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Big Burger King franchisee Carrols says omicron hurt its sales

The company’s results were improving in the fourth quarter but worsened in the last two weeks of December.
Burger King sales omicron
Photograph: Shutterstock

Sales at the 1,000 Burger King units operated by giant franchisee Carrols Restaurant Group improved through the last three months of 2021.

Until omicron hit, that is.

The Syracuse, N.Y.-based company said on Monday that the surging omicron variant likely hurt its sales in the last two weeks of the month.

“Our Burger King restaurants also demonstrated strong sequential improvement in comparable restaurant sales until the last two weeks of December, when we believe the initial impact of the omicron variant began slowing sales trends,” CEO Dan Accordino said in the company’s pre-release of its fourth-quarter earnings on Monday.

The company said its Burger King restaurants’ same-store sales rose 7.4% in the quarter ended Dec. 31. They improved from a 5% increase in October to a 9.7% increase in November. Despite the slowdown in December, same-store sales still rose 8.3% in the month.

Carrols operates nearly one in seven Burger King locations in the U.S., making its results relevant to the broader brand. Burger King had been struggling domestically, leading to broad changes in company management. But results suggest the chain has generated some momentum.

At the same time, many of Carrols’ locations are in the Northeast, where the omicron variant has hit the hardest thus far.

Carrols said that its Burger King sales came largely through average check growth of 12.1%, including menu price increases and fewer promotions. Traffic at the company’s restaurants declined 4.2%.

Labor costs continue to be a challenge, however, though not as much of a challenge as it had been. Accordino said its labor cost inflation was “similar to what we experienced during the third quarter of 2021.”

Carrols also operates 65 Popeyes restaurants, whose same-store sales rose 1% in the fourth quarter.

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