MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Amazon adds one million new Prime members in third week of Dec.

BY Dan Berthiaume

Seattle — More than one million customers around the world joined the Amazon Prime membership program in the third week of December. The entire 2013 holiday season was the best ever for Amazon, with more than 36.8 million items ordered worldwide on Cyber Monday, or 426 items per second.

“Amazon Prime membership continues to grow, and we now have tens of millions of members worldwide,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “They benefit from all-you-can-eat free two-day shipping on millions of eligible items and our members have a voracious appetite. We are extremely grateful to our customers around the world and wish everyone the very best for the coming year."

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News

Wendy’s sells 49 locations

BY Dan Berthiaume

Dublin, Ohio — The Wendy’s Company has sold 30 locations Austin, Texas and another 19 in the Sacramento, Calif.-area in separate transactions. With the completion of the transactions, the company has now either sold or announced sales agreements for a total of 282 restaurants in 2013 as part of its System Optimization initiative.

The Austin restaurants have been sold to Haza Foods, LLC of Austin, Texas. Ali Dhanani is president and CEO of the organization, which also operates 31 Wendy’s restaurants in the greater Houston market and three in Waco/Temple, Texas.

The Sacramento area restaurants have been sold to Desmond Foods, L.P., a Wendy’s franchisee led by president and CFO Craig Horn. Desmond also operates 17 Wendy’s restaurants in the Fresno market along with seven in the San Francisco area.

Wendy’s announced plans in July to geographically concentrate its restaurant ownership through the sale of about 425 company-operated restaurants in 13 U.S. markets, primarily in the West. Restaurants are being sold to qualified operators on a market-by-market basis, with the completion of this process targeted by second quarter 2014.

As part of this initiative, Wendy’s previously announced the sale of or an agreement to sell the following markets: Kansas City, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle and St. Louis. Included in these agreements are specific plans to reimage certain restaurants in Wendy’s contemporary Image Activation restaurant design. They also include development plans for new restaurants.

As a result of system optimization, the company expects to generate a higher operating margin and stronger free cash flow, along with further enhancing the quality of its earnings with a more predictable revenue stream from a higher percentage of royalty and rental income.

"Ali Dhanani and Craig Horn are terrific operators with a strong customer orientation," Wendy’s president and CEO Emil Brolick said. "Both of their organizations understand the importance of operational excellence, have a strong balance sheet and are fully committed to restaurant reimaging. We know their teams will work diligently to further accelerate the growth of the Wendy’s brand in their respective markets."

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FINANCE

Cracker Barrel rejects shareholder request for sale

BY Dan Berthiaume

Lebanon, Tenn. — Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc has considered and rejected a recent filing and statement from top shareholder Sardar Biglari demanding that the company commence a sale process. Cracker Barrel has determined that the continued execution of the company’s existing business strategy is currently the proper course of action for the long-term best interests of the company and its shareholders.

Through Biglari Holdings, Biglari owns 19.9% of Cracker Barrel. He has previously said the company’ earning power is too low and on Dec. 24 said he is in discussions with an investment bank to finance a buyout bid.

“We are disappointed that Mr. Biglari is seeking to call a special meeting to vote on a proposal requesting that the company commence a sale process, particularly in light of his defeat by substantial margins in three consecutive proxy contests,” said James W. Bradford, chairman of the board of Cracker Barrel. “Cracker Barrel’s board of directors continues to believe that the execution of management’s existing business strategy will create the most value for all shareholders. The board regularly evaluates all options to serve the best interests of the Company and its shareholders and will continue to do so.”

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