by labor unions in the future. If a significant number of our employees were to become unionized and collective bargaining agreement terms were significantly different from our current compensation arrangements, it could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, a labor dispute involving some or all of our employees may harm our reputation, disrupt our operations and reduce our revenues, and resolution of disputes may increase our costs.
As an employer, we may be subject to various employment-related claims, such as individual or class actions or government enforcement actions relating to alleged employment discrimination, employee classification and related withholding, wage-hour, labor standards or healthcare and benefit issues. Such actions, if brought against us and successful in whole or in part, may affect our ability to compete or could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we face labor shortages or increased labor costs, our growth and operating results could be adversely affected.
Labor is a primary component in the cost of operating our restaurants. If we face labor shortages or increased labor costs because of increased competition for employees, higher employee turnover rates, increases in the federal, state or local minimum wage or other employee benefits costs (including costs associated with health insurance coverage), then our operating expenses could increase and our growth could be adversely affected. In addition, our growth depends in part upon our ability to attract, motivate and retain a sufficient number of well-qualified restaurant operators and management personnel, as well as a sufficient number of other qualified employees, including customer service and kitchen staff, to keep pace with our expansion schedule. Qualified individuals needed to fill these positions are in short supply in some geographic areas. In addition, restaurants have traditionally experienced relatively high employee turnover rates. Although we have not yet experienced significant problems in recruiting or retaining employees, our ability to recruit and retain such individuals may delay the planned openings of new restaurants or result in higher employee turnover in existing restaurants, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we are unable to continue to recruit and retain sufficiently qualified individuals, our business and our growth could be adversely affected. Competition for these employees could require us to pay higher wages, which could result in higher labor costs. In addition, some of our employees are paid at rates related to the federal minimum wage, and increases in the minimum wage would increase our labor costs. Further, costs associated with workers' compensation are rising, and these costs may continue to rise in the future. We may be unable to increase our menu prices in order to pass these increased labor costs on to consumers, in which case our margins would be negatively affected, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We depend on the services of key executives, the loss of which could materially harm our business.
Our senior executives have been instrumental in setting our strategic direction, operating our business, identifying, recruiting and training key personnel, identifying expansion opportunities and arranging necessary financing. Losing the services of any of these individuals could materially adversely affect our business until a suitable replacement is found. We believe that these individuals cannot easily be replaced with executives of equal experience and capabilities. We also do not maintain any key man life insurance policies for any of our employees.

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Our credit facility may limit our ability to expand our business, and our ability to comply with the repayment obligations, covenants, and other requirements included in the credit facility may be affected by events that are beyond our control.
On November 7, 2017, we entered into a credit agreement with JPMorganChase Bank, N.A. that provides for a five-year $50.0 million revolving credit facility (the "2017 Credit Facility"). The 2017 Credit Facility includes the ability to increase indebtedness, subject to certain conditions, by up to $25.0 million. The 2017 Credit Facility contains certain financial and other covenants, including covenants which require us to maintain various financial ratios, limit our ability to incur additional indebtedness and liens, restrict the amount of capital expenditures that we may incur, and restrict our payment of cash dividends. This facility also limits our ability to engage in mergers or acquisitions, sell certain assets, repurchase our stock and enter into certain lease transactions. The 2017 Credit Facility includes customary events of default, including, but not limited to, the failure to maintain specified financial ratios, the failure to pay any interest, principal or fees when due, the failure to perform certain covenants, inaccurate or false representations or warranties, insolvency or bankruptcy and undergoing a change of control. For more information about our 2017 Credit Facility, see “Item 15. Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules” of this report. Any substantial decrease in net operating cash flows or any substantial increase in expenses could make it difficult for us to meet our debt service requirements or force us to modify our operations or sell assets. As a result, a substantial portion of our cash flows could be required for debt service and might not be available for our operations or other purposes. The covenants in the 2017 Credit Facility may limit our ability to expand our business, and our ability to comply with these provisions may be impacted by events beyond our control. Any failure to comply with any of the financial or operating covenants included in the 2017 Credit Facility could result in an event of default, permitting the lenders to accelerate the maturity of outstanding indebtedness. Any failure to comply with the obligations and covenants in our 2017 Credit Facility would have an adverse impact on our financial condition and our liquidity, which would materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may not be able to generate sufficient cash flow or access capital on acceptable terms to meet our future needs.
Continuing to expand our business will require significant capital in the future. To meet our capital needs, we expect to rely on our cash flow from operations, our 2017 Credit Facility and other potential third-party financings. Third-party financings in the future may not, however, be available on terms favorable to us, or at all. Our ability to obtain funding will be subject to various factors, including general market conditions, our operating performance, the market's perception of our growth potential, lender sentiment and our ability to incur debt in compliance with other contractual restrictions, such as financial covenants under our credit facility and future debt documents. We believe that cash and cash equivalents and expected cash flow from operations are adequate to fund our debt service requirements, operating lease obligations, capital expenditures and working capital obligations for the next fiscal year. However, our ability to continue to meet these requirements and obligations will depend on, among other things, our ability to achieve anticipated levels of revenue and cash flow from operations and our ability to manage costs and working capital successfully. Additionally, our cash flow generation ability is subject to general economic, financial, competitive, legislative and regulatory factors and other factors that are beyond our control. We cannot assure you that our business will generate cash flow from operations in an amount sufficient to enable us to fund our liquidity needs. Further, our capital requirements may vary materially from those currently planned if, for example, our revenues do not reach expected levels or we have to incur unforeseen capital expenditures and make investments to maintain our competitive position. If this is the case, we may seek alternative financings, such as selling additional debt or equity securities, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to do so on favorable terms, if at all. Our inability to raise capital could impede our growth or otherwise require us to forego growth opportunities and could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our marketing initiatives may not be successful.
We believe our brand is critical to our business. We incur substantial costs and expend significant resources in our marketing efforts to raise brand awareness and attract and retain customers. These initiatives may not be successful, resulting in expenses incurred without the benefit of higher revenues. Additionally, some of our competitors have greater financial resources, allowing them to spend significantly more than us on marketing and advertising, including offering aggressive discounting to their customers. The growing prevalence and importance of social media platforms, behavioral advertising and mobile technology also pose challenges and risks for our marketing and advertising strategies. Any failure to effectively use and gain traction through these platforms or technologies could cause our marketing initiatives to be less effective than our competitors. Any marketing initiatives that are less effective than our competitors, or are otherwise unsuccessful for any reason, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We have limited control over our franchisees, and any franchisees could take actions that could harm our business.
Franchisees are independent contractors and are not our employees, and we do not exercise control over their day-to-day operations. While we provide training and support to our three franchise locations, the quality of these franchised restaurant operations may be diminished by any number of factors beyond our control. We cannot be certain that any of our franchisees will have the business acumen or financial resources necessary to operate successful franchises in their franchise areas in a manner consistent with our standards and requirements, or that they will hire and train qualified managers and other restaurant personnel.

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If franchisees do not meet our standards and requirements, our image and reputation, and the image and reputation of other franchisees, may suffer materially and system-wide sales could decline significantly. We and our franchisees are also subject to laws and regulations relating to information security, privacy, cashless payments, gift cards and consumer credit, protection and fraud and any failure or perceived failure to comply with these laws and regulations could harm our reputation or lead to litigation, which could adversely affect our financial condition. In addition, a franchisee bankruptcy could have a substantial negative impact on our ability to collect payments due under such franchisee's franchise arrangements. In a franchisee bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee may reject its franchise arrangements pursuant to Section 365 under the United States bankruptcy code, in which case there would be no further royalty payments from such franchisee, and there can be no assurance as to the proceeds, if any, that may ultimately be recovered in a bankruptcy proceeding of such franchisee in connection with a damage claim resulting from such rejection.
We are subject to all of the risks associated with leasing space subject to long-term, non-cancelable leases.
We typically do not own any real property. Payments under our operating leases account for a significant portion of our operating expenses and we expect the new restaurants we open in the future will similarly be leased. Our leases generally have an initial term of ten years and generally include two five-year renewal options at increased rates. All of our leases require a fixed annual rent, although some require the payment of additional rent if restaurant sales exceed a negotiated amount. Generally, our leases are "net" leases, which require us to pay all of the cost of insurance, taxes, maintenance and utilities. We generally cannot terminate or sublease these leases without substantial economic costs. Additional sites that we lease are likely to be subject to similar long-term non-cancelable leases. If an existing or future restaurant is not profitable, and we decide to close it, we may nonetheless be committed to perform our obligations under the applicable lease including, among other things, paying the base rent for the balance of the lease term. In addition, as each of our leases expires, we may fail to negotiate renewals, either on commercially reasonable terms or at all, which could cause us to pay increased occupancy costs or to close restaurants in desirable locations. Any increased leasing costs and leases subject to closed restaurants could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The impact of negative economic factors, including the availability of credit, on our landlords and surrounding tenants could negatively affect our financial results.
Negative effects on our existing and potential landlords due to the inaccessibility of credit and other unfavorable economic factors may, in turn, adversely affect our business and results of operations. If our landlords are unable to obtain financing or remain in good standing under their existing financing arrangements, they may be unable to provide construction contributions, or to satisfy other lease covenants to us, and may also be subject to foreclosure proceedings by mortgagees. In addition, if our landlords are unable to obtain sufficient credit to continue to properly manage their retail sites, we may experience a drop in the level of quality of such retail centers. Our development of new restaurants may also be adversely affected by the negative financial situations of developers and potential landlords. Landlords may try to delay or cancel recent development projects (as well as renovations of existing projects) due to the instability in the credit markets and recent declines in consumer spending, which could reduce the number of appropriate locations available that we would consider for our new restaurants. Furthermore, the failure of landlords to obtain licenses or permits for development projects on a timely basis, which is beyond our control, may negatively impact our ability to implement our development plan.
We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could harm the value of our brand and adversely affect our business.
Our intellectual property is material to our business. Our ability to implement our business plan successfully depends in part on our ability to further build brand recognition using our trademarks, service marks, trade dress and other proprietary intellectual property, including our name and logos and the unique ambiance of our restaurants. While it is our policy to protect and defend vigorously our rights to our intellectual property, we cannot predict whether steps taken by us to protect our intellectual property rights will be adequate to prevent misappropriation of these rights or the use by others of restaurant features based upon, or otherwise similar to, our concept. It may be difficult for us to prevent others from copying elements of our concept and any litigation to enforce our rights will likely be costly and may not be successful. Although we believe that we have sufficient rights to all of our trademarks and service marks, we may face claims of infringement that could interfere with our ability to market our restaurants and promote our brand. Any such litigation may be costly and divert resources from our business. Moreover, if we are unable to successfully defend against such claims, we may be prevented from using our trademarks or service marks in the future and may be liable for damages, which in turn could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We also rely on trade secrets and proprietary know-how to protect our brand. Our methods of safeguarding this information may not be adequate. Moreover, we may face claims of misappropriation or infringement of third-parties' rights that could interfere with our use of this information. Defending these claims may be costly and, if unsuccessful, may prevent us from continuing to use this proprietary information in the future and may result in a judgment or monetary damages. We do maintain confidentiality

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agreements with all of our team members and most of our suppliers. Even with respect to the confidentiality agreements we have, we cannot assure you that those agreements will not be breached, that they will provide meaningful protection, or that adequate remedies will be available in the event of an unauthorized use or disclosure of our proprietary information. If competitors independently develop or otherwise obtain access to our trade secrets or proprietary know-how, the appeal of our restaurants could be reduced and our business could be harmed.
We may incur costs resulting from breaches of security of confidential consumer information related to our electronic processing of payment card transactions.
The majority of our restaurant sales are by credit or debit cards. In connection with these sales, we receive and maintain certain personal, financial and other information about our customers and employees. Other restaurants and retailers have experienced security breaches in which credit and debit card information has been stolen. We may in the future become subject to claims for purportedly fraudulent transactions arising out of the actual or alleged theft of credit or debit card information, and we may also be subject to lawsuits or other proceedings relating to these types of incidents. If the security and information systems of our outsourced third-party providers we use to process such information is compromised, then we may be subject to fines, penalties and other unplanned losses and expenses. Proceedings related to theft of credit or debit card information may be brought by payment card providers, banks and credit unions that issues cards, cardholders (either individually or as part of a class action lawsuit) and federal and state regulators. In addition, most states have enacted legislation requiring notification of security breaches involving personal information, including credit and debit card information. Any such claims or proceedings could cause us to incur significant unplanned expenses, which could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations. Further, adverse publicity resulting from these matters may have a material adverse effect on our business.
We rely heavily on technology, and any material failure or breach of security could prevent us from effectively operating our business.
Our information technology systems are used for our point-of-sale, web and mobile platforms, including online and mobile payment systems and rewards programs, and for administrative functions, including human resources, payroll, accounting, legal and internal and external communications. These information technology systems can contain personal, financial or other key information that is entrusted to us by our customers and employees. Our ability to efficiently and effectively manage our business depends significantly on the reliability and capacity of these systems. Our operations depend upon our ability to protect our computer equipment and systems against damage from physical theft, fire, power loss, telecommunications failure or other catastrophic events, as well as from internal and external security breaches, viruses and other disruptive problems. Failure of these systems to operate effectively, maintenance problems, upgrading or transitioning to new platforms, expanding our systems as we grow or a breach in security of these systems could adversely impact our business and reduce efficiency in our operations. Remediation of such problems could result in significant, unplanned capital expenditures. In addition, since we rely on technologies from third-parties, any inability to access, secure, and maintain rights with respect such technologies may harm our business.
Failure to successfully implement technology initiatives could adversely impact operating results.
We continue to invest in and rely upon technology in our restaurants not only to efficiently operate but also in an effort to drive sales growth and margin improvement. Our strategic technology initiatives may not be timely implemented or may not achieve the desired results. Certain technology systems, including our web and mobile platform, may be unreliable or inefficient which could impact their reliability encouraging our cutomers to use other food ordering or delivery services. Additionally, implementing evolving technology demands of the consumer may place a significant financial burden on our restaurant operators. Any deficiencies in our technology systems or inability to remain current with our customers' technology demands could adversely impact our business and subject us to additional costs and liabilities.
Changes to estimates related to our property, fixtures and equipment or operating results that are lower than our current estimates at certain restaurant locations may cause us to incur impairment charges on certain long-lived assets, which may adversely affect our results of operations.
In accordance with accounting guidance as it relates to the impairment of long-lived assets, we make certain estimates and projections with regard to individual restaurant operations, as well as our overall performance, in connection with our impairment analyses for long-lived assets. When impairment triggers are deemed to exist for any location, the estimated undiscounted future cash flows are compared to its carrying value. If the carrying value exceeds the undiscounted cash flows, an impairment charge equal to the difference between the carrying value and the fair value is recorded. The projections of future cash flows used in these analyses require the use of judgment and a number of estimates and projections of future operating results. If actual results differ from our estimates, additional charges for asset impairments may be required in the future. If any such future impairment charges are significant, our reported operating results would be adversely affected.

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We could be party to litigation that could adversely affect us by distracting management, increasing our expenses or subjecting us to material money damages and other remedies.
Our customers occasionally file complaints or lawsuits against us alleging we caused an illness or injury they suffered at or after a visit to our restaurants, or that we have problems with food quality or operations. We are also subject to a variety of other claims arising in the ordinary course of our business, including personal injury claims, contract claims and claims alleging violations of federal and state law regarding workplace and employment matters, equal opportunity, harassment, discrimination and similar matters, and we could become subject to class actions or other lawsuits related to these or other matters in the future. In recent years, a number of restaurant companies have been subject to such claims, and some of these lawsuits have resulted in the payment of substantial costs and damages by the defendants. In addition, the restaurant industry has been subject to a growing number of claims based on the nutritional content of food products sold and other disclosure and advertising practices. We may also be subject to this type of proceeding in the future. Regardless of whether any claims against us are valid, or whether we are ultimately held liable, claims may be expensive to defend and may divert time and money away from our operations and hurt our performance. Any judgment, settlement or other liability in excess of our insurance coverage could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, any adverse publicity resulting from such claims may also materially and adversely affect our reputation or prospects, which in turn could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We could be subject to dram shop liability, which may not be covered by our insurance and adversely affect our business.
Since we serve beer and wine in many of our restaurants, we are subject to state and local "dram shop" statutes, which may subject us to uninsured liabilities. These statutes generally allow a person injured by an intoxicated person to recover damages from an establishment that wrongfully served alcoholic beverages to the intoxicated person. Because a plaintiff may seek punitive damages, which may not be covered by insurance, this type of action could have an adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations. Any judgment in such an action significantly in excess of, or not covered by, our insurance policies could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Further, any adverse publicity resulting from any such claims may adversely affect us and our restaurants taken as a whole.
Our current insurance may not provide us with adequate levels of coverage and may expose us to unexpected costs.
Our current insurance policies may not be adequate to protect us from liabilities that we incur in our business. Additionally, in the future, our insurance premiums may increase, and we may not be able to obtain similar levels of insurance on reasonable terms, or at all. Any substantial inadequacy of, or inability to obtain insurance coverage could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Any unanticipated changes in the actuarial assumptions and management estimates underlying our reserves for exposure, including unexpected increases in medical and indemnity costs, could result in materially different amounts of expense than expected under our insurance programs. Furthermore, there are types of losses we may incur that cannot be insured against or that we believe are not economically reasonable to insure. Such losses could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
Failure to obtain and maintain required licenses and permits or to comply with alcoholic beverage or food control regulations could lead to the loss of our liquor and food service licenses and, thereby, harm our business.
The restaurant industry is subject to various federal, state and local government regulations, including those relating to the sale of food and alcoholic beverages. Such regulations are subject to change from time to time. The failure to obtain and maintain these licenses, permits and approvals could adversely affect our operating results. Typically, licenses must be renewed annually and may be revoked, suspended or denied renewal for cause at any time if governmental authorities determine that our conduct violates applicable regulations. Difficulties or failure to maintain or obtain the required licenses and approvals could adversely affect our existing restaurants and delay or result in our decision to cancel the opening of new restaurants, which would adversely affect our business. Alcoholic beverage control regulations relate to numerous aspects of daily operations of our restaurants, including minimum age of patrons and employees, hours of operation, advertising, trade practices, wholesale purchasing, other relationships with alcohol manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, inventory control and handling, storage and dispensing of alcoholic beverages. Any future failure to comply with these regulations and obtain or retain licenses could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Failure of our internal controls over financial reporting could harm our business and financial results.
Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting. Internal control over financial reporting is a process to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting for external purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States. Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting is not intended to provide absolute assurance that we would prevent or detect a misstatement of our financial statements or fraud. Any failure to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial

22


reporting could limit our ability to report our financial results accurately and timely or to detect and prevent fraud. A significant financial reporting failure or material weakness in internal control over financial reporting could result in substantial costs to remediate, and could cause a loss of investor confidence and decline in the market price of our stock.
Changes to accounting rules or regulations, and changes in our accounting assumptions, estimates or judgments, may adversely affect our results of operations.
Changes to existing accounting rules or regulations may impact our future results of operations or cause the perception that we are more highly leveraged. Other new accounting rules or regulations and varying interpretations of existing accounting rules or regulations have occurred and may occur in the future. Additionally, our assumptions, estimates and judgments related to complex accounting matters could significantly affect our financial results. Generally accepted accounting principles and related accounting pronouncements, implementation guidelines and interpretations with regard to a wide range of matters that are relevant to our business, including but not limited to, revenue recognition, fair value of investments, impairment of long-lived assets, leases and related economic transactions, intangibles, self-insurance, income taxes, property and equipment, unclaimed property laws and litigation, and stock-based compensation are highly complex and involve many subjective assumptions, estimates and judgments by us. Changes in these rules or their interpretation or changes in underlying assumptions, estimates or judgments by us could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We spend significant resources in developing new menu offerings, some of which may not be successful.
We continually invest in developing, marketing and advertising new menu offerings which are intended to attract and retain new customers for our restaurants. Our new menu offerings may not be well-received by customers and may not be successful, which could materially adversely affect our results of operations. Additionally, if our competitors were to increase their spending on menu development and marketing initiatives, or if our menu and marketing initiatives were to be less effective than those of our competitors, we could experience a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
Risks Related to Ownership of Our Common Stock
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly and could fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors due to seasonality and other factors, some of which are beyond our control, resulting in a decline in our stock price.
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly because of several factors, including:
the timing of new restaurant openings and related expenses;
restaurant operating costs for our newly-opened restaurants, which are often materially greater during the first several months of operation than thereafter;
labor availability and costs for hourly and management personnel;
profitability of our restaurants, especially in new markets;
increases and decreases in AUVs and comparable restaurant sales;
impairment of long-lived assets and any loss on restaurant closures;
macroeconomic conditions, both nationally and locally;
negative publicity relating to the consumption of seafood or other products we serve;
changes in consumer preferences and competitive conditions;
expansion to new markets;
adverse weather conditions in a region or nationally including hurricanes, tornados and similar events;
increases in infrastructure costs; and
fluctuations in commodity prices.
Seasonal factors and the timing of holidays also cause our revenue to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Our revenue per restaurant is typically lower in the first and fourth quarters due to reduced winter and holiday traffic and higher in the second and third quarters. As a result of these factors, our quarterly and annual operating results and comparable restaurant sales may fluctuate significantly. Accordingly, results for any one quarter are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected for any other quarter or for any year and comparable restaurant sales for any particular future period may decrease. In the future, operating results may fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors. In that event, the price of our common stock would likely decrease.




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The price of our common stock may be volatile and you may lose all or part of your investment.
Although we have listed our common stock on the New York Stock Exchange, given our growth strategy and stage of development, we cannot assure you that an active trading market will be sustained in the future. If an active trading market is not sustained, you may have difficulty selling any shares of our common stock, and the value of such shares may be materially impaired. Additionally, the market price of our common stock could fluctuate significantly. Those fluctuations could be based on various factors in addition to those otherwise described in this report, including the risk factors described under this Item 1A and the following:
our operating performance and the performance of our competitors or restaurant companies in general;
the public's reaction to our press releases, our other public announcements and our filings with the SEC;
changes in earnings estimates or recommendations by research analysts who follow us or other companies in our industry;
global, national or local economic, legal and regulatory factors unrelated to our performance;
future sales of our common stock by our officers, directors and significant stockholders;
the arrival or departure of key personnel; and
other developments affecting us, our industry or our competitors.
As we operate in a single industry, we are especially vulnerable to these factors to the extent that they affect our industry or our products. In the past, securities class action litigation has often been initiated against companies following periods of volatility in their stock price. This type of litigation could result in substantial costs and divert our management's attention and resources, and could also require us to make substantial payments to satisfy judgments or to settle litigation.
Unsolicited takeover proposals, governance change proposals, proxy contests and certain actions by shareholder activists may create additional risks and uncertainties with respect to the Company’s business, and any perceived uncertainties as to our future direction also could affect the market price and volatility of our common stock.
Public companies in the restaurant industry have been the target of unsolicited takeover proposals in the past. In the event that a third party, such as a competitor, private equity firm or shareholder activist makes an unsolicited takeover proposal, or proposes to change our governance policies or board of directors, or makes other proposals concerning the Company’s ownership structure or operations, our review and consideration of such proposals may be a significant distraction for our management and employees, and could require us to expend significant time and resources. Such proposals may create uncertainty for our employees and additional risks and uncertainties with respect to the Company’s financial position, operations, strategies and management, and may adversely affect our ability to attract and retain key employees. Any perceived uncertainties as to our future direction also could affect the market price and volatility of our securities.
Provisions in our charter documents and Delaware law may delay or prevent our acquisition by a third-party, even if the acquisition would be beneficial to our stockholders, and could make it more difficult for you to change our management.
Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and bylaws, and Delaware law, contain several provisions that may make it more difficult for a third-party to acquire control of us without the approval of our Board of Directors. For example, we have a classified Board of Directors with three-year staggered terms, which could delay the ability of stockholders to change membership of a majority of our Board of Directors. These provisions may make it more difficult or expensive for a third-party to acquire a majority of our outstanding equity interests. These provisions also may delay, prevent or deter a merger, acquisition, tender offer, proxy contest or other transaction that might otherwise result in our stockholders receiving a premium over the market price for their common stock.
Our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards and certain other tax attributes will be limited.
As of December 25, 2017, we had federal net operating loss carryforwards of $24.9 million and state net operating loss carryforwards of $12.3 million Under Sections 382 and 383 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, if a corporation undergoes an "ownership change," the corporation's ability to use its pre-change net operating loss carryforwards and other pre-change tax attributes to offset its post-change income may be limited. In general, an "ownership change" generally occurs if there is a cumulative change in our ownership by "5-percent shareholders" that exceeds 50 percentage points over a rolling three-year period. Similar rules may apply under state tax laws. We have experienced ownership changes as a result of our public offerings completed in 2014. As a result of our ownership changes, if we earn net taxable income, then our ability to use our pre-change net operating loss carryforwards, or other pre-change tax attributes, to offset U.S. federal and state taxable income will be subject to certain limitations. While we do not anticipate these limitations having a significant impact on our future ability to utilize net operating losses, there can be no assurance that such limitations will not have an impact on us in the future. Those net operating loss carryforwards resulted in a deferred tax asset of $5.8 million at December 25, 2017. A full valuation allowance of $7.8 million is recorded against the net deferred tax assets, exclusive of indefinite-lived intangibles, including these carryforwards.

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Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
None.


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Item 2. Properties
As of December 25, 2017, we and our franchisee operated 243 restaurants in 20 states. We operate a variety of restaurant formats, including in-line, end-cap and free-standing restaurants located in markets of varying sizes. Our restaurants are on average approximately 2,750 square feet. We lease the property for our corporate headquarters and all of the properties on which we operate restaurants.
The map and chart below show the locations of our restaurants as of December 25, 2017:
a2017mapwstorecounta01.jpg
State
 
Total
Alabama
 
17

Arkansas
 
4

Arizona
 
8

Colorado
 
8

Delaware
 
1

Florida
 
22

Georgia
 
26

Kansas
 
4

Kentucky(1)
 
3

Louisiana
 
9

Maryland
 
9

Missouri
 
1

New Jersey
 
3

North Carolina
 
18

Oklahoma
 
8

Pennsylvania
 
10

South Carolina
 
10

Tennessee
 
8

Texas
 
55

Virginia
 
19

Total
 
243

 
 
 
(1) Restaurants are franchise locations and not Company-owned.
We are obligated under non-cancelable leases for our restaurants and our central support office. Our restaurant leases generally have initial terms of 10 years with two or more five-year options. Our restaurant leases generally have renewal options and generally require us to pay a proportionate share of real estate taxes, insurance, common area maintenance charges and other operating costs. Some restaurant leases provide for contingent rental payments based on sales thresholds, although we generally do not expect to pay significant contingent rent on these properties based on the thresholds in those leases.

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Item 3. Legal Proceedings
We are currently involved in various claims and legal actions that arise in the ordinary course of our business, including claims resulting from employment related matters. None of these claims, most of which are covered by insurance, has had a material effect on us, and as of the date of this report, we are not party to any material pending legal proceedings and are not aware of any claims that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. However, a significant increase in the number of these claims or an increase in amounts owing under successful claims could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures

Not applicable.


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PART II

Item 5. Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Our common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (the "NYSE") under the symbol "ZOES." The following table sets forth, for the periods indicated, the high and low sales prices per share of our common stock as reported on the NYSE:
 
 
Common Stock Price Range
 
 
High
 
Low
Fiscal Year 2016
 
 
 
 
First quarter (December 29, 2015 - April 18, 2016)
 
$
41.76

 
$
23.17

Second quarter (April 19, 2016 - July 11, 2016)
 
$
40.60

 
$
34.53

Third quarter (July 12, 2016 - October 3, 2016)
 
$
38.00

 
$
21.86

Fourth quarter (October 4, 2016 - December 26, 2016)
 
$
27.41

 
$
20.20

 
 
High
 
Low
Fiscal Year 2017
 
 
 
 
First quarter (December 27, 2016 - April 17, 2017)
 
$
25.92

 
$
16.39

Second quarter (April 18, 2017 - July 10, 2017)
 
$
18.77

 
$
10.94

Third quarter (July 11, 2017 - October 2, 2017)
 
$
13.78

 
$
10.77

Fourth quarter (October 3, 2017 - December 25, 2017)
 
$
17.58

 
$
10.99

On February 22, 2018, there were nine stockholders of record of our common stock. This number excludes stockholders whose stock is held in nominee or street name by brokers.

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Performance Graph
The following performance graph compares the yearly dollar change in the cumulative shareholder return on our common stock with the cumulative total returns of the NYSE Composite Index and the S&P 600 Restaurants Index. This graph assumes a $100 investment in our common stock on April 11, 2014 (the date when our common stock first started trading) and in each for the foregoing indices on April 11, 2014, and assumes the reinvestment of dividends, if any. The indices are included for comparative purposes only. They do not necessarily reflect management's opinion that such indices are an appropriate measure of the relative performance of our common stock. This graph is furnished and not "filed" with the Securities and Exchange Commission and it is not "soliciting material", and should not be incorporated by reference in any of our filings under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, whether made before or after the date hereof and irrespective of any general incorporation language in such filing.
performancegrapha12.jpg
Dividends
No dividends have been declared or paid on the shares of our common stock. We do not expect to pay cash dividends to our shareholders in the immediate future. We expect to retain future earnings, if any, for future operations, expansion and debt repayment and have no current plans to pay any cash dividends for the immediate future. Any future determination to declare and pay cash dividends will be at the discretion of our Board of Directors and will depend on, among other things, our financial condition, results of operations, cash requirements, contractual restrictions in our credit facility, and such other factors as our Board of Directors deems relevant. See "Item 7 - Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" for additional information regarding our financial condition.



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Item 6. Selected Consolidated Financial Data
The following table presents our selected historical consolidated financial data and certain other financial data. The historical consolidated balance sheet data as of December 25, 2017 and December 26, 2016 and the consolidated statement of operations and consolidated statement of cash flows data for the years ended December 25, 2017, December 26, 2016 and December 28, 2015 have been derived from our historical audited consolidated financial statements, which are included elsewhere in this report. The consolidated balance sheet data as of December 29, 2014 and December 30, 2013 and the consolidated statement of operations and consolidated statement of cash flow data for the year ended December 29, 2014 and December 30, 2013 have been derived from our historical audited consolidated financial statements, which are not included in this report.
We operate on a 52- or 53-week fiscal year that ends on the last Monday of the calendar year. All fiscal years presented herein consist of 52 weeks. Our first fiscal quarter consists of 16 weeks, and each of our second, third and fourth fiscal quarters consists of 12 weeks, except for a 53-week year when the fourth quarter has 13 weeks. We refer to our fiscal years as 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.
The consolidated financial data and other financial data presented below should be read in conjunction with the section entitled "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations," and our audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto included elsewhere in this report. Our historical consolidated financial data may not be indicative of our future performance.

30


 
 
Fiscal Year Ended
 
 
December 25, 2017
 
December 26, 2016
 
December 28, 2015
 
December 29, 2014
 
December 30, 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Dollars in thousands, except share and per share data)
Consolidated Statement of Operations Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant sales
 
$
313,923

 
$
275,756

 
$
226,354

 
$
171,256

 
$
115,748

Franchise and royalty fees
 
178

 
207

 
203

 
477

 
637

Total revenue
 
314,101

 
275,963

 
226,557

 
171,733

 
116,385

Operating expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant operating costs (excluding depreciation and amortization):
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cost of sales
 
91,791

 
83,502

 
70,518

 
56,843

 
38,063

Labor
 
95,634

 
81,129

 
64,756

 
48,300

 
32,810

Store operating expenses
 
68,386

 
55,921

 
43,217

 
31,919

 
21,780

General and administrative expenses
 
33,353

 
30,358

 
26,666

 
26,744

 
13,171

Depreciation
 
18,404

 
14,453

 
11,368

 
8,900

 
5,862

Amortization
 
1,479

 
1,606

 
1,638

 
1,573

 
1,601

Pre-opening costs
 
2,264

 
2,214

 
2,554

 
2,109

 
1,938

Casualty loss
 
215

 

 
353

 

 

Loss from disposal of equipment
 
1,350

 
355

 
325

 
144

 
175

Total operating expenses
 
312,876

 
269,538

 
221,395

 
176,532

 
115,400

Income (loss) from operations
 
1,225

 
6,425

 
5,162

 
(4,799
)
 
985

Other income and expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Interest expense, net
 
4,636

 
3,848

 
3,270

 
3,535

 
4,019

Other income
 
(90
)
 
(87
)
 
(71
)
 

 

Loss on extinguishment of debt
 

 

 

 
978

 

Loss on interest cap
 

 

 

 
6

 
25

Total other expenses
 
4,546

 
3,761

 
3,199

 
4,519

 
4,044

Income (loss) before provision for income taxes
 
(3,321
)
 
2,664

 
1,963

 
(9,318
)
 
(3,059
)
Provision (benefit) for income taxes
 
(1,330
)
 
861

 
839

 
699

 
656

Net income (loss)
 
$
(1,991
)
 
$
1,803

 
$
1,124

 
$
(10,017
)
 
$
(3,715
)
 
Earnings per share:(1)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Basic and diluted
 
$
(0.10
)
 
$
0.09

 
$
0.06

 
$
(0.58
)
 
$
(0.30
)
Weighted average shares outstanding:(1)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Basic
 
19,484,111

 
19,434,622

 
19,344,896

 
17,409,673

 
12,561,414

Diluted
 
19,484,111

 
19,586,447

 
19,552,708

 
17,409,673

 
12,561,414

 
Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net cash provided by operating activities
 
$
31,123

 
$
26,064

 
$
26,253

 
$
17,753

 
$
10,924

Net cash used in investing activities
 
(46,931
)
 
(41,107
)
 
(38,295
)
 
(40,080
)
 
(28,242
)
Net cash provided by financing activities
 
12,591

 
1,405

 
1,783

 
50,568

 
16,017

 
Balance Sheet Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cash and cash equivalents
 
$
2,276

 
$
5,493

 
$
19,131

 
$
29,390

 
$
1,149

Property and equipment, net
 
191,686

 
162,033

 
131,819

 
103,945

 
78,629

Total assets
 
240,522

 
215,219

 
197,994

 
178,661

 
120,064

Total debt(2)
 
45,758

 
29,913

 
28,653

 
23,568

 
61,650

Total stockholders' equity
 
131,079

 
129,966

 
124,956

 
121,269

 
33,579

 


31


 
 
Fiscal Year Ended
 
 
December 25, 2017
 
December 26, 2016
 
December 28, 2015
 
December 29, 2014
 
December 30, 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Other Operating Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Company-owned restaurants at end of period
 
240

 
201

 
163

 
129

 
94

Franchise restaurants at end of period
 
3

 
3

 
3

 
3

 
8

Company-owned:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Average unit volume
 
$
1,448

 
$
1,541

 
$
1,556

 
$
1,501

 
$
1,470

Comparable restaurant sales growth
 
(2.0
)%
 
4.0
%
 
6.3
%
 
6.7
%
 
6.9
%
Restaurant contribution(3)
 
$
58,112

 
$
55,204

 
$
47,863

 
$
34,194

 
$
23,095

as a percentage of restaurant sales
 
18.5
 %
 
20.0
%
 
21.1
%
 
20.0
%
 
20.0
%
Adjusted EBITDA(4)
 
$
25,027

 
$
25,140

 
$
22,339

 
$
15,784

 
$
10,899

as a percentage of revenue
 
8.0
 %
 
9.1
%
 
9.9
%
 
9.2
%
 
9.4
%
Capital expenditures
 
$
49,222

 
$
45,845

 
$
38,403

 
$
31,102

 
$
28,267

 
(1) Earnings per common share gives effect to (i) the distribution of 12,561,414 shares of our common stock previously held by Zoe's Investors, LLC to its members in connection with the Company's initial public offering (the "IPO"), (ii) the 125,614.14-for-1 stock split of our common stock, which was effected in connection with the IPO; and (iii) the issuance of 6,708,332 shares of our common stock in the IPO, as if each of these events had occurred on December 28, 2010.
(2) Includes interest-bearing debt, residual value obligations and deemed landlord financing, as applicable.
(3) Restaurant contribution is defined as restaurant sales less restaurant operating costs, which are cost of sales, labor and store operating expenses. Restaurant contribution margin is restaurant contribution as a percentage of restaurant sales. When used in conjunction with GAAP financial measures, restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are supplemental measures that we believe are useful in evaluating operating performance and profitability of our restaurants. Additionally, restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are key metrics used internally by our management to develop budgets and forecast, as well as assess the performance of our restaurants relative to budget and against prior periods. We believe the supplemental presentation of restaurant and restaurant contribution margin provides investors with a meaningful view of our operating performance as these measures depict the operating results that are directly impacted by our restaurants and exclude items that may not be indicative of, or are unrelated to, the ongoing operations of our restaurants. It may also assist investors to evaluate our performance relative to peers of various sizes and maturities and provide greater transparency to how our management evaluates our business as well as our financial and operational decision making.

Our management does not consider restaurant contribution or restaurant contribution margin in isolation or as an alternative to financial measures determined in accordance with GAAP. The principal limitation of restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin is that they exclude significant expenses and income that are required by GAAP to be recorded in the Company's financial statements. Restaurant contribution excludes general and administrative expenses and pre-opening costs, which are considered normal, recurring cash operating expenses and are essential to support the operation and development of our restaurants. Therefore, this measure may not provide a complete understanding of the operating results of our Company as a whole.

We compensate for this limitation by relying primarily on our GAAP results and using restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin only supplementally. You should review the reconciliation of income from operations to restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin below and not rely on any single financial measure to evaluate our business.
(4) EBITDA is defined as net income (loss) before interest, income taxes and depreciation and amortization.

We define Adjusted EBITDA as EBITDA plus equity-based compensation expense, management and consulting fees, asset disposals, loss on interest cap, loss on extinguishment of debt, non-capitalized offering-related expenses, executive transition and relocation costs, casualty loss and pre-opening costs. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are intended as a supplemental measures of our performance that are not required by, or presented in accordance with GAAP. We believe that EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA provide useful information to management and investors regarding certain financial and business trends relating to our financial condition and operating results. Our management uses EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA (i) as a factor in evaluating management's performance when determining incentive compensation and (ii) to evaluate the effectiveness of our business strategies.
We believe that the use of EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA provides an additional tool for investors to use in evaluating ongoing operating results and trends and in comparing the Company's financial measures with other fast-casual restaurants, which may present similar non-GAAP financial measures to investors. In addition, you should be aware when evaluating EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA that in the future we may incur expenses similar to those excluded when calculating these measures. Our presentation of these measures should not be construed as an inference that our future results will be unaffected by unusual or non-recurring items.
Our management does not consider EBITDA or Adjusted EBITDA in isolation or as an alternative to financial measures determined in accordance with GAAP. The principal limitation of EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA is that they exclude significant expenses and income that are required by GAAP to be recorded in the Company's financial statements. Some of these limitations are:
Adjusted EBITDA does not reflect our cash expenditures, or future requirements, for capital expenditures or contractual commitments;
Adjusted EBITDA does not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, our working capital needs;
Adjusted EBITDA does not reflect the interest expense, or the cash requirements necessary to service interest or principal payments, on our debts;
although depreciation and amortization are non-cash charges, the assets being depreciated and amortized will often have to be replaced in the future, and Adjusted EBITDA does not reflect any cash requirements for such replacements;
equity-based compensation expense is and will remain a key element of our overall long-term incentive compensation package, although we exclude it as an expense when evaluating our ongoing operating performance for a particular period;
Adjusted EBITDA does not reflect the impact of certain cash charges resulting from matters we consider not to be indicative of our ongoing operations; and
other companies in our industry may calculate Adjusted EBITDA differently than we do, limiting its usefulness as a comparative measure.
Because of these limitations, EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for performance measures calculated in accordance with GAAP. We compensate for these limitations by relying primarily on our GAAP results and using EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA only supplementally. You should review the reconciliation of net income (loss) to EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA below and not rely on any single financial measure to evaluate our business.

32


The following table reconciles income from operations, which is a GAAP financial measure, to restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin for 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013:
 
 
Fiscal Year Ended
 
 
December 25, 2017
 
December 26, 2016
 
December 28, 2015
 
December 29, 2014
 
December 30, 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Restaurant Contribution:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Income (loss) from operations
 
1,225

 
6,425

 
5,162

 
(4,799
)
 
985

Less:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Royalty fees
 
178

 
207

 
203

 
477

 
637

Add:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
General and administrative expenses
 
33,353

 
30,358

 
26,666

 
26,744

 
13,171

Depreciation and amortization
 
19,883

 
16,059

 
13,006

 
10,473

 
7,463

Pre-opening costs(1)
 
2,264

 
2,214

 
2,554

 
2,109

 
1,938

Casualty loss(2)
 
215

 

 
353

 

 

Loss from disposal of equipment
 
1,350

 
355

 
325

 
144

 
175

Restaurant Contribution
 
58,112

 
55,204

 
47,863

 
34,194

 
23,095

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total revenue
 
314,101

 
275,963

 
226,557

 
171,733

 
116,385

Less: Royalty fees
 
178

 
207

 
203

 
477

 
637

Restaurant sales
 
313,923

 
275,756

 
226,354

 
171,256

 
115,748

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant contribution margin
 
18.5
%
 
20.0
%
 
21.1
%
 
20.0
%
 
20.0
%
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(1) Represent expenses directly associated with the opening of new restaurants that are incurred prior to opening, including pre-opening rent.
(2) Represents expenses and write off of assets associated with stores in Texas and Florida affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017 and write off of assets associated with one store in South Carolina affected by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015.


33


The following table reconciles net income (loss) to EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA for 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013:
 
 
Fiscal Year Ended
 
 
December 25, 2017
 
December 26, 2016
 
December 28, 2015
 
December 29, 2014
 
December 30, 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Adjusted EBITDA:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net income (loss), as reported
 
$
(1,991
)
 
$
1,803

 
$
1,124

 
$
(10,017
)
 
$
(3,715
)
Depreciation and amortization
 
19,883

 
16,059

 
13,006

 
10,473

 
7,463

Interest expense
 
4,636

 
3,848

 
3,270

 
3,535

 
4,019

Provision (benefit) for income taxes
 
(1,330
)
 
861

 
839

 
699

 
656

EBITDA
 
21,198

 
22,571

 
18,239

 
4,690

 
8,423

Asset disposals and loss on interest cap(1)
 
1,350

 
355

 
325

 
150

 
200

   Management and consulting fees(2)
 

 

 

 
113

 
264

Equity-based compensation expense(3)
 

 

 

 
6,111

 
74

Loss on extinguishment of debt(4)
 

 

 

 
978

 

   Pre-opening costs(5)
 
2,264

 
2,214

 
2,554

 
2,109

 
1,938

   Casualty loss(6)
 
215

 

 
353

 

 

   Offering related expenses(7)
 

 

 

 
1,463

 

Executive transition costs(8)
 

 

 
868

 

 

Executive relocation expenses(9)
 

 

 

 
170

 

Adjusted EBITDA
 
$
25,027

 
$
25,140

 
$
22,339

 
$
15,784

 
$
10,899

 
(1) Represents costs related to loss on disposal of equipment and loss on interest rate cap.
(2) Represents fees payable to Brentwood Private Equity IV, LLC ("Brentwood"), our former controlling stockholder, pursuant to the Corporate Development and Administrative Services Agreement dated October 31, 2007 (the "Corporate Service Agreement"), and fees payable to Greg Dollarhyde pursuant to a consulting agreement entered into on March 22, 2011. Both agreements were terminated prior to the completion of our IPO.
(3) Represents non-cash equity-based compensation expense associated with the accelerated vesting of stock and stock options at our IPO in April 2014.
(4) Represents the remaining deferred financing costs, loan administrative fee, and interest rate contract that were written off with the repayment of our former $37.5 million term loan and $2.9 million line of credit (the "2011 Credit Facility").
(5) Represents expenses directly associated with the opening of new restaurants that are incurred prior to opening, including pre-opening rent.
(6) Represents expenses and write off of assets associated with stores in Texas and Florida affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017 and write off of assets associated with one store in South Carolina affected by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015.
(7) Represents fees and expenses that were incurred, but not capitalized, in relation to our IPO completed on April 16, 2014 and our follow-on offerings completed on August 19, 2014 and November 19, 2014.
(8) Represents costs associated with our former Chief Financial Officer's ("CFO") departure pursuant to his employment and transition agreement and costs associated with the hiring of our new CFO including executive recruiter services and his employment commencement.
(9) Represents costs associated with executive relocation packages.














34


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
The following discussion summarizes the significant factors affecting our consolidated operating results, financial condition, liquidity and cash flows as of and for the periods presented below. The following discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with "Item 6 - Selected Consolidated Financial Data" and our audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes included in "Item 8 - Financial Statements and Supplementary Data".
In addition to historical information, this discussion and analysis contains forward-looking statements based on current expectations that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions, such as our plans, objectives, expectations, and intentions set forth under "Item 1A - Risk Factors." Our actual results and the timing of events may differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including those set forth in "Item 1A - Risk Factors" and elsewhere in this report.
Overview
Zoës Kitchen is a fast growing, fast-casual restaurant concept serving a distinct menu of fresh, wholesome, Mediterranean-inspired dishes delivered with warm hospitality. Founded in 1995 in Birmingham, Alabama, Zoës Kitchen has never wavered from our commitment to make our food fresh daily and to serve our customers in a warm and welcoming environment.
U.S. Tax Reform
In December 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the "2017 Tax Act") was enacted. The 2017 Tax Act represents major tax reform legislation that, among other provisions, reduces the U.S. corporate tax rate. Certain income tax effects of the 2017 Tax Act, including $2.2 million of tax benefit recorded principally due to the write-down of our net deferred tax liability, are reflected in our financial results in accordance with Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 118 (SAB 118), which provides SEC staff guidance regarding the application of Account Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 740, "Income Taxes," in the reporting period in which the 2017 Tax Act became law. See Note 7 to the consolidated financial statements for further information on the financial statement impact of the 2017 Tax Act.
Growth Strategies and Outlook
We plan to execute the following strategies to continue to enhance our brand awareness, grow our revenue and achieve profitability:
grow our restaurant base;
increase our comparable restaurant sales; and
improve our margins and leverage infrastructure.
We have expanded our restaurant base from 21 restaurants in seven states in 2008 to 243 restaurants in 20 states as of December 25, 2017, including three franchise restaurants. We opened 39 Company-owned restaurants in 2017, and we plan to open approximately 25 Company-owned restaurants in 2018. We believe we are well positioned for future growth with a developed infrastructure capable of supporting a restaurant base that is greater than our existing footprint. Additionally, we believe we have an opportunity to optimize costs and enhance our profitability as we benefit from economies of scale.
Growing sales and traffic in the restaurant sector continues to be a challenge due to a number of factors including increased competition, heavy discounting in the casual dining industry, and the influence of technology on customer traffic patterns, among others. These macroeconomic pressures can reduce the availability of our guests' discretionary spending for restaurant visits. In response to these factors we have undertaken a number of significant initiatives which we believe will help us drive profitable sales and traffic growth and improve the guest experience in our restaurants. First, we are continuing to innovate our menu including new snack boxes, appetizers, salads, sauces and entrées. Second, we are making investments in technology to advance our e-commerce, marketing and in-store operational capabilities which are designed to provide a superior guest experience. Third, we are investing in our capabilities to meet the off-premise dining demand through delivery and catering. Last, we continue to focus on improving our operational efficiencies. These strategies are intended to differentiate us from the competition, reduce the costs associated with managing our restaurants, and establish a strong presence for our brand in key markets in the United States. There can be no assurance that our strategies and initiatives will be successful solutions to the current challenges.




35


Key Events
Initial Public Offering. On April 16, 2014, we completed our IPO of 6,708,332 shares of common stock at a price to the public of $15.00 per share, which included 874,999 shares of common stock sold to the underwriters pursuant to their over-allotment option. After underwriters discounts, commissions and offering expenses, we received net proceeds from the offering of approximately $91.0 million. A portion of these proceeds were used to repay the outstanding indebtedness under our 2011 Credit Facility, which at the time of the IPO had an outstanding balance of approximately $48.3 million. We have used the remainder of the proceeds to support our growth, primarily through new restaurant openings, working capital and general corporate expenses.
Follow-On Offerings. On August 19, 2014, we completed a follow-on offering of 5,175,000 shares of the Company's common stock at a price of $30.25 per share, which included 675,000 shares sold to the underwriters pursuant to their over-allotment option. All of these shares were offered by the selling stockholders, except for 94,100 shares offered by the Company, the proceeds of which were used by the Company to repurchase the same number of shares from certain of its officers. We did not receive any net proceeds from the offering.
On November 19, 2014, we completed another follow-on offering of 4,370,000 shares of the Company's common stock at a price of $32.00 per share, which included 570,000 shares sold to the underwriters pursuant to their over-allotment option. All of these shares were offered by the selling stockholders. We did not receive any proceeds from the offering.
Key Measures We Use to Evaluate Our Performance
In assessing the performance of our business, we consider a variety of performance and financial measures. The key measures used by our management for determining how our business is performing are restaurant sales, comparable restaurant sales growth, AUVs, restaurant contribution, number of new restaurant openings, EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA.
Restaurant Sales
Restaurant sales represent sales of food and beverages in Company-owned restaurants. Several factors affect our restaurant sales in any given period, including the number of restaurants in operation and per restaurant sales.
Comparable Restaurant Sales Growth
Comparable restaurant sales refers to year-over-year sales comparisons for the comparable Company-owned restaurant base. We define the comparable restaurant base to include those restaurants open for 18 periods or longer. As of December 25, 2017, December 26, 2016 and December 28, 2015, there were 186, 150 and 116 restaurants, respectively, in our comparable Company-owned restaurant base. This measure highlights performance of existing restaurants, as the impact of new Company-owned restaurant openings is excluded.
Comparable restaurant sales growth is generated by an increase in customer traffic or changes in per-customer spend. Per-customer spend can be influenced by changes in menu prices and/or the mix and number of items sold per check.
Measuring our comparable restaurant sales allows us to evaluate the performance of our existing restaurant base. Various factors impact comparable restaurant sales, including:
consumer recognition of our brand and our ability to respond to changing consumer preferences;
overall economic trends, particularly those related to consumer spending;
our ability to operate restaurants effectively and efficiently to meet consumer expectations;
pricing;
customer traffic;
per-customer spend and average check amount;
marketing and promotional efforts;
local competition;
trade area dynamics;
introduction of new menu items; and
opening of new restaurants in the vicinity of existing locations.
Consistent with common industry practice, we present comparable restaurant sales on a fiscal calendar basis that aligns current year sales weeks with comparable periods in the prior year, regardless of whether they belong to the same calendar period or not. Since opening new Company-owned restaurants will be a significant component of our revenue growth, comparable restaurant sales is only one measure of how we evaluate our performance.

36


The following table shows our quarterly comparable restaurant sales growth since 2015:
 
 
Fiscal 2015
 
Fiscal 2016
 
Fiscal 2017
 
 
Q1
 
Q2
 
Q3
 
Q4
 
Q1
 
Q2
 
Q3
 
Q4
 
Q1
 
Q2
 
Q3
 
Q4
Comparable Restaurant Sales Growth
 
7.7
%
 
5.6
%
 
4.5
%
 
7.7
%
 
8.1
%
 
4.0
%
 
2.4
%
 
0.7
%
 
(3.3
)%
 
(3.8
)%
 
(0.5
)%
 
0.3
%
Comparable Restaurants
 
94

 
105

 
111*

 
116

 
126

 
134

 
143

 
150

 
161

 
169

 
178

 
186

 
*Adjusted from number disclosed in 2015 annual report for one restaurant in Columbia, SC temporarily closed due to flooding from a hurricane at the end Q3-2015.
Average Unit Volumes (AUVs)
AUVs consist of the average sales of all Company-owned restaurants that have been open for a trailing 52-week period or longer. AUVs allow management to assess changes in consumer traffic and per-customer spending patterns at our restaurants.
Restaurant Contribution
Restaurant contribution is defined as restaurant sales less restaurant operating costs, which are cost of sales, labor and store operating expenses. We expect restaurant contribution to increase in proportion to the number of new Company-owned restaurants we open and our comparable restaurant sales growth. Fluctuations in restaurant contribution margin can also be attributed to those factors discussed below for the components of restaurant operating costs.
Number of New Restaurant Openings
The number of Company-owned restaurant openings reflects the number of restaurants opened during a particular reporting period. Before we open new Company-owned restaurants, we incur pre-opening costs. Some of our restaurants open with an initial start-up period of higher than normal sales volumes, which subsequently decrease to stabilized levels. Typically, our new restaurants have stabilized sales after approximately 12 to 24 weeks of operation, at which time the restaurant's sales typically begin to grow on a consistent basis. In new markets, the length of time before average sales for new restaurants stabilize is less predictable and can be longer as a result of our limited knowledge of these markets and consumers' limited awareness of our brand. New restaurants may not be profitable, and their sales performance may not follow historical patterns. The number and timing of restaurant openings has had, and is expected to continue to have, an impact on our results of operations. The following table shows the growth in our Company-owned and franchise restaurant base for the fiscal years ended December 25, 2017, December 26, 2016 and December 28, 2015:
 
 
Fiscal Year Ended
 
 
December 25, 2017
 
December 26, 2016
 
December 28, 2015
Company-Owned Restaurant Base
 
 
 
 
 
 
Beginning of period
 
201

 
163

 
129

Openings
 
39

 
38

 
34

Restaurants at end of period
 
240

 
201

 
163

Franchise Restaurant Base
 
3

 
3

 
3

Total restaurants
 
243

 
204

 
166

Key Financial Definitions
Restaurant sales.    Restaurant sales represent sales of food and beverages in Company-owned restaurants, net of promotional allowances and employee meals. Restaurant sales in a given period are directly impacted by the number of operating weeks in the period, the number of restaurants we operate and comparable restaurant sales growth.
Royalty fees. Royalty fees represent royalty income received from the three franchised restaurants.
Cost of sales.    Cost of sales consists primarily of food, beverage and packaging costs. The components of cost of sales are variable in nature, change with sales volume and are influenced by menu mix and subject to increases or decreases based on fluctuations in commodity costs.
Labor.    Labor includes all restaurant-level management and hourly labor costs, including salaries, wages, benefits and bonuses, payroll taxes and other indirect labor costs.

37


Store operating expenses.    Store operating expenses include all other restaurant-level operating expenses, such as supplies, utilities, repairs and maintenance, travel costs, credit card fees, recruiting, delivery service, restaurant-level marketing costs, security and occupancy expenses.
General and administrative expenses.    General and administrative expenses include expenses associated with corporate and regional functions that support the development and operations of restaurants, including compensation and benefits, travel expenses, stock compensation costs, legal and professional fees, advertising costs, information systems, corporate office rent and other related corporate costs.
Depreciation.    Depreciation consists of depreciation of fixed assets, including equipment and capitalized leasehold improvements.
Amortization.    Amortization consists of amortization of certain intangible assets including trademarks, reacquired rights and favorable leases.
Pre-opening costs.    Pre-opening costs consist of expenses incurred prior to opening a new restaurant and are made up primarily of manager salaries, relocation costs, supplies, recruiting expenses, employee payroll and training costs. Pre-opening costs also include occupancy costs recorded during the period between date of possession and the restaurant opening date.
Casualty loss.    Casualty loss consists of the the non-cash loss recognized on the write-off of long-lived assets and inventory and other expenses.
Loss from disposal of equipment.    Loss from disposal of equipment is composed of the loss on disposal of assets related to retirements and replacements of leasehold improvements or equipment. These losses are related to normal disposals in the ordinary course of business, along with disposals related to selected restaurant remodeling activities.
Interest expense, net.    Interest expense includes cash and imputed non-cash charges related to our deemed landlord financing, non-cash charges related to our residual value obligations, amortization of debt issue costs as well as cash payments and accrued charges related to the 2015 Credit Facility and the 2017 Credit Facility. On November 7, 2017, we repaid all outstanding borrowings under the 2015 Credit Facility using funds drawn on our 2017 Credit Facility and subsequently terminated the related credit agreement.
Other income. Other income consists primarily of monthly rental income received from our sublease at a store in Pennsylvania.
Provision (benefit) for income taxes.    Provision (benefit) for income taxes represents federal, state and local current and deferred income tax expense.

38


Consolidated Results of Operations
The following table summarizes key components of our results of operations for the periods indicated as a percentage of our total revenue, except for the components of restaurant operating costs, which are expressed as a percentage of restaurant sales.
 
 
Fiscal Year Ended
 
 
December 25,
2017
 
December 26,
2016
 
December 28,
2015
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant sales
 
99.9
 %
 
99.9
 %
 
99.9
 %
Royalty fees
 
0.1
 %
 
0.1
 %
 
0.1
 %
Total revenue
 
100.0
 %
 
100.0
 %
 
100.0
 %
Operating expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant operating costs (excluding depreciation and amortization)(1):
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cost of sales
 
29.2
 %
 
30.3
 %
 
31.2
 %
Labor
 
30.5
 %
 
29.4
 %
 
28.6
 %
Store operating expenses
 
21.8
 %
 
20.3
 %
 
19.1
 %
General and administrative expenses
 
10.6
 %
 
11.0
 %
 
11.8
 %
Depreciation
 
5.9
 %
 
5.2
 %
 
5.0
 %
Amortization
 
0.5
 %
 
0.6
 %
 
0.7
 %
Pre-opening costs
 
0.7
 %
 
0.8
 %
 
1.1
 %
Casualty loss
 
0.1
 %
 

 
0.2
 %
Loss from disposal of equipment
 
0.4
 %
 
0.1
 %
 
0.1
 %
Total operating expenses
 
99.6
 %
 
97.7
 %
 
97.7
 %
Income from operations
 
0.4
 %
 
2.3
 %
 
2.3
 %
Other income and expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Interest expense, net
 
1.5
 %
 
1.4
 %
 
1.4
 %
Other income
 
0.0
 %
 
0.0
 %
 
0.0
 %
Total other expenses
 
1.4
 %
 
1.4
 %
 
1.4
 %
Income (loss) before provision for income taxes
 
(1.1
)%
 
1.0
 %
 
0.9
 %
Provision (benefit) for income taxes
 
(0.4
)%
 
0.3
 %
 
0.4
 %
Net income (loss)
 
(0.6
)%
 
0.7
 %
 
0.5
 %
 
(1) As a percentage of restaurant sales.


39


Fifty-two Weeks Ended December 25, 2017 Compared to Fifty-two Weeks Ended December 26, 2016
The following table presents selected consolidated comparative results of operations from our audited consolidated financial statements for the fifty-two weeks ended December 25, 2017 compared to the fifty-two weeks ended December 26, 2016:
 
 
Fiscal Year Ended
 
 
 
 
 
 
Increase / (Decrease)
 
 
December 25, 2017
 
December 26, 2016
 
 
 
 
Dollars
 
Percentage
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Consolidated Statement of Operations Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant sales
 
$
313,923

 
$
275,756

 
$
38,167

 
13.8
 %
Royalty fees
 
178

 
207

 
(29
)
 
(14.0
)%
Total revenue
 
314,101

 
275,963

 
38,138

 
13.8
 %
Operating expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant operating costs (excluding depreciation and amortization):
Cost of sales
 
91,791

 
83,502

 
8,289

 
9.9
 %
Labor
 
95,634

 
81,129

 
14,505

 
17.9
 %
Store operating expenses
 
68,386

 
55,921

 
12,465

 
22.3
 %
General and administrative expenses
 
33,353

 
30,358

 
2,995

 
9.9
 %
Depreciation
 
18,404

 
14,453

 
3,951

 
27.3
 %
Amortization
 
1,479

 
1,606

 
(127
)
 
(7.9
)%
Pre-opening costs
 
2,264

 
2,214

 
50

 
2.3
 %
Casualty loss
 
215

 

 
215

 
*

Loss from disposal of equipment
 
1,350

 
355

 
995

 
280.3
 %
Total operating expenses
 
312,876

 
269,538

 
43,338

 
16.1
 %
Income from operations
 
1,225

 
6,425

 
(5,200
)
 
(80.9
)%
Other income and expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Interest expense, net
 
4,636

 
3,848

 
788

 
20.5
 %
Other income
 
(90
)
 
(87
)
 
(3
)
 
3.4
 %
Total other expenses
 
4,546

 
3,761

 
785

 
20.9
 %
Income (loss) before provision for income taxes
 
(3,321
)
 
2,664

 
(5,985
)
 
(224.7
)%
Provision (benefit) for income taxes
 
(1,330
)
 
861

 
(2,191
)
 
(254.5
)%
Net income (loss)
 
$
(1,991
)
 
$
1,803

 
$
(3,794
)
 
(210.4
)%
 
* Not meaningful.
Restaurant sales.    The following table summarizes the growth in restaurant sales from 2016 to 2017:
(in thousands)
Net Sales
Restaurant sales for 2016
$
275,756

Incremental restaurant sales increase due to:
 
Comparable restaurant sales
(5,064
)
Restaurants not in comparable restaurant base
43,231

Restaurant sales for 2017
$
313,923

Restaurant sales increased by $38.2 million, or 13.8%, in 2017 compared to 2016. Restaurants not in the comparable restaurant base accounted for $43.2 million of this increase. Comparable restaurant sales declined $5.1 million, or 2.0%, in 2017, comprised of a 3.5% decrease in transactions and product mix offset by a 1.5% increase in price.

40


Royalty fees.    Royalty fees remained flat, at $0.2 million, in 2017 compared to 2016 as both years were comprised of the same three franchise locations.
Cost of sales.    Cost of sales increased $8.3 million in 2017 compared to 2016, due primarily to the increase in restaurant sales. As a percentage of restaurant sales, cost of sales decreased from 30.3% in 2016 to 29.2% in 2017. This decrease was primarily driven by lower raw material costs in beef, poultry, paper products and produce, partially offset by higher costs in seafood.
Labor.    Labor increased by $14.5 million in 2017 compared to 2016, due primarily to opening 39 new Company-owned restaurants in 2017. As a percentage of restaurant sales, labor increased from 29.4% in 2016 to 30.5% in 2017. The increase was primarily driven by the dilutive effect on margins from our newest restaurants which, on average, initially operate at less than system-wide average sales volumes as well as an increase in wage rates.
Store operating expenses.    Store operating expenses increased by $12.5 million in 2017 compared to 2016, due primarily to opening 39 new Company-owned restaurants in 2017. As a percentage of restaurant sales, store operating expense increased from 20.3% in 2016 to 21.8% in 2017. The increase was primarily attributable to the dilutive effect on margins from our newest restaurants which, on average, initially operate at less than system-wide average sales volumes as well as increased costs related to in-store technology investments and marketing.
General and administrative expenses.    General and administrative expenses increased by $3.0 million in 2017 compared to 2016. As a percentage of revenue, general and administrative expenses decreased from 11.0% in 2016 to 10.6% in 2017. The decrease was primarily driven by lower consulting fees related to a variety of one-time projects from the prior year and lower variable incentive compensation.
Depreciation.    Depreciation increased by $4.0 million in 2017 compared to 2016, due primarily to opening 39 new Company-owned restaurants in 2017. As a percentage of revenue, depreciation increased from 5.2% in 2016 to 5.9% in 2017 primarily due to corporate and in-store technology investments which typically have shorter useful lives.
Amortization.    Amortization decreased $0.1 million in 2017 compared to 2016 primarily due to the reacquired rights of one franchise store becoming fully amortized in 2016.
Pre-opening costs.    Pre-opening costs increased by $0.1 million in 2017 compared to 2016. As a percentage of revenue, pre-opening costs decreased from 0.8% in 2016 to 0.7% in 2017. The decrease was driven by improved project management and better control of pre-opening expenses.
Casualty loss. During 2017, we recognized a $0.2 million write-off of inventory and other expenses associated with a restaurants in Texas and Florida affected by extreme flooding resulting from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively.
Loss from disposal of equipment.    Loss from disposal of equipment increased $1.0 million in 2017 compared to 2016 primarily due to the retirement of computer equipment in connection with upgrades made to the home office and in-store technology investments.
Interest expense.    Interest expense increased by $0.8 million in 2017 compared to 2016, due primarily to increased interest from deemed landlord financing and increased borrowings on our 2017 Credit Facility.
Provision (benefit) for income taxes.    Provision for income taxes decreased $2.2 million in 2017 compared to 2016. Tax expense for the year typically remains relatively constant as it primarily reflects the accrual of income tax expense related to a valuation allowance in connection with the tax amortization of the Company’s goodwill that was not available to offset existing deferred tax assets. Due to the uncertain timing of the reversal of this temporary difference, it cannot be considered as a source of future taxable income for purposes of determining a valuation allowance; therefore the deferred tax liability cannot offset deferred tax assets. The comparison of our effective tax rate between periods is significantly impacted by the level of pre-tax income earned and projected for the year as well as the write down of our deferred tax liability as a result of tax reform.

41


Fifty-two Weeks Ended December 26, 2016 Compared to Fifty-two Weeks Ended December 28, 2015
The following table presents selected consolidated comparative results of operations from our audited consolidated financial statements for the fifty-two weeks ended December 26, 2016 compared to the fifty-two weeks ended December 28, 2015:
 
 
Fiscal Year Ended
 
 
 
 
 
 
Increase / (Decrease)
 
 
December 26, 2016
 
December 28, 2015
 
 
 
 
Dollars
 
Percentage
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Consolidated Statement of Operations Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant sales
 
$
275,756

 
$
226,354

 
$
49,402

 
21.8
 %
Royalty fees
 
207

 
203

 
4

 
2.0
 %
Total revenue
 
275,963

 
226,557

 
49,406

 
21.8
 %
Operating expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant operating costs (excluding depreciation and amortization):
Cost of sales
 
83,502

 
70,518

 
12,984

 
18.4
 %
Labor
 
81,129

 
64,756

 
16,373

 
25.3
 %
Store operating expenses
 
55,921

 
43,217

 
12,704

 
29.4
 %
General and administrative expenses
 
30,358

 
26,666

 
3,692

 
13.8
 %
Depreciation
 
14,453

 
11,368

 
3,085

 
27.1
 %
Amortization
 
1,606

 
1,638

 
(32
)
 
(2.0
)%
Pre-opening costs
 
2,214

 
2,554

 
(340
)
 
(13.3
)%
Casualty loss
 

 
353

 
(353
)
 
*

Loss from disposal of equipment
 
355

 
325

 
30

 
9.2
 %
Total operating expenses
 
269,538

 
221,395

 
48,143

 
21.7
 %
Income from operations
 
6,425

 
5,162

 
1,263

 
24.5
 %
Other income and expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Interest expense, net
 
3,848

 
3,270

 
578

 
17.7
 %
Other income
 
(87
)
 
(71
)
 
(16
)
 
22.5
 %
Total other expenses
 
3,761

 
3,199

 
562

 
17.6
 %
Income before provision for income taxes
 
2,664

 
1,963

 
701

 
35.7
 %
Provision for income taxes
 
861

 
839

 
22

 
2.6
 %
Net income
 
$
1,803

 
$
1,124

 
$
679

 
60.4
 %
 
* Not meaningful.
Restaurant sales.    The following table summarizes the growth in restaurant sales from 2015 to 2016:
(in thousands)
Net Sales
Restaurant sales for 2015
$
226,354

Incremental restaurant sales increase due to:
 
Comparable restaurant sales
8,139

Restaurants not in comparable restaurant base
41,263

Restaurant sales for 2016
$
275,756

Restaurant sales increased by $49.4 million, or 21.8%, in 2016 compared to 2015. Restaurants not in the comparable restaurant base accounted for $41.3 million of this increase. The balance of the growth was due to an increase in comparable restaurant sales of $8.1 million, or 4.0%, in 2016, comprised of a 1.3% increase in transactions and product mix combined with a 2.7% increase in price.

42


Royalty fees.    Royalty fees remained flat, at $0.2 million, in 2016 compared to 2015 as both years were comprised of the same three franchise locations.
Cost of sales.    Cost of sales increased $13.0 million in 2016 compared to 2015, due primarily to the increase in restaurant sales. As a percentage of restaurant sales, cost of sales decreased from 31.2% in 2015 to 30.3% in 2016. This decrease was primarily driven by lower raw material costs in poultry, paper products and produce.
Labor.    Labor increased by $16.4 million in 2016 compared to 2015, due primarily to opening 38 new Company-owned restaurants in 2016. As a percentage of restaurant sales, labor increased from 28.6% in 2015 to 29.4% in 2016. The increase was primarily driven by an increase in wage rates and benefit costs as well as the dilutive effect on margins from our newest restaurants which, on average, initially operate at less than system-wide average sales volumes.
Store operating expenses.    Store operating expenses increased by $12.7 million in 2016 compared to 2015, due primarily to opening 38 new Company-owned restaurants in 2016. As a percentage of restaurant sales, store operating expense increased from 19.1% in 2015 to 20.3% in 2016. The increase was primarily attributable to the dilutive effect on margins from our newest restaurants which, on average, initially operate at less than system-wide average sales volumes as well as increased costs related to in-store technology investments.
General and administrative expenses.    General and administrative expenses increased by $3.7 million in 2016 compared to 2015. As a percentage of revenue, general and administrative expenses decreased from 11.8% in 2015 to 11.0% in 2016. The decrease was primarily driven by executive transitions costs of $0.9 million in the prior year and a decrease in our variable incentive compensation offset by increased corporate payroll and benefit costs associated with supporting our increased number of restaurants, incremental compliance costs and increased non-cash equity-based compensation due to headcount growth.
Depreciation.    Depreciation increased by $3.1 million in 2016 compared to 2015, due primarily to opening 38 new Company-owned restaurants in 2016. As a percentage of revenue, depreciation increased from 5.0% in 2015 to 5.2% in 2016.
Amortization.    Amortization remained flat in 2016 compared to 2015.
Pre-opening costs.    Pre-opening costs decreased by $0.3 million in 2016 compared to 2015. As a percentage of revenue, pre-opening costs decreased from 1.1% in 2015 to 0.8% in 2016. The decrease was driven by improved project management and better control of pre-opening expenses.
Casualty loss. During 2015, we recognized a $0.4 million write-off of long-lived assets associated with a restaurant in Columbia, South Carolina affected by extreme flooding resulting from Hurricane Joaquin. We reopened the restaurant in May of 2016 in the same location.
Loss from disposal of equipment.    Loss from disposal of equipment increased $0.1 million in 2016 compared to 2015.
Interest expense.    Interest expense increased by $0.6 million in 2016 compared to 2015, due primarily to increased interest from deemed landlord financing.
Provision for income taxes.    Provision for income taxes increased $0.1 million in 2016 compared to 2015. Tax expense for the year typically remains relatively constant as it primarily reflects the accrual of income tax expense related to a valuation allowance in connection with the tax amortization of the Company’s goodwill that was not available to offset existing deferred tax assets. Due to the uncertain timing of the reversal of this temporary difference, it cannot be considered as a source of future taxable income for purposes of determining a valuation allowance; therefore the deferred tax liability cannot offset deferred tax assets. The comparison of our effective tax rate between periods is significantly impacted by the level of pre-tax income earned and projected for the year.

43


Non-GAAP Financial Measures
To supplement its consolidated financial statements, which are prepared and presented in accordance with GAAP, the Company uses the following non-GAAP financial measures: restaurant contribution, EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA (collectively, the "non-GAAP financial measures"). The presentation of this financial information is not intended to be considered in isolation or as a substitute for, or superior to, the financial information prepared and presented in accordance with GAAP. The Company uses these non-GAAP financial measures for financial and operational decision making and as a means to evaluate period-to-period comparisons. The Company believes that they provide useful information about operating results, enhance the overall understanding of past financial performance and future prospects, and allow for greater transparency with respect to key metrics used by management in its financial and operational decision making. The non-GAAP measures used by the Company may be different from the methods used by other companies.
Restaurant Contribution
Restaurant contribution is defined as restaurant sales less restaurant operating costs, which are cost of sales, labor and store operating expenses. Restaurant contribution margin is restaurant contribution as a percentage of restaurant sales. When used in conjunction with GAAP financial measures, restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are supplemental measures that we believe are useful in evaluating operating performance and profitability of our restaurants. Additionally, restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are key metrics used internally by our management to develop budgets and forecast, as well as assess the performance of our restaurants relative to budget and against prior periods. We believe the supplemental presentation of restaurant and restaurant contribution margin provides investors with a meaningful view of our operating performance as these measures depict the operating results that are directly impacted by our restaurants and exclude items that may not be indicative of, or are unrelated to, the ongoing operations of our restaurants. It may also assist investors to evaluate our performance relative to peers of various sizes and maturities and provide greater transparency to how our management evaluates our business as well as our financial and operational decision making.
Our management does not consider restaurant contribution or restaurant contribution margin in isolation or as an alternative to financial measures determined in accordance with GAAP. The principal limitation of restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin is that they exclude significant expenses and income that are required by GAAP to be recorded in the Company's financial statements. Restaurant contribution excludes general and administrative expenses and pre-opening costs, which are considered normal, recurring cash operating expenses and are essential to support the operation and development of our restaurants. Therefore, this measure may not provide a complete understanding of the operating results of our Company as a whole.
We compensate for this limitation by relying primarily on our GAAP results and using restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin only supplementally. You should review the reconciliation of income from operations to restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin below and not rely on any single financial measure to evaluate our business.

44


The following table reconciles income from operations, which is a GAAP financial measure, to restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin for 2017, 2016 and 2015:
 
 
Fiscal Year Ended
 
 
December 25, 2017
 
December 26, 2016
 
December 28, 2015
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Restaurant Contribution:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Income from operations
 
$
1,225

 
$
6,425

 
$
5,162

Less:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Royalty fees
 
178

 
207

 
203

Add:
 
 
 
 
<