Date: 2/19/2020 Form: 10-K - Annual Report
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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
FORM 10-K
(Mark one)
XANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 28, 2019
or
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. 001-37425
WINGSTOP INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

Delaware47-3494862
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)(IRS Employer Identification No.)
5501 LBJ Freeway, 5th Floor,
Dallas, Texas
75240

(Address of principal executive offices)(Zip Code)

(972) 686-6500
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each classTrading Symbol(s)Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, par value $0.01 per shareWINGNASDAQ Global Market
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. x Yes   ¨ No

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   x No

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. x Yes   ¨ No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted 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 such files). x Yes   ¨ No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer,” "accelerated filer,” "smaller reporting company,” and "emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer xAccelerated filer
Non-accelerated filer
¨Smaller reporting company
Emerging growth company




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. ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).  Yes   x No

As of June 29, 2019, the aggregate market value of the registrant’s outstanding common equity held by non-affiliates was approximately $2.8 billion, based on the closing price of the registrant’s common stock on June 29, 2019, the last trading day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter.

As of February 18, 2020, there were 29,457,228 shares of common stock, par value of $0.01 per share, outstanding.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the proxy statement for the 2020 annual meeting of shareholders, which will be filed no later than 120 days after the close of the registrant’s fiscal year ended December 28, 2019, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this report.




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.
Item 16.
Signatures
Throughout this document, Wingstop Inc. (NASDAQ: WING) is referred to as the "Company," "Wingstop," or in the first-person notations of "we," "us" and "our." References to our website addresses or the website addresses of third parties in this report do not constitute incorporation by reference of the information contained on such websites and should not be considered part of this document.

3


Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This report includes statements of our expectations, intentions, plans and beliefs that constitute "forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "Securities Act") and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the "Exchange Act") and are intended to come within the safe harbor protection provided by those sections. These statements, which involve risks and uncertainties, relate to the discussion of our business strategies and our expectations concerning future operations, margins, profitability, trends, liquidity and capital resources and to analyses and other information that are based on forecasts of future results and estimates of amounts not yet determinable. These forward-looking statements can generally by identified by the use of forward-looking terminology, including the terms "may,” "will,” "should,” "expect,” "intend,” "plan,” "anticipate,” "believe,” "think,” "estimate,” "seek,” "expect,” "predict,” "could,” "project,” "potential” or, in each case, their negative or other variations or comparable terminology, although not all forward-looking statements are accompanied by such terms. Examples of forward-looking statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K include, but are not limited to, our expectations with respect to our future liquidity, expenses, and consumer appeal. These forward-looking statements are made based on expectations and beliefs concerning future events affecting us and are subject to uncertainties, risks, and factors relating to our operations and business environments, all of which are difficult to predict and many of which are beyond our control, that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those matters expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Such risks and other factors include those listed in Item 1A., "Risk Factors,” and elsewhere in this report.
When considering forward-looking statements in this report or that we make in other reports or statements, you should keep in mind the cautionary statements in this report and future reports we file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"). New risks and uncertainties arise from time to time, and we cannot predict when they may arise or how they may affect us. Any forward-looking statement in this report speaks only as of the date on which it was made. Except as required by law, we assume no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements for any reason, or to update the reasons actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in any forward-looking statements, even if new information becomes available in the future.
4


PART I

Item 1.Business

Overview
Wingstop is the largest fast casual chicken wings-focused restaurant chain in the world, with nearly 1,400 locations worldwide. We are dedicated to serving the world flavor through an unparalleled guest experience and offering of classic wings, boneless wings and tenders, always cooked to order and hand-sauced-and-tossed in 11 bold, distinctive flavors.
The Company is primarily a franchisor, with approximately 98% of Wingstop’s restaurants currently owned and operated by independent franchisees. We believe our asset-light, highly-franchised business model generates strong operating margins and requires low capital expenditures, creating stockholder value through strong and consistent free cash flow and capital-efficient growth.
Wingstop generates revenues by charging royalties, advertising fees and franchise fees to our franchisees and by operating a number of our own restaurants. We report our business in two reporting segments: franchise operations and company restaurant operations. During 2019, our franchise segment accounted for 72% and our company segment accounted for 28% of our consolidated revenues. Financial data for our reporting segments is included in the audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto included elsewhere in this report.
Our History
The first Wingstop restaurant opened in Garland, Texas in 1994. We began franchising Wingstop restaurants in 1997, and in 2009 we opened our first international location in Mexico.
Wingstop Inc. was incorporated in Delaware on March 18, 2015. On June 15, 2015, we completed our initial public offering, and our stock became listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol "WING.”
Our Industry
We operate in the rapidly-growing fast casual segment of the restaurant industry. We believe that fast casual concepts, which are a segment of limited service restaurants ("LSRs"), such as Wingstop, attract customers away from other restaurant segments and, accordingly, are generating faster growth than the overall restaurant industry and increasing market share relative to other segments.
Our Competition
The restaurant industry is intensely competitive. We compete on the basis of taste, quality, price of food offered, guest service, ambiance, location, and overall dining experience. We believe that our attractive price-value relationship, our flexible service model, and the quality and distinctive flavor of our food enables us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
We believe we compete primarily with fast casual establishments and quick service restaurants, local and regional sports bars, and casual dining restaurants. Many fast casual and carry-out concepts offer wings as add-on items to other food categories such as pizza, but typically do not focus on wings. Other competitors emphasize wings in a bar or sports-centric setting. Many of these direct and indirect competitors are well-established national, regional, or local chains. We also compete with many restaurant and retail establishments for site locations and restaurant-level employees.
Our Menu
It is our mission to serve the world flavor. We offer our guests fresh, cooked-to-order wings with bold, layered flavors that touch all of the senses and complement our wings with fresh-cut, seasoned fries and fresh, hand-cut carrots and celery. We round out the flavor experience with ranch and bleu cheese dips that are made in-house daily. We never use heat lamps or microwaves in the preparation of our food.
Our 11 flavor offerings create a differentiated experience that drives demand across multiple day-parts and occasions. Paired with our numerous order options (eat-in / to go / delivery; individual / combo meals / family packs) that allow guests to eat Wingstop during any occasion, whether it is a quick carry-out snack, dine-in dinner with friends, or picking up a party size order for their favorite group occasion, we believe this customizable unique experience drives repeat business and brand loyalty.
5


Our Vision
Our vision is to become a top 10 global restaurant brand. Based on our internal analysis, we believe there is opportunity for our brand to grow to approximately 3,000 restaurants across the United States and to approximately 3,000 restaurants internationally. Our approach to becoming a top 10 global restaurant brand centers around the following key strategic priorities:
Sustaining long-term same store sales growth through brand awareness and innovation
Maintaining best in class unit economics
Expanding our global footprint
This approach is built upon the foundation of our investments in the people and infrastructure necessary to build the organization for the next level.
Sustaining Long-Term Same Store Sales Growth through Brand Awareness and Innovation
In February 2017, we launched our national advertising program. Our transition from advertising cooperatives, a more locally driven advertising approach, to national advertising provided us with more reach and frequency in existing media markets and expanded our coverage to smaller and newer markets where we did not previously utilize television advertising. We administer the Wingstop Restaurants Advertising Fund (the "Ad Fund”), a consolidated not-for-profit advertising fund for which a percentage of gross sales is collected from Wingstop restaurant franchisees and company-owned restaurants to be used for various forms of advertising for the Wingstop brand. Beginning in fiscal year 2019, we increased the contribution rate that domestic franchisees are required to contribute to the Ad Fund from 3% to 4% of gross sales. Our national advertising program focuses on two key messaging windows and utilizes an extensive range of social media and digital marketing tools, including search engine, digital video, and social media advertising, to allow us to target core customers and increase brand awareness.
We are making focused investments in technology to provide a convenient and engaging brand experience with the goal of digitizing every transaction. We developed a custom website and app that launched at the beginning of 2019 that we believe positions Wingstop for further digital expansion. Delivery also continues to drive digital sales.
In 2017, we partnered with DoorDash to provide delivery to our restaurants, and approximately 94% of our domestic restaurants offered delivery as of the end of 2019. We believe our DoorDash partnership and delivery strategy will continue to drive domestic same store sales growth. Digital sales increased to 38.2% of sales during the fourth quarter of 2019, compared to the fast casual industry average of 8%.
Maintaining Best-in-Class Unit Economics
We believe the growing popularity of the Wingstop experience and the operational simplicity of our restaurants translate into attractive economics at our franchised and company-owned locations. Existing franchisees accounted for approximately 90% of franchised restaurants opened in 2019 and approximately 80% of franchised restaurants opened in 2018, which we believe further underscores our restaurant model’s financial appeal.
Upon opening, our restaurant volume generally builds year after year. Our domestic average unit volume ("AUV”) has grown consistently, exceeding $1.2 million during fiscal year 2019. Our operating model targets a low average estimated initial investment of approximately $390,000, excluding real estate purchase or lease costs and pre-opening expenses. In year two of operation, we target a franchisee unlevered cash-on-cash return of approximately 35% to 40%. We believe low entry costs and high returns provide a compelling investment opportunity for our franchisees that has helped drive the continued growth of our system.
Expanding Our Global Footprint
We believe that there is significant opportunity to expand globally, and we intend to focus our efforts on increasing our geographic penetration in both existing and new domestic markets as well as international markets. We believe our highly-franchised model positions us for continued strong unit growth over the medium and long-term. We expect franchisee demand for our brand, supported by compelling unit economics, operational simplicity, low entry costs, and flexible real estate profile, to drive global restaurant growth.
We believe we can achieve our domestic restaurant potential by expanding in our existing markets where we believe we can more than double our current restaurant count, as well as continuing to expand into emerging markets. Our "inside out” domestic market expansion strategy focuses our initial development in urban centers where our core demographic is most densely populated and then builds outward into suburban areas as our brand awareness grows in the market. We have a robust
6


domestic development pipeline and approximately 80% of our current domestic commitments are from existing franchisees, supporting the attractiveness of our restaurant business model as well as our positive franchisor-franchisee relationships.
We also believe that there is a significant opportunity to grow our business internationally. As of December 28, 2019, we had 154 international restaurants located in nine countries, all of which are franchised. In 2019, we opened 31 international locations. We believe that our restaurant operating model translates well internationally based on our small real estate footprint, our simplicity of operations, the universal and broad appeal of chicken, and our ability to customize our wide variety of flavors to local tastes.
Our Franchise
Franchise Overview
Our franchisees operated a total of 1,354 restaurants in 44 states and ten countries as of December 28, 2019. We have rigorous qualification criteria and training programs for our franchisees and require them to adhere to strict operating standards. We work hard to ensure that every Wingstop franchise location meets the same quality and customer service benchmarks in order to preserve the consistency and reliability of the Wingstop brand.
Franchisees (along with their managers) must attend and successfully complete a four-week training program prior to the opening of a new franchise restaurant. Our training program covers various topics including Wingstop culture, food preparation and storage, food safety, cleaning and sanitation, marketing and advertising, point of sale ("POS") systems, accounting, and hospitality, among others.
All of our franchise agreements require that each franchised restaurant be operated in accordance with our defined operating procedures, adhere to the menu we establish, and meet applicable quality, service, health, and cleanliness standards. We may terminate the franchise rights of any franchisee who does not comply with our standards and requirements. We believe that maintaining superior food quality, an inviting and energetic atmosphere, and excellent guest service are critical to the reputation and success of our concept. Therefore, we enforce the contractual requirements of our franchise agreements.
We have a broad and diversified domestic franchisee base. Since 2014, the number of franchisees who own ten or more restaurants has doubled. This increase is consistent with our strategy to grow with our existing franchisees. Our domestic franchise base has an average restaurant ownership of approximately four restaurants per franchisee and an average tenure of seven years.
U.S. Franchise Agreements
We enter into franchise agreements with U.S. franchisees under which the franchisee is generally granted the right to operate a store in a particular location, typically providing for a 10-year initial term, with an opportunity to enter into one or more renewal franchise agreements subject to certain conditions. We generally update and/or revise our franchise agreement on an annual basis and, as a result, the agreements we enter into with individual franchisees may vary. Our franchise documents currently provide that franchisees must pay a franchise fee of $20,000 for each restaurant opened. If a franchisee has entered into an area development agreement to develop restaurants in a defined market area with us (which occurs, in most cases, even if a franchisee wants to develop only one restaurant), the aggregate initial fee is $30,000 for each restaurant, which includes a $10,000 development fee per restaurant. The $10,000 development fee per restaurant to-be-developed is paid in full at the time a development agreement is signed for the grant of development rights and is not refundable.
Under the current standard franchise agreement, each franchisee is required to pay us a royalty of 6% of their gross sales net of discounts. Each restaurant also contributes 4% of gross sales net of discounts to fund national marketing and advertising campaigns. These funds are managed by the Ad Fund and are primarily used to create advertising content and purchase digital and television advertising on a national level. Our current form of franchise agreement also requires franchisees to spend at least 1% of their gross sales on local advertising and promotions.
International Franchise Agreements
Our markets outside of the United States are operated by master franchisees with franchise and distribution rights for entire regions or countries. The master franchise agreement typically requires the franchisees to open a minimum number of restaurants within a specified period. The master franchisee is generally required to pay an initial, upfront development fee for the territory as well as a franchise fee for each restaurant opened, which is currently $25,000 for each international franchise
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restaurant. Under the current standard master franchise agreement, each master franchisee is also required to pay a continuing royalty fee as a percentage of sales, which varies among international markets, but is currently set at 6%.
Suppliers and Distribution
We insist that all ingredients and supplies utilized in Wingstop restaurants satisfy our grade and quality standards. Our franchisees are required to purchase all chicken, groceries, produce, beverages, equipment and signage, furniture, fixtures, logo-imprinted paper goods, and cleaning supplies solely from suppliers that we designate and approve. We regularly inspect vendors to ensure that products purchased conform to our standards and that prices offered are competitive.
The principal raw materials for a Wingstop restaurant operation are bone-in and boneless chicken wings. Therefore, chicken is our largest product cost item and represented approximately 65% of all purchases for 2019. Company-owned and franchised restaurants purchase their bone-in and boneless chicken wings from suppliers that we designate and approve. We designate sources for potatoes to ensure that they are grown to our specifications. We also require franchisees to use our proprietary sauces, seasonings, and spice blends and to purchase them and other proprietary products only from designated sources.
All food items and packaging goods for Wingstop restaurants are sourced through one distributor, Performance Food Group ("PFG"). There are sixteen geographically diverse PFG distribution centers, which carry all products required for a Wingstop restaurant and service all of Wingstop’s domestic restaurants. PFG is contractually obligated to deliver products at least twice weekly to our restaurants. PFG provides consolidated deliveries with tightly controlled and monitored cold chain. Its national distribution system has a documented recovery plan to handle any disruption. Wingstop contracts directly with manufacturers to sell products to PFG, who in turn receives a fee for delivering these items to our restaurants. The majority of Wingstop’s highest-spend items are formula or fixed-contract priced. Wingstop has also negotiated agreements with its soft drink suppliers to offer soft drink dispensing systems, along with associated branded products, in all Wingstop restaurants.
Information / Technology Systems
We have core information systems in place that we believe are designed to scale and support our future growth plans. We specify a standard POS and restaurant management system in all domestic restaurants that helps facilitate the operation of the restaurants by recording sales, purchasing and inventory of goods, managing of labor and assessing restaurant performance. Our POS and restaurant management system is configured to record and store financial information in a manner that we specify, and we require franchisees to provide us with continual and unlimited independent access to all information on each POS system.
We have an online ordering platform and mobile ordering apps that integrates with third party delivery providers and our POS system, which makes it easy for our guests to order-ahead, and which we believe leads to higher check averages.
We require our franchisees’ electronic information systems, including POS systems, comply with and maintain established network security standards, including applicable Payment Card Industry ("PCI") and data privacy standards.
Trademarks
We own a number of trademarks and service marks registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and with foreign trademark authorities. We believe that our trademarks and other proprietary rights are important to our success and our competitive position, and, therefore, we devote resources to the protection of our trademarks and proprietary rights.
 Seasonality
Our restaurants have not experienced significant revenue fluctuations that can be attributed to seasonal factors.
Employees
As of December 28, 2019, we employed 784 team members, of whom 209 were full-time corporate-based and regional personnel. The remainder were part-time or restaurant-level employees. None of our employees are represented by a labor union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and we believe that we have good relations with our employees. Our franchise owners are independent business owners, so they and their employees are not included in our employee count and are not our employees.
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Government Regulation
We and our franchisees are subject to various federal regulations affecting the operation of our business. We and our franchisees are subject to the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and various other federal and state laws governing matters such as minimum wage requirements, overtime, fringe benefits, workplace safety and other working conditions and citizenship requirements. A significant number of our and our franchisees’ food service personnel are paid at rates related to the applicable minimum wage, and past increases in the minimum wage have increased our and our franchisees’ labor costs, as would future increases. Our distributors and suppliers also may be affected by higher minimum wage and benefit standards, which could result in higher costs for goods and services supplied to us and our franchisees.
We are subject to extensive and varied state and local government regulation affecting the operation of our business, as are our franchisees, including regulations relating to public and occupational health and safety, sanitation, fire prevention, and franchise operation. Each restaurant is subject to licensing and regulation by a number of governmental authorities, including with respect to zoning, health, safety, sanitation, nutritional information disclosure, environmental, and building and fire safety, in the jurisdiction in which the restaurant is located. Our and our franchisees’ licenses to sell alcoholic beverages must be renewed annually and may be suspended or revoked at any time for cause, including violation by us or our employees, or our franchisees or their employees, of any law or regulation pertaining to alcoholic beverage control, such as those regulating the minimum age of patrons or employees, advertising, wholesale purchasing, and inventory control.
In addition, we are subject to the rules and regulations of the Federal Trade Commission (the "FTC") and various state laws regulating the offer and sale of franchises. The FTC and various state franchise laws require that we furnish a franchise disclosure document containing certain information to prospective franchisees in advance of any franchise sale or the receipt of any consideration for the franchise, and a number of states require registration of the franchise disclosure document at least annually with state authorities. We are operating under exemptions from registration (though not disclosure) in several states based on our qualifications for exemption as set forth in each such state’s laws. Substantive state laws that regulate the franchisor-franchisee relationship, including in the areas of termination and non-renewal, presently exist in a substantial number of states. We believe that our franchise disclosure document and franchising procedures comply in all material respects with both the FTC guidelines and all applicable state laws regulating franchising in those states in which we have offered franchises.
Our international franchised restaurants are subject to national and local laws and regulations that are often similar to those affecting our U.S. stores. We believe that we have established procedures at our international franchised restaurants that provide reasonable assurance that our international franchised restaurants comply in all material respects with the laws of the applicable foreign jurisdiction.
Environmental Matters
We are not aware of any federal, state or local environmental laws or regulations that we would expect to materially affect our earnings or competitive position or result in material capital expenditures. However, we cannot predict the effect of possible future environmental legislation or regulations. During 2019, there were not material environmental compliance-related capital expenditures, and no such material expenditures are anticipated in 2019.
Community Involvement
We are committed to strengthening the neighborhoods that we serve by being strong, active, corporate citizens and good neighbors. In 2016, we created Wingstop Charities, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing and elevating the community work of our franchisees to make a difference in the lives of our youth. You can find more about the involvement of Wingstop Charities in its local communities at www.wingstopcharities.org.
Additional Information about the Company
We make available, free of charge, through our internet website www.wingstop.com, our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, proxy statements and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after such material is electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC. Materials filed with the SEC are also available at www.sec.gov.

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Item 1A.Risk Factors
Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry
If we fail to successfully implement our growth strategy, which includes opening new restaurants, our ability to increase our revenue and operating profits could be adversely affected.
Our growth strategy relies substantially upon new restaurant development by existing and new franchisees and we are continuously seeking to identify target markets where we can enter or expand, taking into account numerous factors such as the location of our current restaurants, demographics, traffic patterns, and information gathered from local employees. While we believe there is opportunity for our brand to grow to up to approximately 6,000 restaurants worldwide over the long term, we do not currently target a specific number of annual new restaurant openings over a multi-year period. We and our franchisees face many challenges in opening new restaurants, including:
availability of financing;
selection and availability of suitable restaurant locations;
competition for restaurant sites;
negotiation of acceptable lease and financing terms;
securing required governmental permits and approvals, including zoning approvals;
expansion into new markets, consumer tastes in new markets, and acceptance of our products;
employment and training of and wage rates for qualified personnel in local markets;
impact of inclement weather, natural disasters, and other acts of nature;
general economic and business conditions;
unanticipated increases in construction and development costs; and
the general legal and regulatory landscape in which we and our restaurants operate.
In particular, because the majority of our new restaurant development is funded by franchisee investment, our growth strategy is dependent on our franchisees’ (or prospective franchisees’) ability to access funds to finance such development. We do not provide our franchisees with direct financing and therefore their ability to access borrowed funds generally depends on their independent relationships with various financial institutions. Some of our existing franchisees utilize loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration ("SBA”), which guarantees loans made by financial institutions to small businesses in the United States, including franchisees. If SBA-guaranteed loans are no longer available to our franchisees (or potential franchisees), their ability to obtain the requisite financing at attractive rates, or at all, could be adversely affected. Moreover, if our franchisees (or prospective franchisees) are not able to obtain financing from any source at commercially reasonable rates, or at all, they may be unwilling or unable to invest in the development of new restaurants, and our future growth could be adversely affected.
As a result of the foregoing, we cannot predict the time period over which we may achieve our anticipated level of domestic restaurant growth or whether we will achieve this level of growth at all. In addition, as we continue to grow our business, our rate of expansion relative to the size of our restaurant base will eventually decline.
To the extent our franchisees are unable to open new restaurants at the level that we anticipate, our revenue growth would come primarily from growth in same store sales. Our failure to add a significant number of new restaurants or grow domestic same store sales would adversely affect our ability to increase our revenue and operating income and could materially and adversely harm our business and operating results.
Changes in food and supply costs could adversely affect our results of operations.
Our profitability depends in part on our ability to anticipate and react to changes in food and supply costs. Any increase in the prices of the ingredients most critical to our menu, particularly chicken, could adversely affect our operating results. Bone-in chicken wing prices in our company-owned restaurants in 2019 averaged 18.1% higher than in 2018 and prices continue to stabilize and approximate 5-year averages. If there is a significant rise in the price or size of bone-in chicken wings, and we are unable to successfully adjust menu prices or otherwise make operational adjustments to account for the higher wing prices, our operating results could be adversely affected. For example, bone-in chicken wings accounted for approximately 28% and 25%
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of our costs of sales in fiscal 2019 and 2018, respectively. A hypothetical 10% increase in the bone-in chicken wing costs for fiscal 2019 would have increased cost of sales by approximately $1.2 million for fiscal 2019.
Although we attempt to minimize the effect of price volatility by negotiating fixed price contracts for the supply of key ingredients, there are no established fixed price markets for bone-in chicken wings so we are subject to prevailing market conditions. As a result, 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, product recalls and government regulations. Inflation also increases the costs of our food. Additionally, avian influenza, or similar poultry-related diseases, may negatively affect the supply chain by increasing costs and limiting availability of chicken. 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. In addition, because we provide moderately-priced food, we may choose not to, or be unable to, pass along commodity price increases to our customers.
Our success depends in significant part on the future performance of existing and new franchise restaurants, and we are subject to a variety of additional risks associated with our franchisees.
A substantial portion of our revenue comes from royalties generated by our franchised restaurants. We anticipate that franchise royalties will continue to represent the substantial majority of our revenue in the future. As of December 28, 2019, we had 290 domestic franchisees operating 1,200 domestic restaurants and 9 international franchisees operating 154 international restaurants. Our largest franchisee operated 91 restaurants and our top 10 franchisees operated a total of 485 restaurants as of December 28, 2019. Accordingly, we are reliant on the performance of our franchisees in successfully operating their restaurants and paying royalties to us on a timely basis. Our franchise system subjects us to a number of risks, any one of which may impact our ability to collect royalty payments from our franchisees, may harm the goodwill associated with our franchise, and may materially adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Our franchisees are an integral part of our business. We may be unable to successfully implement our growth strategy without the participation of our franchisees and the adherence by our franchisees of our restaurant operation guidelines. Because our ability to control our franchisees is limited, our franchisees may fail to focus on the fundamentals of restaurant operations, such as quality, service, and cleanliness, which would have a negative impact on our success. In addition, our franchisees may fail to participate in our marketing initiatives, which could materially adversely affect their sales trends, average weekly sales, and results of operations. Although we provide frequent training opportunities to our franchisees to ensure consistency among our operations, there may be differences in the quality of operations at our franchised restaurants that impact the profitability of those restaurants.
In addition, if our franchisees fail to renew their franchise agreements, our royalty revenue may decrease, which in turn could materially and adversely affect our business and operating results. It also may be difficult for us to monitor our international franchisees’ implementation of our growth strategy due to our lack of personnel in the markets served by such franchisees.
Furthermore, a bankruptcy of any multi-unit franchisee could negatively impact our ability to collect payments due under such franchisee’s franchise agreements. In a franchisee bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee may reject its franchise agreements under the U.S. bankruptcy code, in which case there would be no further royalty payments from such franchisee. The amount of the proceeds, if any, that may ultimately be recovered in a bankruptcy proceeding of such franchisee may not be sufficient to satisfy a damage claim resulting from such rejection.
If we fail to identify, recruit and contract with a sufficient number of qualified franchisees, our ability to open new franchised restaurants and increase our revenue could be materially adversely affected. Additionally, our stated sales to investment ratio and target unlevered cash-on-cash return may not be indicative of future results of any new franchised restaurant.
The opening of additional franchised restaurants depends, in part, upon the availability of prospective franchisees who meet our criteria. We may not be able to identify, recruit or contract with suitable franchisees in our target markets on a timely basis or at all. Although we have developed criteria to evaluate and screen prospective franchisees, our franchisees may not ultimately have the business acumen or be able to access the financial or management resources that they need to open and successfully operate the restaurants contemplated by their agreements with us, or they may elect to cease restaurant development for other reasons and state franchise laws may limit our ability to terminate or modify these license agreements. If we are unable to recruit suitable franchisees or if franchisees are unable or unwilling to open new restaurants as planned, our growth may be slower than anticipated, which could materially adversely affect our ability to increase our revenue and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
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Also, the number of new franchised Wingstop restaurants that actually open in the future may differ materially from the number of signed commitments from potential existing and new franchisees. Historically, a portion of our commitments sold have not ultimately opened as new franchised Wingstop restaurants. On an annual basis for the past four years approximately 10% - 20% of the total domestic commitments sold have been terminated. Based on our limited history of international restaurant openings, we believe the termination rate of international commitments is likely to approximate the historic termination rate of domestic commitments. The historic conversion rate of signed commitments to new franchised Wingstop locations may not be indicative of the conversion rates we will experience in the future and the total number of new franchised Wingstop restaurants actually opened in the future may differ materially from the number of signed commitments disclosed at any point in time.
Additionally, initial investment levels, AUV levels, restaurant-level operating costs and restaurant-level operating profit of any new restaurant may differ from average levels experienced by franchisees in prior periods due to a variety of factors, and these differences may be material. Accordingly, our stated sales to investment ratio and average unlevered cash-on-cash return may not be indicative of future results of any new franchised restaurant. In addition, estimated initial investment costs and restaurant-level operating costs are based on information self-reported by our franchisees and have not been verified by us. Furthermore, performance of new restaurants is impacted by a range of risks and uncertainties beyond our or our franchisees’ control, including those described by other risk factors described in this report.
Food safety, food-borne illness and other health concerns may have an adverse effect on our business.
Food safety is a top priority, and we dedicate substantial resources to ensure that our customers enjoy safe, quality food products. However, food-borne illnesses, such as salmonella, E. coli infection, or hepatitis A, and food safety issues have occurred in the food industry in the past, and could occur in the future. Any report or publicity linking our restaurants to instances of food-borne illness or other food safety issues, including food tampering or contamination, could adversely affect our brand and reputation as well as our revenue and profits. Even instances of food-borne illness, food tampering or food contamination occurring solely at restaurants of our competitors could result in negative publicity about the food service industry or fast casual restaurants generally and adversely impact our restaurants.
In addition, our reliance on third-party food suppliers and distributors increases the risk that food-borne illness incidents could be caused by factors outside of our control and that multiple restaurants would be affected rather than a single restaurant. We cannot ensure that all food items are properly maintained during transport throughout the supply chain and that our employees and our franchisees and their employees will identify all products that may be spoiled and should not be used in our restaurants. In addition, our industry has long been subject to the threat of food tampering by suppliers, employees, and others such as the addition of foreign objects in the food that we sell. Reports, whether or not true, of injuries caused by food tampering have in the past severely injured the reputations and brands of restaurant chains in the quick service restaurant segment and could affect us in the future as well. If our customers become ill from food-borne illnesses, we could also be forced to temporarily close some restaurants. Moreover, any instances of food contamination, whether or not at our restaurants, could subject our restaurants or our suppliers to a food recall pursuant to the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act.
Furthermore, the United States and other countries have also experienced, and may experience in the future, outbreaks of viruses, such as coronovirus, H1N1, avian influenza, various other forms of influenza, enterovirus, SARS, and Ebola. To the extent that a virus is transmitted by human-to-human contact, our employees or customers could become infected or could choose, or be advised, to avoid gathering in public places and avoid eating in restaurant establishments such as our restaurants, which could adversely affect our business.
Our expansion into new and existing markets may present increased risks.
Some of our new restaurants are planned for markets where there may be limited or no market recognition of our brand. Those markets may have competitive conditions, consumer tastes and discretionary spending patterns that are different from those in our existing markets, and we may encounter well-established competitors with substantially greater financial resources than us. As a result, those new restaurants may be less successful than restaurants in our existing markets.
We may need to build brand awareness in new markets through greater investments in advertising and promotional activity than we originally planned, which could negatively impact the profitability of our operations in such new markets. Our franchisees may find it more difficult in new markets to hire, motivate and keep qualified employees who can project our vision, passion and culture. In addition, we may have difficulty finding reliable suppliers or distributors or ones that can provide us, either initially or over time, with adequate supplies of ingredients meeting our quality standards. Restaurants opened in new markets may also have lower average restaurant sales than restaurants opened in existing markets. Sales at restaurants opened in new markets may take longer to ramp up and reach expected sales and profit levels, and may never do so, thereby affecting our
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overall profitability. Additionally, new markets may have higher rents and labor rates as compared to existing markets that could negatively affect unit economics.
We also intend to continue opening new franchised restaurants in our existing markets as a core part of our growth strategy. As a result, the opening of a new restaurant in or near markets in which our restaurants already exist could adversely affect the sales of these existing restaurants.
Our success depends on our ability to compete with many other restaurants.
The restaurant industry in general, and the fast casual category in particular, are intensely competitive, and we compete with many well-established restaurant companies on the basis of food taste and quality, price, service, value, location, convenience, and overall customer experience. Our competitors include individual restaurants and restaurant chains that range from independent local operators to well-capitalized national and regional restaurant companies, including restaurants offering chicken wing products, as well as dine-in, carry-out, and delivery services offering other types of food.
Some of our competitors have substantially greater financial and other resources than we do, which may allow them to react to changes in the restaurant industry better than we can. Other competitors are local restaurants that in some cases have a loyal guest base and strong brand recognition within a particular market. As our competitors expand their operations or as new competitors enter the industry, we expect competition to intensify. Should our competitors increase their spending on advertising and promotions, we could experience a loss of customer traffic to our competitors. Also, if our advertising and promotions become less effective than those of our competitors, we could experience a material adverse effect on our results of operations. We and our franchisees also compete with other restaurant chains and other retail businesses for quality site locations, management, and hourly employees. Tightness in the labor market or union activity could also raise costs for our franchisees and us.
Additionally, we face the risk that new or existing competitors will copy our business model, menu options, presentation, or ambiance, among other things. 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. In addition, many of our competitors offer lower-priced menu options or meal packages, or have loyalty programs. Several of our competitors compete by offering a broader range of menu items, including items that are specifically identified as low in carbohydrates or healthier, a strategy that we do not currently pursue. This competition in the variety of products offered and the price of products may adversely impact our sales.
Moreover, we may also compete with companies outside the fast casual, quick service, and casual dining segments of the restaurant industry. For example, competitive pressures can come from deli sections and in-store cafés of several major grocery store chains and from home delivery meal plan services, including those targeted at customers who want healthier food, as well as from convenience stores and other dining outlets. These competitors may have, among other things, a more diverse menu, lower operating costs, better locations, better facilities, better management, more effective marketing, more efficient operations, and more convenient offerings than we have.
If we are unable to compete effectively, it could decrease our traffic, sales and profit margins, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Interruptions in the supply of product to company-owned restaurants and franchisees could adversely affect our revenue.
In order to maintain quality-control standards and consistency among restaurants, we require through our franchise agreements that our franchisees obtain food and other supplies from preferred suppliers approved by us in advance. In this regard, we and our franchisees depend on a group of suppliers for food ingredients, beverages, paper goods, and distribution, including, but not limited to, four primary chicken suppliers, PFG for distribution, The Coca-Cola Company, and other suppliers. In 2019, we and our franchisees purchased products from approximately 118 approved suppliers, with approximately 10 of such suppliers providing 78%, based on dollar volume, of all products purchased. We look to approve multiple suppliers for most products, and require any single sourced supplier, such as The Coca-Cola Company, to have contingency plans in place to ensure continuity of supply. In addition, we believe that, if necessary, we could obtain readily available alternative sources of supply for each product that we currently source through a single supplier. To facilitate the efficiency of our franchisees’ supply chain, we have historically entered into several preferred-supplier arrangements for particular food or beverage items. In addition, our restaurants bear risks associated with the timeliness, solvency, reputation, labor relations, freight costs, price of raw materials, and compliance with health and safety standards of each supplier, including, but not limited to, risks associated with contamination to food and beverage products. We have little control over such suppliers. Disruptions in these relationships may reduce franchisee sales and, in turn, our royalty income. Overall difficulty of suppliers meeting restaurant product demand,
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interruptions in the supply chain, obstacles or delays in the process of renegotiating or renewing agreements with preferred suppliers, financial difficulties experienced by suppliers, or the deficiency, lack, or poor quality of alternative suppliers could adversely impact franchisee sales and our company-owned restaurant sales, which, in turn, would reduce our royalty income and revenue and could materially and adversely affect our business and operating results, and our focus on a limited menu could make these consequences more severe.
Our operating results may fluctuate significantly and could fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors due to certain factors, some of which are beyond our control, resulting in a decline in our stock price.
Our operating results may fluctuate significantly because of a number of factors, including:
the timing of new restaurant openings;
profitability of our restaurants, especially in new markets;
changes in interest rates;
increases and decreases in average weekly sales and domestic same store sales, including due to the timing and popularity of sporting and other events;
macroeconomic conditions, both nationally and locally;
changes in consumer preferences and competitive conditions;
impairment of long-lived assets and any loss on restaurant closures;
increases in infrastructure costs; and
fluctuations in commodity prices.
Accordingly, results for any one fiscal quarter or year are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected for any other fiscal quarter or year and our results for any particular future period may decrease compared to the prior period. 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.
If we or our franchisees or licensees are unable to protect our customers’ credit card data and other personal information, cyber incidents or deficiencies in cybersecurity could result and negatively impact our business by causing data loss, a disruption to our operations, a compromise or corruption of confidential information, damage to our employee and business relationships and reputation, and/or litigation and liability, all of which could subject us to loss and harm our brand.
Privacy protection is increasingly demanding, and as our reliance on technology increases, so have the risks posed to our systems, both internal and those we have outsourced. The use of electronic payment methods and collection of other personal information expose us and our franchisees to increased risk of cyber incidents, privacy and/or security breaches, and other risks. A cyber incident is considered to be any adverse event that threatens the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of information resources. More specifically, a cyber incident is an intentional attack or an unintentional event that can include gaining unauthorized access to systems to disrupt operations, corrupt data, or steal confidential information about customers, franchisees, vendors, and employees. The majority of our restaurant sales are by credit or debit cards. In connection with credit or debit card transactions in-restaurant, we and our franchisees collect and transmit confidential information to card processors. Additionally, we collect and store personal information from individuals, including our customers, franchisees, and employees. We rely on commercially available systems, software, tools, and monitoring to provide security for processing, transmitting, and storing such information. The use of personally identifiable information by us is regulated by foreign, federal, and state laws, which continue to evolve, as well as by certain third-party agreements. As privacy and information security laws and regulations change, we may incur additional costs to ensure that it remains in compliance with those laws and regulations. See "Changing regulations relating to privacy, information security, and data protection could increase our costs, affect or limit how we collect and use personal information, and harm our brand” below for a further discussion on privacy, information security, and data protection regulations.
Our franchisees, contractors, and third parties with whom we do business have experienced security breaches in which credit and debit card information could have been stolen and we, our franchisees, contractors, and third parties with whom we do business may experience security breaches in which credit and debit card information is stolen in the future. A number of retailers and other companies have also recently experienced serious cyber incidents and breaches of their information technology systems. Although our business uses secure means to transmit confidential information, third parties may have the technology or know-how to breach the security of the customer information transmitted in connection with credit and debit card
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sales, and our security measures and those of technology vendors may not effectively prohibit others from obtaining improper access to this information. The techniques used to obtain unauthorized access, disable or degrade service, or sabotage systems change frequently and are often difficult to detect for long periods of time, which may cause a breach to go undetected for an extensive period of time. Advances in computer and software capabilities, new tools, and other developments may increase the risk of such a breach. Further, the systems currently used for transmission and approval of electronic payment transactions, and the technology utilized in electronic payments themselves, all of which can put electronic payment at risk, are determined and controlled by the payment card industry, not by us, through enforcement of compliance with the Payment Card Industry - Data Security Standards ("PCI DSS"). We and our franchisees must abide by the PCI DSS, as modified from time to time, in order to accept electronic payment transactions. Furthermore, the payment card industry is requiring vendors to become compatible with smart chip technology for payment cards, or EMV-Compliant, or else bear full responsibility for certain fraud losses, referred to as the EMV Liability Shift, which could adversely affect our business. To become EMV-Compliant, merchants must utilize EMV-Compliant payment card terminals at the POS and must also obtain a variety of certifications. At present, our company-owned and franchised restaurants are not required to upgrade their POS systems to include such EMV-Compliant payment card terminals and as a result, may be at increased risk for breaches, which could adversely affect our business and operating results.
In addition, our franchisees, contractors, or third parties with whom we do business or to whom we outsource business operations may attempt to circumvent our security measures in order to misappropriate confidential information and may purposefully or inadvertently cause a breach involving such information. Third parties may have the technology or know-how to breach the security of the personal information collected, stored, or transmitted by us or our franchisees, and our or their respective security measures, as well as those of our and their technology vendors, may not effectively prohibit others from obtaining improper access to this information. Advances in computer and software capabilities and encryption technology, new tools, and other developments may increase the risk of such a breach. If a person is able to circumvent the security measures of our business or those of third parties, he or she could destroy or steal valuable information or disrupt the operations of our business. If our employees, franchisees, or vendors fail to comply with applicable laws, regulations, or contract terms, and this information is obtained by unauthorized persons, used inappropriately, or destroyed, it could adversely affect our reputation and could disrupt our operations and result in costly litigation, judgments, or penalties resulting from violation of federal and state laws and payment card industry regulations. We may 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. A cyber incident could also require us to notify customers, employees, or other groups, result in adverse publicity, loss of sales and profits, increase fees payable to third parties, and result in penalties or remediation and other costs that could adversely affect the operation of our business and results of operations. Any such claim or proceeding could cause us to incur significant unplanned expenses, which could have an adverse impact on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. Further, adverse publicity resulting from these allegations could significantly harm our reputation and may have a material adverse effect on us and our restaurants. While we currently maintain a cyber liability insurance policy, our cyber liability coverage may be inadequate or may not be available in the future on acceptable terms, or at all. In addition, our cyber liability insurance policy may not cover all claims made against us, and defending a suit, regardless of its merit, could be costly and divert management’s attention.
Changing regulations relating to privacy, information security and data protection could increase our costs, affect or limit how we collect and use personal information, and harm our brand.
The United States, the European Union, and other countries in which we operate are increasingly adopting or revising privacy, information security, and data protection laws and regulations that could have a significant impact on our current and planned privacy, data protection, and information security-related practices, our collection, use, sharing, retention, and safeguarding of consumer and/or employee information, and some of our current or planned business activities. In the United States, these include rules and regulations promulgated under the authority of the FTC, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, federal and state labor and employment laws, state data breach notification laws, and state privacy laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. Many of these laws and regulations provide consumers and employees with a private right of action if a covered company suffers a data breach related to a failure to implement reasonable data security measures. In the European Union, this includes the General Data Protection Regulation, which came into effect in May 2018. The legal framework around privacy issues is rapidly evolving, as various federal and state government bodies are considering adopting new privacy laws and regulations, which could result in significant limitations on or changes to the ways in which we can collect, use, host, store, or transmit the personal information and other data of our customers or employees. Compliance with privacy, data protection, and information security laws affecting customer or employee data to which we are subject could result in additional costs, and our failure to comply with such laws could result in potentially significant regulatory investigations or government actions, penalties or remediation, and other costs, as well as adverse publicity, loss of sales and profits, and an increase in fees payable to third parties. All of these implications could adversely affect our revenues, results of operations, business, and financial condition.
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We and our franchisees rely on computer systems to process transactions and manage our business, and a disruption or a failure of such systems or technology could harm our ability to effectively manage our business.
Network and information technology systems are integral to our business. We utilize various computer systems, including our franchisee reporting system, by which our franchisees report their weekly sales and pay their corresponding royalty fees and required Ad Fund contributions. When sales are reported by a franchisee, a withdrawal for the authorized amount is initiated from the franchisee’s bank on a set date each week based on gross sales during the week ended the prior Saturday. This system is critical to our ability to accurately track sales and compute royalties and Ad Fund contributions due from our franchisees. We also rely on computer systems and network infrastructure across other areas of our operations, including marketing programs, employee engagement, management of our supply chain and POS processing in our restaurants.
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, worms and other disruptive problems. Any damage or failure of our computer systems or network infrastructure that causes an interruption in our operations could have a material adverse effect on our business and subject us to litigation or actions by regulatory authorities.
Despite the implementation of protective measures, our systems are subject to damage and/or interruption as a result of power outages, computer and network failures, computer viruses and other disruptive software, security breaches, catastrophic events, and improper usage by employees. Such events could result in a material disruption in operations, a need for a costly repair, upgrade or replacement of systems, or a decrease in, or in the collection of, royalties and Ad Fund contributions paid to us by our franchisees. To the extent that any disruption or security breach were to result in a loss of, or damage to, our data or applications, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we could incur liability which could materially affect our results of operations.
It is also critical that we establish and maintain certain licensing and software agreements for the software we use in our day-to-day operations. A failure to procure or maintain these licenses could have a material adverse effect on our business operations.
There are risks associated with our increasing dependence on digital commerce platforms to maintain and grow sales, and aspects of our information technology systems may experience disruptions, which could harm our ability to compete and conduct our business.
Customers are increasingly using e-commerce websites and apps, both domestically and internationally, like wingstop.com and our mobile ordering application, to order and pay for our products. As a result, we and our franchisees are increasingly reliant on digital ordering and payment as a sales channel. These digital ordering and payment platforms could be damaged or interrupted by power loss, technological failures, user errors, cyber-attacks, other forms of sabotage or acts of God. In particular, we and our franchisees rely on digital orders for a significant portion of our sales and could experience interruptions of our digital ordering platform, which could limit or delay customers’ ability to order through such platforms. Any such limitation or delay could negatively impact our and our franchisees’ sales and customer experience and perception. In addition, if our digital ordering platforms do not meet customers’ expectations in terms of security, speed, attractiveness, or ease of use, customers may be less inclined to return to such digital ordering platforms, which could negatively impact our sales, results of operations and financial condition.
As we expand our third party delivery service to additional markets nationwide, any failure by us or our third party delivery partners to provide timely and reliable delivery services may materially and adversely affect our business and reputation.
In 2017, we initiated a delivery test in three markets, partnering with a third party delivery service provider. Late in 2018, we began a process of rolling out delivery nationwide, and by the end of 2019, delivery was available to approximately 94% of our domestic system.
Interruptions or failures in our delivery services could prevent the timely or successful delivery of our products. These interruptions may be due to unforeseen events that are beyond our control or the control of our delivery partners, such as inclement weather, natural disasters, transportation disruptions, or labor unrest. The occurrence of food safety or product quality issues may also result in interruptions or failures in our delivery service. If our products are not delivered on time and in proper condition, customers may refuse to accept our products and have less confidence in our services, in which case our business and reputation may suffer.
If our third party delivery service provider fails to follow the quality standards or other terms that they agreed to with us, it could result in harm to our business and reputation and could also force us to pursue arrangements with alternative delivery
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service providers, which could result in an interruption to our delivery services. Delivery is a relatively new service for our business, and it is difficult for us to anticipate the level of sales that delivery may generate, operational challenges we may face or the experiences our guests will have with this offering. These factors may adversely impact our sales and our brand reputation. We also incur additional costs associated with delivery orders, and it is possible that these orders could cannibalize more profitable in-restaurant visits or carry out orders.
Uncertainty in the law with respect to the assignment of liabilities in the franchise business model could adversely impact our profitability.
One of the legal foundations fundamental to the franchise business model has been that, absent special circumstances, a franchisor is generally not responsible for the acts, omissions, or liabilities of its franchisees, whether with respect to the franchisees’ employees or otherwise. In the last several years, this principle has been the subject of differing and inconsistent interpretations at the National Labor Relations Board and in the courts, and the question of whether a franchisor can be held liable for the actions or liabilities of a franchisee under a vicarious liability theory, sometimes called "joint employer,” has become highly fact dependent and generally uncertain. A determination that we are a "joint employer” with our franchisees or that our franchisees are part of one unified system subject to joint and several liability could subject us and/or our franchisees to liability for employment-related and other liabilities of our franchisees and could cause us to incur other costs that have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
 Our business activities subject us to litigation risk that could affect us adversely by subjecting us to significant money damages and other remedies or by increasing our litigation expense.
We and our franchisees are, from time to time, the subject of, or potentially the subject of, complaints or litigation, including customer claims, personal-injury claims, environmental claims, employee allegations of improper termination and discrimination, claims related to violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), religious freedom laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act, other employment-related laws, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, advertising laws and intellectual property claims. Each of these claims may increase costs and limit the funds available to make royalty payments and reduce the execution of new franchise agreements. Litigation against a franchisee or its affiliates by third parties or regulatory agencies, whether in the ordinary course of business or otherwise, may also include claims against us by virtue of our relationship with the defendant-franchisee, whether under vicarious liability, joint employer, or other theories. In addition to decreasing the ability of a defendant-franchisee to make royalty payments in the event of such claims and diverting our management and financial resources, adverse publicity resulting from such allegations may materially and adversely affect us and our brand, regardless of whether these allegations are valid or whether we are liable. Our international operations may be subject to additional risks related to litigation, including difficulties in enforcement of contractual obligations governed by foreign law due to differing interpretations of rights and obligations, compliance with multiple and potentially conflicting laws, new and potentially untested laws and judicial systems, and reduced or diminished protection of intellectual property. A substantial judgment against us or one of our subsidiaries could materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
We could also become subject to class action or other lawsuits related to the above-described or different matters in the future. Regardless, however, of whether any claim brought against us in the future is valid or whether we are liable, such a claim would be expensive to defend and may divert time, money and other valuable resources away from our operations and, thereby, hurt our business.
We and our franchisees are also subject to state and local "dram shop” statutes, which may subject us and our franchisees 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 fully covered by insurance, this type of action could have an adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations. A judgment in such an action significantly in excess of insurance coverage could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. Further, adverse publicity resulting from any such allegations may adversely affect us and our restaurants taken as a whole.
Although we maintain what we believe to be adequate levels of insurance, insurance may not be available at all or in sufficient amounts to cover any liabilities with respect to these or other matters. A judgment or other liability in excess of our insurance coverage for any claims or any adverse publicity resulting from claims could adversely affect our business and results of operations.
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We may engage in litigation with our franchisees.
Although we believe we generally enjoy a positive working relationship with the vast majority of our franchisees, the nature of the franchisor-franchisee relationship may give rise to litigation with our franchisees. In the ordinary course of business, we are the subject of complaints or litigation from franchisees, usually related to alleged breaches of contract or wrongful termination under the franchise arrangements. We may also engage in future litigation with franchisees to enforce the terms of our franchise agreements and compliance with our brand standards as determined necessary to protect our brand, the consistency of our products and the customer experience, or to enforce our contractual indemnification rights if we are brought into a matter involving a third party due to the franchisee’s alleged acts or omissions. In addition, we may be subject to claims by our franchisees relating to our Franchise Disclosure Document ("FDD"), including claims based on financial information contained in our FDD. Engaging in such litigation may be costly and time-consuming and may distract management and materially adversely affect our relationships with franchisees and our ability to attract new franchisees. Any negative outcome of these or any other claims could materially adversely affect our results of operations as well as our ability to expand our franchise system and may damage our reputation and brand. Furthermore, existing and future franchise-related legislation could subject us to additional litigation risk in the event we terminate or fail to renew a franchise relationship.
Our success depends in part upon effective advertising and marketing campaigns, which may not be successful, and franchisee support of such advertising and marketing campaigns.
We believe the Wingstop brand is critical to our business and expend resources in our marketing efforts using a variety of media. We expect to continue to conduct brand awareness programs and customer initiatives to attract and retain customers. Should our advertising and promotions not be effective, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
The support of our franchisees is critical for the success of the advertising and marketing campaigns we seek to undertake, and the successful execution of these campaigns will depend on our ability to maintain alignment with our franchisees. Our franchisees are currently required to contribute 4% of their gross sales to a common Ad Fund to support the development of new products, brand development and national marketing programs. Our current form of franchise agreement also requires franchisees to spend at least 1% of gross sales directly on local advertising. Franchisees also may be required to contribute approximately 2% of gross sales to a cooperative advertising association when a franchisee and at least one other restaurant operator have opened restaurants in the same DMA (the cooperative advertising contribution is credited toward the one percent minimum local advertising spend). While we maintain control over advertising and marketing materials and can mandate certain strategic initiatives pursuant to our franchise agreements, we need the active support of our franchisees if the implementation of these initiatives is to be successful. If our initiatives are not successful, resulting in expenses incurred without the benefit of higher revenue, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely effected.
 We are vulnerable to changes in consumer preferences and regulation of consumer eating habits that could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Consumer preferences often change rapidly and without warning, moving from one trend to another among many product or retail concepts. We depend on some of these trends, including the trend regarding away-from-home or take-out dining. Consumer preferences towards away-from-home and take-out dining or certain food products might shift as a result of, among other things, health concerns or dietary trends related to cholesterol, carbohydrate, fat and salt content of certain food items, including chicken wings, in favor of foods that are perceived as more healthy. Our menu is currently comprised primarily of chicken wings and fries, and a change in consumer preferences away from these offerings would have a material adverse effect on our business. Negative publicity over the health aspects of the food items we sell may adversely affect demand for our menu items and could have a materially adverse effect on traffic, sales and results of operations. Our continued success will depend in part on our ability to anticipate, identify and respond to changing consumer preferences.
Regulations and consumer eating habits may continue to change as a result of new information and attitudes regarding diet and health. These changes may include regulations that impact the ingredients and nutritional content of our menu items. The federal government and a number of states, counties and cities, have enacted menu labeling laws requiring multi-unit restaurant operators to make certain nutritional information available to customers and/or have enacted legislation prohibiting the sales of certain types of ingredients in restaurants. If our customers perceive our menu items to contain unhealthy caloric, sugar, sodium, or fat content, our results of operations could be adversely affected. The success of our restaurant operations depends, in part, upon our ability to effectively respond to changes in consumer health and disclosure regulations and to adapt our menu offerings to fit the dietary needs and eating habits of our customers without sacrificing flavor. To the extent we are unable to
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respond with appropriate changes to our menu offerings, it could materially affect customer traffic and our results of operations. Furthermore, a change in our menu could result in a decrease in customer traffic.
Because many of our restaurants are concentrated in certain geographic areas, we are susceptible to economic and other trends and developments, including adverse weather conditions, in these areas.
As of December 28, 2019, 57% of our 1,231 domestic restaurants were spread across Texas (29%), California (22%) and Illinois (6%). Given our geographic concentrations, negative publicity regarding any of our restaurants in these areas could have a material adverse effect on our business and operations, as could other regional occurrences such as local strikes, terrorist attacks, increases in energy prices, or natural or man-made disasters, or the enactment of more stringent state and local laws and regulations. In particular, adverse weather conditions, such as regional winter storms, floods, severe thunderstorms, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes could negatively impact our results of operations.
Our business is subject to various laws and regulations and changes in such laws and regulations, and/or our failure to comply with existing or future laws and regulations, could adversely affect us.
We are subject to state franchise registration requirements, the rules and regulations of the FTC various state laws regulating the offer and sale of franchises in the United States through the provision of franchise disclosure documents containing certain mandatory disclosures, various state laws regulating the franchise relationship, and certain rules and requirements regulating franchising arrangements in foreign countries. Although we believe that our franchise disclosure documents, together with any applicable state-specific versions or supplements, and franchising procedures that we use comply in all material respects with both the FTC guidelines and all applicable state laws regulating franchising in those states in which we offer and grant new franchise arrangements, noncompliance could reduce anticipated royalty income, which in turn could materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
We and our franchisees are subject to various existing U.S. federal, state, local, and foreign laws affecting the operation of restaurants, including various health, sanitation, fire, and safety standards. Franchisees may in the future become subject to regulation (or further regulation) seeking to tax or regulate high-fat foods, to limit the serving size of beverages containing sugar, to ban the use of certain packaging materials, or to require the display of detailed nutrition information. Each of these regulations would be costly to comply with and/or could result in reduced demand for our products.
We and our franchisees may also have a substantial number of hourly employees who are required to be paid pursuant to applicable federal or state minimum wage laws. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since July 24, 2009. From time to time, various federal and state legislators have proposed changes to the minimum wage requirements, especially for fast-food workers. Certain regions, such as Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and New York, have approved phased-in increases that either have or eventually will increase the minimum wage in such regions to up to $15 an hour or higher. These and any future similar increases in other regions in states in which our restaurants operate may negatively affect our and our franchisees profit margins as we and our franchisees may be unable to increase our menu prices in order to pass future increased labor costs on to our guests. Also, reduced margins of franchisees could make it more difficult to sell franchises. If menu prices are increased by us and our franchisees to cover increased labor costs, the higher prices could adversely affect transactions which could lower sales and thereby reduce our margins and the royalties that we receive from franchisees.
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 U.S. government to verify employment eligibility, in all of our restaurants and in our corporate support office. However, use of the "E-Verify” program does not guarantee that we will successfully identify all applicants who are ineligible for employment. Unauthorized workers 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 it may be more difficult to hire and keep qualified employees. Failure by our franchisees to comply with immigration laws may also result in additional adverse publicity and reputational harm to our brand. 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 or results of operations.
The impact of current laws and regulations, the effect of future changes in laws or regulations that impose additional requirements and the consequences of litigation relating to current or future laws and regulations, or our inability to respond effectively to significant regulatory or public policy issues, could increase our compliance and other costs of doing business and therefore have an adverse effect on our results of operations. Failure to comply with the laws and regulatory requirements of federal, state, local and foreign authorities could result in, among other things, revocation of required licenses, administrative
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enforcement actions, fines and civil and criminal liability. In addition, certain laws, including the ADA, could require us or our franchisees to expend significant funds to make modifications to our restaurants if we failed to comply with applicable standards. Compliance with all of these laws and regulations can be costly and can increase our exposure to litigation or governmental investigations or proceedings.
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 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 of our restaurants 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 a restaurant’s 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 results of operations.
Alcoholic beverage control regulations require each of our restaurants to apply to a state authority and, in certain locations, county or municipal authorities for a license or permit to sell alcoholic beverages on-premises and to provide service for extended hours and on Sundays. 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, and storage and dispensing of alcoholic beverages. Any future failure to comply with these regulations and obtain or retain liquor licenses could adversely affect our results of operations.
Our current insurance and the insurance of our franchisees may not provide adequate levels of coverage against claims.
We currently maintain insurance customary for businesses of our size and type. However, 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.
Our franchise agreements require each franchisee to maintain certain insurance types and levels. Certain extraordinary hazards, however, may not be covered, and insurance may not be available (or may be available only at prohibitively expensive rates) with respect to many other risks. Moreover, any loss incurred could exceed policy limits and policy payments made to franchisees may not be made on a timely basis. Any such loss or delay in payment could have a material and adverse effect on a franchisee’s ability to satisfy obligations under the franchise agreement, including the ability to make royalty payments.
We also require franchisees to maintain general liability insurance coverage to protect against the risk of product liability and other risks and demand strict franchisee compliance with health and safety regulations. However, franchisees may receive or produce defective food or beverage products, which may materially adversely affect our brand’s goodwill and our business. Further, a franchisee’s failure to comply with health and safety regulations, including requirements relating to food quality or preparation, could subject them, and possibly us, to litigation. Any litigation, including the imposition of fines or damage awards, could adversely affect the ability of a franchisee to make royalty payments or could generate negative publicity or otherwise adversely affect us.
Damage to our reputation or lack of acceptance of our brand in existing or new markets could negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We believe we have built our reputation on the high quality and bold, distinctive, and craveable flavors of our food, value, and service, 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, value, or service or otherwise believe we have failed to deliver a consistently positive experience. We may also be adversely affected by customers’ experiences with third-party delivery from our restaurants.
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, security breaches of confidential guest or employee information, employee related claims relating to alleged employment discrimination, wage and hour violation, labor standards or health care and benefit issues, or government or industry findings concerning our restaurants, restaurants operated by other food service
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providers, or others across the food industry supply chain. The risks associated with such negative publicity cannot be eliminated or completely mitigated and may materially affect our business.
Also, there has been a marked increase in the use of social media platforms and similar channels, including weblogs (blogs), websites and other forms of internet-based communications that provide individuals with 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 their subscribers and participants can post, often without filters or checks on accuracy of the content posted. The opportunity for dissemination of information, including inaccurate information, is seemingly limitless and readily available. Information concerning us may be posted on such platforms at any time. Information posted may be adverse to our interests and may be inaccurate, each of which may harm our performance, prospects, brand, or business. The harm may be immediate without affording us an opportunity for redress or correction.
Ultimately, the risks associated with any such negative publicity or incorrect information cannot be eliminated or completely mitigated and may materially adversely affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
 Our expansion into international markets exposes us to a number of risks that may differ in each country where we have franchise restaurants.
As of December 28, 2019, we have franchised restaurants in nine international countries and plan to continue to grow internationally. However, international operations are in early stages. Expansion in international markets may be affected by local economic and market conditions. Therefore, as we expand internationally, our franchisees may not experience the operating margins we expect, and our results of operations and growth may be materially and adversely affected. Our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected if the global markets in which our franchised restaurants compete are affected by changes in political, economic, or other factors. These factors, over which neither our franchisees nor we have control, may include:
recessionary or expansive trends in international markets;
changing labor conditions and difficulties in staffing and managing our foreign operations;
increases in the taxes we pay and other changes in applicable tax laws;
legal and regulatory changes, and the burdens and costs of our compliance with a variety of foreign laws;
changes in inflation rates;
changes in exchange rates and the imposition of restrictions on currency conversion or the transfer of funds;
difficulty in protecting our brand, reputation, and intellectual property;
difficulty in collecting our royalties and longer payment cycles;
expropriation of private enterprises;
anti-American sentiment in certain locations and the identification of the Wingstop brand as an American brand;
the impact of the United Kingdom’s pending exit from the European Union;
political and economic instability; and
other external factors.
Our international expansion efforts may require considerable management time as well as start-up expenses for market development before any significant revenues and earnings are generated. Operations in new foreign markets may achieve low margins or may be unprofitable, and expansion in existing markets may be affected by local economic and market conditions. Therefore, as we continue to expand internationally, we or our franchisees may not experience the operating margins we expect, our results of operations may be negatively impacted, and our common stock price may decline.
The terms of our securitized debt financing through certain of our wholly-owned subsidiaries include restrictive terms, and our failure to comply with any of these terms could result in a default, which would have an adverse effect on our business and prospects.
Unless and until we repay all outstanding borrowings under our securitized debt facility, we will remain subject to the restrictive terms of these borrowings. The securitized debt facility, under which certain of our wholly-owned subsidiaries issued
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and guaranteed fixed rate notes and variable funding notes, contain a number of covenants, with the most significant financial covenant being a debt service coverage calculation. These covenants limit our ability and the ability of certain of our subsidiaries to, among other things:
incur additional indebtedness;
alter the business we conduct;
make certain changes to the composition of our management team;
pay dividends and make other restrictive payments beyond specified levels;
create or permit liens;
dispose of certain assets;
make certain investments;
engage in certain transactions with affiliates; and
consolidate, merge or transfer all or substantially all of our assets.
The securitized debt facility also requires us to maintain specified financial ratios. Our ability to meet these financial ratios can be affected by events beyond our control, and we may not satisfy such a test. A breach of these covenants could result in a rapid amortization event or default under the securitized debt facility. If amounts owed under the securitized debt facility are accelerated because of a default and we are unable to pay such amounts, the investors may have the right to assume control of substantially all of the securitized assets.
If we are unable to refinance or repay amounts under the securitized debt facility prior to the expiration of the applicable term, our cash flow would be directed to the repayment of the securitized debt and, other than management fees sufficient to cover minimal selling, general and administrative expenses, would not be available for operating our business.
No assurance can be given that any refinancing or additional financing will be possible when needed or that we will be able to negotiate acceptable terms. In addition, our access to capital is affected by prevailing conditions in the financial and capital markets and other factors beyond our control. There can be no assurance that market conditions will be favorable at the times that we require new or additional financing.
We may be unable to generate sufficient cash flow to satisfy our significant debt service obligations, which would adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our ability to make principal and interest payments on and to refinance our indebtedness will depend on our ability to generate cash in the future. This, to a certain extent, is subject to general economic, financial, competitive, legislative, regulatory, and other factors that are beyond our control. If our business does not generate sufficient cash flow from operations, in the amounts projected or at all, or if future borrowings are not available to us under our variable funding notes in amounts sufficient to fund our other liquidity needs, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected. If we cannot generate sufficient cash flow from operations to make scheduled principal amortization and interest payments on our debt obligations in the future, we may need to refinance all or a portion of our indebtedness on or before maturity, sell assets, delay capital expenditures, or seek additional equity investments. If we are unable to refinance any of our indebtedness on commercially reasonable terms or at all or to effect any other action relating to our indebtedness on satisfactory terms or at all, our business may be harmed.
The indenture governing the securitized debt restricts the cash flow from the entities subject to the securitization to any of our other entities and upon the occurrence of certain events, cash flow would be further restricted.
In the event that a rapid amortization event occurs under the indenture governing the securitized debt (including, without limitation, upon an event of default under the indenture or the failure to repay the securitized debt at the end of the applicable term), the funds available to us would be reduced or eliminated, which would in turn reduce our ability to operate or grow our business.
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We depend upon our executive officers and other key employees and may not be able to retain or replace these individuals or recruit additional personnel, which could harm our business.
We believe that we have already benefited and expect to benefit substantially in the future from the leadership and experience of our executive officers and management team. Additionally, our business strategy includes successfully attracting and retaining talented employees. The market for highly skilled employees and leaders in the restaurant industry is extremely competitive. Our inability to successfully recruit and retain talented executive officers and other key employees could have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects, as we may not be able to find suitable individuals to replace such personnel on a timely basis. In addition, the departure of any of our executive officers or key employees could be viewed in a negative light by investors and analysts, which could cause our common stock price to decline. As our business expands, our future success will depend greatly on our continued ability to attract and retain highly-skilled and qualified executive-level personnel and other key employees. Our inability to attract and retain qualified executive officers and other key employees in the future could impair our growth and harm our business.
Our failure or inability to enforce our trademarks or other proprietary rights could adversely affect our competitive position or the value of our brand.
We believe that our trademarks and other proprietary rights are important to our success and our competitive position, and, therefore, we devote resources to the protection of our trademarks and proprietary rights. The protective actions that we take, however, may not be enough to prevent unauthorized use or imitation by others, which could harm our image, brand or competitive position. If we commence litigation to enforce our rights, we will incur significant legal fees.
We cannot assure you that third parties will not claim infringement by us of their proprietary rights in the future. Any such claim, whether or not it has merit, could be time-consuming and distracting for executive management, result in costly litigation, cause changes to existing menu items or delays in introducing new menu items, or require us to enter into royalty or licensing agreements. As a result, any such claim could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
An impairment in the carrying value of our goodwill or other intangible assets could adversely affect our financial condition and consolidated results of operations.
We review goodwill for impairment annually, or whenever circumstances change in a way which could indicate that impairment may have occurred, and record an impairment loss whenever we determine impairment factors are present. Significant impairment charges could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
 Risks Related to Ownership of our Common Stock
Our stock price may be volatile or may decline regardless of our operating performance.
The market price of our common stock may fluctuate significantly in response to a number of factors, most of which we cannot control, including those described under "Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry” and the following:
potential fluctuation in our annual or quarterly operating results;
changes in capital market conditions that could affect valuations of restaurant companies in general or our goodwill in particular or other adverse economic conditions;
changes in financial estimates by any securities analysts who follow our common stock, our failure to meet these estimates or failure of those analysts to initiate or maintain coverage of our common stock;
downgrades by any securities analysts who follow our common stock;
future sales of our common stock by our officers, directors and significant stockholders;
global economic, legal and regulatory factors unrelated to our performance;
investors’ perceptions of our prospects;
announcements by us or our competitors of significant contracts, acquisitions, joint ventures or capital commitments; and
investor perceptions of the investment opportunity associated with our common stock relative to other investment alternatives.
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In addition, the stock markets, and in particular Nasdaq, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have affected and continue to affect the market prices of equity securities of many food service companies. In the past, stockholders have instituted securities class action litigation following periods of market volatility. If we were involved in securities litigation, we could incur substantial costs and our resources and the attention of management could be diverted from our business.
Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents and under Delaware law could make an acquisition of us more difficult, limit attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management and limit the market price of our common stock.
Provisions in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws may have the effect of delaying or preventing a change of control or changes in our management. Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws include provisions that:
authorize our board of directors to issue, without further action by the stockholders, up to 15,000,000 shares of undesignated preferred stock;
require that any action to be taken by our stockholders be effected at a duly called annual or special meeting and not by written consent;
specify that special meetings of our stockholders can be called only upon the request of a majority of our board of directors or by the chairman of the board of directors;
establish an advance notice procedure for stockholder proposals to be brought before an annual meeting, including proposed nominations of persons for election to our board of directors;
establish that our board of directors is divided into three classes, with each class serving staggered three-year terms; and
prohibit cumulative voting in the election of directors.
 These provisions may frustrate or prevent any attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management by making it more difficult for stockholders to replace members of our board of directors, which is responsible for appointing the members of our management, and may discourage, delay or prevent a transaction involving a change of control of our company that is in the best interest of our minority stockholders. Even in the absence of a takeover attempt, the existence of these provisions may adversely affect the prevailing market price of our common stock if stockholders view them as discouraging future takeover attempts. In addition, we have opted out of the Delaware General Corporation Law ("DGCL”) Section 203, relating to business combinations with interested stockholders, but our amended and restated certificate of incorporation provides that engaging in any of a broad range of business combinations with any "interested” stockholder (any stockholder with 15% or more of our capital stock) for a period of three years following the date on which the stockholder became an "interested” stockholder is prohibited, subject to certain exceptions.
Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation designates the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware as the sole and exclusive forum for certain types of actions and proceedings that may be initiated by our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers or employees.
Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation provides that, unless we consent in writing to an alternative forum, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the sole and exclusive forum, to the fullest extent permitted by law, for (i) any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf, (ii) any action asserting a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any of our directors, officers and employees to us or our stockholders, (iii) any action asserting a claim arising pursuant to any provision of the DGCL, our amended and restated certificate of incorporation or our amended and restated bylaws or (iv) any action asserting a claim that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine, in each case subject to the Court of Chancery having personal jurisdiction over the indispensable parties named as defendants therein. Any person purchasing or otherwise acquiring any interest in any shares of our capital stock shall be deemed to have notice of and to have consented to this provision of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation. This choice of forum provision may limit our stockholders’ ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers or employees, which may discourage such lawsuits against us and our directors, officers and employees even though an action, if successful, might benefit our stockholders. Stockholders who do bring a claim in the Court of Chancery could face additional litigation costs in pursuing any such claim, particularly if they do not reside in or near Delaware. The Court of Chancery may also reach different judgments or results than would other courts, including courts where a stockholder considering an action may be located or would otherwise choose to bring the action, and such judgments or results may be more favorable to us than to our stockholders.
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In addition, the enforceability of similar choice of forum provisions in other companies’ certificates of incorporation has been challenged in legal proceedings, and it is possible that, in connection with any applicable action brought against us, a court could find the choice of forum provisions contained in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation to be inapplicable or unenforceable in such action. Specifically, the choice of forum provision requiring that the Court of Chancery in the State of Delaware be the exclusive forum for certain suits would (i) not be enforceable with respect to any suits brought to enforce any liability or duty created by the Exchange Act, and (ii) have uncertain enforceability with respect to claims under the Securities Act. The choice of forum provision in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation does not have the effect of causing our stockholders to have waived our obligation to comply with the federal securities laws and the rules and regulations thereunder.
We may not continue to declare cash dividends in the future.
In August 2017, we announced that our board of directors authorized a regular dividend program under which we intend to pay quarterly dividends on our common stock, subject to quarterly declarations by our board of directors. In addition, we have paid special dividends in connection with refinancings of our credit facilities. Any future declarations of dividends, as well as the amount and timing of such dividends, are subject to capital availability and the discretion of our board of directors, which must evaluate, among other things, whether cash dividends are in the best interest of our stockholders and are in compliance with all applicable laws and any agreements containing provisions that limit our ability to declare and pay cash dividends.
Our ability to pay dividends in the future will depend upon, among other factors, our cash balances and potential future capital requirements, debt service requirements, earnings, financial condition, the general economic and regulatory climate and other factors beyond our control that our board of directors may deem relevant. Our dividend payments may change from time to time, and we may not continue to declare dividends in the future. A reduction in or elimination of our dividend payments could have a negative effect on our stock price.

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Item 1B.Unresolved Staff Comments

None.

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Item 2.Properties
Due to lower square footage requirements, our restaurants can be located in a variety of locations. They tend to be located primarily in shopping centers, as in-line or end-cap locations. Our restaurants tend to occupy between 1,300 and 2,900 square feet (average 1,700 square feet) of leased retail space. As of December 28, 2019, we and our franchisees operated 1,385 restaurants in 44 states and 10 countries.
The chart below shows the locations of our restaurants as of December 28, 2019:
StateFranchise restaurantsCompany-owned restaurantsTotal restaurants
Alabama —   
Alaska —   
Arizona35  —  35  
Arkansas10  —  10  
California273  —  273  
Colorado29  —  29  
Connecticut —   
Delaware —   
Florida69  —  69  
Georgia35  —  35  
Hawaii —   
Idaho —   
Illinois68  —  68  
Indiana14  —  14  
Iowa —   
Kansas   
Kentucky —   
Louisiana22  —  22  
Maryland22  —  22  
Massachusetts —   
Michigan13  —  13  
Minnesota —   
Mississippi11  —  11  
Missouri15   16  
Nebraska —   
Nevada12   17  
New Hampshire —   
New Jersey14  —  14  
New Mexico10  —  10  
New York19  —  19  
North Carolina19  —  19  
Ohio26  —  26  
Oklahoma15  —  15  
Oregon —   
Pennsylvania10  —  10  
South Carolina10  —  10  
South Dakota —   
Tennessee17  —  17  
Texas330  22  352  
Utah —   
Virginia22  —  22  
Washington14  —  14  
West Virginia —   
Wisconsin —   
Domestic Total1,200  31  1,231  
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International
Colombia —   
France —   
Indonesia33  —  33  
Malaysia —   
Mexico91  —  91  
Panama —   
Singapore —   
United Arab Emirates —   
United Kingdom —   
International Total154  —  154  
Worldwide Total1,354  31  1,385  

We are obligated under non-cancelable leases for our company-owned restaurants and our current corporate office. Lease terms for company-owned restaurants are generally between five to ten years of original term with an additional five to ten years of tenant option period, often contain rent escalation provisions, and generally require us to pay a proportionate share of real estate taxes, insurance and common area and other operating costs in addition to base or fixed rent. On June 19, 2019, we entered into an agreement to purchase an office building in Addison, Texas for a purchase price of $18.3 million, which closed in the third quarter of 2019 and was funded with cash on hand. The building, which contains approximately 78,000 square feet of office space, will be used for our headquarters.

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Item 3.Legal Proceedings
From time to time we may be involved in claims and legal actions that arise in the ordinary course of business. To our knowledge, there are no material pending legal proceedings to which we are a party or of which any of our property is the subject.

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 has traded on the NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol "WING” since June 12, 2015. Before then, there was no public market for our common stock.
As of February 18, 2020, there were 5 shareholders of record of our common stock. This number excludes stockholders whose stock is held in nominee or street name by brokers.
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
There were no sales of unregistered securities during the fiscal year ended December 28, 2019 that were not previously reported on a Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q or a Current Report on Form 8-K.
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
We did not repurchase any of our equity securities during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year ended December 28, 2019.
Performance Graph
The following performance graph compares the dollar change in the cumulative shareholder return on our common stock with the cumulative total returns of the NASDAQ Composite Index and the S&P 600 Restaurants Index. This graph assumes a $100 investment in our common stock on June 12, 2015 (the date when our common stock first started trading) and in each of the foregoing indices on June 12, 2015, 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, and historical stock price performance should not be relied upon as an indication of future stock price performance. This graph is furnished and not "filed” with the SEC and it is not "soliciting material”, and should not be incorporated by reference in any of our filings under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act, whether made before or after the date hereof and irrespective of any general incorporation language in such filing.
wing-20191228_g1.jpg

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Item 6.Selected Financial Data
The selected financial data presented below, with the exception of our key performance indicators, including restaurant counts, same store sales, AUVs, system-wide sales and Adjusted EBITDA, has been derived from the audited consolidated financial statements of Wingstop.
Wingstop utilizes a 52- or 53-week fiscal year that ends on the last Saturday of the calendar year. The fiscal years ended December 28, 2019, December 29, 2018, December 30, 2017, and December 26, 2015 included 52 weeks, and the fiscal year ended on December 31, 2016 included 53 weeks. The first three quarters of our fiscal year consist of 13 weeks and our fourth quarter consists of 13 weeks for 52-week fiscal years and 14 weeks for 53-week fiscal years.
The selected 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 selected financial data may not be indicative of our future performance.
Year ended
(in thousands)
December 28, 2019December 29, 2018December 30, 2017December 31, 2016
December 26, 2015*
Consolidated Statements of Income Data:
Revenue:
   Royalty revenue, franchise fees and other
$88,291  $71,858  $66,076  $54,475  $46,688  
Advertising fees and related income55,932  34,484  30,174  14,561  —  
   Company-owned restaurant sales
55,453  46,839  37,069  34,288  31,281  
       Total revenue
199,676  153,181  133,319  103,324  77,969  
Cost and expenses:
   Cost of sales
41,105  32,063  28,745  25,308  22,219  
Advertising expenses52,891  33,699  32,427  13,849  —  
   Selling, general and administrative
57,295  44,579  34,898  34,552  33,350  
   Depreciation and amortization
5,484  4,313  3,376  3,008  2,682  
       Total costs and expenses 156,775  114,654  99,446  76,717  58,251  
Operating income 42,901  38,527  33,873  26,607  19,718  
Interest expense, net 17,136  10,123  5,131  4,396  3,477  
Other expense, net—  1,477  —  254  396  
Income before tax expense 25,765  26,927  28,742  21,957  15,845  
Income tax expense 5,289  5,208  4,802  8,188  5,739  
Net income $20,476  $21,719  $23,940  $13,769  $10,106  
Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows Data:
Net cash provided by operating activities $38,583  $38,770  $27,435  $21,879  $13,860  
Net cash used in investing activities (23,731) (10,498) (6,484) (2,056) (1,915) 
Net cash used in financing activities (14,617) (13,724) (20,252) (28,213) (10,978) 
Net increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents$235  $14,548  $699  $(8,390) $967  

* Fiscal year 2015 has not been adjusted to reflect the adoption of the new accounting standards adopted in fiscal year 2018.
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Year ended
(in thousands, except per share data)
December 28, 2019December 29, 2018December 30, 2017December 31, 2016
December 26, 2015(1)
Per Share data:
Earnings per share
Basic$0.70  $0.74  $0.82  $0.48  $0.37  
Diluted$0.69  $0.73  $0.82  $0.47  $0.36  
Weighted average shares outstanding
Basic29,415  29,231  29,025  28,637  27,497  
Diluted29,670  29,587  29,424  28,983  27,816  
Dividends per share$0.40  $6.54  $0.14  $2.90  $1.83  
Selected Other Data (2):
Number of system-wide restaurants open at end of period 1,385  1,252  1,133  998  845  
Number of domestic company restaurants open at end of period 31  29  23  21  19  
Number of domestic franchise restaurants open at end of period 1,200  1,095  1,004  901  767  
Number of international franchise restaurants open at end of period 154  128  106  76  59  
System-wide sales(3)
$1,514,590  $1,261,025  $1,087,434  $972,270  $821,248  
 Domestic restaurant AUV(4)
$1,246  $1,139  $1,100  $1,113  $1,126  
Company-owned domestic AUV(4)
$1,874  $1,723  $1,712  $1,729  $1,646  
Number of restaurants opened (during period) 146  139  147  159  142  
Number of restaurants closed (during period)13  20  12    
Company-owned restaurants (acquired) refranchised (during period) (1) (6) (2) —  —  
EBITDA (5)
$48,385  $41,363  $37,249  $29,361  $22,004  
Adjusted EBITDA (5)
$56,989  $48,986  $39,100  $32,980  $28,879  
Same Store Sales Data(6):
System-wide domestic same store sales base (end of period)
1,109  1,018  904  779  667  
System-wide domestic same store sales growth
11.1 %6.5 %2.6 %3.2 %7.9 %

As of
(in thousands)
December 28, 2019December 29, 2018December 30, 2017December 31, 2016
December 26, 2015(1)
Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:
Cash and cash equivalents
$12,849  $12,493  $4,063  $3,750  $10,690  
Working capital
(2,739) 3,424  (3,217) (5,863) 7,050  
Total assets
166,113  139,749  119,836  111,800  120,650  
Total debt
317,600  320,000  133,750  151,250  95,500  
Total shareholders’ deficit
(209,428) (224,830) (58,418) (81,431) (9,673) 

(1)Fiscal year 2015 has not been adjusted to reflect the adoption of the new accounting standards in adopted in fiscal year 2018.
(2)See the definitions of key performance indicators under "Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Key Performance Indicators.”
(3)The percentage of system-wide sales attributable to company-owned restaurants was 3.7%, 3.7%, 3.4%, 3.5%, and 3.8% for the fiscal years ended December 28, 2019, December 29, 2018, December 30, 2017, December 31, 2016, and December 26, 2015, respectively. The remainder was generated by franchised restaurants, as reported by our franchisees.
(4)Domestic AUV and company-owned domestic AUV are calculated using the 52-week trailing period.
(5)EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are supplemental measures of our performance that are not required by, or presented in accordance with, U.S. GAAP. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are not measurements of our financial performance under U.S. GAAP and should not be considered as an alternative to net income or any other performance measure derived in accordance with U.S. GAAP, or as an alternative to cash flows from operating activities as a measure of our liquidity.
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We define "EBITDA” as net income before interest expense, net, income tax expense, and depreciation and amortization. We define "Adjusted EBITDA” as EBITDA further adjusted for management fees and expense reimbursement, a management agreement termination fee, transaction costs, costs and fees associated with investments in our strategic initiatives, and stock-based compensation expense. We caution investors that amounts presented in accordance with our definitions of EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA may not be comparable to similar measures disclosed by our competitors, because not all companies and analysts calculate EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA in the same manner. We present EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA because we consider them to be important supplemental measures of our performance and believe they are frequently used by securities analysts, investors and other interested parties in the evaluation of companies in our industry. Management believes that investors’ understanding of our performance is enhanced by including these non-GAAP financial measures as a reasonable basis for comparing our ongoing results of operations. Many investors are interested in understanding the performance of our business by comparing our results from ongoing operations period over period and would ordinarily add back non-cash expenses such as depreciation and amortization, as well as items that are not part of normal day-to-day operations of our business.
Management uses EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA:
as a measurement of operating performance because they assist us in comparing the operating performance of our restaurants on a consistent basis, as they remove the impact of items not directly resulting from our core operations;
for planning purposes, including the preparation of our internal annual operating budget and financial projections;
to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of our operational strategies;
to evaluate our capacity to fund capital expenditures and expand our business; and
to calculate incentive compensation payments for our employees, including assessing performance under our annual incentive compensation plan and determining the vesting of performance shares.
By providing these non-GAAP financial measures, together with a reconciliation to the most comparable GAAP measure, we believe we are enhancing investors’ understanding of our business and our results of operations, as well as assisting investors in evaluating how well we are executing our strategic initiatives. Items excluded from these non-GAAP measures are significant components in understanding and assessing financial performance. In addition, the instruments governing our indebtedness use EBITDA (with additional adjustments) to measure our compliance with certain financial covenants. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA have limitations as analytical tools, and should not be considered in isolation, or as an alternative to or a substitute for, net income or other financial statement data presented in our consolidated financial statements as indicators of financial performance. Some of the limitations are:
such measures do not reflect our cash expenditures or future requirements for capital expenditures or contractual commitments;
such measures do not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, our working capital needs;
such measures do not reflect the interest expense, or the cash requirements necessary to service interest or principal payments on our debt;
such measures do not reflect our tax expense or the cash requirements to pay our taxes;
although depreciation and amortization are non-cash charges, the assets being depreciated and amortized will often have to be replaced in the future, and such measures do not reflect any cash requirements for such replacements; and
other companies in our industry may calculate such measures differently than we do, limiting their usefulness as comparative measures.
Due to these limitations, EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA should not be considered as measures of discretionary cash available to us to invest in the growth of our business. We compensate for these limitations by relying primarily on our U.S. GAAP results and using these non-GAAP measures only supplementally. As noted in the table below, Adjusted EBITDA includes adjustments for transaction costs, costs and fees associated with investments in our strategic initiatives, and stock-based compensation, among other items. It is reasonable to expect that these items will occur in future periods. However, we believe these adjustments are appropriate because the amounts recognized can vary significantly from period to period, do not directly relate to the ongoing operations of our restaurants and complicate
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comparisons of our internal operating results and operating results of other restaurant companies over time. In addition, Adjusted EBITDA includes adjustments for other items that we do not expect to regularly record, such as transaction costs, management fees and expense reimbursement. Each of the normal recurring adjustments and other adjustments described in this paragraph and in the reconciliation table below help management with a measure of our core operating performance over time by removing items that are not related to day-to-day operations.
The following table reconciles EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA to the most directly comparable U.S. GAAP financial performance measure, which is net income: 
Year ended
(in thousands)
December 28, 2019December 29, 2018December 30, 2017December 31, 2016
December 26, 2015(a)
Net income
$20,476  $21,719  $23,940  $13,769  $10,106  
Interest expense, net
17,136  10,123  5,131  4,396  3,477  
Income tax expense
5,289  5,208  4,802  8,188  5,739  
Depreciation and amortization
5,484  4,313  3,376  3,008  2,682  
EBITDA
$48,385  $41,363  $37,249  $29,361  $22,004  
Adjustments:
Management fees(b)
—  —  —  —  237  
Management agreement termination fee(c)
—  —  —  —  3,297  
Transaction costs(d)
—  3,898  —  2,388  2,186  
Consulting fees(e)
1,630  —  —  —  —  
Stock-based compensation expense(f)
6,974  3,725  1,851  1,231  1,155  
Adjusted EBITDA
$56,989  $48,986  $39,100  $32,980  $28,879  

(a)Fiscal year 2015 has not been adjusted to reflect the adoption of the new accounting standards adopted in fiscal year 2018.
(b)Includes management fees and other out-of-pocket expenses paid to Roark Capital Management, LLC ("Roark Capital Management").
(c)Represents a one-time fee of $3.3 million that was paid in consideration for the termination of our management agreement with Roark Capital Management during the second quarter of 2015 in connection with our initial public offering. There are no further obligations related to management fees paid to Roark Capital Management.
(d)Represents costs and expenses related to the refinancings of our credit agreement and our public offerings; all transaction costs are included in SG&A with the exception of $1.5 million during the year ended December 29, 2018, $215,000 during the year ended December 31, 2016, and $172,000 during the year ended December 26, 2015 that is included in Other expense, net.
(e)Represents costs and expenses related to a consulting project to support the Company's strategic initiatives, which are included in SG&A.
(f)Includes non-cash, stock-based compensation.
(6)We define the domestic same store base to include those domestic restaurants open for at least 52 full weeks. Change in domestic same store sales reflects the change in year-over-year sales for the domestic same store base.


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Item 7.
Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
This Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (MD&A) should be read in conjunction with the accompanying audited consolidated financial statements and notes. Forward-looking statements in this MD&A are not guarantees of future performance and may involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Refer to the "Forward-Looking Statements" section of this MD&A and Item 1A. Risk Factors for a discussion of these risks and uncertainties.
A comparison of our results of operations and cash flows for fiscal year 2018 compared to fiscal year 2017 can be found under "Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 29, 2018, filed with the SEC on February 27, 2019.
Overview
Wingstop is the largest fast casual chicken wings-focused restaurant chain in the world and has demonstrated strong, consistent growth. As of December 28, 2019, we had a total 1,385 restaurants in our system. Our restaurant base is 98% franchised, with 1,354 franchised locations (including 154 international locations) and 31 company-owned restaurants as of December 28, 2019.
Wingstop generates revenues by charging royalties, advertising fees and franchise fees to our franchisees and by operating a number of our own restaurants. We report our business in two reporting segments: franchise operations and company restaurant operations. During 2019, our franchise and company restaurant segments accounted for approximately 72% and 28% of our consolidated revenues, respectively. Financial data for our reporting segments is included in the audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto included elsewhere in this report.
 We plan to grow our business by opening new franchised restaurants and increasing our same store sales, while leveraging our franchise model to create shareholder value. Domestic same store sales have increased for 16 consecutive years beginning in 2004, which includes 5-year cumulative domestic same stores sales growth of 31.3% since the beginning of fiscal year 2015. We believe our asset-light, highly-franchised business model generates strong operating margins and requires low capital expenditures, creating shareholder value through strong and consistent free cash flow and capital-efficient growth.
Highlights for Fiscal Year 2019:
System-wide restaurant count increased 10.6% over the prior year to a total of 1,385 worldwide locations, driven by 133 net unit openings;
Domestic same store sales increased 11.1% over the prior year;
Company-owned restaurant same store sales increased 9.8% over the prior year;
System-wide sales increased 20.1% over the prior year to $1.5 billion;
Total revenue increased 30.4% over the prior year to $199.7 million; and
Net income decreased 5.7% over the prior year to $20.5 million, while Adjusted EBITDA increased 16.3% over the prior year to $57.0 million.
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Key Performance Indicators
Key measures that we use in evaluating our restaurants and assessing our business include the following:
Number of restaurants. Management reviews the number of new restaurants, the number of closed restaurants, and the number of acquisitions and divestitures of restaurants to assess net new restaurant growth, system-wide sales, royalty and franchise fee revenue and company-owned restaurant sales.
Year Ended
December 28,
2019
December 29,
2018
Domestic Franchised Activity:
Beginning of period1,095  1,004  
Openings114  105  
Closures(8) (8) 
Acquired by Company(1) (6) 
Restaurants end of period1,200  1,095  
Domestic Company-Owned Activity:
Beginning of period29  23  
Openings —  
Closures—  —  
Acquired from franchisees  
Restaurants end of period31  29  
Total Domestic Restaurants1,231  1,124  
International Franchised Activity:
Beginning of period128  106  
Openings31  34  
Closures(5) (12) 
Restaurants end of period154  128  
Total System-wide Restaurants1,385  1,252  
System-wide sales. System-wide sales represents net sales for all of our company-owned and franchised restaurants. This measure allows management to better assess changes in our royalty revenue, our overall store performance, the health of our brand and the strength of our market position relative to competitors. Our system-wide sales growth is driven by new restaurant openings as well as increases in same store sales.
Average unit volume (AUV). AUV consists of the average annual sales of all restaurants that have been open for a trailing 52-week period or longer. AUV allows management to assess our company-owned and franchised restaurant economics. Our AUV growth is primarily driven by increases in same store sales and is also influenced by opening new restaurants.
Same store sales. Same store sales reflects the change in year-over-year sales for the same store base. We define the same store base to include those restaurants open for at least 52 full weeks. This measure highlights the performance of existing restaurants, while excluding the impact of new restaurant openings and closures. We review same store sales for company-owned restaurants as well as system-wide restaurants. Same store sales growth is driven by increases in transactions and average transaction size. Transaction size increases are driven by price increases or favorable mix shift from either an increase in items purchased or shifts into higher priced items.
Adjusted EBITDA. We define Adjusted EBITDA as net income before interest expense, net, income tax expense, and depreciation and amortization, with further adjustments for management fees and expense reimbursement, a management agreement termination fee, transaction costs, costs and fees associated with investments in our strategic initiatives, and stock-based compensation expense. Adjusted EBITDA may not be comparable to other similarly titled captions of other companies
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due to differences in methods of calculation. For a reconciliation of Adjusted EBITDA to net income and a further discussion of how we utilize this non-GAAP financial measure, see "Selected Historical Consolidated Financial and Other Data.”
The following table sets forth our key performance indicators for the fiscal years ended December 28, 2019 and December 29, 2018 (in thousands, except unit data):
Year ended
December 28, 2019December 29, 2018
Number of system-wide restaurants at period end1,385  1,252  
System-wide sales$1,514,590  $1,261,025  
Domestic restaurant AUV$1,246  $1,139  
Domestic same store sales growth11.1 %6.5 %
Company-owned domestic same store sales growth9.8 %6.2 %
Total revenue$199,676  $153,181  
Net income$20,476  $21,719  
Adjusted EBITDA$56,989  $48,986  
Key Financial Definitions
Revenue. Our revenue is comprised of the collection of development fees, franchise fees, royalties, other fees associated with franchise and development rights, contributions to the Wingstop Restaurants Advertising Fund (the "Ad Fund") and sales of wings and other food and beverage products by our company-owned restaurants. The following is a brief description of our components of revenue:
Royalty revenue and franchise fees includes revenue we earn from our franchise business segment in the form of royalties, fees, and vendor contributions and rebates. Royalties consist primarily of fees earned from franchisees equal to a percentage of gross franchise restaurant sales of all restaurants developed under the applicable franchise agreement. The majority of our franchise agreements require our franchise owners to pay us a royalty of 5.0% of their gross sales net of discounts. Franchise agreements entered into on or after July 1, 2014 require our franchisees to pay us a royalty of 6.0% of their gross sales net of discounts. Franchise fees consist of initial development and franchise fees related to new restaurants, master license fees for international territories, fees to renew or extend franchise agreements, transfer fees, and termination fees. Initial and renewal franchise fees are recognized as revenue on a straight-line basis over the term of the respective agreement. Our performance obligation under development agreements and international territory agreements generally consists of an obligation to grant exclusive development rights over a stated term. These development rights are not distinct from franchise agreements, so upfront fees paid by franchisees for development rights are apportioned to each franchise restaurant opened by the franchisee and are accounted for as initial franchise fees. Royalty revenue and franchise fees also include revenue from vendor contributions and rebates that are attributable to system-wide volume purchases and are received for general marketing and other purposes.
Ad Fund contributions are earned from domestic franchisees based on a percentage of gross sales net of discounts. Ad Fund contributions were equal to 3% in fiscal year 2018 and 4% in fiscal year 2019.
Sales from company-owned restaurants are generated through sales of food and beverage at company-owned restaurants.
Cost of sales. Cost of sales consists of direct food, beverage, paper goods, packaging, labor costs and other restaurant operating costs such as rent, restaurant maintenance costs and property insurance, at our company-owned restaurants. Additionally, a portion of vendor rebates attributable to system-wide volumes purchases are netted against cost of sales. The components of cost of sales are partially variable in nature and fluctuate with changes in sales volume, product mix, menu pricing and commodity costs.
Advertising expenses. Advertising expenses are recognized at the same time the related revenue is recognized, which does not necessarily correlate to the actual timing of the related advertising spend. Advertising expenses consist of advertising, public relations, and administrative expenses to increase sales and further enhance the public reputation of the Wingstop brand.
Selling, general and administrative. SG&A costs consist of wages, benefits, franchise development expenses, other compensation, travel, marketing, accounting fees, legal fees, and other expenses related to the infrastructure required to support our franchise and company-owned stores.
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Depreciation and amortization. Depreciation and amortization includes the depreciation of fixed assets, capitalized leasehold improvements and amortization of intangible assets.
Interest expense, net. Interest expense, net includes expenses related to borrowings under our securitized financing facility and amortization of deferred debt issuance costs, net of interest income earned on investments.
Income tax expense. Income tax expense includes current and deferred federal tax expenses as well as state and local income taxes.
Results of Operations
The following table presents the Consolidated Statement of Operations for the fiscal years ended December 28, 2019 and December 29, 2018 expressed as a percentage of total revenue:
Fiscal Year
December 28,
2019
December 29,
2018
Revenue:
Royalty revenue, franchise fees and other44.2 %46.9 %
Advertising fees and related income28.0 %22.5 %
Company-owned restaurant sales27.8 %30.6 %
Total revenue100.0 %100.0 %
Costs and expenses:
Cost of sales (1)
74.1 %68.5 %
Advertising expenses26.5 %22.0 %
Selling, general and administrative28.7 %29.1 %
Depreciation and amortization2.7 %2.8 %
Total costs and expenses78.5 %74.8 %
Operating income21.5 %25.2 %
Interest expense, net8.6 %6.6 %
Other expense, net— %1.0 %
Income before income tax expense12.9 %17.6 %
Income tax expense2.6 %3.4 %
Net income10.3 %14.2 %


(1)
As a percentage of company-owned restaurant sales. Includes all operating expenses of company-owned restaurants, including advertising expenses, and excludes depreciation and amortization, which are presented separately. The percentages reflected have been subject to rounding adjustments. Accordingly, figures expressed as percentages when aggregated may not be the arithmetic aggregation of the percentages that precede them.

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Year ended December 28, 2019 compared to year ended December 29, 2018
The following table sets forth information comparing the components of net income in fiscal year 2019 and fiscal year 2018 (in thousands):
Year endedIncrease / (Decrease)
December 28,
2019
December 29,
2018
$%
Revenue:
Royalty revenue, franchise fees and other$88,291  $71,858  $16,433  22.9 %
Advertising fees and related income55,932  34,484  21,448  62.2 %
Company-owned restaurant sales55,453  46,839  8,614  18.4 %
Total revenue199,676  153,181  46,495  30.4 %
Costs and expenses:
Cost of sales (1)
41,105  32,063  9,042  28.2 %
Advertising expenses52,891  33,699  19,192  57.0 %
Selling, general and administrative57,295  44,579  12,716  28.5 %
Depreciation and amortization5,484  4,313  1,171  27.2 %
Total costs and expenses156,775  114,654  42,121  36.7 %
Operating income42,901  38,527  4,374  11.4 %
Interest expense, net17,136  10,123  7,013  69.3 %
Other expense, net—  1,477  (1,477) N/A  
Income before income tax expense25,765  26,927  (1,162) (4.3)%
Income tax expense5,289  5,208