10-K 1 tacofy201810-k.htm 10-K Document

 
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
 
 
FORM 10-K
 
(Mark one)
x
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended January 1, 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 Number: 001-36197
 
DEL TACO RESTAURANTS, INC.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
 
 
 
Delaware
 
46-3340980
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
 
(I.R.S. Employer
Identification Number)
 
 
 
25521 Commercentre Drive
Lake Forest, California
 
92630
(Address of principal executive offices)
 
(Zip Code)
 
 
 
(949) 462-9300
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
 
Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, $0.0001 Par Value
 
NASDAQ Capital Market
Warrants, each warrant exercisable for one share of common stock
 
 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None
(Title of Each Class)
 
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes  ¨    No  x
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports by Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes  ¨    No  x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    Yes  x No  ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate website, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).    Yes  x No  ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (Section 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of the registrant's knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statement incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
 
Large accelerated filer
¨
 
Accelerated filer
x
 
 
 
 
 
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  ¨    No  x
The aggregate market value of the common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant as of the last business day of the registrant's most recently completed second fiscal quarter, computed by reference to the closing price reported on the NASDAQ Capital Market as of June 19, 2018, was $442.8 million.
As of March 13, 2019, there were 37,121,234 shares of the registrant’s common stock issued and outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant's definitive proxy statement relating to the registrant's 2019 Annual Meeting of Stockholders to be filed pursuant to Regulation 14A within 120 days after the registrant's fiscal year end of January 1, 2019, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
 




Del Taco Restaurants, Inc.
Index

PART I
 
 
 
 
 
PART II
 
 
 
PART III
 
 
 
PART IV
 
 
 




CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

In addition to historical information, this Annual Report on Form 10-K may contain a number of “forward-looking statements” as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements include, without limitation, information concerning Del Taco Restaurant, Inc.'s ("Del Taco") possible or assumed future results of operations, business strategies, competitive position, industry environment, potential growth opportunities and the effects of regulation. These statements are based on Del Taco management’s current expectations and beliefs, as well as a number of assumptions concerning future events. When used in this Annual Report, the words “estimates,” “projected,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “forecasts,” “plans,” “intends,” “believes,” “seeks,” "target," “may,” “will,” “should,” “future,” “propose,” “preliminary,” “guidance," "on track" and variations of these words or similar expressions (or the negative versions of such words or expressions) are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other important factors, many of which are outside Del Taco management’s control that could cause actual results to differ materially from the results discussed in the forward-looking statements. These risks include, without limitation, consumer demand, our inability to successfully open company-operated or franchised restaurants or establish new markets, competition in our markets, our inability to grow and manage growth profitably, adverse changes in food and supply costs, our inability to access additional capital, changes in applicable laws or regulations, food safety and foodborne illness concerns, our inability to manage existing and to obtain additional franchisees, our inability to attract and retain qualified personnel, our inability to profitably expand into new markets, changes in, or the discontinuation of the Company's repurchase program, and the possibility that we may be adversely affected by other economic, business, and/or competitive factors. Additional risks and uncertainties are identified and discussed in Item 1A. Risk Factors in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. All subsequent written or oral forward-looking statements attributable to us or persons acting on our behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by these risk factors. Del Taco undertakes no obligation to update any of its forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date they were made, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required under applicable securities laws.



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PART I
ITEM 1.    Business

Company Overview

Del Taco Restaurants, Inc. ("Del Taco", f/k/a Levy Acquisition Corporation ("LAC")) was originally incorporated in Delaware on August 2, 2013 as a special purpose acquisition company, formed for the purpose of effecting a merger, capital stock exchange, asset acquisition, stock purchase, reorganization or other similar business combination with one or more businesses. On June 30, 2015 (the “Closing Date”), LAC consummated its business combination with Del Taco Holdings, Inc. (“DTH”) pursuant to the agreement and plan of merger dated as of March 12, 2015 by and among LAC, Levy Merger Sub, LLC (“Levy Merger Sub”), LAC’s wholly owned subsidiary, and DTH (the “Merger Agreement”). Under the Merger Agreement, Levy Merger Sub merged with and into DTH, with DTH surviving the merger as a wholly-owned subsidiary of LAC (the “Business Combination” or “Merger”). In connection with the closing of the Business Combination, LAC changed its name from Levy Acquisition Corp. to Del Taco Restaurants, Inc.

As a result of the Business Combination, we are the acquirer for accounting purposes, and DTH is the acquiree and accounting predecessor. Our financial statement presentation distinguishes a “Predecessor” for DTH for periods prior to the Closing Date. We are the "Successor" for periods after the Closing Date, which includes consolidation of DTH subsequent to the Business Combination on June 30, 2015.

Del Taco is a nationwide operator and franchisor of restaurants featuring fresh and fast made-to-order cuisine, including both Mexican inspired and American classic dishes. As of January 1, 2019, there were 580 Del Taco restaurants, a majority of these in the Pacific Southwest. We serve our customers high-quality, freshly prepared food typical of fast casual restaurants but with the speed, convenience and value associated with traditional quick service restaurants ("QSRs"). With attributes of both a fast casual restaurant and a QSR—a combination we call QSR+—we occupy a place in the restaurant market distinct from our competitors. Our food is prepared in working kitchens where our customers see cooks grilling marinated chicken and steak, chopping tomatoes and cilantro for salsa, grating cheddar cheese, slicing avocados and slow cooking whole pinto beans. And we believe that we are poised for growth, operating within the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry, the limited service restaurant (“LSR”) segment. With an average system check of $7.72 during Fiscal 2018, we offer a compelling value proposition relative to both QSR and fast casual peers.

Our distinctive menu offers a combination of Mexican-inspired food, such as tacos and burritos, and American classics, such as “Double Del” cheeseburgers, crinkle-cut fries and milkshakes. The dual menu offers something for everyone, helping us attract a broader customer base than other Mexican LSRs while eliminating the “veto vote.” Additionally, our menu features both premium items such as our Platos plated meals, Epic Burritos®, Handcrafted Ensaladas and Fresca Bowls as well as lower priced items on our Buck & Under Menu®. While the lower priced items appeal to a value-oriented customer, the Buck & Under Menu® is also designed to increase the average check by offering variety for customers wishing to supplement their order with an additional menu item. For the year ended January 1, 2019, approximately 20% of company-operated restaurant sales consisted of Buck & Under Menu® items. With our tiered pricing strategy, we appeal to customers from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds and price sensitivities.

We opened our first restaurant in Yermo, California in 1964. The original restaurant had a simple menu consisting of 19 cent tacos, tostadas and french fries and 24 cent cheeseburgers. Over the last nearly 55 years, located now in 14 states, we have grown to 322 company-operated and 258 franchise-operated restaurants as of January 1, 2019.

Competitive Strengths

We believe the following strengths differentiate us from our competitors and serve as the foundation for our continued growth:

Meeting Many Needs, our Concept has Broad Appeal. We are able to appeal to a broad group of customers due to our diverse menu featuring both Mexican and American staples, our 24-hour service model in most restaurants, the range of options we offer for any time of day or night, the comfort of our dining room paired with the convenience of our drive-thru, and our carefully considered pricing strategy with items of exceptional quality and value at different price points. Our QSR+ positioning sources traffic from both QSR and fast casual dining segments and we believe our diversified sales mix creates a flexible business model with multiple levers to drive restaurant sales growth. Because we are able to meet the varied needs of a wide range of customers, we have appeal in a variety of urban, suburban and other settings and in many different parts of the United States.


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Unfreshing Believable® FoodWe are committed to delivering made-to-order food, using fresh high quality ingredients in working kitchens. We emphasize both quality and speed and effectively market these strengths to customers both within the restaurants and beyond. The menu offers items that have been enjoyed by customers for decades in combination with newer offerings addressing market trends, such as the launch of Queso Blanco, made with real cheese, real milk, jalapeños and heavy cream, The Del Taco, our bigger, better-tasting crunchy beef or turkey taco, and Platos, our premium menu offering of individually-plated meals complete with an entrée, two sides, and chips and salsa. We also use limited-time specials to drive traffic, such as Carnitas, Jumbo Shrimp Tacos and Shredded Beef. With our menu variety including tacos, burritos, quesadillas, bowls and handcrafted ensaladas, as well as burgers and fries, we are able to be highly responsive to customer demands and target underutilized day-parts with new menu initiatives. We prepare entrées to order, but are able to deliver the entrée to the customer, on average, in just over 2 minutes across all day-parts and service modes. Even with the addition of new products, the coordinated work of operational and marketing leadership helps ensure that a new item is only launched when operations are ready to deliver on our promises of speed, quality and value. We believe that the way we combine freshly prepared food in working kitchens with our speed of service model and the skill of our trained and certified team members provides a layer of competitive insulation.

Inviting Atmosphere. In order to enhance our competitive positioning, we implemented a new restaurant design that targets both QSR and fast casual dining occasions. In the new design, restaurant exteriors feature a signature Del Taco logo, color palette and artwork that reinforces the brand identity and restaurant interiors feature open kitchens and visual “freshness cues” to highlight our commitment to freshly prepared food. We have already implemented key elements of our new restaurant design across the chain as part of a system-wide re-image program. As of the date of this Form 10-K, 100% of company-operated restaurants and substantially all of the restaurants in the entire Del Taco system have been re-imaged to include these new elements. In addition, our current new restaurant design includes a “freshness cooler” directly behind the point-of-order which showcases our fresh produce, 40 pound block of cheddar cheese and handmade pico de gallo. At January 1, 2019, 298 system-wide restaurants had freshness coolers. We expect to continue backcasting this element across additional system-wide restaurants during 2019.

Promising Industry Segment. According to Technomic, a research and consulting firm servicing the foodservice industry, 2017 total sales increased 3.9% to $231.1 billion for Limited Service Restaurants (“LSRs”) in the Technomic Top 500. With our QSR+ model, we believe that we offer QSR convenience and value with high quality fresh food associated with fast casual dining. According to the Technomic Top 500, the fast casual sub-segment grew 8.8% in 2017, to $39.8 billion in total sales. We believe that our differentiated menu, enhanced restaurant design, aligned service model and convenient locations position us to compete successfully against other LSR concepts, providing us with a large addressable market.

Positive Demographic Trends. We believe we are well positioned to benefit from a number of culinary and demographic trends in the United States. We expect that over time an improving macroeconomic environment will raise consumer demand for restaurant services, increasing sales. Furthermore, as indicated by recent growth in the Mexican restaurant category, we expect to benefit from increased acceptance of and preference for Mexican food in the United States. Finally, we also anticipate benefits from the continued growth of the Hispanic population in the United States, which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has grown from 50.5 million people in 2009 to 58.9 million people in 2017, and is projected to reach 77.5 million in 2030.

Data Driven Operations Culture. To deliver on our brand promise and ensure that “every guest leaves happy,” we utilize a balanced measurement system for all our restaurants. Elements included are customer surveys, internal audits, staffing metrics, speed of service metrics, sales metrics, and key controllable costs. This provides corporate and field management, as well as restaurant-level operators, insight into how they are performing both from the customer’s perspective but also through the lens of our internal standards, enabling operational initiatives to be tied to the needs of the customer. We take a disciplined approach to developing operational improvement initiatives; we evaluate results-driven behaviors in top performing restaurants using restaurant questing studies, general manager roundtables, and a formal Operations Advisory Committee comprised of both company and franchise operators. We believe our deep attention to research and customer feedback gives us a competitive advantage over restaurants less committed to understanding their customers and allows us to be proactive in our initiatives instead of merely responding to the competition.

Experienced Leadership. Our senior management team has extensive operating experience, with an average of 20 years of experience each in the restaurant industry. We are led by President and Chief Executive Officer, John Cappasola, who joined Del Taco in 2008, as a Vice President in Marketing through 2011 when he became our Chief Brand Officer until he became President in January 2017 and Chief Executive Officer in July 2017. Other key members of our senior leadership team include Steven Brake, Chief Financial Officer and David Pear, Senior Vice President of Operations. We believe the proven ability of the senior officers to work as a team will play a critical role in our ability to continue to achieve success in the future. We believe the senior management team is a key driver of Del Taco’s success and has positioned it well for long-term growth.

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Our Growth Strategy

We believe our differentiated QSR+ positioning within a growing market segment combined with a disciplined business model and strong unit economics, will lead to significant growth opportunities. Our plan to enhance the brand’s competitive positioning and generate earnings per share growth involves several distinct strategies, including: optimizing our restaurant portfolio, expanding our store count in established markets where brand recognition is strong, driving restaurant sales growth, optimizing margins, and over time taking advantage of the significant “white space” in the United States where the Del Taco brand is not yet established.

Growing the Restaurant Base. We believe we are in the early stages of our growth story with 580 locations in 14 states (including one franchise-operated restaurant in Guam) as of January 1, 2019. We estimate, based on internal analysis and a study prepared by a leading national consulting firm, a long-term total restaurant potential in the United States of 2,000 locations. For the year ended January 1, 2019, we opened 13 new company-operated and 12 new franchise-operated restaurants, and in 2019 we intend to open at least 25 new system-wide restaurants across established and emerging markets including California, Georgia, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Michigan, Idaho, Arizona, Washington, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and Colorado. The majority of our future restaurant openings and growth of the brand will come primarily from the development of franchise restaurants. We believe that after 2019, the pace of development will continue to increase, with a continued focus on restaurants in markets where the brand is well established as well as certain new or emerging markets.
 
Within in-fill markets, which we define as the Western one-third, where there is strong brand awareness and a loyal following, we have identified an in-fill opportunity of an additional 300+ potential new trade areas for restaurant development. We believe this presents a lower risk expansion strategy, leveraging high return, leveraging brand awareness, infrastructure and efficiencies of scale. We are currently in the process of accelerating our pipeline of in-fill locations, particularly in the Western United States.
As we continue to increase and strengthen our position in in-fill markets, we also intend to continue to expand our presence in key emerging markets such as Oklahoma and Georgia, where the brand has been well received and where demand for additional units is high.
We view our franchise program as an important resource for expanding the brand. In many new markets, the knowledge of a strategically selected franchisee as to local real estate, customers, employees, and marketing may enhance each restaurant’s prospects for greater success more quickly. Where appropriate, we may consider opportunities to seed new territories with company-operated restaurants, but ultimately expect to have the majority of emerging market growth occur through franchisees. In both in-fill and emerging markets, we expect we will continue to strategically develop franchise relationships and grow our franchise restaurant base. We believe we are well positioned for growth in comparison to other national QSR concepts, many of which are heavily saturated in the United States and/or are highly limited by existing franchise commitments.

Growing Same Store Sales. We have developed an integrated strategic approach that aligns restaurant operations initiatives with marketing and menu innovation. This is the foundation for our sales growth within our existing restaurants. We plan to drive continued same store sales growth by increasing customer frequency, attracting new customers and improving per transaction spend. To accomplish this, we aim to enhance our QSR+ positioning and customer perceptions with targeted capital investment in the restaurant experience, optimized marketing spend across traditional and non-traditional channels, and continued introduction of new products and packaging driven by customer demand, industry trends, and a focus on day-part opportunities. We also believe we are well positioned in the Mexican LSR segment to benefit from shifting culinary and demographic trends in the United States.

Menu Strategy and Innovation. We intend to continue to evolve our menu to create platforms that convey the differentiated QSR+ positioning and reinforce our “We Start with Fresh and Serve with Value” brand position. We believe we have opportunities for menu innovation as we look to provide customers more choices through quality/value platforms such as The Del Taco, Platos, Epic Burritos®, Handcrafted Ensaladas, Fresca Bowls and Queso Blanco. In addition, we expect to continue to tap in to the need for price/value offerings by building on the success of our value/variety Buck & Under Menu® and mid-tier products. Our marketing and operations teams have demonstrated an ability to collaborate to ensure that the items developed in our test kitchen can be executed to high standards in the restaurants with the speed, value and quality that our customers expect.


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Driving Brand Awareness and Consumer Engagement. We engage consumers through 8 to 10 annual promotional windows which feature seasonal favorites such as Jumbo Shrimp Tacos, quality enhancing platforms such as Queso Blanco, Platos, Fresca Bowls and Handcrafted Salads, and strong value propositions showcased by the Buck & Under Menu® platform such as the Chicken Quesadilla Snacker. The key points of differentiation are communicated through our “Celebrating the Hardest Working Hands in Fast Food®" advertising campaign.

Launching Mobile and Digital Initiatives. We are positioning the brand to grow sales by expanding points of access through digital initiatives. In 2018, we launched the Del Taco Mobile App, featuring enhanced marketing capabilities including targeted promotional offers to drive guest frequency. We expect to expand our third party delivery offering across our system in 2019 through multiple delivery service providers. We believe moving toward a multiple delivery service provider approach will position us to optimize driver coverage and maximize consumer demand across trade areas.

Restaurant Portfolio Optimization. We plan to optimize our restaurant portfolio to help stimulate growth in new restaurants and existing restaurant average unit volumes ("AUVs").  This effort includes acquiring three high volume franchise restaurants and refranchising thirteen lower volume company restaurants in the Los Angeles area during the first quarter of 2019.  Further planned actions include refranchising non-core Western markets to new or existing franchisees with proven operational and development capabilities who commit to additional development in these and/or other markets.  Our restaurant portfolio optimization strategy positions the brand for accelerated franchise growth and focuses company operations on our core Western markets and strategic seed markets to support emerging market growth, and is expected to help shift our approximately 55% current company ownership to approximately 45% by the summer of 2020. 
Leverage Our Infrastructure. Since 2012, we have increased our restaurant contribution margin by 250 basis points, to 19.7%. Over time we believe we can continue to optimize our margins with effective menu pricing, by maintaining fiscal discipline, increasing fixed-cost leverage and enhancing our supply chain efforts. We currently have an infrastructure that allows us and our franchisees to grow and manage the productivity of each restaurant on a real-time basis. Additionally, we believe over time, as our restaurant base matures and AUV's increase, we will be able to leverage corporate costs as over time general and administrative expenses are expected to grow at a slower rate than revenues. As the restaurant base and restaurant sales expand, we will potentially have larger media budgets, allowing us to target specific opportunistic areas with incremental marketing campaigns.

Site Selection and Expansion

New Restaurant Development
We believe we are well positioned for growth with improved unit economics, desirable returns on invested capital, and a strong cash flow available for investment. For the year ended January 1, 2019, we opened 13 new company-operated restaurants and our franchisees opened 12 new restaurants, and in 2019 we intend to open at least 25 new system-wide restaurants across our established and emerging markets. We believe that after 2019, the pace of development will continue to increase, with a continued focus on restaurants in in-fill markets where the brand is well established as well as certain new or emerging markets.

The strategy for restaurant development is three fold. First, in the near term, with an identified in-fill opportunity of an additional 300+ potential new trade areas for restaurant development (company-operated and franchise-operated), we are accelerating our pipeline of in-fill locations to leverage the brand awareness, infrastructure and efficiencies of scale through what we believe is a lower risk, higher return expansion opportunity. Second, we will continue to develop company-operated restaurants in emerging markets such as Atlanta and Oklahoma City, establishing operational expertise, while recruiting additional franchisees to enable us to embed and scale our brand more rapidly. In some markets, we plan to employ a re-franchising strategy to help stimulate new restaurant growth if we believe it will enhance growth opportunities and longer term earnings per share. Finally, over time we will be entering emerging new markets, primarily with new franchise partners and where appropriate, with company-operated restaurants. With substantial growth opportunities in established and emerging markets, efforts to expand into new markets will be carefully vetted and researched before they are undertaken.


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Site Selection Process
We consider the location of a restaurant to be a critical variable in our long-term success and as such, we devote significant effort to the investigation and evaluation of potential restaurant locations, utilizing quantitative and qualitative modeling. Our in-house development team has significant prior experience working at other limited and full service brands. For company-operated restaurants, we use a combination of our in-house development team and outside real estate brokers to locate, evaluate and negotiate leases for new sites, taking into account demographic characteristics, residential and daytime population thresholds, retail presence, traffic counts and traffic patterns, along with the potential visibility and accessibility of the restaurant. The process for selecting locations applies management’s experience and expertise to an extensive set of objective data. In addition, we use a third-party data analytics tool to assist in the site selection and obtain information from a separate third party to support the analysis. Because our restaurants perform well across a variety of neighborhoods and demographics, we have flexibility in selecting new restaurant locations without taking on excessive operating risk.

We have primarily focused on developing freestanding or end-cap sites with drive-thrus. In the future, we may consider developing a prototype appropriate for other promising locations where a drive-thru is not feasible.

New company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants are reviewed by our real estate committee, which includes senior management. The committee monitors ongoing performance to inform future site selection decisions.

Restaurant Design
A typical Del Taco restaurant is a free-standing building with drive-thru service that ranges in size from 2,000 to 2,600 square feet. The design creates a colorful, bright and contemporary restaurant environment. The exterior of each restaurant features a signature Del Taco logo, color palette and artwork that reinforces the brand identify; the interior generally features an open kitchen and various visual “freshness cues” including a "freshness cooler" to highlight the commitment to freshly prepared food. The colorful and contemporary dining rooms, typically with seating for approximately 60 people, include a variety of comfortable booths and seating arrangements with contemporary surfaces, artwork, visual "freshness cues" and a color palette that reinforces brand identity. The typical design features large windows and soft lighting.

Our new company-operated restaurants are typically ground-up prototypes or conversions. We estimate that a restaurant will require an average total net cash investment of approximately $1.3 million, net of tenant allowances or sale leaseback proceeds for certain projects. On average, it takes approximately 18 months from identification of the specific site to opening the restaurant. We have set processes and timelines to follow for all restaurant openings. Company-operated restaurants are constructed in approximately 13 weeks and the development and construction of new sites is the responsibility of the construction department. A conversion typically takes approximately 10 weeks to complete. The real estate department is responsible for locating and leasing potential restaurant sites and the construction department is then responsible for building the restaurants.

Restaurant Management and Operations

Operations
We utilize a balanced scorecard measurement system for all company-operated restaurants. Elements included in the scorecard are customer surveys, internal audits, staffing metrics, speed of service metrics, sales metrics, and key controllable costs. Each period, managers of company-operated stores who are top performers on the scorecard are eligible for bonuses to reinforce this balanced approach to the business. The scorecard is also used by the operations leadership team to mine best practices.

To ensure brand consistency and integrity across all system restaurants, we utilize an internal operations audit program. Each restaurant is audited two or more times per year, and each audit results in two scores – a customer experience score and a brand standards score. We also have food safety and quality assurance programs for all system restaurants. Our auditors are part of the operations support team and provide regular performance analysis to the leadership team.

Managers and Team Members
Each Del Taco restaurant typically has a general manager, four to six shift leaders, and two or three team leaders. There are also typically between 15 and 20 team members who prepare food and serve customers. Area Directors lead company-operated restaurants, with each typically responsible for approximately six to 12 restaurants. Overseeing the Area Directors are five Regional Directors, each responsible for approximately 11 to 98 restaurants, and they report up to a sole Vice President of Company Operations. The franchise operations team utilizes seven Franchise Business Consultants who each coach and oversee up to 60 franchise-operated restaurants. The Franchise Business Consultants report to the Vice President of Franchise Operations. The Senior Vice President of Operations has full accountability for both company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants, managing both sales and profitability targets and customer experience metrics.


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Our hiring process is focused on identifying team members that are genuinely friendly, committed to preparing fresh food, and willing to ensure “every guest leaves happy.” We frequently cross-train our team members so they can fill any one of several positions to maximize labor efficiency. The investment in helping team members learn multiple skills and our internal promotion path has helped us build loyal teams that care about the success of their restaurant. Many team members and managers have been employed by us for longer than 5 years, and it is not uncommon to have team members with more than 10 years of seniority.

Training
Our senior management team fosters a culture of continuous learning and career growth at Del Taco. On the first day of employment, every team member receives the first of three training modules focused on helping the team member clearly understand the brand and their role. Subsequent modules focus on the specifics of how to provide a consistent customer experience. The current training program is a blended learning approach including self-paced reading, hands-on exercises and written knowledge validation tests. In 2015, we launched the next phase of our training program with the addition of tablet-based bilingual e-learning which includes interactive exercises, video tutorials and online testing.

A significant portion of the restaurant leadership is comprised of former team members who have advanced along the Del Taco career path. Top performing team members who display leadership qualities take the first step in the management development program and become team leaders. As team leader candidates enter the management development program, they receive additional training and are regularly tested on their knowledge and skills. Shift leader candidates will have completed the three modules, passed all of the required testing and have their knowledge validated during a practical evaluation of one of their shifts. An external candidate for a general manager role will complete six to seven weeks of intensive classroom and hands-on training in a certified training restaurant.

Franchise Program

Overview
We use a franchising strategy to augment new restaurant growth in new and established markets, allowing for brand expansion without significant capital investment. As of January 1, 2019, there were a total of 258 franchise restaurants. Franchisees range in size from single restaurant operators to multi-unit operators, the largest of which owns 49 locations. As of January 1, 2019 and January 2, 2018, our top 12 franchisees operated over 60% and 57%, respectively, of our franchise-operated restaurants and 20 franchisees operated approximately 71% and 69%, respectively, of our franchise-operated restaurants. The existing franchise base consists of numerous successful, longstanding restaurant operators.

We believe that franchise revenue provides stable and recurring cash flows to us and, as such, we plan to continue expanding the base of franchise-operated restaurants. In established markets, we will encourage continued growth from current franchisees and assist them in identifying and securing new locations. In emerging and new markets, we will source highly qualified and experienced new franchisees for multi-unit development opportunities. We generally seek franchisees from successful, non-competitive brands operating within the expansion markets. We market franchise opportunities through strategic networking, participation in select industry conferences, our existing website and printed materials.

We have several groups to enhance participation and engagement with the franchise community. The Franchise Marketing Advisory Team provides input and feedback on marketing strategy and initiatives. Our Operations Advisory Committee (“OAC”), comprised of experienced franchise and company operators, proposes and analyzes new equipment, training and procedures. The OAC has an ad hoc Design and Construction Advisory Team to advise on restaurant design standards.

Franchise Owner Support
We have structured our corporate staff, training programs, operational systems and communication systems to ensure we are delivering strong support to franchisees. We assist franchisees with the site selection process, and every new franchise location is scrutinized by our corporate real estate committee. We provide template plans franchisees may use for new restaurant construction and work with franchisees and their design and construction vendors to ensure compliance with brand specifications. A training program is required for all franchisees, operating partners and restaurant management staff. Training materials introduce new franchisees to our operational performance standards and the metrics that help maintain these high standards.

For the first two store openings in a market, we typically provide significant on-site support, with more modest support for subsequent locations. On an ongoing basis, we collect and disseminate customer experience feedback on a real time basis through a third party vendor. We also conduct regular on-site audits at each franchise location. Our Franchise Business Consultants are dedicated to ongoing franchise support and oversight, regularly visiting each franchise territory. We also employ dedicated Franchise Field Marketing Managers to assist franchisees with local marketing programs. We typically

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communicate with franchisees through an operations newsletter and hold regular regional workshops to update franchise teams and conduct training. We also hold an annual conference for franchisees, vendors and company operations leaders to review overall performance, celebrate shared success, communicate best practices, and plan for the year ahead.

Marketing and Advertising

We run a highly coordinated marketing and advertising campaign to create customer awareness, engage fans, and maximize positive brand associations. We use multiple marketing channels, including television, radio, outdoor and direct mail to broadly drive brand awareness. We advertise on local TV/Cable and local radio in our primary markets, and utilize local radio, print, internet advertising, and billboards for some of the less developed markets. We complement this with email marketing to our Raving Fan E-Club, which allows us to reach nearly 850,000 members, and via social media through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which allows us to reach over 640,000 followers. We use our Raving Fan e-Club database to invite sub-sets of members to the taste panel facility, located at our corporate office. In November 2018, we launched the Del Taco Mobile App, featuring enhanced marketing capabilities including targeted promotional offers to drive guest frequency and currently allows us to engage with approximately 400,000 registered users.

Through our public relations efforts, we engage notable food editors and bloggers on a range of topics to help promote products. In addition, we engage in one on one conversations using a portfolio of social media platforms which include Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We also use social media as a research and customer service tool, and apply insight we gain to future marketing efforts.

Purchasing and Distribution

To ensure an adequate supply of high-quality ingredients and other necessary supplies, we carefully select our suppliers. Our quality assurance department performs comprehensive supplier audits on a regular schedule to ensure that products conform to company standards. To ensure that prices are competitive, we use forward, fixed and formula pricing protocols where possible. We monitor industry news, trade issues, weather, political and world events that may affect supply prices and we proactively attempt to lock in favorable pricing.

We contract with a single primary foodservice distributor for substantially all of our food and supplies. Our relationship with our primary distributor has been in place since 1990, and we believe the long-term relationship yields benefits to us and our franchisees in terms of reliability and pricing. Franchisees are required to use the primary distributor and must purchase all food and supplies from approved suppliers. In our normal course of business, we evaluate bids from multiple suppliers for various products. Beverage syrup is the largest product cost item and represented approximately 10% of the total cost for food and paper for 2018. Fluctuations in supply and prices can significantly impact our restaurant profit performance. We actively manage cost volatility for our significant food and paper items by negotiating with multiple suppliers and entering into what we believe are the most favorable contract terms given existing market conditions.

Intellectual Property

We have registered Del Taco®, Un freshing Believable®, Buck & Under Menu®, Epic Burritos®, and certain other names used by our restaurants as trademarks or service marks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in approximately nine foreign countries. In addition, the Del Taco logo, website name and domain name and the content on its Facebook and Twitter accounts are our intellectual property. We maintain the recipes for our taco meat, marinated grilled chicken and signature salsas, as well as certain proprietary standards, specifications and operating procedures, as trade secrets or confidential proprietary information.

We license the use of our registered trademarks to franchisees through franchise agreements. The franchise agreements restrict franchisees’ activities with respect to the use of the trademarks and impose quality control standards in connection with goods and services offered in connection with the trademarks. Our general policy is to pursue and maintain registration of the service marks, trademarks and other intellectual property rights we use for our business in those countries where business strategy requires us to do so and to oppose vigorously any infringement or dilution of the service marks or trademarks in such countries.


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Competition

We operate in the restaurant industry, which is highly competitive and fragmented. The number, size and strength of competitors vary by region. Our competition includes a variety of locally owned restaurants and national and regional chains that may offer dine-in, carry-out and delivery services. The competition includes restaurants, convenience food stores, delicatessens, supermarkets and club stores. Based on our differentiated QSR+ positioning, we compete both with fast casual restaurants, including Chipotle, El Pollo Loco, Panera Bread, Qdoba, Rubio’s, and Habit, among others, and with traditional QSRs, such as Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King and Jack In the Box. In addition, we compete with franchisors of other restaurant concepts for prospective franchisees.

Environmental Matters

Our operations are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to environmental protection, including regulation of discharges into the air and water, storage and disposal of waste and clean-up of contaminated soil and groundwater. Under these laws, an owner or operator of real estate may be liable for the costs of removal or remediation of hazardous or toxic substances.

Certain of our properties may be located on sites that have been used by prior owners or operators as retail gas stations or other historical uses with the potential for environmental impacts. It is possible that properties on which our restaurants are located or which we owned in the past may contain forms of environmentally hazardous materials. We are aware of contamination from a release of hazardous materials by a previous owner or operator at two of our leased properties. We do not believe that we contributed to the contamination at these properties. The appropriate state agencies have been notified and these issues are being handled without disruption to our business. Under applicable federal and state environmental laws, the current owner or operator of these sites may be jointly and severally liable for the costs of investigation and remediation of any contamination. Although we lease almost all of our properties, or when we own the property we seek to obtain certain assurances from the prior owner or seek to obtain indemnity agreements from third parties, however, we cannot assure you that we will not be liable for environmental conditions relating to prior, existing or future restaurants or restaurant sites. If we are found liable for the costs of remediation of contamination at or emanating from any of our properties, operating expenses would likely increase and operating results could be materially adversely affected.

Regulation and Compliance

We are subject to extensive federal, state and local government regulation, including those relating to, among others, public health and safety, zoning and fire codes, and franchising. Although we have not experienced and do not anticipate any significant problems in obtaining required licenses, permits or approvals, any difficulties, delays or failures in this regard could delay or prevent the opening of a new restaurant or adversely impact the viability of an existing restaurant.

The development and construction of additional restaurants will be subject to compliance with applicable zoning, land use and environmental regulations. We believe existing laws and regulations in these areas have not had a material effect on us, but should such laws become more stringent or should we face different regulations in new territories, it could delay construction and increase development costs for new restaurants.

We are also subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and various federal, state, and local laws governing such matters as minimum wages, overtime, paid sick leave, unemployment tax rates, workers’ compensation rates, citizenship requirements and other working conditions. A significant portion of the hourly staff is paid at rates consistent with, or slightly above, the applicable federal, state or local minimum wage and, accordingly, increases in the minimum wage will increase labor costs.

For a discussion of the various risks we may face from regulation and compliance matters, see Item 1A. “Risk Factors.”

Management Information Systems and Cybersecurity

All of our company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants use Aloha, a leading computerized point-of-sale system, which we believe is scalable to support our long-term growth plans. This point-of-sale system provides integrated, high speed credit card and gift card processing, specifically designed for the restaurant industry. The system collects daily transaction data, which generates information about daily sales, product mix and average transaction size that we actively analyze. It allows us to manage our products and pricing in every company-operated restaurant from the corporate office.


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Our in-restaurant back office computer system assists in the management of our restaurants and provides labor and food cost management tools. The system provides corporate office and restaurant operations management quick access to detailed business data and reduces the time spent on administration. The system also provides sales, bank deposit and variance data to the accounting department on a daily basis. For company-operated restaurants, we use this data to generate daily sales information and weekly consolidated reports regarding sales and other key measures. Restaurant managers also have the ability to submit food and paper orders electronically to our primary distributor. During 2015, we successfully implemented a cloud-based information system which includes on-line recruiting tools, paperless employee files, and an on-line training system. Our systems and data are protected by advanced communication and data security systems.

We maintain a robust system of data protection and cyber security resources, technology and processes. We remain constantly vigilant of new and emerging risks and ever-changing legal and compliance requirements and make strategic continued investment in those systems to keep Company, customer and team member data secure. We provide annual security awareness training to our management.
Our management believes that our current systems and practice of implementing regular updates will position us well to support current needs and future growth. We use a strategic information system planning process that involves senior management and is integrated into our overall business planning. We provide data protection and cybersecurity reports to the Audit Committee of the Company’s Board of Directors and to the full Board of Directors periodically. Information systems projects are prioritized based upon strategic, financial, regulatory and other business advantage criteria.

Employees

As of January 1, 2019, we had 7,544 employees, which includes 308 salaried general managers and 7,023 hourly restaurant employees comprised of 5,285 crewmembers, 1,583 shift leaders and 155 assistant managers. The remaining 213 employees were corporate office personnel or above restaurant level management. None of the employees are part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Available Information

We maintain a website at www.deltaco.com, including an investor relations section at www.investor.deltaco.com in which we routinely post important information, such as webcasts of quarterly earnings calls and other investor events in which we participate or host, and any related materials. Our Code of Ethics is also available in this section of our website. You may access our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports, as well as other reports relating to us that are filed with or furnished to the SEC, free of charge in the investor relations section of our website as soon as reasonably practicable after such material is electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC. The public may also read and copy materials we file with the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room, which is located at 100 F Street, NE, Room 1580, Washington, DC 20549. You can obtain information on the operation of the Public Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330. The SEC also maintains a website that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at www.sec.gov.

The contents of the websites mentioned above are not incorporated into and should not be considered a part of this report. The references to the URLs for these websites are intended to be inactive textual references only.

Executive Officers

The following table sets forth our current executive officers as of January 1, 2019
Name
  
Age
  
Position
John D. Cappasola, Jr.
  
45
  
President and Chief Executive Officer
Steven L. Brake
  
46
  
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
David Pear
  
55
  
Senior Vice President of Operations

John D. Cappasola, Jr. has been our President and Chief Executive Officer since July 2017. From January 2017 to July 2017, Mr. Cappasola was our President and Chief Brand Officer. From 2012 to 2016, Mr. Cappasola was our Executive Vice President and has held the position of Chief Brand Officer since February 2011. Prior to that, Mr. Cappasola served as Vice President of Marketing since being appointed to that position in March 2009. From September 2008 to March 2009, he served as Vice President of Marketing Development. From August 2002 to September 2008, Mr. Cappasola held positions in marketing, strategic development, and operations at Blockbuster, Inc. of Dallas, Texas. Mr. Cappasola earned a Bachelor of

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Science degree in Business Management from California Coast University. Based on his extensive industry and management experience in the quick-service sector, his familiarity with us, his understanding of restaurant operations and his work at a franchisee organization, Mr. Cappasola is well qualified to lead us and to also serve on our board.

Steven L. Brake has been our Executive Vice President since July 2012. He is also the Chief Financial Officer and has held that position since April 2010 and previously served as Treasurer from March 2006 to April 2010 and as the Corporate Controller from September 2003 to March 2006. From December 1995 until September 2003, Mr. Brake was with Arthur Andersen and KPMG LLP. Mr. Brake is a licensed certified public accountant (inactive) and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of California, Irvine and a Masters in Business Administration from the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine.

David Pear has been our Senior Vice President of Operations since January 2012. From January 2009 to January 2012, Mr. Pear served as Director of DMA Operations for Taco Bell of Yum Brands. From 1985 to January 2009, Mr. Pear held various positions with Domino’s Pizza, Inc., including Vice President Operations for Arizona from 2004 to 2008, and West Zone Vice President from 1994 to 2004. Mr. Pear has over 30 years of restaurant experience. Mr. Pear earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Eastern Michigan University.


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ITEM 1A.     Risk Factors

You should carefully consider the following risk factors, together with all of the other information included in this annual report on Form 10-K. The risks described below are those which we believe are the material risks that we face. Additional risks not presently known to us or which we currently consider immaterial may also have an adverse effect on us. Any risk described below may have a material adverse impact on Del Taco's business or financial condition. Some statements in this annual report on Form 10-K, including such statements in the following risk factors, constitute forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on Del Taco management's current expectations, forecasts and assumption, and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Accordingly, forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing our views as of any subsequent date, and we do not undertake any obligation to update forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date they were made, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required under applicable securities laws.

Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
Our growth strategy depends in part on opening new restaurants in existing and new markets and expanding our franchise system. We may be unsuccessful in opening new company-operated or franchise-operated restaurants or establishing new markets, which could materially adversely affect our growth.
One of the key means to achieving our growth strategy will be through opening new restaurants and operating those restaurants on a profitable basis. We opened 13 new company-operated restaurants and 12 new franchise restaurants in 2018 and plan to open at least 25 new system-wide restaurants in 2019. Our ability to open new restaurants is dependent upon a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control, including our or our franchisees’ ability to:
identify available and suitable restaurant sites;
compete for restaurant sites;
identify, hire and train employees;
reach acceptable agreements regarding the lease or purchase of locations;
obtain or have available the financing required to acquire and operate a restaurant, including construction and opening costs, and managing such costs;
respond to unforeseen engineering or environmental problems with leased or purchased premises;
avoid the impact of inclement weather, natural disasters and other calamities;
hire, train and retain the skilled management and other employees necessary to meet staffing needs;
obtain, in a timely manner and for an acceptable cost, required licenses, permits and regulatory approvals and respond effectively to any changes in local, state or federal law and regulations that adversely affect our and franchisees’ costs or ability to open new restaurants; and
control construction and equipment cost increases for new restaurants.
There is no guarantee that a sufficient number of suitable restaurant sites will be available in desirable areas or on terms that are acceptable to us or our franchisees in order to achieve our growth plans. If we are unable to open new restaurants or sign new franchisees, or if restaurant openings are significantly delayed, our earnings and revenue growth could be adversely affected and our business negatively affected as we expect a portion of our growth to come from new locations.
Due to brand recognition and logistical synergies, as part of our growth strategy, we intend to open new restaurants in areas where we have existing restaurants. The operating results and same store sales for our existing restaurants could be adversely affected due to close proximity with our other restaurants and market saturation.
As part of our longer term growth strategy, we may also enter into geographic markets in which we have little or no prior operating or franchising experience through company-operated restaurant growth and through franchise development agreements. The challenges of entering new markets include: difficulties in hiring and training experienced personnel; unfamiliarity with local real estate markets and demographics; consumer unfamiliarity with our brand; and different competitive and economic conditions, consumer tastes and discretionary spending patterns that are more difficult to predict or satisfy than in our existing markets. Consumer recognition of our brand has been an important part of the success of company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants in our existing markets. In addition, restaurants we open in new markets may take longer to reach expected sales and profit levels on a consistent basis and may have higher construction, occupancy or operating costs than restaurants we open in existing markets, thereby affecting our overall profitability. Any failure on our part to recognize or respond to these challenges may adversely affect the success of any new restaurants. Expanding our franchise

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system could require the implementation, expense and successful management of enhanced business support systems, management information systems and financial controls as well as additional staffing, franchise support, capital expenditures and working capital.
Our progress in opening new restaurants from quarter to quarter may occur at an uneven rate. If we do not open new restaurants in the future according to our current plans, the delay could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may not realize the anticipated benefits from opening new restaurants in existing and new markets or from expanding our franchise system. For example, in Fiscal 2014, we recorded an impairment charge of $9.6 million related to 13 underperforming restaurants that generated atypically low sales volumes and negative restaurant contribution, and in Fiscal 2015, we closed 12 of these restaurants. If opening new restaurants in existing and new markets or the expansion of our franchise system is not successful, our operating results could be materially adversely affected.
Opening new restaurants in existing markets may negatively impact sales at our existing restaurants.
The consumer target area of our restaurants varies by location, depending on a number of factors, including population density, other local retail and business attractions, area demographics and geography. In the near term, we are accelerating our pipeline of in-fill locations to leverage the brand awareness, infrastructure and efficiencies of scale. The opening of a new restaurant in or near markets in which we already have restaurants could adversely impact sales at these existing restaurants. Existing restaurants could also make it more difficult to build our consumer base for a new restaurant in the same market. Our core business strategy does not entail opening new restaurants that we believe will materially affect sales at our existing restaurants, but we may selectively open new restaurants in and around areas of existing restaurants to more effectively serve our customers.
We may not be able to compete successfully with other quick service and fast casual restaurants. Intense competition in the restaurant industry could make it more difficult to expand our business and could also have a negative impact on our operating results if customers favor our competitors or we are forced to change our pricing and other marketing strategies.
We face significant competition from restaurants in the quick service and fast casual dining segments of the restaurant industry. In addition, the Southern California and Las Vegas regions, the primary markets in which we compete, consist of very competitive Mexican-inspired quick service and fast casual markets. We expect competition in these markets and each of our other markets to continue to be intense because consumer trends are favoring limited service restaurants that offer healthier menu items made with better quality products and many quick service restaurants are responding to these trends. Competition in our industry is primarily based on price, convenience, quality of service, brand recognition, restaurant location and type and quality of food. If our company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants cannot compete successfully with other quick service and fast casual restaurants in new and existing markets, we could lose customers and our revenue could decline.
Our company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants compete with national and regional quick service and fast casual restaurant chains for customers, restaurant locations and qualified management and other staff. Many of our competitors have existed longer and have a more established market presence with substantially greater financial, marketing, personnel and other resources than we do. Among our competitors are a number of multi-unit, multi-market, fast casual restaurant concepts, some of which are expanding nationally. As they expand, we will face competition from these restaurant concepts as well as new competitors that strive to compete within our market segments. These competitors may have, among other things, lower operating costs, better locations, better facilities, better management, more effective marketing and more efficient operations. Additionally, we face the risk that new or existing competitors will copy our business model, menu options, brand presentation or ambience, among other things.
Any inability to successfully compete with the restaurants in our markets will place downward pressure on our customer traffic and may prevent us from increasing or sustaining our revenue and profitability. Consumer tastes, nutritional and dietary trends, traffic patterns and the type, number and location of competing restaurants often affect the restaurant business, and our competitors may react more efficiently and effectively to those conditions. In addition, many of our traditional fast food restaurant competitors may offer lower-priced menu options or meal packages, or have loyalty programs. Our sales could decline due to changes in popular tastes, “fad” food regimens, such as low carbohydrate diets, and media attention on new restaurants. If we are unable to continue to compete effectively, our traffic, sales and restaurant contribution could decline which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could harm the value of our brand and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our intellectual property is material to the conduct of our business. Our ability to implement our business plan successfully depends in part on our ability to further build brand recognition using our trademarks, service marks, trade dress and other proprietary intellectual property, including our name and logos and the unique ambiance of our restaurants. While it is our policy to protect and defend vigorously our rights to our intellectual property, we cannot predict whether steps taken by us to protect our intellectual property rights will be adequate to prevent misappropriation of these rights or the use by others of restaurant features based upon, or otherwise similar to, our restaurant concept. It may be difficult for us to prevent others from copying elements of our concept and any litigation to enforce our rights will likely be costly and may not be successful. Although we believe that we have sufficient rights to all of our trademarks and service marks, we may face claims of infringement that could interfere with our ability to market our restaurants and promote our brand. Any such litigation may be costly and could divert resources from our business. Moreover, if we are unable to successfully defend against such claims, we may be prevented from using our trademarks or service marks in the future and may be liable for damages, which in turn could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, we license certain of our proprietary intellectual property, including our name and logos, to third parties. For example, we grant our franchisees a right to use certain of our trademarks in connection with their operation of the applicable restaurant. If a franchisee fails to maintain the quality of the restaurant operations associated with the licensed trademarks, the value of our trademarks could potentially be harmed. Negative publicity relating to the franchisee or licensee could also be incorrectly associated with Del Taco, which could harm our business. Failure to maintain, control and protect our trademarks and other proprietary intellectual property would likely have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and on our ability to enter into new franchise agreements.
New restaurants, once opened, may not be profitable, and the increases in average restaurant revenue and same store sales that we have experienced in the past may not be indicative of future results.
Some of our restaurants open with an initial start-up period of higher than normal sales volumes, which subsequently decrease to stabilized levels. Typically, our new restaurants have stabilized sales after approximately 26 to 52 weeks of operation, at which time the restaurant’s sales typically begin to grow on a consistent basis. However, we cannot assure you that this will occur for future restaurant openings. In new markets, the length of time before average sales for new restaurants stabilize is less predictable and can be longer as a result of our limited knowledge of these markets and consumers’ limited awareness of our brand. In addition, our average restaurant revenue and same store sales may not increase at the rates achieved over the past several years, if at all. Our ability to operate new restaurants profitably and increase average restaurant revenue and same store sales will depend on many factors, some of which are beyond our control, including:
consumer awareness and understanding of our brand;
general economic conditions, which can affect restaurant traffic, local labor costs and prices we pay for the food products and other supplies we use;
changes in consumer preferences and discretionary spending;
difficulties obtaining or maintaining adequate relationships with distributors or suppliers in new markets;
increases in prices for commodities, including beef and other proteins;
inefficiency in our labor costs as our staff gains experience;
competition, either from our competitors in the restaurant industry or our own restaurants;
temporary and permanent site characteristics of new restaurants;
changes in government regulation; and
other unanticipated increases in costs, any of which could give rise to delays or cost overruns.

If our new restaurants do not perform as planned, our business and future prospects could be harmed. In addition, an inability to achieve our expected average restaurant revenue would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our sales growth and ability to achieve profitability could be adversely affected if same store sales are less than we expect.
Our ability to increase the level of same store sales, which reflect the change in year-over-year sales for restaurants in the accounting period following 18 months of operations, will affect our sales growth and will continue to be a critical factor affecting our ability to generate profits because the restaurant contribution margin on same store sales increases is generally

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higher than the restaurant contribution on new restaurant sales. Our ability to increase same store sales depends in part on our ability to successfully implement our initiatives to increase sales. It is possible such initiatives will not be successful, that we will not achieve our target same store sales growth or that the change in same store sales could be negative, which may cause a decrease in sales growth and our ability to achieve profitability that would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. See the section entitled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations-Key Performance Indicators-Same Store Sales Growth.”
Our long-term success depends in part on our ability to effectively identify and secure appropriate sites for new restaurants.
We intend to develop new restaurants in our existing markets, expand our footprint into adjacent markets and selectively enter into new markets. In order to build new restaurants, we must first identify markets where we can enter or expand our footprint, taking into account numerous factors, including the location of our current restaurants, local economic trends, population density, area demographics, cost of construction and real estate and geography. Then we must secure appropriate restaurant sites, which is one of our biggest challenges. There are numerous factors involved in identifying and securing an appropriate restaurant site, including:
evaluating size of the site, traffic patterns, local retail, residential and business attractions and infrastructure that will drive high levels of customer traffic and sales;
competition in new markets, including competition for restaurant sites;
financial conditions affecting developers and potential landlords, such as the effects of macro-economic conditions and the credit market (including the potential for rising interest rates), which could lead to these parties delaying or canceling development projects (or renovations of existing projects), in turn reducing the number of appropriate restaurant sites available;
developers and potential landlords obtaining licenses or permits for development projects on a timely basis;
proximity of potential restaurant sites to existing restaurants;
anticipated commercial, residential and infrastructure development near the potential restaurant site; and
availability of acceptable lease terms and arrangements, including construction costs.
Given the numerous factors involved, we may not be able to successfully identify and secure attractive restaurant sites in existing, adjacent or new markets, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The minimum wage, particularly in California, continues to increase and is subject to factors outside of our control.
We have a substantial number of hourly employees who are paid wage rates based on the applicable federal, state or local minimum wage, and increases in the minimum wage will increase our labor costs.
On July 1, 2014, the State of California (where most of our restaurants are located) increased its minimum wage to $9.00 per hour (from $8.00 per hour), and it increased to $10.00 per hour on January 1, 2016. On March 31, 2016, the California Legislature passed legislation which was designed to raise the statewide minimum wage gradually until it reaches $15.00 per hour in 2022 and it was signed into law on April 4, 2016. Under the new California law, minimum wage increased to $10.50 per hour on January 1, 2017, increased to $11.00 in 2018 and will then increase by an additional dollar per hour each calendar year through 2022 when it reaches $15.00 per hour. Based on our current number of restaurants in California, this is expected to impact 334 restaurants in California of which 219 are company-operated and 115 are franchise-operated, excluding certain California restaurants with local minimum wage requirements that are accelerated compared to the California requirements.
In addition, in September 2015, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved increases to the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by 2020 with the first phase of the wage increase to $10.50 effective on July 1, 2016, followed by an increase to $12.00 per hour on July 1, 2017, $13.25 on July 1, 2018, and $14.25 on July 1, 2019 until it reaches $15.00 per hour on July 1, 2020. Also, in June 2016, the Los Angeles City Council approved a sick paid leave ordinance to provide six days of paid sick leave per year, with carry-over of 72 hours, effective July 1, 2016. These local ordinances impacted 21 company-owned restaurants and 12 franchise-owned restaurants in the City of Los Angeles and in the unincorporated areas of the County of Los Angeles.
On March 14, 2016, the Pasadena City Council adopted an ordinance to increase Pasadena’s minimum wage. Beginning on July 1, 2016, employers with 26 or more employees must pay a minimum wage of $10.50 per hour to all employees who work

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at least 2 hours per week within Pasadena’s geographic bounds. The minimum wage increased to $12.00 per hour on July 1, 2017 and $13.25 per hour on July 1, 2018. This local ordinance impacted three company-operated restaurants.
On June 7, 2016, San Diego voters voted in favor of an ordinance to increase San Diego's minimum wage rate and allow employees working within the San Diego city limits to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The San Diego City Council certified this minimum wage increase on July 11, 2016 with the increase taking effect on July 11, 2016. Under this ordinance, for any employee who works at least two hours within San Diego city limits, minimum wage increased to $10.50 per hour on July 11, 2016, $11.50 per hour in 2017 and beginning 2019, the minimum wage rate will increase annually to an amount that corresponds to the prior year's increase, if any, in the cost of living. In addition, the ordinance provides up to five days of paid sick leave and allows unused sick leave to be carried over to the following year. This ordinance impacted three company-operated restaurants and two franchise-operated restaurants.
On July 1, 2016, the Santa Monica minimum wage rates increased to $10.50 per hour and allow employees working within the Santa Monica city limits to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The minimum wage increased to $12.00 on July 1, 2017 and $13.25 per hour on July 1, 2018. The minimum wage will increase every year to $15.00 per hour on July 1, 2020. This local ordinance impacted one company-operated restaurant.
On November 8, 2016, Arizona voters voted in favor to increase the state minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective January 1, 2017 (from $8.05 per hour) and to allow employees to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked effective July 1, 2017. The minimum wage increased to $10.50 per hour in 2018 and will increase to $11.00 per hour in 2019 and $12.00 per hour in 2020. The law provides up to five days of paid sick leave per year. The new law impacted three company-operated restaurants and 35 franchise-operated restaurants.
Other municipalities may set minimum wages above the applicable federal or state standards. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since July 24, 2009. Additional federally-mandated, state-mandated or locally mandated minimum wages may be raised in the future. Furthermore, on July 1, 2015, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 went into effect for California employees, which provides up to three days of paid sick leave for employees who work more than 30 days within a year. We may be unable to increase our menu prices in order to pass future increased labor costs on to our customers, in which case our margins would be negatively affected, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, if our menu prices are increased to cover increased labor costs, the higher prices could adversely affect sales and thereby reduce our margins and profitability.
Changes in food and supply costs, including the impact of tariffs, or failure to receive frequent deliveries of food ingredients and other supplies could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our profitability depends in part on our ability to anticipate and react to changes in food and supply costs, and our ability to maintain our menu depends in part on our ability to acquire ingredients that meet specifications from reliable suppliers. Shortages or interruptions in the availability of certain supplies caused by unanticipated demand, problems in production or distribution, food contamination, inclement weather or other conditions could adversely affect the availability, quality and cost of our ingredients, which could harm our operations. Any increase in the prices of the food products most critical to our menu, such as beef, beverage syrup, chicken, cheese, french fries, tortillas, taco shells, fresh produce, soybean oil and other proteins, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Particularly, the cost of ground beef, our second largest commodity expenditure that accounts for approximately 9% of our total food and paper costs, increased significantly several years ago as a result of a reduction in the U.S. cattle supply, coupled with an increase in world demand for beef. The market for beef is particularly volatile and is subject to extreme price fluctuations due to seasonal shifts, climate conditions, the price of feed, industry demand, energy demand, relative strength of the U.S. dollar and other factors. Although we try to manage the impact that these fluctuations have on our operating results, we remain susceptible to increases in food costs as a result of factors beyond our control, such as general economic conditions, potential cross-border taxes or tariffs, seasonal fluctuations, weather conditions, demand, food safety concerns, generalized infectious diseases, product recalls and government regulations. For instance, in recent years, our cost of eggs increased materially due to the impact of the avian flu which infected much of the domestic egg laying flock and created a temporary but significant reduction in supply. Additionally, a substantial volume of produce and other items are procured from Mexico and other countries. Any new or increased import duties, tariffs or taxes, or other changes in U.S. trade or tax policy, could result in higher food and supply costs that would adversely impact our financial results. Therefore, material increases in the prices of the ingredients most critical to our menu, particularly ground beef, could adversely affect our operating results or cause us to consider changes to our product delivery strategy and adjustments to our menu pricing.
We have contracts with a limited number of suppliers for the food and supplies of our restaurants. If any of our suppliers perform inadequately, or our supply relationships are disrupted for any reason, there could be a material adverse effect on our

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business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. Although we often enter into contracts for the purchase of food products and supplies, we do not have long-term contracts for the purchase of all such food products and supplies. As a result, we may not be able to anticipate or react to changing food costs by adjusting our purchasing practices or menu prices, which could cause our operating results to deteriorate. If we cannot replace or engage suppliers who meet our specifications in a short period of time, that could increase our expenses and cause shortages of food and other items at our restaurants, which could cause a restaurant to remove items from our menu. If that were to happen, affected restaurants could experience significant reductions in sales during the shortage or thereafter, if customers change their dining habits as a result. In addition, although we provide modestly priced food, we may choose not to, or may be unable to, pass along commodity price increases to consumers. These potential changes in food and supply costs could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our profitability depends in part on our and our franchisees’ ability to maintain consistent quality menu items and prices, which in turn significantly depends upon our ability to acquire food and paper products from reliable sources in accordance with our specifications on a timely basis. Shortages or interruptions in the supply of food and paper products caused by unanticipated demand, problems in production or distribution, contamination of food products, an outbreak of diseases impacting various proteins, inclement weather or other conditions could materially adversely affect the availability, quality and cost of ingredients, which would adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. We do not control the businesses of our vendors, suppliers and distributors and our efforts to specify and monitor the standards under which they perform may not be successful.
We rely on only one company to distribute substantially all of our products to company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants. Failure to receive timely deliveries of food or other supplies could result in a loss of revenue and materially and adversely impact our operations.
One company distributes substantially all of the products we receive from suppliers to company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants. If that distributor or any supplier fails to perform as anticipated or seeks to terminate agreements with us, or if there is any disruption in any of our distribution relationships for any reason, our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows could be materially adversely affected. If we or our franchisees must temporarily close a restaurant or remove popular items from a restaurant’s menu, that restaurant may experience a significant reduction in revenue during the time affected by the shortage and thereafter if our customers change their dining habits as a result.
Additionally, any changes we may make to the services we obtain from our vendors, or new vendors we employ, may disrupt our operations. These disruptions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Failure to manage our growth effectively could harm our business and operating results.
A portion of our growth plan includes opening new restaurants. If our expansion is accelerated greatly, our existing restaurant management systems, financial and management controls and information systems may be inadequate to support our planned expansion. Managing any such growth effectively will require us to continue to enhance these systems, procedures and controls and to hire, train and retain managers and team members. We may not respond quickly enough to the changing demands that our expansion will impose on our management, restaurant teams and existing infrastructure, which could harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Negative publicity relating to one of our restaurants, including one of our franchise-operated restaurants, could reduce sales at some or all of our other restaurants.
Our success is dependent in part upon our ability to maintain and enhance the value of our brand, consumers’ connection to our brand and positive relationships with our franchisees. We may, from time to time, be faced with negative publicity relating to food quality, public health concerns, restaurant facilities, customer complaints or litigation alleging illness or injury, health inspection scores, integrity of our or our suppliers’ food processing, employee relationships or other matters, regardless of whether the allegations are valid or whether we are held to be responsible. The negative impact of adverse publicity relating to one restaurant may extend far beyond the restaurant or franchise involved to affect some or all of our other restaurants. The risk of negative publicity is particularly great with respect to our franchise-operated restaurants because we are limited in the manner in which we can regulate them, especially on a real-time basis. The considerable expansion in the use of social media over recent years can further amplify any negative publicity that could be generated by such incidents.
Additionally, employee claims against us based on, among other things, wage and hour violations, discrimination, harassment or wrongful termination may also create negative publicity that could adversely affect us and divert our financial and

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management resources that would otherwise be used to benefit the future performance of our operations. A significant increase in the number of these claims or an increase in the number of successful claims would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. See Note 16, Commitments and Contingencies, in the notes to the consolidated financial statements. Consumer demand for our products and our brand’s value could diminish significantly if any such incidents or other matters create negative publicity or otherwise erode consumer confidence in us or our products, which would likely result in lower sales and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our inability or failure to recognize, respond to and effectively manage the accelerated impact of social media could have a material adverse impact on our business.
There has been been a widespread and dramatic increase in the use of social media platforms that allow users to access a broad audience of consumers and other interested persons.  The availability of information on social media can be virtually immediate, as can its impact, and users of many social media platforms can post information without filters or checks on the accuracy of the content posted.  Adverse information concerning our restaurants or brand, whether accurate or inaccurate, may be posted on such platforms at any time and can quickly reach a wide audience.  The resulting harm to our reputation may be immediate, without affording us an opportunity to correct or otherwise respond to the information, and it is challenging to monitor and anticipate developments on social media in order to respond in an effective and timely manner.  As a result, social media may exacerbate the risks described above under “Negative publicity relating to one of our restaurants, including one of our franchise-operated restaurants, could reduce sales at some or all of our other restaurants.”
In addition, although search engine marketing, social media and other new technological platforms offer great opportunities to increase awareness of and engagement with our restaurants and brand, our failure to use social media effectively in our marketing efforts may further expose us to the risks associated with the accelerated impact of social media. Many of our competitors are expanding their use of social media and the social media landscape is rapidly evolving, potentially making more traditional social media platforms obsolete. As a result, we need to continuously innovate and develop our social media strategies in order to maintain broad appeal with guests and brand relevance, and we may not do so effectively.  A variety of additional risks associated with our use of social media include the possibility of improper disclosure of proprietary information, exposure of personally identifiable information of our employees or guests, fraud, or the publication of out-of-date information, any of which may result in material liabilities or reputational damage. Furthermore, any inappropriate use of social media platforms by our employees could also result in negative publicity that could damage our reputation, or lead to litigation that increases our costs.
Our expansion into new markets may present increased risks.
We may open restaurants in markets where we have little or no operating experience. Restaurants we open in any new markets may take longer to reach expected sales and profit levels on a consistent basis and may have higher construction, occupancy or operating costs than restaurants we open in existing markets, thereby affecting our overall profitability. New markets may have competitive conditions, consumer tastes and discretionary spending patterns that are more difficult to predict or satisfy than our existing markets. We may need to make greater investments than we originally planned in advertising and promotional activity in new markets to build brand awareness. We may find it more difficult in new markets to hire, motivate and keep qualified employees who share our vision, passion and culture. We may also incur higher costs from entering new markets if, for example, we assign regional managers to manage comparatively fewer restaurants than in more developed markets. As a result, these new restaurants may be less successful or may achieve AUVs at a slower rate. We may not be able to successfully develop critical market presence for our brand in new geographical markets, as we may be unable to find and secure attractive locations, build name recognition or attract new customers. Inability to fully implement or failure to successfully execute our plans to enter new markets could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Governmental regulation may adversely affect our ability to open new restaurants or otherwise adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are subject to various federal, state and local regulations, including those relating to building and zoning requirements and those relating to the preparation and sale of food. The development and operation of restaurants depends to a significant extent on the selection and acquisition of suitable sites, which are subject to zoning, land use, environmental, traffic and other regulations and requirements. Our restaurants are also subject to state and local licensing and regulation by health, sanitation, food and occupational safety and other agencies. We may experience material difficulties or failures in obtaining the necessary licenses, approvals or permits for our restaurants, which could delay planned restaurant openings or affect the operations at our existing restaurants. In addition, stringent and varied requirements of local regulators with respect to zoning, land use and environmental factors could delay or prevent development of new restaurants in particular locations.

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We are subject to the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) and similar state laws that give civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in the context of employment, public accommodations and other areas, including our restaurants. We may in the future have to modify restaurants by adding access ramps or redesigning certain architectural fixtures, for example, to provide service to or make reasonable accommodations for disabled persons. The expenses or capital outlays associated with these modifications could be material.
Our operations are also subject to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act, which governs worker health and safety, the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs such matters as minimum wages and overtime, and a variety of similar federal, state and local laws that govern these and other employment law matters. We and our franchisees may also be subject to lawsuits from employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or others alleging violations of federal and state laws regarding workplace and employment matters, discrimination and similar matters, and we have been a party to such matters in the past. In addition, federal, state and local proposals related to paid sick leave or similar matters could, if implemented, have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
There is a new food safety regulation of certain food establishments in the United States, where compliance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the "FDA") Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventative Controls for Human Foods ("HARPC") regulation is required.

HARPC refers to a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of potential hazards from production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product. Many states have required restaurants to develop and implement HARPC systems, and the United States government continues to expand the sectors of the food industry that must adopt and implement HARPC programs. For example, the Food Safety Modernization Act (the “FSMA”), signed into law in January 2011, granted the the FDA authority regarding the safety of the entire food system, including through increased inspections and mandatory food recalls. Although restaurants are specifically exempted from or not directly implicated by some of these relatively new requirements, we anticipate that the requirements may impact our industry. Additionally, our suppliers may initiate or otherwise be subject to food recalls that may impact the availability of certain products, result in adverse publicity or require us to take actions that could be costly for us or otherwise impact our business.
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 and local authorities could result in, among other things, revocation of required licenses, administrative enforcement actions, fines and civil and criminal liability. In addition, certain laws, including the ADA, could require us to expend significant funds to make modifications to our restaurants if we fail to comply with applicable standards. Compliance with the aforementioned laws and regulations can be costly and can increase our exposure to litigation or governmental investigations or proceedings, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Food safety and foodborne illness concerns could have an adverse effect on our business.
We have a vigorous food safety program in our restaurants designed to meet local and state regulations that we continue to update, optimize and strengthen. We have established in our nearly 55 year history, systems and standards with our suppliers and in our restaurants to ensure the safety of our food for our guests.
We cannot guarantee that our internal controls and training will be fully effective in preventing all food safety issues at our restaurants, including any occurrences of foodborne illnesses such as salmonella, Norovirus, E. coli and hepatitis A. In addition, there is no guarantee that our franchise restaurants will maintain the high levels of internal controls and training we require at company-operated restaurants. New illnesses resistant to our current precautions may develop in the future, or diseases with long incubation periods could arise, that could give rise to claims or allegations on a retroactive basis.
Furthermore, we bulk source for the system and we and our franchisees rely on our third-party suppliers, making it difficult to monitor food safety compliance and increasing the risk that foodborne illness could affect multiple locations rather than a single restaurant. We do our best to vet out our sources, however, given this, some foodborne illness could be caused by third-party suppliers and transporters outside of our control.
One or more instances of foodborne illness in any of our restaurants or markets or related to food products we sell could negatively affect our restaurant revenue nationwide if highly publicized on national media outlets or through social media. This

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risk exists even if it were later determined that the illness was wrongly attributed to us. A number of other restaurant chains have experienced incidents related to foodborne illnesses that have had a material adverse effect on their operations. The occurrence of a similar incident at one or more of our restaurants and negative publicity or public speculation about an incident, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We could be party to litigation that could distract management, increase our expenses or subject us to material monetary damages or other remedies.
Our customers from time to time file complaints or lawsuits against us alleging we caused an illness or injury they suffered at or after a visit to our restaurants, or that we have problems with food quality or operations. We also have been subject to a variety of other claims arising in the ordinary course of its business, including personal injury claims, contract claims and claims alleging violations of federal and state law regarding workplace and employment matters, equal opportunity, harassment, discrimination and similar matters, including administrative charges, single-plaintiff lawsuits, class actions, and other types of actions. We could become subject to class actions or other lawsuits related to any of these or from different types of matters in the future. Such claims may result in the payment of substantial damages by us. Regardless of whether any claims brought against us are valid, or whether we are ultimately held liable, claims may be expensive to defend and may divert time and resources away from our operations and hurt our performance. A judgment in excess of our insurance coverage for any claims could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. Any adverse publicity resulting from the claims, or even from threatened claims, may also materially and adversely affect our reputation, which in turn could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, the restaurant industry has been subject to a growing number of claims based on the nutritional content of food products sold and disclosure and advertising practices. We may also be subject to this type of proceeding in the future and, even if it is not, publicity about these matters (particularly directed at the fast casual or traditional quick service segments of the industry) may harm our reputation and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Compliance with environmental laws may negatively affect our business.
We are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations concerning waste disposal, pollution, protection of the environment, and the presence, discharge, storage, handling, release and disposal of, and exposure to, hazardous or toxic substances. These environmental laws provide for significant fines and penalties for noncompliance and liabilities for remediation, sometimes without regard to whether the owner or operator of the property knew of, or was responsible for, the release or presence of hazardous toxic substances. Third parties may also make claims against owners or operators of properties for personal injuries and property damage associated with releases of, or actual or alleged exposure to, such hazardous or toxic substances at, on or from our restaurants. We are aware of contamination from a release of hazardous materials by a previous owner or operator at two of our leased properties. We do not believe that we contributed to the contamination at these properties. The appropriate state agencies have been notified and these issues are being handled without disruption to our business. Environmental conditions relating to releases of hazardous substances at a prior, existing or future restaurant could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Further, environmental laws, and the administration, interpretation and enforcement thereof, are subject to change and may become more stringent in the future, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Changes in economic conditions and other unforeseen conditions, particularly in the markets in which we operate, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The restaurant industry depends on consumer discretionary spending. The United States in general or the specific markets in which we operate may suffer from depressed economic activity, recessionary economic cycles, higher fuel or energy costs, low consumer confidence, high levels of unemployment, reduced home values, increases in home foreclosures, investment losses, personal bankruptcies, reduced access to credit, increased interest rates, or other economic factors that may affect consumer discretionary spending. Average restaurant revenue could decline if consumers choose to dine out less frequently or reduce the amount they spend on meals while dining out. Negative economic conditions might cause consumers to make long-term changes to their discretionary spending behavior, including dining out less frequently on a permanent basis, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
For example, the recession from late 2007 to mid-2009 reduced consumer confidence to historic lows, impacting the public’s ability and desire to spend discretionary dollars as a result of job losses, home foreclosures, significantly reduced home values, investment losses, bankruptcies and reduced access to credit. If the economy experiences another significant decline, our business, results of operations and ability to comply with the terms of our credit agreement could be materially adversely

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affected and may result in a deceleration of the number and timing of new restaurant openings by us and our franchisees, as well as a potential deterioration in customer traffic or a reduction in average check size which would negatively impact our revenues and our profitability and could result in reductions in staff levels, additional impairment charges and potential restaurant closures.
Adverse weather and natural or man-made disasters in the markets in which we operate could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Adverse weather conditions in states in which we operate, or in the future may operate, could have a disproportionate impact on our overall results of operations. In particular, our business is significantly concentrated in Southern California, and as a result, we could be disproportionately affected by adverse weather specific to this market. Adverse weather conditions and prolonged or severe inclement weather may also impact customer traffic at our restaurants, and, in more severe cases, cause temporary restaurant closures, sometimes for prolonged periods. Most of our restaurants have outdoor seating, and the effects of adverse weather may impact the use of these areas and may negatively impact our revenue. In addition, natural or man-made disasters occurring in the markets in which we operate, such as terrorist attacks, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, fires or other natural or man-made disasters, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, as such events could result in restaurant closures for an extended duration and lower customer traffic at our restaurants. If restaurant revenue decreases, our profitability could decline as we spread fixed costs across a lower level of sales. Reductions in staff levels, asset impairment charges and potential restaurant closures could result from prolonged negative same store sales, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Terrorist attacks or an active shooter could have a material adverse effect on consumer spending.
The occurrence or threat of extraordinary events, including active shooter or future terrorist attacks and military and governmental responses and the protest of future wars, may result in negative changes to economic conditions likely resulting in decreased consumer spending. Additionally, decreases in consumer discretionary spending may impact the frequency with which our customers choose to dine out at restaurants or the amount they spend on meals while dining out at restaurants, thereby adversely affecting our sales and results of operations. A decrease in consumer discretionary spending may also adversely affect our ability to achieve the benefit of planned menu price increases to help preserve our operating margins.
Our business is geographically concentrated in Southern California, and we could be negatively affected by conditions specific to that region.
Our company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants in Southern California generated, in the aggregate, approximately 75% and 77% of our revenue for both the years ended January 1, 2019 and January 2, 2018, respectively. During the recent economic crisis and recession, our business was materially adversely affected by a decrease in revenues from these restaurants due to adverse economic conditions in Southern California, including increased unemployment, declining home prices and increased foreclosures. In addition, there is the potential for catastrophic events such as local strikes, increases in energy prices, fires, earthquakes, explosions or other natural or man-made disasters which could materially adversely affect our business. The incidence and severity of catastrophes are inherently unpredictable and our losses from catastrophes could be substantial. Adverse changes in demographic, unemployment, economic or regulatory conditions in Southern California or the State of California as a whole, including but not limited to enforcement policies for and changes in immigration law, have had and may continue to have material adverse effects on our business. As of December 2018, unemployment in California was 4.1% compared to the U.S. unemployment rate of 3.9%. We believe increases in unemployment will have a negative impact on traffic in our restaurants. As a result of our concentration in this market, we will be disproportionately affected by any adverse economic conditions in this market compared to other national chain restaurants.
The challenging restaurant environment may affect our franchisees, with adverse consequences to us.
We rely in part on our franchisees and the manner in which they operate their locations to develop and promote our business. Due to the continuing challenging restaurant environment it is possible that some franchisees could file for bankruptcy or become delinquent in their payments to us, which could have a material adverse effect on our business due to loss or delay in payments of royalties, information technology (“IT”) support service fees, contributions to our advertising funds, and other fees. Our top 12 franchisees accounted for approximately 60.2% and 56.7% of our total franchise revenue for the years ended January 1, 2019 and January 2, 2018, respectively, and the top 20 franchisees accounted for approximately 70.8% and 68.9% of total franchise revenue for the years ended January 1, 2019 and January 2, 2018, respectively. Bankruptcies by our franchisees could prevent us from terminating their franchise agreements so that we can offer their territories to other franchisees, thereby negatively impacting our market share and operating results as we may have fewer well-performing restaurants, and adversely impact our ability to attract new franchisees.

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Franchisees may not have access to the financial or management resources that they need to open the restaurants contemplated by their agreements with us, or be able to find suitable sites on which to develop them. Franchisees may not be able to negotiate acceptable lease or purchase terms for restaurant sites, obtain the necessary permits and government approvals or meet construction schedules. Any of these problems could slow our growth and limit our franchise revenue. Additionally, our franchisees typically depend on financing from banks and other financial institutions, which may not always be available to them under acceptable terms, in order to construct and open new restaurants. For these reasons, franchisees operating under development agreements may not be able to meet the new restaurant opening dates required under those agreements. Also, we sublease certain restaurants to certain existing franchisees. If any such franchisees cannot meet their financial obligations under their subleases, or otherwise fail to honor or default under the terms of their subleases, we would be financially obligated under a master lease and could be materially adversely affected.
Although we have developed criteria to evaluate and screen prospective developers and franchisees, it cannot be certain that the developers and franchisees we select will have the business acumen or financial resources necessary to open and operate successful franchises in their franchise areas, and state franchise laws may limit our ability to terminate or modify these franchise arrangements. Moreover, franchisees may not successfully operate restaurants in a manner consistent with our standards and requirements, or may not hire and train qualified managers and other restaurant personnel. The failure of developers and franchisees to open and operate franchises successfully could have a material adverse effect on us, our reputation, our brand and our ability to attract prospective franchisees and could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We have limited control with respect to the operations of our franchisees, which could have a negative impact on our business.
Franchisees are independent business operators and are not our employees and we do not exercise control over the day-to-day operations of their restaurants. We provide training and support to franchisees, and set and monitor operational standards, but the quality of franchise-operated restaurants may be diminished by any number of factors beyond our control. Consequently, franchisees may not successfully operate restaurants in a manner consistent with our standards and requirements, or may not hire, train and retain qualified managers and other restaurant personnel. If franchisees do not operate to our expectations, our image and reputation, and the image and reputation of other franchisees, may suffer materially and system-wide sales could decline significantly.
Franchisees, as independent business operators, may from time to time disagree with us and our strategies regarding the business or our interpretation of our respective rights and obligations under the franchise agreement. This may lead to disputes, including potential litigation, with our franchisees and we expect such disputes to occur from time to time in the future as we continue to offer franchises. To the extent we have such disputes or litigation, the attention, time and financial resources of our management and our franchisees will be diverted from our restaurants, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
New information or attitudes regarding diet and health could result in changes in regulations and consumer consumption habits, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Regulations and consumer eating habits may change as a result of new information or attitudes regarding diet and health. Such changes may include responses to scientific studies on the health effects of particular food items or federal, state and local regulations that impact the ingredients and nutritional content of the food and beverages we offer. The success of our restaurant operations is dependent, in part, upon our ability to effectively respond to changes in any consumer attitudes or health regulations and our ability to adapt our menu offerings to trends in food consumption, especially fast-moving trends. If consumer health regulations or consumer eating habits change significantly, we may choose or be required to modify or delete certain menu items, which may adversely affect the attractiveness of our restaurants to new or returning customers. While we generally find that changes in consumer eating habits occur gradually, providing us with sufficient time to adapt our restaurant concept accordingly, changes in consumer eating habits can occur rapidly, often in response to published research or study information, which puts additional pressure on us to adapt quickly. To the extent we are unwilling or unable to respond with appropriate changes to our menu offerings in an efficient manner, it could materially affect consumer demand and have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Government regulation and consumer eating habits may impact our business as a result of changes in attitudes regarding diet and health or new information regarding the adverse health effects of consuming certain menu offerings. These changes have resulted in, and may continue to result in, laws and regulations requiring us to disclose the nutritional content of our food offerings, and they have resulted, and may continue to result in, laws and regulations affecting permissible ingredients and menu offerings. Laws and regulations may also place limitations on the size of fountain beverages we may offer and the types

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of straws or packaging we may use which could adversely impact restaurant revenue or increase our operating costs. A number of counties, cities and states, including California, have enacted menu labeling laws requiring multi-unit restaurant operators to disclose to consumers certain nutritional information, or have enacted legislation restricting the use of certain types of ingredients in restaurants, which laws may be different or inconsistent with requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (the “PPACA”), which establishes a uniform, federal requirement for certain restaurants to post nutritional information on their menus. Specifically, the PPACA requires chain restaurants with 20 or more locations operating under the same name and offering substantially the same menus to publish the total number of calories of standard menu items on menus and menu boards, along with a statement that puts this calorie information in the context of a total daily calorie intake.
We may not be able to effectively respond to changes in consumer health perceptions, comply with further nutrient content disclosure requirements or adapt our menu offerings to align with trends in eating habits, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Failure to maintain our corporate culture and changes in consumer recognition of our brand as we grow could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We believe that a critical component to our success has been our corporate culture. We have invested substantial time and resources in building our team. As we continue to grow, we may find it difficult to maintain the innovation, teamwork, passion and focus on execution that we believe are important aspects of our corporate culture. Any failure to preserve our culture could negatively affect our future success, including our ability to retain and recruit personnel and to effectively focus on and pursue our corporate objectives. If we cannot maintain our corporate culture as we grow, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, our future results depend on various factors, including local market acceptance of our restaurants and consumer recognition of the quality of our food and operations. Our failure to receive and sustain such local market acceptance and consumer recognition could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The effect of changes to healthcare laws in the United States, or the repeal of existing healthcare laws, may increase the number of employees who choose to participate in our healthcare plans, which may significantly increase our healthcare costs and negatively impact our financial results.
In 2010, the PPACA was signed into law in the United States to require health care coverage for many uninsured individuals and expand coverage to those already insured. The PPACA requires us to offer healthcare benefits to all full-time employees (including full-time hourly employees) that meet certain minimum requirements of coverage and affordability, or face penalties. We began to offer such benefits on January 1, 2015 to all eligible employees, and may incur substantial additional expense due to organizing and maintaining the plan which we anticipate will be more expensive on a per person basis and will extend to an increased number of employees who we anticipate may elect to obtain coverage through this healthcare plan which we subsidize in part. If we fail to offer such benefits, or the benefits we elect to offer do not meet the applicable requirements, we may incur penalties. It is also possible that by making changes or failing to make changes in the healthcare plans offered by us, we will become less competitive in the market for our labor. Finally, maintaining the requirements of the PPACA may impose additional administrative costs. The continued costs and other effects of these healthcare requirements cannot be determined with certainty, but they may significantly increase our healthcare coverage costs and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

It is possible that legislation will be passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law that repeals the PPACA, in whole or in part, and/or introduces a new form of health care reform. It is unclear at this point what the scope of such legislation would be and when it would become effective. Because of the uncertainty surrounding possible replacement health care reform legislation, we cannot predict with any certainty the likely impact of the PPACA's potential repeal or the adoption of any other health care reform legislation on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Whether or not there is alternative health care legislation enacted in the United States, there is likely to be significant disruption to the health care market in the coming months and years and the costs of our health care expenditures may increase.
We depend on our senior management team and other key employees, and the loss of one or more key personnel or an inability to attract, hire, integrate and retain highly skilled personnel could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our success depends largely upon the continued services of our key executives. We also rely on our leadership team in setting our strategic direction, operating our business, identifying, recruiting and training key personnel, identifying expansion

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opportunities, arranging necessary financing and leading general and administrative functions. From time to time, there may be changes in our executive management team resulting from the hiring or departure of executives, which could disrupt our business. The loss of one or more of our executive officers or other key employees could have a serious adverse effect on our business. The replacement of one or more of our executive officers or other key employees would involve significant time and expense and may significantly delay or prevent the achievement of our business objectives.
To continue to execute our growth strategy, we also must identify, hire and retain highly skilled personnel. We might not be successful in maintaining our corporate culture and continuing to attract and retain qualified personnel. Failure to identify, hire and retain necessary key personnel could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we or our franchisees face labor shortages, unionization activities, labor disputes or increased labor costs, it could negatively impact our growth and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Labor is a primary component in the cost of operating our company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants. If we face labor shortages or increased labor costs because of lower levels of unemployment, increased competition for employees, higher employee turnover rates, increases in the federal, state or local minimum wage or other employee benefits costs (including costs associated with paid sick leave, health insurance coverage and workers compensation), our operating expenses could increase and our growth could be negatively impacted. In addition, our success depends in part upon our ability to attract, motivate and retain a sufficient number of well-qualified restaurant operators and management personnel, as well as a sufficient number of other qualified employees, including customer service and kitchen staff, to keep pace with our expansion schedule. In addition, restaurants have traditionally experienced relatively high employee turnover rates. Our inability to recruit or retain qualified employees, due to competition or lack of qualified applicants, may delay planned openings of new restaurants, result in higher labor costs or result in higher employee turnover in existing restaurants, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Although none of our employees are currently covered under collective bargaining agreements, if a significant number of our employees were to become unionized and collective bargaining agreement terms were significantly different from our current compensation arrangements, it could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, a labor dispute involving some or all of our employees may harm our reputation, disrupt our operations and reduce our revenue, and resolution of disputes may increase our costs.
Changes in employment laws may adversely affect our business.
Various federal, state and local labor laws govern the relationship with our employees and impact operating costs. These laws include employee classification as exempt or non-exempt for overtime and other purposes, minimum wage requirements, paid sick leave requirements, unemployment tax rates, workers’ compensation rates, immigration status and other wage and benefit requirements. Significant additional federal, state or local government-imposed increases in the following areas could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations:
minimum wages;
mandatory health benefits;
vacation accruals;
paid leaves of absence, including paid sick leave; and
tax reporting.
In addition, various states in which we operate are considering or have already adopted new immigration laws or enforcement programs, and the U.S. Congress and Department of Homeland Security from time to time considers and may implement changes to federal immigration laws, regulations or enforcement programs as well. Some of these changes may increase our obligations for compliance and oversight, which could subject us to additional costs and make our hiring process more cumbersome, or reduce the availability of potential employees. Although we require all workers to provide us with government-specified documentation evidencing their employment eligibility, some of our employees may, without our knowledge, be unauthorized workers. We currently participate in the “E-Verify” program, an Internet-based, free program run by the United States government to verify employment eligibility in all locations. However, use of the “E-Verify” program does not guarantee that we will properly identify all applicants who are ineligible for employment. Unauthorized workers are subject to deportation and may subject us to fines or penalties, and if any of our workers are found to be unauthorized we could experience adverse publicity that negatively impacts our brand and may make it more difficult to hire and keep qualified

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employees. Termination of a significant number of employees who were unauthorized employees may disrupt our operations, cause temporary increases in our labor costs as we train new employees and result in additional adverse publicity. We could also become subject to fines, penalties and other costs related to claims that we did not fully comply with all recordkeeping obligations of federal and state immigration compliance laws. These factors could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our insurance programs, including high deductible insurance programs, may expose us to significant and unexpected costs and losses.
Given the nature of our operating environment, we are subject to workers’ compensation and general liability claims. To mitigate a portion of these risks, we maintain insurance for individual claims in excess of deductibles per claim. We currently record a liability for our estimated cost of claims incurred and unpaid as of each balance sheet date. Our estimated liability is recorded on an undiscounted basis and includes a number of significant assumptions and factors, including historical trends, expected costs per claim, actuarial assumptions and current economic conditions. Our history of claims activity for all lines of coverage is closely monitored and liabilities are adjusted as warranted based on changing circumstances. It is possible, however, that our actual liabilities may exceed our estimates of loss. We may also experience an unexpectedly large number of claims that result in costs or liabilities in excess of our projections and therefore we may be required to record additional expenses. For these and other reasons, our high-deductible insurance reserves could prove to be inadequate, resulting in liabilities in excess of our available insurance and self-insurance. If a successful claim is made against us and is not covered by our insurance or exceeds our policy limits, our business may be negatively and materially impacted.
We might require additional capital to support business growth, and this capital might not be available.
We intend to continue to make investments to support our business growth and might require additional funds to respond to business challenges or opportunities, including the need to open additional restaurants, develop new products and menu items or enhance our products and menu items, and enhance our operating infrastructure. Accordingly, we might need to engage in equity or debt financings to secure additional funds. If we raise additional funds through issuance of equity securities, our existing stockholders could suffer significant dilution, and any new equity securities we issue could have rights, preferences and privileges superior to those of holders of our common stock. Any debt financing secured by us in the future could involve restrictive covenants relating to our capital-raising activities and other financial and operational matters, which might make it more difficult for us to obtain additional capital and to pursue business opportunities, including potential acquisitions. Moreover, if we issue new debt securities, the debt holders would have rights senior to common stockholders to make claims on our assets. In addition, we might not be able to obtain additional financing on terms favorable to us, if at all. If we are unable to obtain adequate financing or financing on terms satisfactory to us when we require, our ability to continue to support our business growth and to respond to business challenges could be significantly limited.
The failure to comply with our debt covenants or the volatile credit and capital markets could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition.
Our ability to manage our debt is dependent on our level of positive cash flow from company-operated and franchise-operated restaurants, net of costs. The recent economic downturn negatively impacted our cash flows. Credit and capital markets can be volatile, which could make it more difficult for us to refinance existing debt or to obtain additional debt financings in the future. Such constraints could increase our costs of borrowing and could restrict our access to other potential sources of future liquidity. Our failure to comply with the debt covenants in our credit agreement or to have sufficient liquidity to make interest and other payments required by our debt could result in a default of such debt and acceleration of our borrowings which would have a material adverse effect on business and financial condition.
We have significant debt and if we are unable to repay our debt when it becomes due or comply with our obligations in the underlying credit agreement, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially harmed.
At January 1, 2019, we had total debt obligations of $180.3 million (excluding any debt discount and deferred financing costs, and including capital lease obligations and deemed landlord financing liabilities), and $73.7 million available for borrowings under our revolving credit facility. Our level of indebtedness could have significant effects on our business, such as:
limiting our ability to borrow additional amounts to fund working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions, debt service requirements, execution of our growth strategy and other purposes;
requiring us to dedicate a portion of our cash flow from operations to pay interest on our debt, which would reduce availability of our cash flow to fund working capital, capital expenditures, potential acquisitions, execution of our growth strategy and other general corporate purposes;

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making us more vulnerable to adverse changes in general economic, industry and competitive conditions, in government regulation and in our business by limiting our ability to plan for and react to changing conditions;
placing us at a competitive disadvantage compared with our competitors that have less debt; and
exposing us to risks inherent in interest rate fluctuations and the risk of increased interest rates because our borrowings are at variable rates of interest, which could result in higher interest expense in the event of increases in interest rates.
We may not be able to generate sufficient cash flow from our operations to repay our indebtedness when it becomes due and to meet our other cash needs. If we are not able to pay our debts as they become due, we will be required to pursue one or more alternative strategies, such as selling assets, refinancing or restructuring our indebtedness or selling additional debt or equity securities. We may not be able to refinance our debt or sell additional debt or equity securities or sell our assets on favorable terms, if at all, and if we must sell our assets, we may negatively affect our ability to generate revenue.
Our credit agreement contains restrictive covenants that, among others, limit our ability to (i) pay dividends and make distributions and repurchase stock; (ii) engage in transactions with affiliates; (iii) create liens; (iv) incur indebtedness not under the credit agreement; (iv) engage in sale-leaseback transactions; (v) make investments; and (vi) sell or dispose of all or substantially all of our assets and engage in specified mergers or consolidations. In addition, our credit agreement contains certain financial covenants, including the maintenance of a consolidated total lease adjusted leverage ratio and a consolidated fixed charge coverage ratio. Our ability to borrow under our revolving credit agreement depends on our compliance with these financial covenants. Events beyond our control, including changes in general economic and business conditions, may affect our ability to meet these financial covenants. We cannot assure you that we will meet these financial covenants in the future, or that the lenders will waive any failure to meet these financial covenants.
We are subject to all of the risks associated with leasing space subject to long-term non-cancelable leases.
As of January 1, 2019, we only own real property underlying five company-operated restaurants and one franchise-operated restaurant. Payments under our operating leases account for a significant portion of our operating expenses and we expect that substantially all of the new restaurants we open in the future will also be leased. We are obligated under non-cancelable leases for our restaurants and our corporate headquarters. Our restaurant leases generally have an initial term of 15 to 20 years with two or four renewal options of five years each. Our restaurant leases generally require us to pay a proportionate share of real estate taxes, insurance, common area maintenance charges and other operating costs. Additional sites that we lease are likely to be subject to similar long-term non-cancelable leases. If an existing or future restaurant is not profitable, and we decide to close it, we may nonetheless be committed to perform our obligations under the applicable lease including, among other things, paying the base rent and real estate taxes for the balance of the lease term. In addition, as each of our leases expire, we may fail to negotiate renewals, either on commercially acceptable terms or at all, which could cause us to pay increased occupancy costs or to close restaurants in desirable locations. These potential increased occupancy costs and closed restaurants could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may incur costs resulting from breaches of security of confidential consumer information related to our electronic processing of credit and debit card transactions.
A significant amount of our restaurant sales are by credit or debit cards. Other restaurants and retailers have experienced security breaches in which credit and debit card information has been stolen. We may in the future become subject to claims for purportedly fraudulent transactions arising out of the actual or alleged theft of credit or debit card information, and we may also be subject to lawsuits or other proceedings relating to these types of incidents. In addition, most states have enacted legislation requiring notification of security breaches involving personal information, including credit and debit card information. Any such claim or proceeding could cause us to incur significant unplanned expenses, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Further, adverse publicity resulting from these allegations may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

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We rely heavily on information technology, and any material failure, weakness, interruption or breach of security could prevent us from effectively operating our business.
We rely heavily on information systems, including point-of-sale processing in our restaurants, for management of our supply chain, inventory, payment of obligations, collection of cash, credit and debit card transactions, training, human capital management, financial tools and other business processes and procedures. Our ability to efficiently and effectively manage our business functions depends significantly on the reliability and capacity of these systems. Our operations depend upon our ability to protect our computer equipment and systems against damage from physical theft, fire, power loss and outages, telecommunications failure or other catastrophic events, as well as from internal and external security breaches, viruses and other disruptive problems. The failure of these systems to operate effectively, whether from maintenance problems, upgrading or transitioning to new platforms, or a breach in security of these systems, could result in interruptions or delays in our restaurant or other operations, adversely impacting the restaurant experience for our guests and reduce efficiency or negatively impacting our operations. If our information technology systems fail and our redundant systems or disaster recovery plans are not adequate to address such failures, or if our business interruption insurance does not sufficiently compensate us for any losses that we may incur, our revenues and profits could be reduced and the reputation of our brand and our business could be materially adversely affected. In addition, remediation of any problems with our systems could result in significant, unplanned expenses. We have instituted controls, including information system governance controls that are intended to protect our computer systems, our point of sale ("POS") systems, and our information technology systems and networks; and adhere to payment card industry data security standards and limit third party access for vendors that require access to our restaurant networks. We also have business continuity plans that attempt to anticipate and mitigate failures. However, we cannot control or prevent every potential technology failure, adverse environmental event, third-party service interruption or cybersecurity risk.
We collect and maintain personal information about our employees and our guests and are seeking to provide our guests with new digital experiences. These digital experiences may require us to open up access into our Point of Sale systems to allow for capabilities like mobile order and pay and third party delivery. The collection and use of personal information is regulated at the federal and state levels; such regulations include the California Consumer Privacy Act that is due to take effect January 1, 2020 and which will require our instituting new processes and protections. We increasingly rely on cloud computing and other technologies that result in third parties holding significant amounts of customer or employee information on our behalf. There has been an increase over the past several years in the frequency and sophistication of attempts to compromise the security of these types of systems. If the security and information systems that we or our outsourced third-party providers use to store or process such information are compromised or if we, or such third parties, otherwise fail to comply with applicable laws and regulations, we could face litigation and the imposition of penalties that could adversely affect our financial performance. Our reputation as a brand or as an employer could also be adversely affected by these types of security breaches or regulatory violations, which could impair our ability to attract and retain qualified employees.
Our current insurance may not provide adequate levels of coverage against claims.
Our current insurance policies may not be adequate to protect us from liabilities that we incur in our business. Additionally, in the future, our insurance premiums may increase, and we may not be able to obtain similar levels of insurance on reasonable terms, or at all. Any substantial inadequacy of, or inability to obtain, insurance coverage could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
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, financial condition and results of operations. We may not be able to maintain adequate directors' and officers' insurance. Failure to maintain adequate directors’ and officers’ insurance would likely adversely affect our ability to attract and retain qualified officers and directors.
Failure to obtain and maintain required licenses and permits or to comply with food control regulations could lead to the loss of our 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. Such regulations are subject to change from time to time. The failure to obtain and maintain these licenses, permits and approvals could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations. Typically, licenses must be renewed annually and may be revoked, suspended or denied renewal for cause at any time if governmental authorities determine that our conduct violates applicable regulations. Difficulties or failure to maintain or obtain the required licenses and approvals could adversely affect our existing restaurants and delay or result in our decision to cancel the opening of new restaurants, which would have a material adverse effect on our business.

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Restaurant companies have been the target of class action lawsuits and other proceedings alleging, among other things, violations of federal and state workplace and employment laws. Proceedings of this nature are costly, divert management attention and, if successful, could result in our payment of substantial damages or settlement costs.
Our business is subject to the risk of litigation by employees, consumers, suppliers, franchisees, stockholders or others through private actions, class actions, administrative proceedings, regulatory actions or other litigation. The outcome of litigation, particularly class action and regulatory actions, is difficult to assess or quantify. In recent years, restaurant companies, including ours, have been subject to lawsuits, including class action lawsuits, alleging violations of federal and state laws regarding workplace and employment conditions, discrimination and similar matters. A number of these lawsuits have resulted in the payment of substantial damages by the defendants. Similar lawsuits have been instituted from time to time alleging violations of various federal and state wage and hour laws regarding, among other things, employee meal breaks, rest periods, overtime eligibility of managers and failure to pay for all hours worked. We have been a party to wage and hour and overtime eligibility of managers class action lawsuits in the past, and we presently face one wage and hour and one overtime eligibility of managers putative class action lawsuits in California state court and one unlawful employment practice class action lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").
In addition, from time to time, our customers file complaints or lawsuits against us alleging that we are responsible for some illness or injury they suffered at or after a visit to one of our restaurants, including actions seeking damages resulting from alleged food-borne illness or accidents in our restaurants. We also have been subject to claims from a former franchisee. We are also subject to a variety of other claims from third parties arising in the ordinary course of our business, including contract claims. The restaurant industry has also been subject to a growing number of claims that the menus and actions of restaurant chains have led to the obesity of certain of their customers. We may also be subject to lawsuits from our employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or others alleging violations of federal and state laws regarding workplace and employment conditions, discrimination and similar matters.
Regardless of whether any claims against us are valid or whether we are liable, claims may be expensive to defend and may divert time and money away from our operations. In addition, they may generate negative publicity, which could reduce customer traffic and sales. 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.
We could face liability from or as a result of our franchisees.
Various state and federal laws govern our relationship with our franchisees and our potential sale of a franchise. If we fail to comply with these laws, we could be liable for damages to franchisees and fines or other penalties. A franchisee or government agency may bring legal action against us based on the franchisee/franchisor relationship. Also, under the franchise business model, we may face claims and liabilities based on vicarious liability, joint-employer liability, or other theories or liabilities. All such legal actions not only could result in changes to laws, making it more difficult to appropriately support our franchisees and, consequently, impacting our performance, but, also, such legal actions could result in expensive litigation with our franchisees or government agencies that could adversely affect both our profits and our important relations with our franchisees. In addition, other regulatory or legal developments may result in changes to laws or the franchisor/franchisee relationship that could negatively impact the franchise business model and, accordingly, our profits.
Changes to accounting rules or regulations may adversely affect the reporting of our results of operations.
Changes to existing accounting rules, including the new lease standard issued in February 2016, or regulations may impact the reporting of our future results of operations or cause the perception that we are more highly leveraged. Other new accounting rules or regulations and varying interpretations of existing accounting rules or regulations have occurred and may occur in the future. For instance, the new lease standard will require lessees to capitalize operating leases in their financial statements in fiscal 2019. Such change will require us to record significant lease obligations on our balance sheet and make other changes to our financial statements. This and other future changes to accounting rules or regulations could have a material adverse effect on the reporting of our business, financial condition and results of operations.

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Estimates are used in our analysis of property, fixtures and equipment or operating results at certain restaurant locations that may cause us to incur impairment charges on certain long-lived assets, which may adversely affect our results of operations.
In accordance with accounting guidance as it relates to the impairment of long-lived assets, we make certain estimates and projections with regard to individual restaurant operations, as well as our overall performance, in connection with our impairment analyses for long-lived assets. When impairment triggers are deemed to exist for any location, the estimated undiscounted future cash flows are compared to our carrying value. If the carrying value exceeds the undiscounted cash flows, an impairment charge equal to the difference between the carrying value and the fair value is recorded. The projections of future cash flows used in these analyses require the use of judgment and a number of estimates and projections of future operating results. If actual results differ from our estimates, additional charges for asset impairments may be required in the future. If future impairment charges are significant, this could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
Warrants are exercisable for our common stock, which would increase the number of shares eligible for future resale in the public market and result in dilution to our stockholders.
As of January 1, 2019, outstanding warrants to purchase an aggregate of 5,952,423 shares of our common stock are exercisable in accordance with the terms of the warrant agreement governing those securities. The exercise price of these warrants is $11.50 per share, or approximately $68.5 million in the aggregate for all shares underlying these warrants, assuming none of the warrants are exercised through “cashless” exercise. To the extent such warrants are exercised, additional shares of our common stock will be issued, which will result in dilution to the holders of our common stock and increase the number of shares eligible for resale in the public market. Sales of substantial numbers of such shares in the public market or the fact that such warrants may be exercised could adversely affect the market price of our common stock.
Unanticipated changes in effective tax rates or adverse outcomes resulting from examination of our income or other tax returns could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
We will be subject to income taxes in the United States, and our domestic tax liabilities will be subject to the allocation of expenses in differing jurisdictions. Our future effective tax rates could be subject to volatility or adversely affected by a number of factors, including:
changes in the valuation of our deferred tax assets and liabilities;
expected timing and amount of the release of any tax valuation allowances;
tax effects of stock-based compensation;
costs related to intercompany restructurings;
recently enacted significant tax reform or future changes in tax laws, regulations or interpretations thereof;
lower than anticipated future earnings in jurisdictions where we have lower statutory tax rates and higher than anticipated future earnings in jurisdictions where we have higher statutory tax rates; or
changes in the excess of the amount for financial reporting over the tax basis of an investment in a domestic subsidiary.
In addition, we may be subject to audits of our income, sales and other transaction taxes by U.S. federal and state authorities. Outcomes from these audits could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Our stock price has been and may continue to be highly volatile, and, as a result, you may not be able to resell your shares at or above the price you paid for them.
In recent years the stock market in general has been highly volatile. As a result, the market price and trading volume of our common stock is likely to be similarly volatile, and investors in our common stock may experience a decrease, which could be substantial, in the value of their stock, including decreases unrelated to our results of operations or prospects, and could lose part or all of their investment. The price of our common stock has been and could in the future be subject to wide fluctuations in response to a number of factors, including those described elsewhere in this proxy statement and others such as:
variations in our operating performance and the performance of our competitors or restaurant companies in general;
actual or anticipated fluctuations in our quarterly or annual operating results;
publication of research reports by securities analysts about us or our competitors or our industry;

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the public’s reaction to our press releases, our other public announcements and our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”);
our failure or the failure of our competitors to meet analysts’ projections or guidance that we or our competitors may give to the market;
additions and departures of key personnel;
strategic decisions by us or our competitors, such as acquisitions, divestitures, spin-offs, joint ventures, strategic investments or changes in business strategy;
the passage of legislation or other regulatory developments affecting us or our industry;
speculation in the press or investment community;
changes in accounting principles;
terrorist acts, acts of war or periods of widespread civil unrest;
alleged or actual occurrences of food-borne illnesses;
alleged or actual occurrences of security breaches in which credit and debit card information has been stolen;
natural disasters and other calamities; and
changes in general market and economic conditions.
In the past, securities class action litigation has often been initiated against companies following periods of volatility in their stock price. This type of litigation could result in substantial costs and divert our management’s attention and resources, and could also require us to make substantial payments to satisfy judgments or to settle litigation.
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly and could fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors due to seasonality and other factors, some of which are beyond our control, resulting in a decline in our stock price.
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly because of several factors, including:
the timing of new restaurant openings and related expense;
restaurant operating costs for our newly-opened restaurants;
labor availability and costs for hourly and management personnel;
profitability of our restaurants, especially in new markets;
changes in interest rates;
increases and decreases in AUVs and same store sales growth;
impairment of long-lived assets and any loss on restaurant closures;
macroeconomic conditions, both nationally and locally;
negative publicity relating to products we serve;
changes in consumer preferences and competitive conditions;
expansion to new markets;
increases in infrastructure costs; and
fluctuations in commodity prices.
Seasonal factors, weather patterns and the timing of holidays cause our revenue to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Our revenue per restaurant is typically slightly lower in the first quarter. Adverse weather conditions may also affect customer traffic. In addition, we have outdoor seating at most of our restaurants, and the effects of adverse weather may impact the use of these areas and may negatively impact our revenue.
The future issuance of additional common stock in connection with our incentive plan will dilute your stockholdings.
There are 3,300,000 shares of common stock reserved and authorized for issuance under our incentive plans. As of January 1, 2019, we had an aggregate of 900,976 shares of common stock available for grant for incentive plan issuance. We may issue all of these shares of common stock without any action or approval by our stockholders, subject to certain exceptions. Any common stock issued in connection with our incentive plan, the exercise of outstanding stock options, or otherwise would dilute the percentage ownership held by all other stockholders.

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If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business, or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research or reports about our business, our stock price and trading volume could decline.
The trading market for our common stock will, to some extent, depend on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us and our business. We do not have any control over these analysts. If one or more of the analysts who cover us downgrade our common stock or change their opinion on our common stock, our stock price would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts cease to cover us or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which could cause our stock price or trading volume to decline.
Because we have not paid or declared any cash dividends on our common stock, you may not receive any return on investment unless you sell your common stock for a price greater than that which you paid for it.
We may retain future earnings, if any, for future operations, expansion and debt repayment and have not historically paid any cash dividends. Any decision to declare and pay dividends as a public company in the future will be made at the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on, among other things, our results of operations, financial condition, cash requirements, contractual restrictions and other factors that our board of directors may deem relevant. In addition, our ability to pay dividends may be limited by covenants of any existing and future outstanding indebtedness we or our subsidiaries incur, including our senior secured credit facility. As a result, you may not receive any return on an investment in our common stock unless you sell our common stock for a price greater than that which you paid for it.
Any failure to establish, maintain and apply adequate internal control over our financial reporting may adversely affect our reported results of operations.
We are subject to the ongoing internal control provisions of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the related rules adopted by the SEC and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. These provisions provide for the identification of material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting, which is a process to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting for external purposes in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting is not intended to provide absolute assurance that a misstatement of our financial statements would be prevented or detected. Should we identify a material weakness in internal controls, there can be no assurance that we will be able to remediate the material weaknesses identified in a timely manner or maintain all of the controls necessary to remain in compliance. Any failure to maintain an effective system of internal controls over financial reporting may limit our ability to report our financial results accurately and timely or to detect and prevent fraud. Any such failure may subject us to adverse regulatory consequences, including sanctions by the SEC or violations of applicable stock exchange listing rules, or cause a breach of certain covenants under our financing arrangements. There also may be a negative reaction in the financial markets due to a loss of investor confidence in us and the reliability of our financial statements. Confidence in the reliability of our financial statements also may suffer if we or our independent registered public accounting firm were to report a material weakness in our internal controls over financial reporting. This may materially adversely affect us and lead to a decline in the price of our common stock.
Anti-takeover provisions contained in our certificate of incorporation and bylaws, as well as provisions of Delaware law, could impair a takeover attempt.
Our certificate of incorporation and bylaws contain provisions that could have the effect of delaying or preventing changes in control or changes in our management without the consent of our board of directors. These provisions include:
a classified board of directors with three-year staggered terms, which may delay the ability of stockholders to change the membership of a majority of our board of directors;
no cumulative voting in the election of directors, which limits the ability of minority stockholders to elect director candidates;
the exclusive right of our board of directors to elect a director to fill a vacancy created by the expansion of the board of directors or the resignation, death, or removal of a director, which prevents stockholders from being able to fill vacancies on our board of directors;
the ability of our board of directors to determine whether to issue shares of preferred stock and to determine the price and other terms of those shares, including preferences and voting rights, without stockholder approval, which could be used to significantly dilute the ownership of a hostile acquirer;
a prohibition on stockholder action by written consent, which forces stockholder action to be taken at a special meeting of our stockholders;

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the requirement that an annual meeting of stockholders may be called only by the chairman of the board of directors, the chief executive officer, or the board of directors, which may delay the ability of our stockholders to force consideration of a proposal or to take action, including the removal of directors;
limiting the liability of, and providing indemnification to, our directors and officers;
controlling the procedures for the conduct and scheduling of stockholder meetings;
providing that directors may be removed prior to the expiration of their terms by stockholders only for cause; and
advance notice procedures that stockholders must comply with in order to nominate candidates to our board of directors or to propose matters to be acted upon at a stockholders’ meeting, which may discourage or deter a potential acquirer from conducting a solicitation of proxies to elect the acquirer’s own slate of directors or otherwise attempting to obtain control of our board of directors.
These provisions, alone or together, could delay hostile takeovers and changes in control of the Company or changes in our management.
As a Delaware corporation, we are also subject to provisions of Delaware law, including Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law ("DGCL"), which prevents some stockholders holding more than 15% of our outstanding common stock from engaging in certain business combinations without approval of the holders of substantially all of our outstanding common stock. Any provision of our certificate of incorporation or bylaws or Delaware law that has the effect of delaying or deterring a change in control could limit the opportunity for our stockholders to receive a premium for their shares of our common stock, and could also affect the price that some investors are willing to pay for our common stock.



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ITEM 1B.    Unresolved Staff Comments
None.

ITEM 2.    Properties

Our restaurants are primarily free-standing or, to a much lesser extent, end-cap facilities. Ninety-nine percent of our restaurants feature a drive-thru. As of January 1, 2019, for all but five of the company-operated restaurants, we lease the land on which our company-operated restaurants are built. Our restaurant leases generally have initial terms of 15 to 20 years, with two or four renewal options of five years each. Most restaurant leases provide for a specified annual rent, although some call for additional or contingent rent. Generally, leases are “net leases” that require the restaurant to pay a pro rata share of property taxes, insurance and common area maintenance costs. As of January 1, 2019, we own six properties and currently operate restaurants on five of these properties and a franchisee operates a restaurant on one of these properties. In addition, we lease 317 properties for company-operated restaurants. As of January 1, 2019, our restaurant system consisted of 580 restaurants comprised of 322 company-operated restaurants and 258 franchise-operated restaurants located in 14 states throughout the United States, and one franchise located in Guam.

We lease our executive offices, consisting of approximately 40,000 square feet in Lake Forest, California, for a term expiring in 2026, with one option to extend the lease term for an additional five years. We believe our current office space is suitable and adequate for its intended purposes and provides opportunity for expansion. The following chart shows the number of restaurants in each of the states in which we operated as of January 1, 2019.

State
 
Company-Operated
 
Franchise-Operated
 
Total
California
 
255

 
121

 
376

Nevada
 
46

 
1

 
47

Arizona
 
3

 
34

 
37

Utah
 

 
34

 
34

Colorado
 

 
23

 
23

Georgia
 
11

 
4

 
15

New Mexico
 

 
10

 
10

Oregon
 

 
8

 
8

Idaho
 

 
8

 
8

Michigan
 

 
8

 
8

Oklahoma
 
7

 

 
7

Washington
 

 
3

 
3

Florida
 

 
2

 
2

South Carolina
 

 
1

 
1

Guam
 

 
1

 
1

Total
 
322

 
258

 
580



ITEM 3.    Legal Proceedings

We are currently involved in various claims and legal actions that arise in the ordinary course of business. Although the results of litigation and claims can never be predicted with certainty, we do not believe that the ultimate resolution of these actions will have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, or financial condition. Regardless of the outcome, litigation can have an adverse impact on us because of defense and settlement costs, diversion of management resources and other factors.
In March 2014, a former Del Taco employee filed a purported class action complaint alleging that Del Taco has not appropriately provided meal breaks and failed to pay wages to its California hourly employees. Discovery is in process and Del Taco intends to assert all of its defenses to this threatened class action and the individual claims. Del Taco has several defenses to the action that it believes could prevent the certification of the class, as well as the potential assessment of any damages on a class basis. Legal proceedings are inherently unpredictable, and the Company is not able to predict the ultimate outcome or cost

33


of the unresolved matter. However, based on management’s current understanding of the relevant facts and circumstances, the Company does not believe that these proceedings give rise to a probable and estimable loss and should not have a material adverse effect on the Company’s financial position, operations or cash flows. Therefore, Del Taco has not recorded any amount for the claim as of January 1, 2019.
In September 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed a complaint on behalf of an individual complainant and an additional class of individuals alleging that Del Taco engaged in unlawful employment practices on the basis of sex and retaliation in violation of Title VII and are seeking an unspecified amount of damages. Del Taco has several defenses to the action that it believes could prevent a finding of liability in the case. Legal proceedings are inherently unpredictable, and Del Taco is not able to predict the ultimate outcome or cost of the unresolved matter. However, based on management’s current understanding of the relevant facts and circumstances, Del Taco does not believe that these proceedings give rise to a probable and estimable loss and should not have a material adverse effect on Del Taco’s financial position, operations or cash flows. Therefore, Del Taco has not recorded any amount for the claim as of January 1, 2019.
The Company and its subsidiaries are parties to other legal proceedings incidental to their businesses, including claims alleging the Company’s restaurants do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. In the opinion of management, based upon information currently available, the ultimate liability with respect to those other actions will not have a material effect on the operating results, cash flows or the financial position of the Company. However, due to the risks and uncertainties inherent in legal proceedings and litigation, actual results could differ from expectations.

ITEM 4.    Mine Safety Disclosures
Not applicable.


34


PART II
ITEM 5.
Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases
Our common stock and warrants are currently quoted on NASDAQ under the symbols "TACO" and "TACOW," respectively. Through April 28, 2015, our common stock, warrants and units were quoted under the symbols "LEVY," "LEVYW" and "LEVYU," respectively. Upon consummation of the Business Combination, we separated our units, which were sold in our IPO, into their component securities of one share of common stock and one-half of one warrant, and the units ceased public trading.
The following table sets forth the high and low sales prices for shares of our common stock and warrants for the quarterly periods indicated:
 
 
Common Stock
 
Warrants
 
 
High
 
Low
 
High
 
Low
Fiscal 2018:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
First Quarter
 
$
13.77

 
$
10.29

 
$
3.99

 
$
1.92

Second Quarter
 
$
13.25

 
$
10.00

 
$
3.60

 
$
2.10

Third Quarter
 
$
14.83

 
$
12.40

 
$
4.21

 
$
2.78

Fourth Quarter
 
$
12.60

 
$
9.46

 
$
2.72

 
$
0.98

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fiscal 2017:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
First Quarter
 
$
14.93

 
$
11.66

 
$
5.05

 
$
2.88

Second Quarter
 
$
14.14

 
$
11.58

 
$
4.25

 
$
3.25

Third Quarter
 
$
14.35

 
$
12.08

 
$
4.32

 
$
3.00

Fourth Quarter
 
$
15.99

 
$
11.60

 
$
5.60

 
$
2.64


Holders
As of March 11, 2019, there were 16 holders of record of our common stock and 2 holders of record of our warrants. A number of our stockholders and warrant holders held their shares and warrants in street name and some shares and warrants are held of record by banks, brokers and other financial institutions; therefore, we believe there are substantially more beneficial owners of our common stock and warrants.
 
Dividends
We have not declared or paid dividends on our common stock since we became a public company. Our board of directors re-evaluates this policy periodically. Any determination to pay cash dividends will be at the discretion of the board of directors and will be dependent upon our results of operations, financial condition, capital requirements, terms of our financing arrangements, and such other factors as the board of directors deems relevant. In addition, the amount of dividends we may pay is subject to the restricted payment provisions of our senior secured credit facility. See the Liquidity and Capital Resources section under Part II-Item 7. "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" for further information on the restricted payment provisions of our senior secured credit facility. Further, if we incur any additional indebtedness, our ability to declare dividends may be limited by restrictive covenants that we may agree to in connection therewith.

Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
There were no sales of unregistered equity securities during the fourth quarter of Fiscal 2018.
On March 7, 2016, we announced that our Board of Directors authorized a share repurchase program under which we may purchase up to $25.0 million in the aggregate of our common stock and warrants, which expires upon completion of the repurchase program, unless terminated earlier by the Board of Directors. On August 23, 2016, we announced the Board of Directors increased the repurchase program by $25.0 million, to $50.0 million. The Board of Directors authorized an additional increase for the repurchase program effective July 23, 2018 of another $25.0 million, to a total of $75.0 million. Purchases

35


under the program may be made in open market or privately negotiated transactions. During the fifty-two weeks ended January 1, 2019, we repurchased 1,408,071 shares of common stock in open market transactions under the share repurchase program for an average price per share of $11.48 for an aggregate cost of approximately $16.2 million including incremental direct costs to acquire the shares. During the fifty-two weeks ended January 1, 2019, we repurchased 47,511 warrants in open market transactions and privately negotiated transactions under the share repurchase program for an average price per share of $2.55 for an aggregate cost of approximately $0.1 million including incremental direct costs to acquire the warrants. As of January 1, 2019, there was approximately $29.6 million remaining under the share repurchase program. The amount and timing of additional purchases (if any) will depend upon a number of factors, including the price and availability of our common stock and warrants and general market conditions.
The following table summarizes shares and warrants repurchased during the fourth fiscal quarter ended January 1, 2019. The average price paid per share and warrant in column (b) below does not include the cost of brokerage fees or the incremental direct costs to acquire the shares.
 
 
(a)
 
(b)
 
(c)
 
(d)
 
 
Total number of shares/warrants purchased
 
Average price paid per
share
 
Average price paid per warrant
 
Total number of shares purchased
as part of publicly announced programs
 
Total number of warrants purchased as part of publicly announced programs
 
Maximum dollar value that may yet be purchased under these programs
 
 
Common Stock
 
Warrants
 
 
 
 
 
September 11, 2018 - October 9, 2018
 
306,392

 
3,848

 
$
11.73

 
$
2.35

 
306,392

 
3,848

 
$
34,539,586

October 10, 2018 - November 6, 2018
 
75,784

 
6,906

 
$
10.64

 
$
1.94

 
75,784

 
6,906

 
$
33,719,847

November 7, 2018 - December 4, 2018
 
271,604

 
7,989

 
$
10.87

 
$
1.90

 
271,604

 
7,989

 
$
30,752,332

December 5, 2018 - January 1, 2019
 
111,429

 
1,853

 
$
9.88

 
$
1.17

 
111,429

 
1,853

 
$
29,649,245

Total
 
765,209

 
20,596

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


36


Comparative Share Performance Graph
The following graph shows a comparison of cumulative total shareholder return, calculated on a dividend reinvested basis, for (1) the Company’s common stock, (2) the NASDAQ Composite, and (3) the S&P 600 Restaurants Index, for the period January 8, 2014 (the first day our common stock was traded following our initial public offering) through January 1, 2019. The graph assumes the value of the investment in our common stock and each index was $100.00 on January 8, 2014 and that all dividends were reinvested. We have not paid any cash dividends and, therefore, the cumulative total return calculation for us is based solely upon stock price appreciation and not upon reinvestment of cash dividends. Note that historic stock price performance is not necessarily indicative of future stock price performance.
a2018grapha01.jpg
*$100 invested on January 8, 2014 in stock or index, including reinvestment of dividends
 
 
January 8, 2014
 
December 30, 2014
 
December 29, 2015
 
January 3, 2017
 
January 2, 2018
 
January 1, 2019
Del Taco Restaurants, Inc.
 
$
100.00

 
$
103.29

 
$
113.59

 
$
152.02

 
$
128.56

 
$
106.05

NASDAQ Composite
 
$
100.00

 
$
114.69

 
$
122.62

 
$
130.33

 
$
168.21

 
$
159.29

S&P 600 Restaurants Index
 
$
100.00

 
$
128.13

 
$
123.10

 
$
141.91

 
$
150.16

 
$
163.87



37


ITEM 6.    Selected Financial Data

 
 
Successor (1)
 
 
Predecessor (1)
 
 
52 Weeks
Ended (2)
 
52 Weeks
Ended (2)
 
53 Weeks
Ended (2)
 
26 Weeks Ended
 
 
26 Weeks Ended
 
52 Weeks Ended (2)
(Amounts in thousands)
 
January 1,
2019
 
January 2,
2018
 
January 3, 2017
 
December 29, 2015
 
 
June 30, 2015
 
December 30, 2014
Statement of Operations Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Company restaurant sales
 
$
471,193

 
$
452,148

 
$
434,064

 
$
206,939

 
 
$
200,676

 
$
380,800

Franchise revenue
 
17,569

 
16,464

 
15,676

 
7,328

 
 
6,693

 
12,973

Franchise advertising contributions
 
13,300

 

 

 

 
 

 

Franchise sublease and other income
 
3,428

 
2,844

 
2,343

 
1,183

 
 
1,183

 
2,251

Total revenue
 
505,490

 
471,456

 
452,083

 
215,450

 
 
208,552

 
396,024

Operating expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant operating expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Food and paper costs
 
128,873

 
125,391

 
120,116

 
59,263

 
 
57,447

 
110,708

Labor and related expenses
 
151,954

 
145,012

 
135,725

 
61,448

 
 
61,120

 
116,920

Occupancy and other operating expenses
 
97,745

 
92,825

 
88,908

 
43,191

 
 
43,611

 
82,021

General and administrative
 
43,773

 
38,154

 
37,220

 
17,501

 
 
14,850

 
28,136

Franchise advertising expenses
 
13,300

 

 

 

 
 

 

Depreciation and amortization
 
25,794

 
23,362

 
23,129

 
11,276

 
 
8,252

 
18,752

Occupancy and other - franchise subleases and other
 
3,167

 
2,608

 
2,207

 
1,140

 
 
1,109

 
2,145

Pre-opening costs
 
1,584

 
1,591

 
731

 
366

 
 
276

 
462

Impairment of long-lived assets
 
3,861

 

 

 

 
 

 
9,617

Restaurant closure charges, net
 
394

 
191

 
435

 
2,015

 
 
94

 
82

Loss (gain) on disposal of assets, net
 
1,012

 
1,075

 
312

 
3

 
 
99

 
(151
)
Total operating expenses
 
471,457

 
430,209

 
408,783

 
196,203

 
 
186,858

 
368,692

Income from operations
 
34,033

 
41,247

 
43,300

 
19,247

 
 
21,694

 
27,332

Other expense (income), net:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Interest expense
 
9,075

 
7,200

 
6,327

 
3,652

 
 
11,491

 
30,895

Other income
 
(660
)
 

 

 
(220
)
 
 

 

Transaction-related costs
 

 

 
731

 
12,972

 
 
7,255

 
1,936

Debt modification costs
 

 

 

 
78

 
 
139

 
1,241

Change in fair value of warrant liability
 

 

 

 

 
 
(35
)
 
1,417

Total other expense, net
 
8,415

 
7,200

 
7,058

 
16,482

 
 
18,850

 
35,489

Income (loss) from operations before provision (benefit) for income taxes
 
25,618

 
34,047

 
36,242

 
2,765

 
 
2,844

 
(8,157
)
Provision (benefit) for income taxes
 
6,659

 
(15,824
)
 
15,329

 
112

 
 
740

 
1,098

Net income (loss)
 
$
18,959

 
$
49,871

 
$
20,913

 
$
2,653

 
 
$
2,104

 
$
(9,255
)


38


 
 
Successor (1)
 
 
Predecessor (1)
 
 
52 Weeks
Ended (2)
 
52 Weeks
Ended (2)
 
53 Weeks
Ended (2)
 
26 Weeks Ended
 
 
26 Weeks Ended
 
52 Weeks Ended (2)
(Amounts in thousands)
 
January 1,
2019
 
January 2,
2018
 
January 3, 2017
 
December 29, 2015
 
 
June 30,
 2015
 
December 30, 2014
Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net cash provided by operating activities
 
$
61,832

 
$
57,788

 
$
57,546

 
$
17,085

 
 
$
10,083

 
$
45,476

Net cash (used in) provided by investing activities
 
(50,024
)
 
(40,689
)
 
(47,654
)
 
42,566

 
 
(15,284
)
 
(18,068
)
Net cash (used in) provided by financing activities
 
(11,214
)
 
(19,335
)
 
(11,291
)
 
(49,457
)
 
 
1,820

 
(24,926
)

 
 
Successor (1)
 
 
Predecessor (1)
 
(Amounts in thousands)
 
January 1,
2019
 
January 2,
2018
 
January 3,
2017
 
December 29,
 2015
 
 
December 30,
 2014
 
Balance Sheet Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cash and cash equivalents
 
$
7,153

 
$
6,559

 
$
8,795

 
$
10,194

 
 
$
8,553

 
Property and equipment, net (3)
 
161,429

 
156,124

 
138,320

 
114,030

 
 
85,164

 
Total assets
 
758,956

 
742,324

 
727,157

 
703,572

 
 
549,319

(4) 
Total debt, net (5)
 
179,697

 
172,054

 
175,331

 
169,693

 
 
322,683

(4) 
Total shareholders' equity
 
422,274

 
416,249

 
377,333

 
368,377

 
 
81,404

 

 
 
Successor (1)
 
 
Predecessor (1)
 
 
52 Weeks
Ended (2)
 
52 Weeks
Ended
(2)
 
53 Weeks
Ended (2)
 
26 Weeks Ended
 
 
26 Weeks Ended
 
52 Weeks
Ended
(2)
(Amounts in thousands)
 
January 1,
2019
 
January 2,
2018
 
January 3, 2017
 
December 29, 2015
 
 
June 30,
 2015
 
December 30, 2014
Other Operating Data (unaudited):
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant Contribution (6)
 
$
92,621

 
$
88,920

 
$
89,315

 
$
43,037

 
 
$
38,498

 
$
71,151

As a % of Company Restaurant Sales
 
19.7
%
 
19.7
%
 
20.6
%
 
20.8
%
 
 
19.2
%
 
18.7
%
EBITDA (7)
 
60,487

 
64,609

 
65,698

 
17,693

 
 
22,584

 
41,346

As a % of Total Revenue
 
12.0
%
 
13.7
%
 
14.5
%
 
8.2
%
 
 
10.8
%
 
10.4
%
Adjusted EBITDA (7)
 
71,990

 
71,533

 
71,396

 
34,041

 
 
30,947

 
58,848

As a % of Total Revenue
 
14.2
%
 
15.2
%
 
15.8
%
 
15.8
%
 
 
14.8
%
 
14.9
%
_________________________________________________________


(1)
As a result of the Business Combination, we are the acquirer for accounting purposes, and DTH is the acquiree and accounting predecessor. Our financial statement presentation distinguishes a "Predecessor" for DTH for periods prior to the Closing Date. We were subsequently re-named as Del Taco Restaurants, Inc. and are the "Successor" for periods after the Closing Date, which includes consolidation of DTH subsequent to the Business Combination on June 30, 2015.
(2)
We use a 52- or 53-week fiscal year ending on the Tuesday closest to December 31. Fiscal year 2018, fiscal year 2017, fiscal year 2016, fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2014 ended on January 1, 2019, January 2, 2018, January 3, 2017, December 29, 2015, and December 30, 2014, respectively. In a 52-week fiscal year, the first, second and third quarters each include 12 weeks of operations and the fourth quarter includes 16 weeks of operations; in a 53-week fiscal year, the first, second and third quarters each include 12 weeks of operations and the fourth quarter includes 17 weeks of operations. Approximately every six or seven years a 53-week fiscal year occurs. Fiscal year 2016 was a 53-week fiscal year. Fiscal year 2018, fiscal year 2017, fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2014 were 52-week fiscal years.
(3)
Property and equipment, net consists of land, buildings, restaurant and other equipment, leasehold improvements, buildings under capital leases, restaurant property leased to others and construction-in-progress, net of accumulated depreciation.

39


(4)
Deferred financing costs of $0.7 million at December 30, 2014 were reclassed from other assets to debt to conform to current year presentation.
(5)
Total debt, net as of January 1, 2019, January 2, 2018, January 3, 2017 and December 29, 2015, consists of borrowings under our revolving credit facility, as well as capital lease obligations and deemed landlord financing liabilities. Total debt as of December 30, 2014 consists of borrowings under DTH's senior credit facility and subordinated notes, as well as capital lease obligations and deemed landlord financing liabilities. The December 30, 2014 outstanding balance of the subordinated notes of $111.2 million was paid in full on March 20, 2015. We refinanced our senior credit facility in August 2015.
(6)
Restaurant contribution is neither required by, nor presented in accordance with, United States generally accepted accounting principles ("U.S. GAAP"), and is defined as company restaurants sales less restaurant operating expenses. Restaurant contribution is a supplemental measure of operating performance of our restaurants and the calculation thereof may not be comparable to that reported by other companies.

Restaurant contribution has limitations as an analytical tool, and you should not consider it in isolation or as a substitute for analysis of our results as reported under U.S. GAAP. Management believes that restaurant contribution is an important tool for investors because it is a widely-used metric within the restaurant industry to evaluate restaurant-level productivity, efficiency and performance. Management uses restaurant contribution as a key metric to evaluate the profitability of incremental sales at our restaurants, to evaluate restaurant performance across periods and to evaluate restaurant financial performance compared with competitors. See the Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included elsewhere in this annual report on Form 10-K for a discussion of restaurant contribution and other key performance indicators.
A reconciliation of company restaurant sales to restaurant contribution is provided below:
 
 
Successor
 
 
Predecessor
 
 
52 Weeks
Ended
 
52 Weeks
Ended
 
53 Weeks
Ended
 
26 Weeks Ended
 
 
26 Weeks Ended
 
52 Weeks Ended
(Amounts in thousands)
 
January 1,
2019
 
January 2,
2018
 
January 3,
2017
 
December 29,
2015
 
 
June 30,
2015
 
December 30,
2014
Company restaurant sales
 
$
471,193

 
$
452,148

 
$
434,064

 
$
206,939

 
 
$
200,676

 
$
380,800

Restaurant operating expenses
 
378,572

 
363,228

 
344,749

 
18,479

 
 
162,178

 
309,649

Restaurant contribution
 
$
92,621

 
$
88,920

 
$
89,315

 
$
43,037

 
 
$
38,498

 
$
71,151

Restaurant contribution margin
 
19.7
%
 
19.7
%
 
20.6
%
 
20.8
%
 
 
19.2
%
 
18.7
%

(7)
EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are neither required by, nor presented in accordance with GAAP, and are included in this annual report because they are key metrics used by management and our board of directors to assess financial performance. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are frequently used by analysts, lenders and other interested parties to evaluate companies in our industry.
EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are not U.S. GAAP measures of financial performance or liquidity and should not be considered as alternatives to net income (loss) as a measure of financial performance or cash flows from operations as measures of liquidity, or any other performance measure derived in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Adjusted EBITDA should not be construed as an inference that future results will be unaffected by unusual or non-recurring items. Additionally, EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are not intended to be measures of free cash flow for management’s discretionary use, as they do not reflect tax payments, debt service requirements, capital expenditures, company restaurant openings and certain other cash costs that may recur in the future, including, among other things, cash requirements for working capital needs and cash costs to replace assets being depreciated and amortized. Management compensates for these limitations by relying on U.S. GAAP results in addition to using EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA supplementally. Our measures of EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are not necessarily comparable to similarly titled captions of other companies due to different methods of calculation.








40


A reconciliation of net income (loss) to EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA is set forth below:
 
 
Successor
 
 
 
 
Predecessor
 
 
52 Weeks
Ended
 
52 Weeks
Ended
 
53 Weeks
Ended
 
26 Weeks Ended
 
 
26 Weeks Ended
 
52 Weeks Ended
(Amounts in thousands)
 
January 1,
2019
 
January 2,
2018
 
January 3, 2017
 
December 29, 2015
 
 
June 30,
 2015
 
December 30, 2014
Net income (loss)
 
$
18,959

 
$
49,871

 
$
20,913

 
$
2,653

 
 
$
2,104

 
$
(9,255
)
Non-GAAP adjustments:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Provision (benefit) for income taxes
 
6,659

 
(15,824
)
 
15,329

 
112

 
 
740

 
1,098

Interest expense
 
9,075

 
7,200

 
6,327

 
3,652

 
 
11,491

 
30,895

Depreciation and amortization
 
25,794

 
23,362

 
23,129

 
11,276

 
 
8,249

 
18,608

EBITDA
 
60,487

 
64,609

 
65,698

 
17,693

 
 
22,584

 
41,346

Stock-based compensation expense (a)
 
6,079

 
4,876

 
4,096

 
1,498

 
 
532

 
954

Loss (gain) on disposal of assets, net (b)
 
1,012

 
1,075

 
312

 
3

 
 
99

 
(151
)
Impairment of long-lived assets (c)
 
3,861

 

 

 

 
 

 
9,617

Restaurant closure charges, net (d)
 
394

 
191

 
435

 
2,015

 
 
94

 
82

Amortization of favorable and unfavorable lease assets and liabilities, net (e)
 
(767
)
 
(809
)
 
(607
)
 
(364
)
 
 
3

 
144

Debt modification costs (f)
 

 

 

 
78

 
 
139

 
1,241

Transaction-related costs (g)
 

 

 
731

 
12,972

 
 
7,255

 
1,936

Change in fair value of warrant
liability (h)
 

 

 

 

 
 
(35
)
 
1,417

Pre-opening costs (i)
 
1,584

 
1,591

 
731

 
366

 
 
276

 
462

Insurance reserves adjustment (j)
 

 

 

 

 
 

 
1,800

Other income (k)
 
(660
)
 

 

 
(220
)
 
 

 

Adjusted EBITDA
 
$
71,990

 
$
71,533

 
$
71,396

 
$
34,041

 
 
$
30,947

 
$
58,848

(a)
Includes non-cash, stock-based compensation.
(b)
Loss (gain) on disposal of assets, net includes the loss or gain on disposal of assets related to sales-leaseback transactions, sales, retirements and replacement or write-off of leasehold improvements, furniture, fixtures or equipment in the ordinary course of business, net of amortization of deferred gains on assets sales associated with sale-leaseback transactions, gains or losses recorded associated with the sale of company-operated restaurants to franchisees and gains from disposal of assets related to eminent domain.
(c)
Includes costs related to impairment of long-lived assets.
(d)
Includes costs related to future obligations associated with the closure or net sublease shortfall of a restaurant and lease termination costs, partially offset by sublease income from leases which are treated as deemed landlord financing.
(e)
Includes amortization of favorable lease assets and unfavorable lease liabilities.
(f)
Includes costs associated with debt refinancing transactions in April 2014, March 2015 and August 2015.
(g)
Includes costs related to the offer to exchange the Company's common stock for each outstanding warrant in August 2016, the strategic sale process which commenced during 2014 and resulted in the March 2015 Stock Purchase Agreement LAC and Levy Merger Sub and the June 2015 Business Combination consummated pursuant to the Merger Agreement, as well as costs related to the secondary offering of common stock completed in October 2015.
(h)
Relates to fair value adjustments to the warrants to purchase shares of common stock of DTH that had been issued to certain of DTH’s equity shareholders, all of which were exchanged for shares of common stock of DTH on March 20, 2015.
(i)
Pre-opening costs consist of costs directly associated with the opening of new restaurants and incurred prior to opening, including restaurant labor, supplies, occupancy costs including cash and non-cash rent expense and other related pre-opening costs. These are generally incurred over the three to five months prior to opening.
(j)
Includes a $1.8 million increase in fiscal 2014 in workers’ compensation expense due to higher payments and reserves related to underlying claims activity.
(k)
Other income in fiscal 2018 consists of a gain related to the write-off of unfavorable lease liabilities related to franchise subleases which were terminated in connection with the Company's acquisition of the related franchise-operated restaurants and insurance proceeds related to a fire at a company-operated restaurant, and in fiscal 2015 includes a gain based on the amount of the liquidating distribution received in excess of our investment in four public partnerships.

41


ITEM 7.
Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

The following discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and related notes thereto included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. In addition to historical information, this discussion and analysis contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties such as the number of restaurants we intend to open, possible stock and warrant repurchases and estimates of our effective tax rates that could cause actual results to differ materially from Del Taco management’s expectations. Factors that could cause such differences are discussed in “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” and Item 1A. Risk Factors included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. We assume no obligation to update any of these forward-looking statements as a result of new information, future events or any other reason.

Fiscal Year
We operate on a 52- or 53-week fiscal year ending on the Tuesday closest to December 31 for financial reporting purposes. Fiscal year 2018 is the 52-week period ended January 1, 2019 ("Fiscal 2018"). Fiscal year 2017 is the 52-week period ended January 2, 2018 ("Fiscal 2017"). Fiscal year 2016 is the 53-week period ended January 3, 2017 ("Fiscal 2016").
Overview
We are a nationwide operator and franchisor of restaurants featuring fresh and fast cuisine, including both Mexican inspired and American classic dishes. As of January 1, 2019, we have 580 Del Taco restaurants, a majority of these in the Pacific Southwest. In each of our restaurants, our food is made to order in working kitchens. We serve our customers fresh and high-quality food typical of fast casual restaurants but with the speed, convenience and value associated with traditional quick service restaurants (“QSRs”). With attributes of both a fast casual restaurant and a QSR — a combination we call QSR+ — we occupy a place in the restaurant market distinct from our competitors. With a menu designed to appeal to a wide variety of budgets and tastes and recently updated interior and exterior designs across most of our entire system, we believe that we are poised for growth, operating within the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry, the limited service restaurant (“LSR”) segment. With an average system check of $7.72 during Fiscal 2018, we offer a compelling value proposition relative to both QSR and fast casual peers.
Highlights and Trends
Same Store Sales
Same store sales growth reflects the change in year-over-year sales for the same store base. We include a restaurant in the same store base in the accounting period following its 18th full month of operations and exclude restaurant closures. Same store sales growth for the 53rd week in the fifty-three weeks ended January 3, 2017 was calculated by comparing it to the “like week” in the prior year. The following table shows the same store sales growth for the fifty-two weeks ended January 1, 2019, the fifty-two weeks ended January 2, 2018 and the fifty-three weeks ended January 3, 2017, respectively:
 
 
52 Weeks Ended
 
52 Weeks Ended
 
53 Weeks Ended
 
 
January 1, 2019
 
January 2, 2018
 
January 3, 2017
Company-operated same store sales
 
1.5
%
 
4.0
%
 
4.7
%
Franchise-operated same store sales
 
3.8
%
 
4.6
%
 
4.9
%
System-wide same store sales
 
2.5
%
 
4.3
%
 
4.8
%

The increase in company-operated same store sales in the fifty-two weeks ended January 1, 2019 was driven by an increase in average check size of 3.6% offset by a decrease in traffic of 2.1% compared to the fifty-two weeks ended January 2, 2018. The increase in company-operated same store sales in the fifty-two weeks ended January 2, 2018 was driven by an increase in average check size of 3.8% and an increase in traffic of 0.2% compared to the fifty-three weeks ended January 3, 2017. The increase in company-operated same store sales in the fifty-three weeks ended January 3, 2017 was driven by an increase in average check size of 4.5% and an increase in traffic of 0.2% compared to the fifty-two weeks ended December 29, 2015.

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Restaurant Development
Del Taco restaurant counts at the end of the fifty-two weeks ended January 1, 2019, the fifty-two weeks ended January 2, 2018 and the fifty-three weeks ended January 3, 2017 are as follows:
 
 
 
52 Weeks Ended
 
52 Weeks Ended
 
53 Weeks Ended
 
 
January 1, 2019
 
January 2, 2018
 
January 3, 2017
Company-operated restaurant activity:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Beginning of period
 
312

 
310

 
297

Openings
 
13

 
12

 
8

Closures
 
(6
)
 
(6
)
 
(1
)
Purchased from franchisee
 
3

 
1

 
6

Sold to franchisee
 

 
(5
)
 

Restaurants at end of period
 
322

 
312

 
310

Franchise-operated restaurant activity:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Beginning of period
 
252

 
241

 
247

Openings
 
12

 
8

 
5

Closures
 
(3
)
 
(1
)
 
(5
)
Restaurants sold to Company
 
(3
)
 
(1
)
 
(6
)
Restaurants purchased from Company
 

 
5

 

Restaurants at end of period
 
258

 
252

 
241

Total restaurant activity:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Beginning of period
 
564

 
551

 
544

Openings
 
25

 
20

 
13

Closures
 
(9
)
 
(7
)
 
(6
)
Restaurants at end of period
 
580

 
564

 
551


Since 2012, we have focused on repositioning our brand, increasing brand awareness, re-imaging our restaurants, strengthening operational capabilities and refinancing indebtedness to build a foundation for future organic and new unit growth. New restaurant development is expected to contribute to our growth strategy. We plan to open at least 25 system-wide restaurants in Fiscal 2019. From time to time, we and our franchisees may close restaurants.
Restaurant Re-Imaging
We and our franchisees commenced the Ambience Shake Up (ASU) re-imaging program in 2012 and, as of the date of this Form 10-K, substantially all of our system restaurants feature our current image through a re-image or new prototype design, including all 322 restaurants that are company-operated. The ASU re-imaging program involved a use of cash and impacted net property and depreciation line items on the consolidated balance sheets and statements of comprehensive income (loss), among others. The cost of the ASU restaurant re-images varied depending on the scope of work required, but on average the company-operated investment was $45,000 per restaurant. We believe the ASU re-imaging program was an important element of our strategy that has led to higher system restaurant sales and a strengthened brand.

Key Performance Indicators
In assessing the performance of our business, management utilizes a variety of financial and performance measures. These key measures include company restaurant sales, same store sales, company-operated average unit volumes, restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin, number of new restaurant openings, EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA.
Company Restaurant Sales
Company restaurant sales consists of sales of food and beverages in company-operated restaurants net of promotional allowances, employee meals and other discounts. Company restaurant sales in any period are directly influenced by the number of operating weeks in such period, the number of open restaurants, same store sales and per restaurant sales.

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Seasonal factors and the timing of holidays cause revenue to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Revenue per restaurant is typically lower in the first quarter due to reduced January traffic. As a result of seasonality, quarterly and annual results of operations and key performance indicators such as company restaurant sales and same store sales may fluctuate.
Same Store Sales
We regularly monitor company, franchise and total system same store sales. Same store sales growth reflects the change in year-over-year sales for the comparable company, franchise and total system restaurant base. We include a restaurant in the same store base in the accounting period following its 18th full month of operations and exclude restaurant closures. As of January 1, 2019, January 2, 2018, and January 3, 2017, there were 296, 293 and 298 restaurants, respectively, in the comparable company-operated restaurant base. As of January 1, 2019, January 2, 2018, and January 3, 2017, there were 244, 239 and 230 restaurants, respectively, in the comparable franchise-operated restaurant base. This measure highlights the performance of existing restaurants as the impact of new restaurant openings is excluded. Same store sales growth can be generated by an increase in the number of transactions and/or by increases in the average check resulting from a shift in menu mix and/or higher prices resulting from new products, promotions or menu price increases.
Company-Operated Average Unit Volumes
We measure company-operated average unit volumes ("AUVs") on both a weekly and an annual basis. Weekly AUVs are calculated by dividing the sales from comparable company-operated restaurants over a seven day period from Wednesday to Tuesday by the number of comparable restaurants. Annual AUVs are calculated by dividing sales for the trailing 52-week period for all company-operated restaurants that are in the comparable base by the total number of restaurants in the comparable base for such period. This measurement allows management to assess changes in consumer traffic and spending patterns at our company-operated restaurants and the overall performance of the restaurant base.
Restaurant Contribution and Restaurant Contribution Margin
Restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are neither required by, nor presented in accordance with U.S GAAP. Restaurant contribution is defined as company restaurant sales less restaurant operating expenses, which are food and paper costs, labor and related expenses and occupancy and other operating expenses. Restaurant contribution margin is defined as restaurant contribution as a percentage of company restaurant sales. Restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are supplemental measures of operating performance of restaurants and the calculations thereof may not be comparable to those reported by other companies. Restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin have limitations as analytical tools, and you should not consider them in isolation or as substitutes for analysis of results as reported under U.S. GAAP. Management believes that restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are important tools for investors because they are widely-used metrics within the restaurant industry to evaluate restaurant-level productivity, efficiency and performance. Management uses restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin as key performance indicators to evaluate the profitability of incremental sales at Del Taco restaurants, to evaluate restaurant performance across periods and to evaluate restaurant financial performance compared with competitors. See the heading entitled "Management's Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures" for the reconciliation of restaurant contribution to company restaurant sales.
Number of New Restaurant Openings
The number of restaurant openings reflects the number of new restaurants opened by us and our franchisees during a particular reporting period. Before a new restaurant opens, we and our franchisees incur pre-opening costs, as described below. Some new restaurants open with an initial start-up period of higher than normal sales volumes, which subsequently decrease to stabilized levels. Typically new restaurants experience normal inefficiencies in the form of higher food and paper, labor and other direct operating expenses and, as a result, restaurant contribution margins are generally lower during the start-up period of operation. Typically, the average start-up period after which new company restaurant sales and restaurant operating expenses normalize is approximately 26 to 52 weeks. In new markets, the length of time before average company restaurant sales and restaurant operating expenses for new restaurants stabilize is less predictable and can be longer as a result of limited knowledge of these markets and consumers’ limited awareness of our brand. When we enter new markets, we may be exposed to start-up times that are longer and restaurant contribution margins that are lower than typical historical experience, and these new restaurants may not be profitable and their sales performance may not follow historical patterns.
EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA
EBITDA represents net income (loss) before interest expense, provision (benefit) for income taxes, depreciation and amortization. Adjusted EBITDA represents net income (loss) before interest expense, provision (benefit) for income taxes,

44


depreciation, amortization and items that we do not consider representative of ongoing operating performance, as identified in the reconciliation table below.
EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA as presented in this annual report are supplemental measures of performance that are neither required by, nor presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are not measurements of financial performance under U.S. GAAP and should not be considered as alternatives to net income (loss), income from operations or any other performance measures derived in accordance with U.S. GAAP or as alternatives to cash flow from operating activities as a measure of liquidity. In addition, in evaluating EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA, you should be aware that in the future we may incur expenses or charges such as those added back to calculate EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA. Our presentation of EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA should not be construed as an inference that future results will be unaffected by unusual or nonrecurring items.
EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA have limitations as analytical tools, and you should not consider them in isolation, or as substitutes for analysis of results as reported under U.S. GAAP. Some of these limitations include but are not limited to:
 
(i)
they do not reflect cash expenditures, or future requirements for capital expenditures or contractual commitments;
(ii)
they do not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, working capital needs;
(iii)
they do not reflect the significant interest expense, or the cash requirements necessary to service interest or principal payments, on debt;
(iv)
although depreciation and amortization are non-cash charges, the assets being depreciated and amortized will often have to be replaced in the future, and EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA do not reflect any cash requirements for such replacements;
(v)
they do not adjust for all non-cash income or expense items that are reflected in the statements of cash flows;
(vi)
they do not reflect the impact of earnings or charges resulting from matters we consider not to be indicative of ongoing operations; and
(vii)
other companies in the industry may calculate these measures differently than we do, limiting their usefulness as comparative measures.
We compensate for these limitations by providing specific information regarding the U.S. GAAP amounts excluded from such non-GAAP financial measures. We further compensate for the limitations in the use of non-GAAP financial measures by presenting comparable U.S. GAAP measures more prominently.
We believe EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA facilitate operating performance comparisons from period to period by isolating the effects of some items that vary from period to period without any correlation to core operating performance or that vary widely among similar companies. These potential differences may be caused by variations in capital structures (affecting interest expense), tax positions (such as the impact on periods or changes in effective tax rates or net operating losses) and the age and book depreciation of facilities and equipment (affecting relative depreciation expense). We also present EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA because (i) we believe these measures are frequently used by securities analysts, investors and other interested parties to evaluate companies in their industry, (ii) we believe investors will find these measures useful in assessing our ability to service or incur indebtedness, and (iii) we use EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA internally as benchmarks to compare performance to that of competitors. See the heading entitled "Management's Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures" for the reconciliation of EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA to net income (loss).
Key Financial Definitions
Company Restaurant Sales
Company restaurant sales represents sale of food and beverages in company-operated restaurants, net of promotional allowances, employee meals and other discounts. Company restaurant sales in any period is directly influenced by the number of operating weeks in such period, the number of open restaurants, same store sales performance and per restaurant sales.
Franchise Revenue
Franchise revenue consists of franchise royalty income from the franchisee and, to a lesser extent, renewal fees and franchise fees from franchise owners for new franchise restaurant openings. Franchise fees are collected upon signing a franchise agreement and deferred and recognized as revenue over the term of the franchise agreement and renewal fees are deferred and recognized over the term of the renewal agreement. To a lesser extent, franchise revenue also includes pass-through fees for services such as software maintenance and technology subscriptions since we are considered the principal related to the

45


purchase and sale of the services to the franchisee and have no remaining performance obligations. The related expenses are recognized in general and administrative expenses.
Franchise Advertising Contributions
Franchise advertising contributions consist of a percentage of franchise restaurant's net sales, typically 4%, paid to the Company for advertising and promotional services that the Company provides.
Franchise Sublease and Other Income
Franchise sublease income consists of rental income received from franchisees related to properties where we have subleased a leasehold interest to the franchisee but remain primarily liable to the landlord, as well as other franchise income related to information technology hardware such as point of sale equipment, tablets, kitchen display systems, servers, scanners and printers that we occasionally purchase from third party vendors and then sell to franchisees.  Since we are considered the principal related to the purchase and sale of the hardware to the franchisee and have no remaining performance obligations, the franchisee reimbursement is recognized as Franchise Sublease and Other Income upon transfer of the hardware. The related expenses are recognized in Occupancy and Other - Franchise Subleases and Other.
Food and Paper Costs
Food and paper costs include the direct costs associated with food, beverage and packaging of menu items. The components of food and paper costs are variable in nature, change with sales volume and are impacted by menu mix and are subject to increases or decreases based on fluctuations in commodity, distribution and transportation costs. Other important factors causing fluctuations in food and paper costs include seasonality, promotional activity and restaurant level management of food and paper waste. Food and paper are a significant expense and can be expected to grow proportionally as company restaurant sales grows.
Labor and Related Expenses
Labor and related expenses include all restaurant-level management and hourly labor costs, including wages, benefits, bonuses, workers’ compensation expense, group health insurance, paid leave and payroll taxes. Like other expense items, we expect labor and related expenses to grow proportionately as company restaurant sales grows. Factors that influence fluctuations in labor and related expenses include minimum wage, paid sick leave and payroll tax legislation, health care and workers compensation costs and the performance of Del Taco restaurants.
Occupancy and Other Operating Expenses
Occupancy and other operating expenses include all other restaurant-level operating expenses, such as rent, utilities, restaurant supplies, repairs and maintenance, credit and debit card processing fees, advertising, insurance, common area maintenance, real estate taxes and other restaurant operating costs.
General and Administrative Expenses
General and administrative expenses are comprised of expenses associated with corporate and regional supervision functions that support the operations of existing restaurants and development of new restaurants, including compensation and benefits, travel expenses, stock-based compensation expenses, legal and professional fees, information systems, corporate office occupancy costs and other related corporate costs. Also included are expenses above the restaurant level, including salaries for field management, such as area and regional managers, and franchise operational support. General and administrative expenses are expected to grow as we grow, including incremental legal, accounting, insurance, investor relations and other expenses that are incurred as a public company.
Franchise Advertising Expenses
Franchise advertising expenses consist of the franchise portion of advertising expense.
Depreciation and Amortization
Depreciation and amortization expenses are periodic non-cash charges that consist of depreciation of fixed assets, including leasehold improvements and equipment, and amortization of various intangible assets primarily including franchise rights and capitalized software.

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Occupancy and Other – Franchise Subleases and Other
Occupancy and other – franchise subleases includes rent, property taxes and common area maintenance paid on properties subleased to franchisees where we remain primarily liable to the landlord, as well as other franchise expenses related to information technology hardware that we occasionally purchase from third party vendors and then sell to franchisees and recognize in Franchise Sublease and Other Income.
Pre-opening Costs
Pre-opening costs are incurred in connection with opening of new restaurants and incurred prior to opening, including restaurant labor related to the hiring and training of restaurant employees, as well as supplies, occupancy costs including cash and non-cash rent expense and other operating expenses directly associated with the opening of new restaurants. Pre-opening costs are expensed as incurred.
Impairment of Long-Lived Assets
We review long-lived assets such as leasehold improvements, equipment and intangible assets on a unit-by-unit basis for impairment. When events or circumstances indicate the carrying value of the assets may not be recoverable, an appropriate impairment charge is recorded. Impairments could increase if performance of company-operated restaurants is not sufficient to recover the carrying amount of the related long-lived assets.
Restaurant Closure Charges, Net
Restaurant closure charges, net, consists primarily of (1) future obligations associated with the closure or net sublease shortfall of a restaurant, including the present value of future lease obligations net of estimated sublease income, if any; (2) accretion of the liability during the reporting period; (3) any positive or negative adjustments to the liability as more information becomes available; (4) sublease income from leases which are treated as deemed landlord financing; and (5) direct costs related to the restaurant closures including lease termination costs.
Loss on Disposal of Assets, Net
Loss on disposal of assets, net includes the loss or gain on disposal of assets related to sales-leaseback transactions, sales, retirements and replacement or write-off of leasehold improvements, furniture, fixtures or equipment in the ordinary course of business, net of amortization of deferred gains on assets sales associated with sale-leaseback transactions and gains or losses recorded associated with the sale of company-operated restaurants to franchisees.
Interest Expense
Interest expense consists primarily of interest expense on outstanding debt including capital lease obligations and deemed landlord financing liabilities. Deferred financing costs and debt discount are amortized at cost over the life of the related debt.
Other Income
Other income consists of a gain related to the write-off of unfavorable lease liabilities related to franchise subleases which were terminated in connection with the Company's acquisition of the related franchise-operated restaurants and insurance proceeds related to a fire at one company-operated restaurant.
Transaction-Related Costs
Transaction-related costs primarily consist of direct costs incurred in connection with the offer to exchange shares of the Company's common stock for each outstanding warrant in August 2016.
Provision (benefit) for Income Taxes
Provision (benefit) for income taxes consists of federal and state current and deferred income tax expense.

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Results of Operations

Comparison of Results of Operations for the Fifty-Two Weeks Ended January 1, 2019 and Fifty-Two Weeks Ended January 2, 2018
The following table presents operating results for the fifty-two weeks ended January 1, 2019 and the fifty-two weeks ended January 2, 2018 in absolute terms and expressed as a percentage of total revenue (or company restaurant sales), as compared below:
 
 
52 Weeks Ended
January 1, 2019
 
52 Weeks Ended
January 2, 2018
 
Increase/(Decrease)
 
(Dollar amounts in thousands)
 
($)
 
(%)
 
($)
 
(%)
 
($)
 
(%)
 
Statement of Operations Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Company restaurant sales
 
$
471,193

 
93.2
 %
 
$
452,148

 
95.9
 %
 
$
19,045

 
4.2
 %
 
Franchise revenue
 
17,569

 
3.5

 
16,464

 
3.5

 
1,105

 
6.7

 
Franchise advertising contributions
 
13,300

 
2.6

 

 

 
13,300

 
*
 
Franchise sublease and other
       income
 
3,428

 
0.7

 
2,844

 
0.6

 
584

 
20.5

 
Total revenue
 
505,490

 
100.0

 
471,456

 
100.0

 
34,034

 
7.2

 
Operating expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Restaurant operating expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Food and paper costs
 
128,873

 
27.4

(1) 
125,391

 
27.7

(1) 
3,482

 
2.8

(1) 
Labor and related expenses
 
151,954

 
32.2