10-K 1 jax-10k_20170101.htm 10-K jax-10k_20170101.htm

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

Annual Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of The Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

For the fiscal year ended January 1, 2017.

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 1-37473

 

J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

Tennessee

 

47-1608715

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification Number)

 

 

 

3401 West End Avenue, Suite 260

 

 

Nashville, Tennessee

 

37203

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(Zip Code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (615) 269-1900

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of Class:

 

Name of each exchange on which registered:

Common stock, par value $0.001 per share

 

New York Stock Exchange

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

 

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

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    Yes      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      No  

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§209.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):

 

Large accelerated filer

 

Accelerated filer

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

  (Do not check if a smaller reporting company)

Smaller Reporting Company

 

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

As of July 3, 2016, the last day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, the aggregate market value of the registrant’s common stock, par value $0.01 per share, held by non-affiliates was approximately $110,495,245.  For the purpose of this calculation, shares held by affiliates include those shares held by officers and directors of J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. as well as controlled companies of such directors.

The number of shares of the Company’s Common Stock, $0.001 par value, outstanding at March 15, 2017 was 14,695,176.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the Registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement for its 2017 Annual Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated by reference into Part II and Part III hereof.

 

 

 

 

 


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

PART I

 

Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1.

Business

 

3

 

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

 

15

 

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

35

 

Item 2.

Properties

 

35

 

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

 

35

 

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

36

 

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

37

 

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

 

40

 

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

41

 

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative  Disclosures About Market Risk

 

61

 

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

63

 

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

94

 

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

 

94

 

Item 9B.

Other Information

 

94

 

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

95

 

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

 

95

 

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

 

95

 

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

95

 

Item 14.

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

 

95

 

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

Item 15.

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

 

96

 

Item 16.

Form 10-K Summary

 

96

 

 

 

 

 

SIGNATURES

 

97

 

 

Dollar amounts within this Annual Report on Form 10-K are presented in thousands except for average weekly sales per restaurant, average weekly same store sales per restaurant, average check per guest and per share amounts.

 


 

PART I

Item 1. Business

Overview

J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. (also referred to herein as “the Company”, “we”, “us” or “our”) owns and operates through its subsidiaries four complementary upscale dining restaurant concepts: J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill, Lyndhurst Grill and Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill (“Stoney River”). For more than 20 years, J. Alexander’s guests have enjoyed a contemporary American menu, polished service and an attractive ambiance. In February 2013, our team brought our quality and professionalism to the steakhouse category with the addition of the Stoney River concept. Stoney River provides “white tablecloth” service and food quality in a casual atmosphere at a competitive price point. Our Redlands Grill concept offers guests a different version of our contemporary American menu and a distinct architectural design and feel. In fiscal 2017, we successfully converted one of our previous J. Alexander’s locations in Ohio to the Lyndhurst Grill, which will continue to offer a contemporary American menu.

By offering multiple restaurant concepts and utilizing unique non-standardized architecture and specialized menus, we believe we are positioned to continue to grow our overall restaurant business in an efficient manner in urban and affluent suburban areas. We want each of our restaurants to be perceived by our guests as a locally-managed, stand-alone dining experience. This differentiation permits us to successfully operate each of our concepts in the same geographic market and avoid being perceived as a “chain”. If this strategy continues to prove successful, we may expand beyond our current four concept model in the future.

While each concept operates under a unique trade name, each of our restaurants is identified as a “J. Alexander’s Holdings restaurant”. As of January 1, 2017, we operated a total of 43 locations across 15 states. During 2017, as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Annual Report”), we have closed one J. Alexander’s location, opened one J. Alexander’s location and opened one Stoney River location. Additionally, as discussed above we have converted one J. Alexander’s location to Lyndhurst Grill.  Further, we began the process of transitioning 12 of our J. Alexander’s restaurants to Redlands Grill restaurants in 2015 which continued into 2016, and we currently plan to transition an additional two to four current J. Alexander’s restaurants to Redlands Grill restaurants in 2017. Other restaurant locations may be added or converted in the future as we determine how best to position our multiple concepts in a given geographic market.

History and Corporate Structure

The first J. Alexander’s restaurant opened in 1991 in Nashville, Tennessee. From 1991 to 2012, J. Alexander’s restaurants were owned and operated by J. Alexander’s Corporation (“JAC”), the predecessor to J. Alexander’s, LLC. As of March 15, 2017, we operated 19 J. Alexander’s restaurants located in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

Stoney River was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996.  From 2000 until 2012, Stoney River was owned and operated by O’Charley’s, Inc., a multi-concept restaurant company that was acquired in April 2012 by affiliates of Fidelity National Financial, Inc. (“FNF”).  In September of 2012, JAC was acquired by Fidelity National Financial Ventures, LLC (“FNFV”), a wholly owned subsidiary of FNF and in February 2013, ownership of Stoney River Management Company, LLC and its subsidiaries and related restaurant assets (the “Stoney River Assets”) was transferred to J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC, then a newly formed, wholly owned subsidiary of FNFV and the principal holding company for the J. Alexander’s restaurant operations. As of March 15, 2017, we operated 12 Stoney River restaurants located in Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Redlands Grill is a restaurant concept that we launched in the first quarter of 2015 and has expanded through the conversion of 12 J. Alexander’s restaurants during the course of fiscal years 2015 and 2016. As of March 15, 2017, we operated 12 Redlands Grill restaurants located in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

As noted above, the Company also operates a Lyndhurst Grill as of March 15, 2017 in Lyndhurst, Ohio.

J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. was incorporated in the State of Tennessee on August 15, 2014. Following certain internal restructuring transactions, J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. became the ultimate parent holding company for J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC’s assets and operations. In the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2015, J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. became an independent, publicly-traded company as a result of the “Spin-off” distribution (the “Spin-off”) by FNF of all shares of the Company’s common stock owned by FNF to all holders of FNF’s FNFV Group common stock.

Restaurant Positioning Strategy

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Our business plan has evolved over time to include a collection of restaurant concepts dedicated to providing guests with what we believe to be the highest quality of food, levels of professional service and a comfortable ambiance in each of the markets being served. Although we operate distinct concepts, we identify all of our restaurants as a “J. Alexander’s Holdings Restaurant.” We believe our restaurant branding strategy enhances our ability to expand feature menu offerings available to guests on a seasonal or rotational basis and facilitate expansion into certain markets which may currently have one of our concepts. We also believe that having multiple concepts will allow us to expand in markets that might not otherwise have been considered viable for expansion opportunities.

In the upscale segment of the restaurant industry, a “chain” classification is generally perceived negatively. We determined that in order to compete with upscale independent restaurants we would need to offer the service, food quality and building design standards that more resemble an independently owned restaurant than a national chain restaurant group. We differentiate ourselves from chain restaurants by ensuring that no two J. Alexander’s have the exact same menu, emphasizing feature items which are typically changed on a daily basis, and executing a 95 percent made-from-scratch menu. In addition, the architecture of each of our restaurants is designed to meet the needs of individual markets and create a unique dining experience at each location.

In further execution of this strategy, we began transitioning 12 locations to the Redlands Grill concept in 2015. We anticipate a total of between 14 to 16 Redlands Grill locations will be operational by the end of fiscal 2017. The benefits of converting existing J. Alexander’s restaurants to Redlands Grill are twofold. In larger metropolitan areas and midsize markets, we can operate an additional restaurant and, in other markets, conversions will reduce the number of J. Alexander’s national locations. During 2017, we transitioned one J. Alexander’s location to the Lyndhurst Grill concept. We do not anticipate transitioning any additional locations to that concept. This multiple concept strategy will allow us to expand the number of units we operate without directly competing with ourselves in major metropolitan markets and offer our consumers a differentiated look and feel while preserving the made-from-scratch and upscale service our guests have come to expect.

The objective of our strategy is to have less of a chain image and allow us to compete more effectively with independently owned upscale American-style dining restaurants. Determining the specific number of restaurants that should operate under the name J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill or another brand name requires ongoing evaluation, which we expect to refine over time. The Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act of 2010 (the “PPACA”) defines any restaurant with 20 or more locations as being a chain and requires such restaurants to post the caloric content of each menu item. To the extent that this law grouped us with national fast food and casual dining restaurants, it affirmed our belief that being identified as a chain is inconsistent with our upscale concept.

We operate on a 52- or 53-week fiscal year calendar ending on the Sunday closest to December 31, and each quarter typically consists of 13 weeks. For purposes of this Annual Report, references to 2016 generally refer to our fiscal year 2016, which ended on January 1, 2017.  Fiscal year 2016 included 52 weeks of operations while fiscal year 2015 included 53 weeks and the fourth quarter of 2015 included 14 weeks.

Our Concepts

J. Alexander’s

The first J. Alexander’s restaurant was opened in 1991 in Nashville, Tennessee. Since its inception, J. Alexander’s has been a quality-focused upscale dining restaurant offering a contemporary American menu in a lively environment with attentive, courteous and professional service. J. Alexander’s menu centers around made-from-scratch items with a focus on fresh ingredients providing guests a variety of high quality menu options. We believe J. Alexander’s restaurants have a low table to server ratio which, when coupled with our intensive training program and team approach to table service, allows our servers to provide better, more detail-oriented and attentive service. As of March 15, 2017, we had 19 J. Alexander’s locations in 10 states.

The J. Alexander’s menu features prime rib of beef; hardwood-grilled steaks, seafood and chicken; pasta; salads; soups; and assorted sandwiches, appetizers and desserts. We place special emphasis on high quality and sustainable seafood and daily specials which enable us to efficiently take advantage of variances in food costs. We also incorporate local “farm-to-table” produce to provide menu variety to our guests. As a part of our commitment to quality, the majority of our soups, sauces, salsa, salad dressings and desserts are made daily from scratch; our steaks are cut in house; and our beef, chicken, seafood and select vegetable offerings are grilled over a genuine hardwood fire. All of our steaks are U.S.D.A. choice beef (or higher) with a targeted aging of 21 to 38 days. We use only Certified Angus Beef ® for all strip steaks and chuck rolls. We grind chuck fresh daily for our hand-pattied burgers. The J. Alexander’s food menu is complemented by a comprehensive wine list that offers both familiar varietals as well as wines exclusive to our restaurants.

J. Alexander’s restaurants are open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. The breadth of our menu offering helps generate significant traffic at both lunch and dinner. Lunch entrées range in price from approximately $11.00 to $35.00, while appetizers and

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entrée salads range from approximately $8.00 to $20.00. Dinner entrée prices range from approximately $11.00 to $35.00, and dinner appetizers and entrée salads range from approximately $8.00 to $20.00. In 2016, lunch and dinner represented approximately 32% and 68% of sales, respectively. Alcohol was 17% of sales for the same period. Our average unit volumes were approximately $5,700 in 2016, and our highest volume restaurant exceeded $9,100 in annual sales. The average check for J. Alexander’s in 2016 was $30.41.

Architecturally, J. Alexander’s restaurants employ contemporary designs and unique features contributing to a high-end, upscale environment. Each J. Alexander’s location incorporates natural materials such as stone and wood and, for much of our history, has been craftsman-style. Our J. Alexander’s restaurants include open floor plans and, in some cases, exposed structural steel, in each case giving the restaurants a contemporary feel. The architectural design varies from location to location depending on the space available, and several locations include unique attributes such as fire pits or patios. All locations feature original artwork, full bars and open kitchens. We believe this gives our restaurants a boutique, unchained feel which is an important facet of our design and site strategy. J. Alexander’s locations range in size from 6,900 to 9,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 220 guests, on average.

Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill

Stoney River is an upscale steakhouse concept that seeks to provide the quality and service of fine dining steakhouses at a lower price point. Stoney River has a high quality steakhouse menu and a broad selection of non-steak entrées with an emphasis on featured items. We believe Stoney River restaurants have a low table to server ratio in line with that of “white tablecloth” steakhouses. This, coupled with our intensive training program and team approach to table service, allows our servers to provide highly attentive service. As of March 15, 2017, we had 12 Stoney River restaurants in seven states.  

Stoney River offers a high quality steakhouse menu, but unlike menus of many of its more expensive competitors, the menu is not à la carte, and a side item is included with all filets and steaks. Stoney River’s menu features its popular Coffee-Cured Filet Mignon made with select tenderloin, as well as other U.S.D.A. top choice (or higher) aged beef options. Particularly when compared to steakhouse competitors, Stoney River places special emphasis on a broad selection of steak alternatives including baby back ribs, ahi tuna, pasta, chicken, salmon and other popular non-steak dishes. Beef currently accounts for approximately 70% of our entrée sales. Stoney River also offers an extensive wine list, including high quality and unique selections. The quality of the beef and inclusion of a side item offers our guests a premium offering at a more reasonable price than many steakhouse competitors.

Each restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week, and several are open for lunch or Sunday brunch. Entrées range in price from approximately $12.00 to $42.00, and appetizers and entrée salads range in price from approximately $8.00 to $23.00. Each location has a full bar and alcohol and wine represented approximately 21% of sales in 2016. Our average weekly same store sales for 2016 were $70,400. During 2016, the average check for Stoney River was $44.13. Stoney River’s basic restaurant design is modeled after an elite and modern mountain lodge-style building. As we executed our recent remodeling program, we elevated the decor to a more updated contemporary feel. We have completed extensive remodels at eight restaurants to date. Stoney River locations range in size from 6,400 to 8,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 260 guests on average, including private dining spaces. Most locations offer private dining as an option, and private dining accounted for approximately 7.1% of net sales in 2016.

Redlands Grill

Redlands Grill offers a broad contemporary American cuisine featuring expanded menu offerings on a seasonal or rotational basis. We anticipate that over time the Redlands Grills will have more sushi and contemporary products like in-restaurant prepared flatbreads compared to a J. Alexander’s Restaurant which will emphasize center of the plate proteins. Redlands Grill offers a brunch menu in locations that can support a brunch program. For example, the Redlands Grill on West End Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee features a high quality sushi program, jumbo fried shrimp, shrimp louie entrée salad, French press coffee service and unique desserts such as a “deconstructed” ice cream sundae and numerous other feature items not offered in all J. Alexander’s locations. On Sundays, Redlands Grill offers a wide selection of made-from-scratch brunch items including Belgian waffles, eggs benedict, huevos ranchero, quiche, omelettes and lemon and ricotta hotcakes. The Redlands Grill on West End also has a more extensive wine program than a typical J. Alexander’s Restaurant, with an award-winning wine program that offers 35 wines by the glass and maintains over 140 bottles. Each restaurant is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Menu items are priced similarly to those at J. Alexander’s restaurants.

Since 1997 we have specifically designed restaurants with different architecture to meet the needs of individual markets. When a restaurant is transitioned from a J. Alexander’s to a Redlands Grill, the architecture remains unique to that site. The J. Alexander’s on West End Avenue in Nashville was the first location we transitioned to a Redlands Grill. The architecture has a contemporary urban streetscape similar to a restaurant in San Francisco or New York. It is the only restaurant in our portfolio with this architectural design. As of March 15, 2017, we operated 12 Redlands Grills in eight states and plan to transition a total of 14 to 16 locations to this concept by the end of fiscal year 2017.

Our Competitive Strengths

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Over the more than 20-year operating history of our restaurants, we have developed and refined the following strengths:

Distinct Yet Complementary Concepts

Our concepts have more than 40 years of combined history, strong brand value and exceptional guest loyalty in their core markets. They blend what we believe are the best attributes of fine and casual dining: a focus on high quality food made with fresh ingredients in a scratch kitchen, exceptional service, diverse menus and individualized interior and exterior design unique to each community. Each concept has a distinct identity, and the differentiation in menu and restaurant design is substantial enough that they can successfully operate in the same markets or retail locations.

Over time, we anticipate that we will continue to grow with our multi-concept strategy. Each restaurant concept will have up to 19 restaurants competing in the upscale casual dining segment of the restaurant industry. All of our restaurants will take advantage of our professional service system, made-from-scratch high-quality menu items and our unique architectural designs supported by upscale ambiance. We believe that this strategy will increase our national footprint and overall competitive advantage.

Delivering a Superior Dining Experience with the Highest Quality Service at a Reasonable Price Point

Our restaurant concepts provide a broad range of high-quality menu items that are intended to appeal to a wide range of consumer tastes and which are served by a courteous, professional and well-trained wait-staff. We provide this high-end experience at a reasonable and attractive price point, which we believe helps us cultivate long-term, loyal and highly satisfied guests who place a premium on the price-value relationship that our concepts offer.

Premium, Freshly Made Cuisine. All of our concepts are committed to preparing high quality food from innovative menus. We are selective in our choice of ingredients and menu offerings, including the grades of beef and the freshness of seafood and vegetables we serve. Substantially all protein and vegetable offerings are delivered fresh to our restaurants and are not frozen in transport or in storage prior to being served, and are predominantly preservative and additive-free. We offer made-to-order items prepared from scratch, with approximately 95% of our items, including stocks, sauces and desserts, made in-house daily. Our food menu is complemented by comprehensive wine lists that offer both familiar varietals as well as wines exclusive to our restaurants. While each restaurant concept’s menu has its own distinctive profile, we strive to continuously innovate with new ingredients and local “farm-to-table” produce to provide specials and limited time featured items to keep the experience new and interesting for our guests. All of our new menu items are developed through a process designed to meet our high standards. An important component of the quality assurance system is the preparation of taste plates. Within each concept, 100% of menu items are taste-tested daily by a manager to ensure that only the highest quality, properly prepared food meeting or exceeding our specifications is served in each restaurant. A key position in each restaurant is the Quality Control coordinator (“QC”). This position is always staffed by a fully-trained manager who inspects every plate of food before it is served to our guests. We believe that the QC inspection by a member of management is a significant and vital factor in maintaining consistent, high food quality.

Outstanding Service. We believe that prompt, courteous and efficient service delivered by a knowledgeable staff is an integral component of our concepts. We enforce strict guidelines on professional appearance for servers as well as timeliness of service. To ensure that all staff are working together to achieve the highest guest satisfaction we employ a low table to server ratio which, when coupled with team serving by a dedicated staff, we believe provides our guests exceptional service.

Sophisticated Experience. Our concepts use a variety of architectural designs and building finishes to provide guests with beautiful, upscale décor with contemporary and timeless finishes. We are aggressive with our repair and maintenance program in all locations, in an attempt to ensure that no restaurant ever looks “highly trafficked” or dated and to reduce the need for periodic remodels to reimage a location to acceptable standards.

Attractive Unit Economics and Consistent Execution

We believe that we have a long standing track record of consistently producing high average weekly sales and average unit sales volumes and have proven the viability of our concepts in multiple markets and regions. Since the end of the recession, we have successfully increased our average weekly sales from $82,300 in fiscal year 2009 to $109,800 in fiscal year 2016 for the J. Alexander’s / Redlands Grill restaurant concepts. Our highest volume J. Alexander’s / Redlands Grill restaurant generated net sales of approximately $9,100 in 2016. Since we began operating Stoney River, we have been able to increase the average weekly sales at the Stoney River restaurants even while implementing significant operational improvements and remodeling eight locations. We believe that additional remodels of locations in each of our concepts will contribute to increases in same store sales.

Strong Cultural Focus on Continuous Training

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We believe that our stringent employee hiring standards, coupled with our extensive and continuous training programs for all employees, provide outstanding service to our guests at each of our concepts. We prefer to promote our restaurant general managers and regional management from within the organization, and approximately 62% of those roles are currently filled by individuals promoted from within. We believe that this helps to ensure that our unique focus and culture of excellent service are thoroughly disseminated throughout our restaurants. We seek to hire management prospects from top culinary programs nationwide and to train them in our service levels and processes. It can take three to five years of experience in our system for a management trainee to be qualified for promotion to general manager in one of our locations. We also provide ongoing training opportunities for our back of the house and kitchen staff to ensure they maintain and improve their skills and learn how best to prepare our current and new menu items.

Sophisticated and Scalable Back Office and Operations

We have been in operation for over 20 years and have a long history of operating high volume restaurants. We employ a sophisticated menu development process that has successfully created replicable recipes with a focus on maximizing gross margin by highly efficient use of perishable food inventories to create unique and inviting recipes. Our recipes are developed to use high quality ingredients sourced from long standing relationships with high quality vendors. Most of our protein purchases are negotiated directly with our suppliers. We believe this not only reduces overall food costs but enables us to enforce strict standards on orders and adherence to the detailed instruction manual we provide to producers. Because we deal directly with producers, we are also able to take advantage of seasonal products and provide “farm-to-table” options that change with the seasons and ingredient availability through our unique “featured items” menu. Direct relationships with vendors also provide us cost and flexibility advantages that may not be available from third party distributors. We also have a shared services model for our back-office that centralizes certain functionality at our corporate headquarters. Services shared between our concepts include staff training, real estate development, purchasing, human resources, information technology and finance and accounting, further contributing to the complementary nature of our three concepts. We believe that the teams we have put in place to manage these functions, and other non-restaurant operations functions, are capable of managing the number of restaurants in our current growth plan with limited additional hires.

From high quality food vendors to technology and maintenance vendors, we believe that we have developed long term relationships with a highly sophisticated team of vendors capable of effectively servicing our needs as we execute our growth plan. The quality and depth of both our vendor relationships and our shared services have resulted in a scalable platform with the bench strength to support our planned growth with limited adjustments.

Experienced Management Team

We are led by a management team with significant experience in all aspects of restaurant operations. Our experienced team of industry veterans at the executive level has an average of 30 years of restaurant experience, and our 43 general managers, as of January 1, 2017, have an average tenure at J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill and Stoney River of approximately 10.4 years, 11.6 years and 7.3 years, respectively.

In addition, pursuant to the Management Consulting Agreement (“Management Consulting Agreement”) with Black Knight Advisory Services, LLC (“Black Knight”), we are able to leverage key finance, strategy, investment, acquisition and other expertise.

Our Growth Strategies

We believe there are significant opportunities to grow our business, strengthen our competitive position and enhance our concepts through the implementation of the following strategies:

Deliver Consistent Same Store Sales

We believe that we will be able to generate annual same store sales growth on a consistent basis by providing an attractive price/value proposition for our guests through excellent service in an upscale environment. We continually focus on delivering freshly prepared, contemporary American cuisine to our guests, with exceptional quality and service for the price. Though the core menu at each concept is consistent and familiar to our guests, we regularly explore potential additions as well as limited-time featured food and drink offerings that are rotated on a weekly basis. As a result, we are able to adapt to changing consumer tastes and incorporate local offerings to reinforce our boutique restaurant feel. We continue to explore ways to increase the number of occasions and flexibility of dining options for our guests, including the addition of Sunday brunch items at select restaurants within each concept.  

We operate a program of continuous investment in all of our locations to maintain our store images at the highest level, and target spending $75 to $100 per year in maintenance capital expenditures per restaurant. From time to time, we may also selectively undertake more extensive remodels of existing units to improve back of the house efficiencies and the front of the house experience,

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or relocations in the event of demographic shifts in a market. We believe our investment in remodeling and relocation will generate incremental comparable sales at affected restaurants.

Pursue Disciplined New Restaurant Growth in Target Markets

We believe each of our concepts has significant growth potential and that there are significant opportunities to grow our concepts on a nationwide basis in both existing and new markets where we believe we can generate attractive unit economics.

We are constantly evaluating potential sites for new restaurant openings and currently have approximately 30 locations in approximately 20 separate markets under various stages of review and development. We believe that having a large number of sites under review at any one time is necessary in order to meet our development goals. In our experience, sites under analysis often will not result in a new restaurant location for any number of reasons, including the delay or cancelation of larger development projects on which a future restaurant may depend, the loss of potential site locations to competitors or our ultimate determination that a site under review is not appropriate for one of our concepts. We believe that the number of available and potential sites under review by us, the anticipated costs of opening a new restaurant location and our current capital resources will support up to four new store openings annually. However, our ability to open any particular number of restaurants in any calendar year is dependent upon many factors, risks and uncertainties beyond our control as discussed more fully elsewhere in this Annual Report under the heading “Item 1A. Risk Factors”.  The most recent restaurant openings include a J. Alexander’s restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky during March 2017 and a Stoney River restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in February 2017.  In addition, the Company expects to open another new J. Alexander’s restaurant and another new Stoney River restaurant during either the fourth quarter of 2017 or early in the first quarter of 2018.

We expect that the development of our Redlands Grill and other concepts will further accelerate growth by allowing us to expand into certain markets which currently have a J. Alexander’s and/or Stoney River restaurant that might not otherwise have been considered viable for expansion opportunities. Management anticipates a total of 14 to 16 Redlands Grill locations will be operational by the end of fiscal year 2017, and one Lyndhurst Grill location was converted from an existing J. Alexander’s location in January 2017.

Improve Margins and Leverage Infrastructure

We believe that our corporate infrastructure can support a restaurant base greater than our existing footprint. As we continue to grow, we expect to drive greater efficiencies in our supply chain and leverage our technology and existing support infrastructure. As we grow our restaurant base, we expect to leverage our corporate infrastructure to enhance margins as general and administrative expenses grow at a slower rate than our restaurant base and revenues.

Restaurant Design and Site Selection Process

Site Selection

We have developed a targeted site acquisition and qualification process incorporating management’s experience as well as extensive data collection, analysis and interpretation. We are actively developing restaurants in both new and existing markets, and we will continue to expand in selected regions throughout the U.S. We identify and work with local brokers to conduct preliminary research regarding each potential market and location. The preliminary research includes an analysis of traffic patterns, parking, access, demographic characteristics, population density, level of affluence, consumer attitudes or preferences and current or expected co-retail and restaurant tenants. The brokers then present potential sites to our real estate department. If our financial criteria for the site are satisfied, our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer visit the site and, subject to board approval, our management negotiates the lease.

For each of our concepts, our key site criterion is that the population within a five mile radius has a high concentration of our targeted guests, which includes individuals in the upper income demographic of major metropolitan areas that dine out frequently. In addition, we target high concentrations of retail and upscale office developments to support our lunch offering at J. Alexander’s and Redlands Grill and, in certain situations, at our Stoney River restaurants. We also prefer locations with high visibility and ample parking spaces. Because most of our Stoney River restaurants offer dinner only, the population of sites that satisfy our selection criteria will be broader relative to this concept than the population that satisfies our criteria for a new J. Alexander’s or Redlands Grill.

Restaurant Design

We do not have a standard prototype for each concept with respect to size, location or layout, which enables us to be flexible in our real estate selection process. This allows us to use a combination of new builds and conversions for our new locations. Our

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restaurants are generally free-standing structures using a variety of interior and exterior finishes and materials which have been developed to allow each location a unique design with a common look and feel within each concept. Each location has been designed to provide a high level of curb appeal as well as a comfortable dining experience. While our restaurants are individually designed to create an unchained feel, all locations benefit from a focus on a contemporary and comfortable aesthetic that we believe compliments our food and creates a consistent dining experience across all of our concepts. This flexibility in design has allowed us to utilize a variety of locations and spaces, making the best use of the real estate available.

Many of our J. Alexander’s and Redlands Grill building designs utilize craftsman-style architecture, featuring natural materials such as stone, wood and weathered copper. Others reflect a blend of international and craftsman architecture featuring elements such as steel, concrete, stone and glass, subtly incorporated to give a contemporary feel. Several of our restaurants also feature a patio complemented by an exposed fire pit. J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill and Lyndhurst Grill locations typically contain approximately 6,900 to 9,000 square feet with seating for an average of approximately 220 guests. For J. Alexander’s and Redlands Grill locations, we estimate that a new build, excluding land, will require a total cash investment of $4,750 to $5,750 (excluding pre-opening costs and any tenant incentives).

Stoney River locations typically contain approximately 6,400 to 8,000 square feet with seating for an average of approximately 260 guests. Most of our Stoney River locations include private dining spaces, which represented 7.1% of sales at Stoney River in 2016. For Stoney River locations, we estimate that each new build will require a total cash investment of $3,750 to $4,750 (excluding pre-opening costs and any tenant incentives).

The flexibility of our concepts has enabled us to open restaurants in a wide variety of locations, including high-density residential areas, shopping malls, lifestyle centers and other high-traffic locations. On average, it takes us approximately 12 to 18 months from identification of the specific site to opening the doors for business. In order to maintain consistency of food and guest service as well as the unique atmosphere at our restaurants, we have set processes and timelines to follow for all restaurant openings.

Hiring and Training

We are highly focused on providing an unparalleled experience to our guests. Achieving this experience is intricately tied to careful hiring, thorough training and an apprenticeship for management trainees that provides intimate knowledge of every facet of our restaurants. We have implemented a sophisticated and stringent hiring and training program. Maintaining the uniqueness of our culture, with our focus on quality and training, starts with hiring. Excluding the needs of new restaurants, we hire approximately 60 to 75 new management trainees annually. With new locations, we believe this number will increase to approximately 85 to 90 per year. We focus our recruiting efforts on approximately fifteen of the best culinary programs in the country where we believe our long relationships with the schools enable us to identify and recruit the most promising students. These graduates typically spend three to five years in restaurant management before they are promoted to a department responsibility or a general manager role. During that time, they experience every job in the restaurant. Because of our focus on quality and training, we have traditionally found that some of our most successful managers have been hired from within. All restaurant management candidates, regardless of previous experience, are required to complete a 10 to 13 week training program at the beginning of their employment.

Suppliers

To ensure that we maintain consistent price and quality throughout our restaurants, we use centralized contracts with a network of third-party vendors, suppliers and distributors to provide selected items. We provide each vendor with a set of specifications to ensure that our food quality is maintained at the highest level. Where possible, we also take advantage of local farms or purveyors to provide in-season products to supplement our regular menu with recipes featuring high quality local or “farm-to-table” products. When prices rise on any of our commodities, we work with our menu development team to create new and unique menu additions that can make the most efficient use of the products we have purchased or to improve the food margin of products on the menu.

Beef is the largest percentage of our food costs, representing approximately 31% of total food and beverage costs in 2016. We purchase the majority of our beef directly from the producers, rather than through a distributor or third party supplier. We believe that direct relationships with these vendors provide us cost and flexibility advantages that may not be available from third party distributors. We have purchased beef from our current primary beef supplier for multiple consecutive years and anticipate this will continue for the foreseeable future. We do not hedge our beef purchases, and instead rely on our direct purchases and menu innovation to offset potential price increases.

While most of our current supply contracts are for no longer than one year, we have been purchasing from many of our suppliers for a number of years and believe that our relationships are strong, and their financial position secure. However, we believe that we do not rely on any single-source supplier that could not be replaced with one or more alternative suppliers without disruption.

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Should there be any disruption in our supply chain, we believe we have created a set of product specifications that can be met by a number of common restaurant suppliers.

Seasonality

Our net sales and net income have historically been subject to seasonal fluctuations. Net sales and operating income typically reach their highest levels during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year due to holiday business and the first quarter of the fiscal year due in part to the redemption of gift cards sold during the holiday season. In addition, certain of our restaurants, particularly those located in south Florida, typically experience an increase in guest traffic during the period between Thanksgiving and Easter due to an increase in population in these markets during that portion of the year. Certain of our restaurants are located in areas subject to hurricanes and tropical storms, which typically occur during our third and fourth quarters, and which can negatively affect our net sales and operating results. Certain of our restaurants are located in areas subject to extreme winter weather conditions which typically occur during our fourth and first quarters and can also negatively affect our net sales and operating results. As a result of these and other factors, our financial results for any given quarter may not be indicative of the results that may be achieved for a full fiscal year.

Intellectual Property and Trademarks

We own a number of trademarks and service marks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”). We have registered the following marks with the PTO, among others: “J. Alexander’s Restaurant,” “Redlands Grill,” “Black River Angus Beef,” “Black River Premium Beef,” “Legendary Steaks,” “Stoney River,” “Stoney River Legendary Steaks,” “Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill”  and “Stoney River Legendary Filet.” In addition, we have also registered the Internet domain names www.jalexanders.com, www.jalexandersholdings.com, www.redlandsgrill.com, www.lyndhurstgrill.com and www.stoneyriver.com, among others, and have registered certain copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office, including copyrights with respect to the J. Alexander’s menu and the J. Alexander’s cocktail menu.

We believe that our trademarks, service marks and other intellectual property rights have significant value and are important to the marketing of our concepts, and it is our policy to protect and defend vigorously our rights to such intellectual property. However, we cannot predict whether steps taken to protect such rights will be adequate. See “Risk Factors—The failure to enforce and maintain our intellectual property rights could enable others to use names confusingly similar to the names and marks used by our restaurants, which could adversely affect the value of our concepts.”

Regulatory, Environmental, Health and Safety Matters

Environmental

We are subject to federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations concerning waste disposal, pollution and protection of the environment, and the presence, discharge, storage, handling, release and disposal of, or exposure to, hazardous or toxic substances (“environmental laws”). These environmental laws can provide for significant fines and penalties for non-compliance 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 the hazardous or 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 substances. We are not aware of any environmental laws that will materially affect our earnings or competitive position, or result in material capital expenditures relating to our restaurants. However, we cannot predict what environmental laws will be enacted in the future, how existing or future environmental laws will be administered, interpreted or enforced, or the amount of future expenditures that we may need to make to comply with, or to satisfy claims relating to, environmental laws. It is possible that we will become subject to environmental liabilities at our properties, and any such liabilities could materially affect our business, financial condition or results of operations. See “Risk Factors—Compliance with environmental laws may negatively affect our business.”

Regulatory, Health and Safety

We are subject to extensive and varied federal, state and local government regulation, including regulations relating to the sale of food and alcoholic beverages, public and occupational health and safety, sanitation and fire prevention. We operate each of our restaurants in accordance with standards and procedures designed to comply with applicable codes and regulations, and we maintain all applicable permits and licenses required by the jurisdictions in which we operate.

In addition, in order to develop and construct restaurants, we must comply with applicable zoning, land use and environmental regulations. We are also required to comply with the accessibility standards mandated by the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which generally prohibit discrimination in accommodation or employment based on disability. The ADA became effective as to public accommodations and employment in 1992.

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A significant amount of our revenues is attributable to the sale of alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beverage control regulations require each of our restaurants to apply to a state authority and, in certain locations, county or municipal authorities for a license that must be renewed annually and may be revoked or suspended for cause at any time. Alcoholic beverage control regulations relate to numerous aspects of daily operations of our restaurants, including the minimum age of patrons and employees, hours of operation, advertising, trade practices, wholesale purchasing, other relationships with alcohol manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, inventory control and handling, storage and dispensing of alcoholic beverages. We are also subject in certain states to “dram shop” statutes, which generally provide a person injured by an intoxicated person the right to recover damages from an establishment that wrongfully served alcoholic beverages to the intoxicated person. Of the 15 states where we operate, most have dram-shop statutes or recognize a cause of action for damages relating to sales of alcoholic beverages to obviously intoxicated persons and/or minors. We carry liquor liability coverage as part of our existing comprehensive general liability insurance.

In addition, we are subject to the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and various other federal and state laws governing similar matters including minimum wages, overtime, workplace safety and other working conditions. We may also be subject to lawsuits from our employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or others alleging violations of federal and state laws regarding workplace and employment matters, discrimination and similar matters, and we have been party to such matters in the past. See “Risk Factors—Governmental regulation may adversely affect our ability to open new restaurants or otherwise adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.”

The PPACA, enacted in March 2010, requires chain restaurants with 20 or more locations in the United States 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. A number of states, counties and cities have also enacted menu labeling laws requiring multi-unit restaurant operators to disclose certain nutritional information to guests, or have enacted legislation restricting the use of certain types of ingredients in restaurants. Many of these requirements are inconsistent or are interpreted differently from one jurisdiction to another. While our ability to adapt to consumer preferences is a strength of our concepts, the effect of such labeling requirements on consumer choices, if any, is unclear at this time. See “Risk Factors—Legislation and regulations requiring the display and provision of nutritional information for our menu offerings and new information or attitudes regarding diet and health could result in changes in consumer consumption habits that could adversely affect our results of operations.”

There is also a potential for increased regulation of certain food establishments in the United States, where compliance with Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (“HACCP”) management systems may now be required. HACCP refers to a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of potential hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product. Many states have required restaurants to develop and implement HACCP programs, and the United States government continues to expand the sectors of the food industry that must adopt and implement HACCP programs. For example, the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in January 2011, granted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) new authority regarding the safety of the entire food system, including through increased inspections and mandatory food recalls. We anticipate that the new 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 harm our business. See “Risk Factors—Governmental regulation may adversely affect our ability to open new restaurants or otherwise adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.”

We are also subject to laws and regulations relating to information security, privacy, cashless payments, gift cards and consumer credit protection and fraud, and any failure or perceived failure to comply with these laws and regulations could harm our reputation or lead to litigation, which could adversely affect our financial condition.

Information Technology

All of our restaurants use computerized point-of-sale systems created by Micros Systems, which we believe are scalable to support our future growth plans. We utilize a Windows-based accounting software package and a network that enables electronic communication throughout the Company. In addition, all of our restaurants utilize touch screen point-of-sale and electronic gift card systems, and also employ a theoretical food costing program, all of which were specifically designed for the restaurant industry. We use our management information systems to develop pricing strategies, identify food cost issues, monitor new product acceptance and evaluate restaurant-level productivity. The system also supplies sales, bank deposit and variance data to our accounting department on a daily basis. We use this data to generate daily sales information and weekly consolidated reports regarding sales and other key measures, as well as preliminary weekly detailed profit and loss statements for each location with final reports following the end of each period. We expect to continue to develop our management information systems to assist management in analyzing business issues and to improve efficiency.

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Industry & Competition

The restaurant industry is fragmented and intensely competitive. We believe guests make their dining decisions based on a variety of factors such as menu offering, taste, quality and price of food offered, perceived value, service, atmosphere, location and overall dining experience.

Depending on the specific concept, our restaurants compete with a number of restaurants within their markets, including both locally-owned, boutique, chef-driven restaurants and restaurants that are part of regional or national upscale dining concepts. We believe we have two primary types of competitors:

 

Competitors with similar menus and operational characteristics; and

 

Competitors that market to the same demographic using different menus and formats.

The number, size and strength of our competitors varies widely by region; however, we believe that we benefit from our goal of providing our guests with a combination of check average, food quality and intense levels of service that we believe to be unique in the markets in which we compete.

In virtually all of our markets, we compete primarily against locally-owned boutique restaurants or locally-managed restaurant groups with similar menus and similar concept attributes at check averages that approximate ours. To a lesser extent, we compete with restaurant groups, both regional and national, that market to the same upscale restaurant guest and may have menus, formats and check averages that differ from ours. Del Frisco’s Grill, Kona Grill and Seasons 52 are concepts that would fall within this second category, and would be considered competitors of our J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill and Lyndhurst Grill concepts. Stoney River generally competes with restaurants that are considered steakhouses or have a steakhouse format such as The Palm, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar.

Employee Matters

As of January 1, 2017, we employed approximately 3,500 persons, including 49 persons on the corporate staff. We believe that our employee relations are good. We are not a party to any collective bargaining agreements.

Legal Proceedings

We are a defendant from time to time in various claims or legal proceedings arising in the ordinary course of our business, including claims relating to injury or wrongful death under “dram shop” laws, labor-related claims, workers’ compensation matters, discrimination and similar matters, claims resulting from “slip and fall” accidents, claims relating to lease and contractual obligations, federal and state tax matters and claims from guests or employees alleging illness, injury or other food quality, health or operational concerns. We do not believe that any of the legal proceedings pending against us as of the date of this Annual Report will have a material adverse effect on our liquidity or financial condition. We may incur liabilities, receive benefits, settle disputes, sustain judgments or accrue expenses relating to legal proceedings in a particular fiscal year which may adversely affect our results of operations, or on occasion, receive settlements that favorably affect our results of operations.

Executive Officers

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The following list includes names and ages of all of the executive officers indicating all positions and offices held by each such person and each such person’s principal occupations or employment during the past five years. All such persons have been appointed to serve until the next annual appointment of officers and until their successors are appointed, or until their earlier resignation or removal.

Name and Age

 

Position

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lonnie J. Stout II, 70

 

President, Chief Executive Officer and Director

Mark A. Parkey, 54

 

Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

J. Michael Moore, 57

 

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Jessica H. Root, 37

 

Vice President, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer

Lonnie J. Stout II

Mr. Stout has been a director, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company since its formation. Prior to that time, he was a director/manager (as applicable), President and Chief Executive Officer of JAC, J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC and J. Alexander’s, LLC, positions he has held since May 1986. Mr. Stout joined JAC in 1979 and since that time has held various leadership roles, including Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of JAC from October 1981 to May 1984, and a member of the board of directors of JAC from 1982 until October 2012, and served as Chairman from July 1990 until October 2012.

Mark A. Parkey

Mr. Parkey has served as Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of the Company since its formation. He has held the same positions at J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC and J. Alexander’s, LLC since May 2013. Prior to becoming the Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Parkey served as Vice President of JAC from May 1999 to October 2012, Controller of JAC from May 1997 to October 2012, Vice President and Controller of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC and J. Alexander’s, LLC from October 2012 until August 2013 and as the Director of Finance of JAC from January 1993 to May 1997.

J. Michael Moore

Mr. Moore has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Company since its formation. He has held the same positions at J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC and J. Alexander’s, LLC since May 2013. Prior to becoming Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Moore served as Vice President of Human Resources and Administration of JAC from November 1997 to October 2012, and of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC and J. Alexander’s, LLC from October 2012 to July 2013. Mr. Moore also served as Director of Human Resources and Administration of JAC from August 1996 to November 1997 and as the Director of Operations of J. Alexander’s Restaurants, Inc. from March 1993 to April 1996. Mr. Moore joined JAC in 1991 as General Manager of the first J. Alexander’s restaurant.

Jessica H. Root

Mrs. Root was promoted to the position of Vice President, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer of the Company effective October 29, 2015.  She previously served as Assistant Vice President and Controller of the Company since its formation in August 2014 and held the same positions with J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC and its subsidiaries since May 2013. Prior to that time, she served JAC in the role of Director of Financial Reporting and Compliance from March 2012 through May 2013 and as Director of Compliance from November 2010 to March 2012. Prior to joining the company, Mrs. Root was a Senior Manager in the audit services division at KPMG LLP.

Financial Information

The financial information that is required to be included in this Item 1, Business is set forth in Item 6, Selected Financial Data and in Item 8, Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.

Available Information

Our Internet website address is http://www.jalexandersholdings.com. We make available free of charge through our website our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and any amendments to those reports as soon as reasonably practical after we electronically file or furnish such materials to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Information contained on the Company’s website is not part of this Annual Report.

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Forward-Looking Statements

We caution that certain information contained or incorporated by reference in this report and our other filings with the SEC, in our press releases and in statements made by or with the approval of authorized personnel is forward-looking information that involves risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements contained herein. Forward-looking statements discuss our current expectations and projections relating to our financial conditions, results of operations, plans, objectives, future performance and business.  Forward-looking statements are typically identified by words or phrases such as “may,” “will,” “would,” “can,” “should,” “likely,” “anticipate,” “potential,” “estimate,” “pro forma,” “continue,” “expect,” “project,” “intend,” “seek,” “plan,” “believe,” “target,” “outlook,” “forecast,” the negatives thereof and other words and terms of similar meaning in connection with any discussion of the timing or nature of future operating or financial performance or other events.  Forward-looking statements include all statements that do not relate solely to historical or current facts, including statements regarding our expectations, intentions or strategies and regarding the future.   We disclaim any intent or obligation to update these forward-looking statements.  Other risks, uncertainties and factors which could affect actual results include, but are not limited to:

 

the impact of, and our ability to adjust to, general economic conditions and changes in consumer preferences;

 

our ability to open new restaurants and operate them profitably, including our ability to locate and secure appropriate sites for restaurant locations, obtain favorable lease terms, attract guests to our restaurants or hire and retain personnel;

 

our ability to successfully develop and improve our Stoney River concept;

 

our ability to successfully transition certain of our existing J. Alexander’s locations to Redlands Grill locations and any other future concept locations;

 

our ability to obtain financing on favorable terms, or at all;

 

the strain on our infrastructure caused by the implementation of our growth strategy;

 

the significant competition we face for guests, real estate and employees;

 

the impact of economic downturns, volatile retail area traffic patterns or other disruptions in markets in which we have revenue or geographic concentrations within our restaurant base;

 

our ability to increase sales at existing J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill, Lyndhurst Grill and Stoney River restaurants and improve our margins at existing Stoney River restaurants;

 

the impact of increases in the price of, and/or reductions in the availability of, commodities, particularly beef;

 

the impact of negative publicity or damage to our reputation, which could arise from concerns regarding food safety and foodborne illnesses or other matters;

 

the impact of proposed and future government regulation and changes in healthcare, labor and other laws;

 

our expectations regarding litigation or other legal proceedings;

 

our inability to cancel and/or renew leases and the availability of credit to our landlords and other retail center tenants;

 

operating and financial restrictions imposed by our credit facility, our level of indebtedness and any future indebtedness;

 

the impact of the loss of key executives and management-level employees;

 

our ability to enforce our intellectual property rights;

 

the impact of information technology system failures or breaches of our network security;

 

the impact of any future impairment of our long-lived assets, including goodwill;

 

the impact of any future acquisitions, joint ventures or other initiatives;

 

the impact of shortages, interruptions and price fluctuations on our ability to obtain ingredients from our limited number of suppliers;

 

our expectations regarding the seasonality of our business;

 

the impact of hurricanes and other weather-related disturbances;

 

the impact of the Management Consultant Agreement with Black Knight Advisory Services, LLC; and

 

the other matters described under “Risk Factors,” “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and “Business.”

These factors should not be construed as exhaustive and should be read with the other cautionary statements in this Annual Report. While we believe that our assumptions are reasonable, we caution that it is very difficult to predict the impact of known factors, and it is impossible for us to anticipate all factors that could affect our actual results. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations, or cautionary statements, are disclosed under “Risk Factors,” “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” “Business” and elsewhere in this Annual Report. All forward-looking statements are expressly qualified in their entirety by these cautionary statements. You should evaluate all forward-looking statements made in this Annual Report in the context of these risks and uncertainties.  Forward-looking information provided by the Company pursuant to the safe harbor established under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 should be evaluated in the context of these factors. We expressly disclaim any intent or obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

In connection with the “safe harbor” provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, we are including the following cautionary statements identifying important factors that could significantly and adversely affect the Company and cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in forward looking statements made by, or on behalf of, the Company.  The risks and uncertainties described below should be considered carefully, and all information contained in this Annual Report, in evaluating the Company and its business.

Changes in general economic conditions, including any economic downturn or continuing economic uncertainty, have adversely impacted our business and results of operations in the past and may do so again.

Purchases at our restaurants are discretionary for consumers, and we are therefore susceptible to economic slowdowns. We believe that consumers generally are more willing to make discretionary purchases, including upscale and high-end restaurant meals, during favorable economic conditions. The most recent economic downturn, uncertainty and disruptions in the overall economy, including high unemployment, reduced access to credit and financial market volatility and unpredictability, and the related reduction in consumer confidence, negatively affected guest traffic and sales throughout our industry, including our category. If the economy experiences a new downturn or there are continued uncertainties regarding U.S. budgetary and fiscal policies, our guests, particularly price-sensitive families and couples and cost-conscious business clientele, may reduce their level of discretionary spending, impacting the frequency with which they choose to dine out or the amount they spend on meals while dining out.

There is also a risk that, if uncertain economic conditions persist for an extended period of time, consumers might make long-lasting changes to their discretionary spending behavior, including dining out less frequently on a more permanent basis. The ability of the U.S. economy to withstand this uncertainty is likely to be affected by many national and international factors that are beyond our control. These factors, including national, regional and local politics and economic conditions, the impact of higher gasoline prices, and reductions in disposable consumer income and consumer confidence, also affect discretionary consumer spending. Uncertainty in or a worsening of the economy, generally or in a number of our markets, and our guests’ reactions to these trends could adversely affect our business and cause us to, among other things, reduce the number and frequency of new restaurant openings, close restaurants and delay our remodeling of existing locations.

Changes in consumer dining preferences and discretionary spending patterns generally could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

The restaurant business is often affected by changes in consumer preferences, national, regional or local economic conditions, demographic trends, traffic patterns and the type, number and location of competing restaurants. Our success depends in part on our ability to anticipate and respond quickly to these changes. Shifts in consumer preferences away from meals at our price point or our beef, seafood and signature cocktails and wine menu offerings, which are significant components of our concepts’ menus and appeal, whether as a result of economic, competitive or other factors, could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Many of our restaurants are located in or adjacent to traditional commercial retail centers, and to an extent rely on elevated levels of retail area traffic in these areas during the holiday seasons.  As consumer spending patterns continue to migrate to online shopping or to boutique, local shopping resources, and away from malls and other traditional commercial retail centers, these restaurant locations may be negatively impacted.

In addition, we place a high priority on maintaining the competitive positioning of our concepts, including the image and condition of our restaurant facilities and the quality of our guest experience. Consequently, we may need to evolve our concepts in order to compete with popular new restaurant formats or concepts that emerge from time to time, which could result in significant capital expenditures in the future for remodeling and updating. In addition, with improving product offerings, including an increased number of health-focused options at fast casual restaurants and quick-service restaurants, combined with the effects of uncertain economic conditions and other factors, consumers may choose less expensive alternatives, which could also negatively affect guest traffic at our restaurants. Any unanticipated slowdown in demand at any of our restaurants due to industry competition may adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Our future growth depends in part on our ability to open new restaurants and operate them profitably, and if we are unable to successfully execute this strategy, our business and results of operations could be adversely affected.

Our financial success depends in part on management’s ability to execute our growth strategy. One key element of our growth strategy is opening new restaurants. However, future developments, including macroeconomic changes, could cause us to re-evaluate this growth strategy. Additionally, in the past, we have experienced delays in opening some restaurants, and that could happen again. Delays or failures in opening new restaurants and operating them profitably could materially and adversely affect our growth strategy and expected results.

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Our ability to open new restaurants on a timely basis, or at all, and operate them profitably is dependent upon a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control, including:

 

finding quality site locations, competing effectively to obtain quality site locations and reaching acceptable agreements to lease or purchase sites;

 

 

complying with applicable zoning, land use and environmental regulations and obtaining, for an acceptable cost and in a timely manner, required permits and approvals, including permits for construction, as well as required business and alcohol licenses;

 

 

having adequate capital for construction and opening costs and efficiently managing the time and resources committed to building and opening each new restaurant;

 

 

engaging and relying on third-party architects, contractors and their subcontractors responsible for building our restaurants to our specifications, on budget and within anticipated timelines;

 

 

timely hiring and training and retaining the skilled management and other employees necessary to meet staffing needs consistent with our superior professional service expectations in each local market;

 

 

successfully promoting our new locations and competing in their markets;

 

 

acquiring food and other supplies for new restaurants from local suppliers; and

 

 

addressing unanticipated problems or risks that may arise during the development or opening of a new restaurant or entering a new market.

It has generally been our experience that new restaurants generate operating losses while they build sales levels to maturity, with maturity typically achieved within 36 months but in certain instances it has taken considerably longer. This is due to lower sales generated by new restaurants compared to our restaurants operated in other areas, the costs associated with opening a new restaurant and higher operating costs caused by start-up and other temporary inefficiencies associated with opening new restaurants. For example, there are a number of factors which may impact the amount of time and money we commit to the construction and development of new restaurants, including landlord delays, shortages of skilled labor, labor disputes, shortages of materials, delays in obtaining necessary permits, local government regulations and weather interference. Once the restaurant is open, how quickly it achieves a desired level of profitability is impacted by many factors, including the level of market awareness and acceptance of our concepts when we enter new markets, as well as the availability of experienced, professional staff. Our business and profitability may be adversely affected if it takes longer than expected for our new restaurants to achieve the desired level of profitability.

Our ability to successfully execute new restaurant development depends heavily on successful site selection. If a site does not produce the anticipated results, a restaurant location may never reach our desired level of profitability, if it becomes profitable at all. In those cases, we may be forced to close restaurants and will incur significant costs associated with our exit from those markets, including costs associated with lease terminations or potential losses on the sale of real property that we own. For example, in 2013, we closed restaurants in Orlando, Scottsdale and Chicago and, in January 2017, we closed a restaurant in Houston because management determined that these restaurants were not producing acceptable levels of profitability. Additionally, previously successful restaurants may cease to produce acceptable or desired results in the future due to changes within the market in which they operate, such as a geographic shift in commercial development that drives guests away from the area in which we have an existing location. In those cases, if we determine that the market is still desirable, we may choose to relocate our existing restaurant or restaurants within that same market, which could result in increased costs associated with the purchase or lease of new property.

The failure to successfully develop and improve our Stoney River concept to achieve operational and quality standards consistent with those of our J. Alexander’s concept could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Prior to February 2013, when the Stoney River Assets were transferred to J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC from an affiliate of FNF, Stoney River was operated by a separate restaurant company. Since that time, our focus has been on the improvement of restaurant-level operations and the integration of Stoney River into our existing infrastructure. Our growth strategy for Stoney River will continue to require significant capital expenditures and management attention. There can be no assurance that we will be successful in achieving the desired level of profitability at Stoney River while delivering on the quality standards that we expect, and a failure to achieve the desired profitability of our Stoney River concept may adversely affect our business and results of operations. Further, new openings of Stoney River restaurants may take longer to achieve the desired level of profitability than has been our

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experience with J. Alexander’s restaurants. We may not be able to attract enough guests to meet targeted levels of performance at new restaurants because potential guests may be unfamiliar with Stoney River or the atmosphere or menu might not appeal to them. In addition, although we believe that the differentiation in the menu and restaurant design between our concepts is substantial enough that they can each successfully operate within the same market, opening a new Stoney River in an existing market could reduce the revenue of our existing J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill or other restaurant concepts in that market, and vice versa. If we cannot successfully execute our growth strategies for Stoney River, or if guest traffic generated by Stoney River results in a decline in guest traffic at one of our other restaurants in the same market, our business and results of operations may be adversely affected.

Significant capital is required to develop new restaurants and to maintain existing restaurants and to the extent financing is available to us, it may only be available on terms that could impose significant operating and financial restrictions on us.

We believe that the required capital investment in our upscale restaurants is high compared to more casual dining restaurants. Failure of a new restaurant to generate satisfactory net sales and profits in relation to its investment could result in our failure to achieve the desired financial return on the restaurant. Additionally, we may require capital beyond the cash flow provided from operations in order to open new units, which may be difficult to obtain on favorable terms, if at all. The terms of any financing we may obtain could impose restrictions on our operations, development and new financings. Further, after a restaurant is opened, we continue to incur significant capital costs associated with our strategy to reinvest in our restaurants in order to maintain the highly attractive, contemporary and comfortable environment in each of our locations that we believe our guests expect. For example, in 2016, we began remodeling or completed the remodel of one J. Alexander’s restaurant, two Redlands Grill restaurants and one Stoney River restaurant.  The J. Alexander’s / Redlands Grill remodels were routine in nature and resulted in an average cost of approximately $350 as of the fiscal year end.  The one remodel at Stoney River was the first such remodel to occur at this location since the concept was contributed to us in 2013 resulting in a cost of $355 as of the fiscal year end. For 2017, we intend to complete reinvestments and improvements at our locations across all of our concepts at an approximate total cost of $7,000. Consequently, our ability to carry out our growth strategy and to execute on development and capital expenditure decisions that we believe to be in our long-term best interest could be limited by the availability of additional financing sources and could involve additional borrowing which would further increase our long-term debt and interest expense.

Our growth, including the development and improvement of our Stoney River and Redlands Grill concepts, may strain our infrastructure and resources, which could delay the opening of new restaurants and adversely affect our ability to manage our existing restaurants.

We believe there are opportunities to open up to four restaurants annually beginning in 2017. Our targeted growth will increase our operating complexity and place increased demands on our management as well as our human resources, purchasing and site management teams. We also need to develop concept identity and concept awareness of our Redlands Grill concept. This may require the commitment of a significant amount of human capital and marketing expenditures. While we have committed significant resources to expanding our current restaurant management systems, financial and management controls and information systems in connection with our integration of the Stoney River concept and development of our Redland Grills concept, if this infrastructure is insufficient to support our anticipated expansion, our ability to open new restaurants and to manage our existing restaurants could be adversely affected. If we fail to continue to improve our infrastructure or if our infrastructure fails, we may be unable to implement our growth strategy or maintain current levels of operating performance in our existing restaurants.

If we are unable to successfully transition certain of our J. Alexander’s locations to Redlands Grill locations, we may experience reduced revenue and margins at these locations, which could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operation.

A key element of our business model is to pursue a multiple concept strategy consisting of the development of a number of restaurant concepts competing in the upscale casual dining segment of the restaurant industry. This is intended to, among other things, allow us to avoid being identified as a chain restaurant and to operate multiple concepts in the same market. In furtherance of this strategy, over the past two years we have developed the Redlands Grill concept and have commenced the conversion of 12 J. Alexander’s restaurants into Redlands Grills. These conversions are being undertaken in markets and particular locations where we believe the Redlands Grill concept will be successful. However, we may experience a decrease in traffic, revenue or margins related to our strategy.

If consumer preferences change, acceptance of the Redlands Grill concept is not as strong as expected, or the existing guest base patronizing these converted locations diminishes or discontinues, revenue at these restaurants may decrease and we could be required to expend additional resources on advertising and promotion which would reduce profit margins at these locations which may have a material adverse effect on our overall financial performance.

If our restaurants are not able to compete successfully with other restaurants, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.

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Our industry is highly fragmented and intensely competitive with respect to price, quality of service, restaurant location, ambiance of facilities and type and quality of food. A substantial number of national and regional restaurant chains and independently owned restaurants compete with us for guests, real estate and qualified management and other restaurant staff. The principal competitors for our concepts are local, chef-driven restaurants and regional, high-quality restaurant chains in each of our local markets. However, we also compete with other upscale national chains. Some of our competitors have greater financial and other resources, have been in business longer, have greater name recognition and are better established in the markets where our restaurants are located or where we may expand. Additionally, in recent years many upscale and high-end restaurants have expanded into the smaller and midsize markets in which some of our restaurants are located. Our inability to compete successfully with other restaurants may harm our ability to maintain acceptable levels of revenue growth, limit or otherwise inhibit our ability to grow one or more of our concepts, or force us to close one or more of our restaurants.

As a result of revenue or geographic concentrations within our restaurant base, we may be more exposed to economic downturns or other disruptions in certain locations that could harm our business, financial condition and results of operation.

At March 15, 2017, we operated 44 restaurants in 15 states. Because of our relatively small restaurant base, unsuccessful restaurants could have a more adverse effect in relation to our financial condition and results of operations than would be the case in a restaurant company with a greater number of restaurants. For example, our J. Alexander’s locations in Franklin, Tennessee and Plantation, Florida represented approximately 3.7% and 4.1% of our revenues in 2016, respectively.

We currently have a high concentration of J. Alexander’s and Redlands Grill restaurants within the south Florida market (and in broader geographic markets, with respect to the concentration of J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill and Lyndhurst Grill restaurants in Ohio and the concentration of J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill and Stoney River restaurants in Tennessee) and may in the future have similar concentrations of restaurants within one or more overlapping markets as we execute on our growth strategy. This concentration exposes us to risks that one or more of these markets may be adversely affected by factors that are unique to that particular market, such as negative publicity, changes in consumer preferences, demographic shifts or other adverse economic impacts, which could adversely affect our business, results of operations or financial condition.  

In addition, any natural disaster, prolonged inclement weather, act of terrorism or national emergency, accident, system failure or other unforeseen event in or around regions in which we operate multiple locations could result in significant and prolonged declines in guest traffic in these geographic regions, or a temporary or permanent closing of those locations, any of which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

If we are unable to increase our sales at existing restaurants or improve our margins at existing Stoney River restaurants, our profitability and overall results of operations may be adversely affected.

Another key aspect of our growth strategy is increasing same store sales across all restaurants and improving the restaurant-level margins at our Stoney River restaurants to the level achieved at our existing J. Alexander’s and Redlands Grill restaurants. Improving same store sales and restaurant-level margins depends in part on whether we achieve revenue growth through increases in the average check or traffic counts. Our ability to improve margins at Stoney River is further impacted by the costs that we have incurred, and will continue to incur, as we strive to improve the quality standards at Stoney River to make them consistent with those at our J. Alexander’s and Redlands Grill restaurants. We believe that there are opportunities to increase the average check at our restaurants through, for example, selective introduction of new profitable menu items and increases in menu pricing. However, these strategies may prove unsuccessful, especially in times of economic hardship, as guests may not order new or higher priced items. Further, we believe that part of the appeal of our concepts is the opportunity to experience outstanding, professional service and high-quality menu items at reasonable prices. Consequently, any price increases must be balanced with our desire to meet guest expectations with respect to service and quality at a reasonable value. Modest price increases generally have not adversely impacted guest traffic; however, we expect that there is a price level at which point guest traffic would be adversely affected, and these changes could cause our revenues to decrease. If we are not able to increase our sales at existing restaurants for any reason, our profitability and results of operations could be adversely affected.

Increases in the prices of, and/or reductions in the availability of commodities, primarily beef and seafood, could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Our profitability is dependent in part on our ability to purchase food commodities which meet our specifications and to anticipate and react to changes in food costs and product availability. Ingredients are purchased from suppliers on terms and conditions that management believes are generally consistent with those available to similarly situated restaurant companies. Although alternative distribution sources are believed to be available for most products, increases in overall food prices, failure to perform by suppliers or distributors or limited availability of products at reasonable prices could cause our food costs to fluctuate and/or cause us to make adjustments to our menu offerings.

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Beef costs represented approximately 31% of our food and beverage costs during 2016. We currently do not purchase beef pursuant to any long-term contractual arrangements with fixed pricing or use futures contracts or other financial risk management strategies to reduce our exposure to potential price fluctuations. The beef market is particularly volatile and is subject to extreme price fluctuations due to seasonal shifts, climate conditions, the price of feed, industry demand, energy demand and other factors. We expect that beef prices in 2017 will continue to decrease relative to those prices experienced in 2016 for a significant portion of the fiscal year with the potential for such prices to flatten somewhat during the fourth quarter of 2017.  

In addition, our dependence on frequent deliveries of fresh seafood subjects us to the risk of possible shortages or interruptions in supply caused by adverse weather, environmental factors or other conditions that could adversely affect the availability and cost of such items. In the past, certain types of seafood have experienced fluctuations in availability. In addition, some types of seafood have been subject to adverse publicity due to certain levels of contamination at their source or a perceived scarcity in supply, which can adversely affect both supply and market demand. We can make no assurances that in the future either seafood contamination or inadequate supplies of seafood might not have a significant and materially adverse effect on our operating results.

Finally, the prices of other commodities can affect our costs as well, including corn and other grains, which are ingredients we use regularly and are also used as cattle feed and therefore affect the price of beef. Additional factors beyond our control, including adverse weather and market conditions, disease and governmental food safety regulation and enforcement, may also affect food costs and product availability. Energy prices can also affect our bottom line, as increased energy prices may cause increased transportation costs for beef and other supplies, as well as increased costs for the utilities required to run each restaurant. Historically, we have passed increased commodity and other costs on to our guests by increasing the prices of our menu items. There can be no assurance that additional price increases would not affect future guest traffic. Although we believe that our integrated cost systems allows us to anticipate and quickly respond to fluctuations in commodity prices, including beef prices, if prices increase in the future and we are unable to anticipate or react to these increases, or if there are beef shortages, our business and results of operations could be adversely affected.

Negative customer experiences or negative publicity surrounding our restaurants or other restaurants could adversely affect sales in one or more of our restaurants and make our concepts less valuable.

Because we believe that our success depends significantly on our ability to provide exceptional food quality, outstanding service and an excellent overall dining experience, adverse publicity, whether or not accurate, relating to food quality, public health concerns, illness, safety, injury or government or industry findings concerning our restaurants, restaurants operated by other foodservice providers or others across the food industry supply chain could affect us more than it would other restaurants that compete primarily on price or other factors. If customers perceive or experience a reduction in our food quality, service or ambiance or in any way believe we have failed to deliver a consistently positive experience, the value and popularity of one or more of our concepts could suffer. Further, because we rely heavily on “word-of-mouth,” as opposed to more conventional mediums of advertisement, to establish concept recognition, our business may be more adversely affected by negative customer experiences than other upscale dining establishments, including those of our competitors.

Negative publicity relating to the consumption of beef, seafood, chicken, produce and our other menu offerings, including in connection with food-borne illness, could result in reduced consumer demand for our menu offerings, which could reduce sales.

Shifts in consumer preferences away from the kinds of food we offer, particularly beef and seafood, whether because of dietary or other health concerns or otherwise, would make our restaurants less appealing and could reduce guest traffic and/or impose practical limits on pricing. In addition, instances of food-borne illness, such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, which is also known as BSE or mad cow disease, as well as hepatitis A, listeria, salmonella and E. coli, whether or not found in the United States or traced directly to one of our suppliers or our restaurants, could reduce demand for our menu offerings. Any negative publicity relating to these and other health-related matters may affect consumers’ perceptions of our restaurants and the food that we offer, reduce guest visits to our restaurants and negatively impact demand for our menu offerings. Adverse publicity relating to any of these matters, beef in general or other similar concerns could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Governmental regulation may adversely affect our ability to open new restaurants or otherwise adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We are subject to various federal, state and local regulations, including those relating to building and zoning requirements and those relating to the preparation and sale of food. The development and operation of restaurants depends to a significant extent on the selection and acquisition of suitable sites, which are subject to zoning, land use, environmental, traffic and other regulations and requirements. Our restaurants are also subject to state and local licensing and regulation by health, alcoholic beverage, sanitation, food and occupational safety and other agencies. In addition, stringent and varied requirements of local regulators with respect to zoning,

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land use and environmental factors could delay or prevent development of new restaurants in particular locations or cause increases in development costs.

We are subject to 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 associated with these modifications could be material.

Our operations are also subject to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act, which governs worker health and safety, the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs such matters as minimum wages and overtime, and a variety of similar federal, state and local laws that govern these and other employment law matters. We may also be subject to lawsuits from our employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or others alleging violations of federal and state laws regarding workplace and employment matters, discrimination and similar matters, and we have been party to such matters in the past. Compliance with these laws can be costly and a failure or perceived failure to comply with these laws could result in negative publicity that could harm our reputation. In addition, federal, state and local proposals related to paid sick leave or similar matters could, if implemented, materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The impact of current laws and regulations, the effect of future changes in laws or regulations that impose additional requirements and the consequences of litigation relating to current or future laws and regulations, or our inability to respond effectively to significant regulatory or public policy issues, could increase our compliance and other costs of doing business and, therefore, have an adverse effect on our results of operations. Failure to comply with the laws and regulatory requirements of federal, state and local authorities could result in, among other things, revocation of required licenses, administrative enforcement actions, fines and civil and criminal liability. Compliance with the aforementioned laws and regulations can be costly, and failure to comply can increase our exposure to litigation or governmental investigations or proceedings.

Legislation and regulations requiring the display and provision of nutritional information for our menu offerings and new information or attitudes regarding diet and health could result in changes in consumer consumption habits that could adversely affect our results of operations.

Regulations and consumer eating habits may change as a result of new information or attitudes regarding diet and health or new information regarding the adverse health effects of consuming certain menu offerings. Such changes may include federal, state and local regulations that impact the ingredients and nutritional content of the food and beverages we offer. The growth of our restaurant operations is dependent, in part, upon our ability to effectively respond to changes in any consumer health regulations and our ability to adapt our menu offerings to trends in food consumption. If consumer health regulations or consumer eating habits change significantly, we may choose or be required to modify or retire certain menu items, which may adversely affect the attractiveness of our restaurants to new or returning guests. We may also experience higher costs associated with the implementation of those changes. To the extent that we are unwilling or unable to respond with appropriate changes to our menu offerings, it could materially affect consumer demand and have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Such changes have also resulted in, and may continue to result in, laws and regulations requiring us to disclose the nutritional content of our food offerings, and they have resulted in, and may continue to result in, laws and regulations affecting permissible ingredients and menu offerings. For example, a number of states, counties and cities 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. These requirements may be different or inconsistent with requirements under 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 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. The PPACA also requires covered restaurants to provide to consumers, upon request, a written summary of detailed nutritional information for each standard menu item, and to provide a statement on menus and menu boards about the availability of this information upon request. This component of the PPACA is scheduled to become effective on May 5, 2017.

While we do not anticipate that we will have more than 20 locations operating under the same name when this particular component of the PPACA becomes effective, compliance with current and future laws and regulations regarding the ingredients and nutritional content of our menu items will likely be costly and time-consuming. The risks and costs associated with nutritional disclosures on our menus could also impact our operations, particularly given differences among applicable legal requirements and practices within the restaurant industry with respect to testing and disclosure, ordinary variations in food preparation among our own restaurants, and the need to rely on the accuracy and completeness of nutritional information obtained from third-party suppliers.

We may not be able to effectively respond to changes in consumer health perceptions or to successfully implement the nutrient content disclosure requirements and to adapt our menu offerings to trends in eating habits. The imposition of menu labeling

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laws could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations, as well as our position within the restaurant industry in general.

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. Environmental conditions relating to releases of hazardous substances at prior, existing or future restaurant sites could materially adversely affect 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 materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The effect of changes to healthcare laws in the United States may increase the number of employees who choose to participate in our healthcare plans, which may significantly increase our healthcare costs and negatively impact our financial results.

In 2010, the PPACA was signed into law in the United States to require healthcare coverage for many uninsured individuals and expand coverage to those already insured. As a result of the elections which took place in November 2016 and related recently proposed legislation, it appears that certain changes to the PPACA might be forthcoming, although there can be no assurances that such changes will be successfully implemented. We currently offer and subsidize a portion of comprehensive healthcare coverage, primarily for our salaried employees. Starting in 2015, the PPACA required 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. Starting in 2014, the PPACA also required most individuals to obtain coverage or face individual penalties. The amount of the individual penalty may increase significantly in future years. Accordingly, employees who are eligible for but currently elect not to participate in our healthcare plans may find it more advantageous to elect to participate in our healthcare plans. It is also possible that by making changes or failing to make changes in our healthcare plans we will become less competitive in the market for our labor. Finally, implementing the requirements of the PPACA is likely to impose additional administrative costs. The costs and other effects of new healthcare requirements did not have a significant effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations in fiscal year 2016 and are not expected to significantly impact us in fiscal year 2017, but they may significantly increase our healthcare coverage costs in future periods and could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Changes to minimum wage laws and potential labor shortages could increase our labor costs substantially, which could slow our growth and adversely impact our ability to operate our restaurants.

Under the minimum wage laws in most jurisdictions, we are permitted to pay certain hourly employees a wage that is less than the base minimum wage for general employees because these employees receive tips as a substantial part of their income. A considerable portion of our employees earn this lower minimum wage. If cities, states or the federal government change their laws to require all employees to be paid the general employee minimum base wage regardless of supplemental tip income, our labor costs would increase substantially. In addition, any increase in the minimum wage, such as the last increase in the minimum wage on July 24, 2009 to $7.25 per hour under the Federal Minimum Wage Act of 2007, would increase our costs. Certain states in which we operate restaurants have adopted or are considering adopting minimum wage statutes that exceed the federal minimum wage as well. Any increases in federal or state minimum wages may cause us to increase the wages paid to our employees who already earn above-minimum wages in order to continue to attract and retain highly skilled personnel. We may be unable or unwilling to increase our prices in order to pass these increased labor costs on to our guests, in which case our business and results of operations could be adversely affected.

A failure to recruit, develop and retain effective leaders, the loss or shortage of personnel with key capacities and skills, could jeopardize our ability to meet growth targets.

Our success depends in part upon our ability to attract, motivate and retain a sufficient number of qualified employees, including restaurant managers, kitchen staff, hosts and servers necessary to meet the needs of our existing restaurants and anticipated expansion schedule, and who can meet the high standards necessary to deliver the levels of food quality, service and professionalism on which our concepts are based. Qualified individuals of the caliber and number needed to fill these positions are in short supply in some communities and competition for qualified employees could require us to pay higher wages and provide greater benefits to attract sufficient employees. Any inability to recruit and retain qualified individuals may also delay the planned openings of new restaurants and could adversely impact our existing restaurants. Any such inability to retain or recruit qualified employees, increased costs of attracting qualified employees or delays in restaurant openings could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

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Further, increases in employee turnover could have an adverse effect on food quality and guest service resulting in an adverse effect on net sales and results of operations.

Restaurant companies, including ours, have been the target of claims and lawsuits. Proceedings of this nature, if successful, could result in our payment of substantial costs and damages.

In recent years, we and other restaurant companies have been subject to claims and lawsuits alleging various matters, including those that follow. Claims and lawsuits may include class action lawsuits, alleging violations of federal and state laws regarding workplace and employment matters, 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 deductions, the sharing of tips amongst certain employees, overtime eligibility of assistant managers and failure to pay for all hours worked. Insurance may not be available at all or in sufficient amounts to cover any liabilities with respect to these matters. Accordingly, if we are required to pay substantial damages and expenses as a result of these types or other lawsuits, our business and results of operations would be adversely affected.

Occasionally, our guests 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 food-borne illness and relating to notices with respect to chemicals contained in food products required under state law. We are also subject to a variety of other claims from third parties arising in the ordinary course of our business, including personal injury claims, contract claims and claims alleging violations of federal and state laws. In addition, most of our restaurants are subject to state “dram-shop” or similar laws which generally allow a person to sue us if that person was injured by a legally intoxicated person who was wrongfully served alcoholic beverages at one of our restaurants. 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 guests. In addition, we may also be subject to lawsuits from our employees or others alleging violations of federal and state laws regarding workplace and employment matters, discrimination and similar matters. A number of these lawsuits in the restaurant industry have resulted in the payment of substantial damages by the defendants.

Additionally, certain of our tax returns and employment practices are subject to audits by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) and various state tax authorities. Such audits could result in disputes regarding tax matters that could lead to litigation that would be costly to defend or could result in the payment of additional taxes, which could affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Regardless of whether any claims against us are valid or whether we are liable, claims may be expensive to defend and may divert resources away from our operations. In addition, they may generate negative publicity, which could reduce guest traffic and sales. Insurance may not be available at all or in sufficient amounts to cover any liabilities with respect to these or other matters. Defense costs, even for unfounded claims, or 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, results of operations and financial condition.

Our insurance policies may not provide adequate levels of coverage against all claims, and fluctuating insurance requirements and costs could negatively impact our profitability.

We currently maintain insurance coverage that we believe is reasonable for businesses of our size and type. However, there are types of losses we may incur that cannot be insured against or that we believe are not commercially reasonable to insure. These losses, if they occur, could have a material and adverse effect on our business and results of operations. Additionally, health insurance costs in general have risen significantly across the country over the past few years and are expected to continue to increase. Obtaining insurance coverage responsive to these increases could have a negative impact on our profitability, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to successfully offset the effect of such increases with plan modifications and cost control measures, additional operating efficiencies or the pass-through of such increased costs to our guests or employees.

Health concerns arising from food-related pandemics, outbreaks of flu viruses or other diseases may have an adverse effect on our business.

The United States and other countries have experienced, or may experience in the future, outbreaks of viruses, such as norovirus, avian flu or “SARS”, H1N1 or “swine flu” or other diseases such as bovine spongiform, encephalopathy, commonly known as “mad cow disease.” If a virus or disease is foodborne, or perceived to be foodborne, future outbreaks may adversely affect the price and availably of certain food products and cause our guests to eat less of a product, or could reduce public confidence in food handling and/or public assembly. If we change a restaurant menu in response to such concerns, we may lose guests who do not prefer the new menu, and we may not be able to attract a sufficient new guest base to produce the sales needed to make the restaurant profitable. We also may have different or additional competitors for our intended guests as a result of such a change and may not be able to successfully compete against such competitors. If a virus is transmitted by human contact, our employees or guests could become

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infected, or could choose, or be advised, to avoid gathering in public places, any of which events could adversely affect our restaurant guest volume, and our ability to adequately staff our restaurants, receive deliveries on a timely basis or perform functions at the corporate level.

We occupy most of our restaurants under long-term, non-cancelable leases for which we may remain obligated to perform under even after a restaurant closes, and we may be unable to renew leases at the end of their terms.

At March 15, 2017, we are a lessee under both ground leases (under which we lease the land and build our own restaurants on such land) and improved leases (where the lessor owns the land and the building) with respect to 26 current restaurant locations as well as two restaurant locations to be opened during 2017, two restaurants locations closed in 2013 and leased corporate office space in Nashville, Tennessee. Many of our current leases are non-cancelable and typically have terms ranging from approximately 15 to 20 years and provide for rent escalations and for one or more five-year renewal options. We are generally obligated to pay the cost of property taxes, insurance and maintenance under such leases, and certain of our leases provide for contingent rentals based upon a percentage of sales at the leased location. We believe that leases that we enter into in the future will be on substantially similar terms. If we were to close or fail to open a restaurant at a location we lease, we would generally remain committed to perform our obligations under the applicable lease, which could include, among other things, payment of the base rent for the balance of the lease term. Our obligation to continue making rental payments and fulfilling other lease obligations in respect of leases for closed or unopened restaurants could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations. Alternatively, at the end of the lease term and any renewal period for a restaurant, we may be unable to renew the lease without substantial additional cost, if at all. If we cannot renew such a lease we may be forced to close or relocate a restaurant, which could subject us to construction and other costs and risks. If we are required to make payments under one of our leases after a restaurant closes, or if we are unable to renew our restaurant leases, our business and results of operations could be adversely affected.

The impact of negative economic factors, including the availability of credit, on our landlords and other retail center tenants could negatively affect our financial results.

Negative effects on our existing and potential landlords due to any inaccessibility of credit and other unfavorable economic factors may, in turn, adversely affect our business and results of operations. If our landlords are unable to obtain financing or remain in good standing under their existing financing arrangements, they may be unable to provide construction contributions or satisfy other lease covenants to us. If any landlord files for bankruptcy protection, the landlord may be able to reject our lease in the bankruptcy proceedings. While we would have the option to retain our rights under the lease, we could not compel the landlord to perform any of its obligations and would be left with damages as our sole recourse. In addition, if our landlords are unable to obtain sufficient credit to continue to properly manage their retail sites, we may experience a drop in the level of quality of such retail centers. Our development of new restaurants may also be adversely affected by the negative financial situations of developers and potential landlords. In recent years, many landlords have delayed or cancelled development projects (as well as renovations of existing projects) due to the instability in the credit markets and declines in consumer spending, which has reduced the number of high-quality locations available that we would consider for our new restaurants. These failures may lead to reduced guest traffic and a general deterioration in the surrounding retail centers in which our restaurants are located or are proposed to be located and may contribute to lower guest traffic at our restaurants. If any of the foregoing affect any of our landlords or their other retail tenants our business and results of operations may be adversely affected.

Fixed rental payments account for a significant portion of our operating expenses, which increases our vulnerability to general adverse economic and industry conditions and could limit our operating and financing flexibility.

Payments under our operating leases account for a significant portion of our operating expenses, and we expect the new restaurants we open in the future will similarly be leased by us. Specifically, cash payments under our operating leases accounted for approximately 3.0% of our restaurant operating expenses in 2016. Our substantial operating lease obligations could have significant negative consequences, including:

 

requiring a substantial portion of our available cash flow to be applied to our rental obligations, thus reducing cash available for other purposes;

 

 

limiting our flexibility in planning for or reacting to changes in our business or the industry in which we compete;

 

 

increasing our vulnerability to general adverse economic and industry conditions; and

 

 

limiting our ability to obtain additional financing.

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We depend on cash flow from operations to pay our lease obligations and to fulfill our other cash needs. If our business does not generate sufficient cash flow from operating activities and sufficient funds are not otherwise available to us from borrowings under our credit facility or other sources, we may not be able to meet our operating lease obligations, grow our business, respond to competitive challenges or fund our other liquidity and capital needs, which could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Our level of indebtedness and any future indebtedness we may incur may limit our operational and financing flexibility and negatively impact our business.

J. Alexander’s, LLC is currently the borrower on a Second Amended and Restated Loan Agreement with Pinnacle Bank which consists of the following loans:

 

a seven-year $15,000 mortgage loan dated September 3, 2013;

 

 

a five-year $20,000 development line of credit dated May 20, 2015;

 

 

a five-year $10,000 term loan dated May 20, 2015; and

 

 

a three-year $1,000 revolving line of credit dated September 3, 2016.

Our outstanding indebtedness under these loans is $23,583 as of January 1, 2017, and $17,000 is available for borrowing under the above stated lines of credit. We may incur substantial additional indebtedness in the future. Our credit facility, and other debt instruments we may enter into in the future, may significantly impact our business, including the following:

 

our ability to obtain additional financing for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions or general corporate purposes may be impaired;

 

 

we are required to use a significant portion of our cash flows from operations to pay interest on our indebtedness, which will reduce the funds available to us for operations and other purposes;

 

 

our level of indebtedness could place us at a competitive disadvantage compared to our competitors that may have proportionately less debt;

 

 

our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industry in which we operate may be limited; and

 

 

our level of indebtedness may make us more vulnerable to economic downturns and adverse developments in our business.

We expect that we will depend primarily on cash generated by our operations for funds to pay our expenses and any amounts due under our credit facility and any other indebtedness we may incur. Our ability to make these payments depends on our future performance, which will be affected by financial, business, economic and other factors, many of which we cannot control. Our business may not generate sufficient cash flows from operations in the future and our currently anticipated growth in revenues and cash flows may not be realized, either or both of which could result in our being unable to repay indebtedness or to fund other liquidity needs. If we do not generate adequate resources, we may be required to refinance all or part of our then existing debt, sell assets or borrow more money, in each case on terms that may not be acceptable to us. In addition, the terms of existing or future debt agreements, including our existing credit facility, may restrict us from adopting some or any of these alternatives. Our inability to recapitalize and incur additional debt in the future could also delay or prevent a change in control of our Company, make some transactions more difficult and impose additional financial or other covenants on us. In addition, any significant levels of indebtedness in the future could make us more vulnerable to economic downturns and adverse developments in our business. Our current indebtedness and any inability to pay our debt obligations as they come due or an inability to incur additional debt could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

The terms of our credit facility impose operating and financial restrictions on us.

Our credit facility contains certain restrictions and covenants that generally limit our ability to, among other things:

 

pay dividends or make other restricted payments to our equity holders;

 

 

incur additional indebtedness;

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use assets as security in other transactions;

 

 

sell assets or merge with or into other companies; and

 

 

sell equity or other ownership interests in our subsidiaries.

Our credit facility may limit our ability to engage in these types of transactions even if we believed that a specific transaction would contribute to our future growth or improve our operating results. Our credit facility also requires us to achieve specified financial and operating results and maintain compliance with specified financial ratios. Specifically, these covenants require that we have a fixed charge coverage ratio of at least 1.25:1 and maintain a leverage ratio (adjusted debt to EBITDAR (as defined in the credit facility)) that may not exceed 4.0:1, in each case, as of the end of any fiscal quarter on a trailing four quarters basis. As of January 1, 2017, we were in compliance with each of these covenants. Our ability to comply with these provisions may be affected by events beyond our control. A breach of any of these debt covenants or our inability to comply with required financial ratios in our credit facility could result in a default under the credit facility in which case the lenders would have the right to declare all borrowings, which includes any principal amount outstanding, together with all accrued, unpaid interest and other amounts owing in respect thereof, to be immediately due and payable. If we are unable to repay all borrowings when due, whether at maturity or if declared due and payable following a default, the lenders would have the right to proceed against the collateral granted to secure the indebtedness. If we breach these covenants or fail to comply with the terms of the credit facility and the lenders accelerate the amounts outstanding under the credit facility our business and results of operations would be adversely affected.

Our credit facility carries floating interest rates, thereby exposing us to market risk related to changes in interest rates. Accordingly, our business and results of operations may be adversely affected by changes in interest rates. Assuming a 100 basis point increase on our base interest rate on our credit facility and a full drawdown on both of the revolving lines of credit, our interest expense would increase by approximately $405 over the course of 12 months. As of January 1, 2017, the balance outstanding under the $15,000 term loan was $9,583, no borrowings were outstanding under the $1,000 revolving credit facility and $4,000 in borrowings was outstanding under the $20,000 development line of credit. At January 1, 2017, we also had $10,000 outstanding under the $10,000 term loan dated May 20, 2015, which was used to refinance the remaining outstanding balance under a $20,000 related party promissory note assumed from FNFV and payable to FNF (“FNF Note”).

We depend on the services of key executives and management-level employees, and our business and growth strategy could be materially harmed if we were to lose these individuals and were unable to replace them with executives of equal experience and capabilities.

Our success is materially dependent upon the contributions of our senior executives and management-level employees because their experience in the restaurant industry and tenure with us allow for their invaluable contributions in setting our strategic direction, day-to-day operations, and recruiting and training key personnel. The loss of the services of such key employees could adversely affect our business until a suitable replacement of equal experience and capabilities could be identified. We believe that they could not quickly be replaced with executives of equal experience and capabilities and their successors may not be as effective. See “Executive Officers.”

The failure to enforce and maintain our intellectual property rights could enable others to use names confusingly similar to the names and marks used by our restaurants, which could adversely affect the value of our concepts.

We have registered the names J. Alexander’s Restaurant, Redlands Grill, Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill and certain other names and logos used by our restaurants as trade names, trademarks or service marks with the PTO. The success of our business depends in part on our continued ability to utilize our existing trade names, trademarks and service marks as currently used in order to increase our restaurant concept awareness. In that regard, we believe that our trade names, trademarks and service marks are valuable assets that are critical to our success. The unauthorized use or other misappropriation of our trade names, trademarks or service marks could diminish the value of our restaurant concepts and may cause a decline in our revenues and force us to incur costs related to enforcing our rights. In addition, the use of trade names, trademarks or service marks similar to ours in some markets may keep us from entering those markets. While we may take protective actions with respect to our intellectual property, these actions may not be sufficient to prevent, and we may not be aware of all incidents of, unauthorized usage or imitation by others. Any such unauthorized usage or imitation of our intellectual property, including the costs related to enforcing our rights, could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Information technology system failures or breaches of our network security, including with respect to confidential information, could interrupt our operations and adversely affect our business.

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We rely on our computer systems and network infrastructure across our operations, including point-of-sale processing at our restaurants and integrated cost systems that are instrumental in our procurement processes and in managing our food costs. Our operations depend upon our ability to protect our computer equipment and systems against damage from physical theft, fire, power loss, telecommunications failure or other catastrophic events, as well as from internal and external security breaches, viruses, worms and other disruptive problems. Any damage or failure of our computer systems or network infrastructure that causes an interruption in our operations could limit our ability to anticipate and react quickly to changing food costs and could subject us to litigation or actions by regulatory authorities. In addition, the majority 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 of their guests has been stolen or compromised. If this or another type of breach occurs at one of our restaurants, we may become subject to lawsuits or other proceedings for purportedly fraudulent transactions arising out of the actual or alleged theft of our guests’ credit or debit card information. Although we have made significant efforts to secure our computer network and to update and maintain our systems and procedures to meet the payment card industry data security standards, our computer network could nevertheless be compromised and confidential information, such as guest credit card information, could be misappropriated. Any such claim, proceeding or action by a regulatory authority, or any adverse publicity resulting from such breaches and disruptions, or allegations of such breaches and disruptions, could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Although we maintain a cyber-risk insurance program, available coverage and policy limits may not adequately cover or compensate us in the event of a security incident.

If we are unable to effectively grow revenue and profitability at certain of our locations, we may be required to record impairment charges to our restaurant assets, the carrying value of our goodwill or other intangible assets, which could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

We assess the potential impairment of our long-lived assets whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying value of the assets or asset group may not be recoverable. Factors considered include, but are not limited to, significant underperformance relative to historical or projected future operating results, significant changes in the manner in which an asset is being used, an expectation that an asset will be disposed of significantly before the end of its previously estimated useful life and significant negative industry or economic trends. We regularly review and compare the carrying value of our assets and properties, including goodwill, to the fair value of our assets and properties. We cannot accurately predict the amount and timing of any recorded impairment to our assets. Should the value of goodwill or other intangible assets become impaired, there could be an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

From time to time we may evaluate acquisitions, joint ventures or other initiatives that could distract management from our business or have an adverse effect on our financial performance.

We may be presented with opportunities to buy or acquire rights to other companies, businesses, restaurant concepts or assets that might be complementary or adjacent to our current strategic direction at the time and may provide growth opportunities. Any involvement in such an acquisition, merger, joint venture, alliance or divestiture may create inherent risks, including without limitation:

 

inaccurate assessment of value, growth potential, weaknesses, liabilities, contingent or otherwise, and expected profitability of potential acquisitions or joint ventures;

 

 

inability to achieve any anticipated operating synergies or economies of scale;

 

 

potential loss of key personnel of any acquired business;

 

 

challenges in successfully integrating, operating and managing acquired businesses and workforce and instilling our Company’s culture into new management and staff;

 

 

difficulties in aligning enterprise management systems and policies and procedures;

 

 

unforeseen changes in the market and economic conditions affecting the acquired business or joint venture;

 

 

possibility of impairment charges if an acquired business does not meet the performance expectations upon which the acquisition price was based; and

 

 

diversion of management’s attention and focus from existing operations to the integration of the acquired or merged business and its personnel.

Our business will suffer if we fail to successfully integrate acquired companies, businesses and restaurant concepts.

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In the future, we may acquire companies, businesses, restaurant concepts and other assets. The successful integration of any companies, businesses, restaurant concepts and assets we acquire into our operations, on a cost-effective basis, can be critical to our future performance. The amount and timing of the expected benefits of any acquisition, including potential synergies, are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. The integration of acquisitions with our operations could be expensive, require significant attention from management, may impose substantial demands on our operations or other projects and may impose challenges on the combined business including, without limitation, consistencies in business standards, procedures, policies and business cultures.

We cannot guarantee that any acquired companies, businesses, restaurant concepts or assets will be successfully integrated with our operations in a timely or cost-effective manner, or at all. Failure to successfully integrate acquired businesses or to achieve anticipated operating synergies, revenue enhancements or cost savings could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We depend upon frequent deliveries of food and other supplies, in most cases from a limited number of suppliers, which subjects us to the possible risks of shortages, interruptions and price fluctuations.

Our ability to maintain consistent quality throughout our restaurants depends in part upon our ability to acquire fresh products, including beef, seafood, produce and similar items from reliable sources in accordance with our specifications. In addition, we rely on one or a limited number of suppliers for certain ingredients. This dependence on one or a limited number of suppliers, as well as the limited number of alternative suppliers of beef and quality seafood, subjects us to the possible risks of shortages, interruptions and price fluctuations in beef and seafood. If any of our suppliers is unable to obtain financing necessary to operate its business or its business is otherwise adversely affected, does not perform adequately or otherwise fails to distribute products or supplies to our restaurants, or terminates or refuses to renew any contract with us, particularly with respect to one of the suppliers on which we rely heavily for specific ingredients, we may be unable to find an alternative supplier in a short period of time or if we can, it may not be on acceptable terms. While we do not rely on any single-source supplier that we believe could not be replaced with one or more alternative suppliers without undue disruption, any delay in our ability to replace a supplier in a short period of time on acceptable terms could increase our costs or cause shortages at our restaurants that may cause us to remove certain items from a menu or increase the price of certain offerings, which could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

Our business is subject to seasonal and other periodic fluctuations, and past results are not indicative of future results.

Our net sales and net income have historically been subject to seasonal fluctuations. Net sales and operating income typically reach their highest levels during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year due to holiday business and the first quarter of the fiscal year due in part to the redemption of gift cards sold during the holiday season. In addition, certain of our restaurants, particularly those located in south Florida, typically experience an increase in guest traffic during the period between Thanksgiving and Easter due to an increase in population in these markets during that portion of the year.

Our quarterly results have been and will continue to be affected by the timing of new restaurant openings and their associated pre-opening costs, as well as any restaurant closures and exit-related costs and any impairments of goodwill, intangible assets and property, fixtures and equipment. As a result of these and other factors, our financial results for any quarter may not be indicative of the results that may be achieved for a full fiscal year.

Hurricanes and other weather-related disturbances could negatively affect our net sales and results of operations.

Certain of our restaurants are located in regions of the country which are commonly affected by hurricanes and tropical storms. Restaurant closures resulting from evacuations, damage or power or water outages caused by hurricanes, tropical storms, other natural disasters and winter weather could adversely affect our net sales and profitability. To the extent we maintain insurance policies or programs to mitigate the impact of these risks, our cash flows may be adversely impacted by delay in the receipt of proceeds under those policies or the proceeds may not fully offset any such losses.

We are a holding company and our only material asset is our interest in J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC, and, accordingly, we are dependent upon distributions from J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC to pay taxes and other expenses.

We are a holding company and have no material assets other than our ownership of Units of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC. We have no independent means of generating revenue. J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC is treated as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes and, as such, is not itself subject to U.S. federal income tax. Instead, its net taxable income is generally allocated to its members, including us, according to the membership interests each member owns. Accordingly, we incur income taxes on our proportionate share of any net taxable income of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC and also incur expenses related to our operations. We cause J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC to distribute cash to its members, including us, in an amount at least equal to the amount necessary to cover their respective tax liabilities, if any, with respect to their allocable share of the net income of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC and to cover dividends, if any, declared by us. To the extent that we need funds to pay our tax or other liabilities or to

27


fund our operations, and J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC is restricted from making distributions to us under applicable agreements, laws or regulations or does not have sufficient cash to make these distributions, we may have to borrow funds to meet these obligations and operate our business, and our liquidity and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.

We could have an indemnification obligation to FNF if the Spin-off were determined not to qualify for non-recognition tax treatment, which could materially adversely affect our financial condition.

If, due to a breach of any representations, covenants or undertakings made by us under the Tax Matters Agreement (as defined in the Separation and Distribution Agreement between Fidelity National Financial, Inc. and J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc., dated September 16, 2015 included as Exhibit 10.1 of Current Report on 8-K filed September 17, 2015), it were determined that the Spin-off did not qualify for non-recognition of gain and loss under Section 355 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), we could be required to indemnify FNF for the resulting taxes and related expenses. Any such indemnification obligation could materially adversely affect our financial condition.

Section 355(e) of the Code generally creates a presumption that the Distribution would be taxable to FNF, but not to equity holders, if we or our equity holders were to engage in transactions that result in a 50% or greater change by vote or value in the ownership of our stock during the four-year period beginning on the date that begins two years before the date of the Spin-off, unless it were established that such transactions and the Spin-off were not part of a plan or series of related transactions giving effect to such a change in ownership. If the Spin-off were taxable to FNF due to such a 50% or greater change in ownership of our stock, FNF would recognize gain in an amount up to the fair market value of our common stock held by it immediately before the Spin-off, increased by the amount of the special dividend that we paid FNF in connection with the Spin-Off, and we generally would be required to indemnify FNF for the tax on such gain and any related expenses. Any such indemnification obligation could materially adversely affect our financial condition.

We agreed to certain restrictions to preserve the treatment of the Spin-off as tax-free to FNF and holders of FNFV Group common stock, which will reduce our strategic and operating flexibility

To preserve the tax-free treatment to FNF of the Spin-off, under the Tax Matters Agreement that we entered into with FNF, we are generally prohibited, except in specified circumstances, for specified periods of up to 24 months following the Spin-off, from:

 

issuing, redeeming or being involved in other significant acquisitions of our equity securities;

 

voluntarily dissolving or liquidating;

 

transferring significant amounts of our assets;

 

amending our certificate of incorporation or by-laws;

 

failing to engage in the active conduct of a trade or business; or

 

engaging in certain other actions or transactions that could jeopardize the tax-free status of the Spin-off.

These covenants and restrictions may limit our ability to pursue strategic transactions or engage in new businesses or other transactions that may maximize the value of our business, and might discourage or delay a strategic transaction that our equity holders may consider favorable.

We may be unable to achieve some or all of the benefits that we expect to achieve from the Spin-off.

We believe that, as an independent publicly-traded company, we are able to, among other things, better focus our financial and operational resources on our specific business, implement and maintain a capital structure designed to meet our specific needs, design and implement corporate strategies and policies that are targeted to our business, more effectively respond to industry dynamics and create effective incentives for our management and employees that are more closely tied to our business performance. However, by separating from FNF, we may be more susceptible to market fluctuations and other adverse events. In addition, we may be unable to achieve some or all of the benefits that we expect to achieve as an independent company in the time we expect, if at all. If we fail to achieve some or all of the benefits that we expect to achieve as an independent company, or do not achieve them in the time we expect, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.

In connection with the Spin-off, we and FNF undertook potentially significant indemnity obligations. If we are required to perform under these indemnities to FNF, we may need to divert cash to meet those obligations, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. In the case of FNF’s indemnity, there can be no assurance that the indemnity will be sufficient to insure us against the full amount of any relevant liabilities or that FNF will be able to satisfy its indemnification obligations in the future.

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Under the Tax Matters Agreement that we entered into with FNF, we generally agreed to indemnify FNF for taxes and related losses it suffers as a result of the Spin-off failing to qualify as a tax-free transaction, if the taxes and related losses are attributable to: direct or indirect acquisitions of our stock or assets (regardless of whether we consent to such acquisitions); negotiations, understandings, agreements or arrangements in respect of such acquisitions; or our failure to comply with certain representations and undertakings from us, including the restrictions described in the preceding risk factor.  Our indemnity obligations under the Tax Matters Agreement covers both corporate level taxes and related losses imposed on FNF in the event of a 50% or greater change in our stock ownership described in the preceding risk factor, as well as taxes and related losses imposed on FNF if, due to our representations or undertakings being incorrect or violated, the Spin-off is determined to be taxable for other reasons.

Under the Separation and Distribution Agreement we have agreed to indemnify FNF and its representatives against losses suffered as a result of, among other things: our failure to promptly pay or discharge any of our liabilities following the Spin-off; any breach by us of the Separation and Distribution Agreement; and any untrue statement or alleged untrue statement of a material fact or material omission or material alleged omission to state a material fact required to be stated in the registration statement filed in connection with the Spin-off.

Indemnities that we may be required to provide FNF may be significant and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition, particularly indemnities relating to certain actions that could impact the tax-free nature of the Spin-off. Despite the Tax Matters Agreement providing to the contrary, third-parties could also seek to hold us responsible for any of the liabilities that FNF has agreed to retain. Further, there can be no assurance that the indemnity from FNF will be sufficient to protect us against the full amount of such liabilities, or that FNF will be able to fully satisfy its indemnification obligations. Moreover, even if we ultimately succeed in recovering from FNF any amounts for which we are held liable, we may be temporarily required to bear these losses ourselves. Each of these risks could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

The continued ownership of FNF common stock and FNFV Group common stock by some of our directors may create, or may create the appearance of, conflicts of interest.

Because of their current or former positions with FNF, certain of our non-employee directors own FNF common stock and FNFV Group common stock. These holdings in FNF common stock and FNFV Group common stock may be significant for some of these persons compared to that person’s total assets. Even though our Board includes directors who are independent from both FNF and our Company under the applicable rules of the SEC and New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”), ownership of FNF common stock and FNFV Group common stock by our directors and officers after the separation may create, or may create the appearance of, conflicts of interest when these directors and officers are faced with decisions that could have different implications for FNF than they do for us.  In addition, some of our directors are members of the Board of Directors of FNFV Group subsidiaries which may in the future create, or may create the appearance of, conflicts of interests.

We could have potentially received better terms from unaffiliated third parties than the terms we received in our agreements with FNF and its affiliates.

The agreements we entered into with FNF or its affiliates in connection with the separation consist of the Separation and Distribution Agreement, the Tax Matters Agreement and the Management Consulting Agreement, each of which were negotiated in the context of the separation while we were still a majority-owned subsidiary of FNF. Accordingly, during the period in which the terms of those agreements were negotiated, we did not have an independent board of directors or a management team independent of FNF. As a result, the terms of those agreements may not reflect terms that would have resulted from arm’s-length negotiations between unaffiliated third-parties. The terms of the agreements negotiated in the context of the separation relate to, among other things, the consideration to be paid to Black Knight Advisory Services, LLC for management services under the Management Consulting Agreement. Arm’s-length negotiations between FNF and an unaffiliated third party in another form of transaction, such as a buyer in a sale of a business transaction, may have resulted in more favorable terms to us.

Under our Management Consulting Agreement with Black Knight Advisory Services, LLC, we have agreed to pay cash compensation equal to 3% of our annual Adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (“Adjusted EBITDA”) which could result in significant increases in management fees and our expenses.

Under our Management Consulting Agreement with Black Knight Advisory Services, LLC (“Black Knight” or  “Management Consultant”), we have agreed to pay 3% of our annual Adjusted EBITDA to the Management Consultant in consideration for management consulting services. As we continue to execute our business plan and grow our concepts, we expect to generate increased Adjusted EBITDA which would result in automatic increases in the amounts payable to the Management Consultant under the Management Consulting Agreement. We have also issued Class B Units to the Management Consultant reflecting profits interest in J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC. Although these arrangements are designed to align the interests of the Management Consultant with our public shareholders, the compensation payable to the Management Consultant could be substantial

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as we generate increased levels of Adjusted EBITDA. In such circumstances, the amount of profits allocable to our shareholders and the amount of cash flow otherwise available to us for other corporate purposes, including dividends or other distributions to our shareholders, would be reduced.

The issuance of common stock upon exchange of Class B Units may dilute our shareholders’ ownership of common stock.

The Class B Units of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC held by members of our management are exchangeable for, at our option, either shares of our common stock or a cash payment from J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC, and the Class B Units held by the Management Consultant are exchangeable only for shares of common stock, as described under Note 14 – Share-based Compensation and Note 18 – Related Party Transactions in the footnotes to our Consolidated Financial Statements found under Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data of this Annual Report. If we elect to issue common stock in respect of these exchanges, investor ownership of common stock will be diluted.

If we elect to have J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC make cash payments for future exchanges of Class B Units in lieu of issuing shares of common stock, such payments may reduce the amount of overall cash flow that would otherwise be available to us.

If we elect to have J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC make cash payments in lieu of issuing shares of common stock upon exchanges of Class B Units made by members of our management, such payments may require the payment of significant amounts of cash and may reduce the amount of overall cash flow that would otherwise be available for distribution to us from J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC. In such event, our ability to successfully execute our growth strategy may be negatively affected.

The market price of our common stock may decline due to significant fluctuations in quarterly operating results.

Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly and could fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors due to seasonality and other factors, some of which are beyond our control, resulting in a decline in our stock price. Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly because of several factors, including:

 

the timing of new restaurant openings and related expenses;

 

 

restaurant operating expenses for our newly-opened restaurants, which are often materially greater during the first several quarters of operation than thereafter;

 

 

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 same store sales;

 

 

impairment of long-lived assets and any loss on restaurant closures;

 

 

macroeconomic conditions, both nationally and locally;

 

 

negative publicity relating to the consumption of beef, poultry, seafood or other products we serve;

 

 

changes in consumer preferences and competitive conditions;

 

 

expansion to new markets;

 

 

increases in infrastructure costs; and

 

 

fluctuations in commodity prices.

Our fiscal year ends on the Sunday closest to December 31 and generally contains 52 weeks. As a result of this format, we will periodically have a fiscal year which contains 53 weeks of operation, including a 14-week fourth quarter. Fiscal year 2015 represents such a year.

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Seasonal factors and the timing of holidays also cause our revenue to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Net sales and operating income typically reach their highest levels during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year due to holiday business and the first quarter of the fiscal year due in part to the redemption of gift cards sold during the holiday season. As a result of these factors, our quarterly and annual operating results and same store sales may fluctuate significantly. Accordingly, results for any one quarter are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected for any other quarter or for any year, and same store sales for any particular future period may decrease. In the future, operating results may fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors. In that event, the price of our common stock would likely decrease.

The market price of our common stock may be volatile, and stockholders may not be able to sell shares at an acceptable price.

The market price of our stock could fluctuate significantly, and stockholders may not be able to resell shares at an acceptable price. Those fluctuations could be based on various factors in addition to those otherwise described in this Annual Report, including those described under Item 1A. Risk Factors and the following:

 

our operating performance and the performance of our competitors or restaurant companies in general and fluctuations in our operating results;

 

 

the public’s reaction to our press releases, our other public announcements and our filings with the SEC;

 

 

changes in earnings estimates or recommendations by research analysts who follow us or other companies in our industry;

 

 

global, national or local economic, legal and regulatory factors unrelated to our performance;

 

 

announcements by us or our competitors of new locations or menu items, capacity changes, strategic investments or acquisitions;

 

 

actual or anticipated variations in our or our competitors’ operating results, and our or our competitors’ growth rates;

 

 

failure by us or our competitors to meet analysts’ projections or guidance that we or our competitors may give the market;

 

 

changes in laws or regulations, or new interpretations or applications of laws and regulations, that are applicable to our business;

 

 

changes in accounting standards, policies, guidance, interpretations or principles;

 

 

the arrival or departure of key personnel;

 

 

the number of shares being publicly traded;

 

 

future sales or issuances of our common stock, including sales or issuances by us, our officers or directors and our significant shareholders; and

 

 

other developments affecting us, our industry or our competitors.

In addition, in recent years the stock market has experienced significant price and volume fluctuations that have affected and continue to affect the market prices of equity securities of many companies. These fluctuations have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of those companies. These broad market and restaurant industry fluctuations, as well as general economic, political and market conditions such as recessions or interest rate changes, may cause declines in the market price of our common stock.

As we operate in a single industry, we are especially vulnerable to these factors to the extent that they affect our industry or our products. In the past, securities class action litigation has often been initiated against companies following periods of volatility in their stock price. This type of litigation could result in substantial costs and divert our management’s attention and resources, and could also require us to make substantial payments to satisfy judgments or to settle litigation.

The market price of our common stock could decline due to the number of shares of common stock eligible for future sale upon the exchange of Class B Units.

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The market price of our common stock could decline as a result of issuances of additional shares of our common stock eligible for future sale upon the exchange of Class B Units, or the perception that such issuances could occur. These issuances, or the possibility that these issuances may occur, may also make it more difficult for us to raise additional capital by selling equity securities in the future, at a time and price that we deem appropriate. Approximately 13.5% of the ownership interests in J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC are Class B Units held by certain members of our management and the Management Consultant. Based on the value of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC (determined primarily by reference to the trading price of our common stock) above a specified hurdle amount and time-based vesting provisions, vested Class B Units may be immediately exchanged for our common stock or, for those held by members of our management, for cash, at our option.  We will not know the exact number of shares of common stock issuable until an exchange right is exercised. The earliest date we expect an exchange right could be exercised would be in the second quarter of 2017.

Our charter and bylaws and provisions of Tennessee law may discourage or prevent strategic transactions, including a takeover of our company, even if such a transaction would be beneficial to our shareholders.

Provisions contained in our charter and bylaws and provisions of the Tennessee Business Corporation Act could delay or prevent a third party from entering into a strategic transaction with us, as applicable, even if such a transaction would benefit our shareholders. For example, our charter and bylaws:

 

divide our board of directors into three classes with staggered three-year terms, which may delay or prevent a change of our management or a change in control;

 

 

authorize the issuance of “blank check” preferred stock that could be issued by us upon approval of our board of directors to increase the number of outstanding shares of capital stock, making a takeover more difficult and expensive;

 

 

do not permit cumulative voting in the election of directors, which could otherwise make it easier for a smaller minority of shareholders to elect director candidates;

 

 

do not permit shareholders to take action upon less than unanimous written consent;

 

 

provide that special meetings of the shareholders may be called only by or at the direction of the board of directors, the chairman of our board of directors or the chief executive officer;

 

 

require advance notice to be given by shareholders for any shareholder proposals or director nominees;

 

 

require a super-majority vote of the shareholders to amend certain provisions of our charter; and

 

 

allow our board of directors to make, amend or repeal our bylaws but only allow shareholders to amend or repeal our bylaws upon the approval of 66 2/3 % or more of the voting power of all of the outstanding shares of our capital stock entitled to vote.

In addition, we are subject to certain provisions of Tennessee law that limit, in some cases, our ability to engage in certain business combinations with significant shareholders.

These restrictions and provisions could keep us from pursuing relationships with strategic partners and from raising additional capital, which could impede our ability to expand our business and strengthen our competitive position. These restrictions could also limit shareholder value by impeding a sale of us or J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC.

Under the Tax Matters Agreement that we entered into with FNF, we are generally prohibited, except in specified circumstances, for specified periods of up to 24 months following the Spin-off from consenting to certain acquisitions of significant amounts of our stock.

As discussed above, an acquisition or further issuance of our equity securities could trigger a tax to FNF, requiring us under the Tax Matters Agreement to indemnify FNF for such tax. This indemnity obligation might discourage, delay or prevent a change of control that might otherwise be considered favorable.

If securities or industry analysts publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price and trading volume could decline.

32


The trading market for our common stock is influenced in part on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business. If too few securities or industry analysts cover our stock, the trading price for our common stock could be negatively impacted. If an analyst downgrades our common stock or publishes inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price would likely decline. If an analyst ceases coverage of us or fails to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our common stock could decrease, which could cause our stock prices and trading volume to decline.

We do not intend to pay dividends for the foreseeable future.

We may retain future earnings, if any, for future operations, expansion and debt repayment and have no current plans to pay any cash dividends for the foreseeable future. Any future determination to declare and pay cash dividends will be at the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on, among other things, our financial condition, results of operations, cash requirements, contractual restrictions and such other factors as our board of directors deems relevant. In addition, our current credit facility restricts our ability to pay dividends. Our ability to pay dividends may also be limited by covenants of any future outstanding indebtedness we or our subsidiaries incur. As a result, investors may not receive any return on an investment in our common stock unless investors sell our common stock for a price greater than that which the investor paid for it.

We will incur increased costs as a result of being a public company.

As a public, exchange listed company, we will incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company, particularly after we are no longer an emerging growth company as defined under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”). In addition, new and changing laws, regulations and standards relating to corporate governance and public disclosure, including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the rules and regulations promulgated and to be promulgated thereunder, as well as under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“Sarbanes-Oxley”), and the JOBS Act, have created uncertainty for public companies and increased costs and time that boards of directors and management must devote to complying with these rules and regulations. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and related rules of the SEC and the NYSE regulate corporate governance practices of public companies. We expect compliance with these rules and regulations to increase our legal and financial compliance costs and lead to a diversion of management time and attention from revenue generating activities. For example, we have adopted new internal controls and disclosure controls and procedures. In addition, we have incurred and will continue to incur additional expenses associated with our SEC reporting requirements. We currently estimate that the additional costs we incur as a result of being a public company are approximately $1,200 annually.

Our reported financial results may be adversely affected by changes in accounting principles applicable to us.

Generally accepted accounting principles in the U.S. are subject to interpretation by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the SEC and various bodies formed to promulgate and interpret appropriate accounting principles. A change in these principles or interpretations could have a significant effect on our reported financial results and could affect the reporting of transactions completed before the announcement of a change. In addition, the SEC has announced a multi-year plan that could ultimately lead to the use of International Financial Reporting Standards by U.S. issuers in their SEC filings. Any such change could have a significant effect on our reported financial results.

We are an emerging growth company and, as a result of the reduced disclosure and governance requirements applicable to emerging growth companies, our common stock may be less attractive to investors.

We are an emerging growth company as defined under the JOBS Act, and we are eligible to take advantage of certain exemptions from various reporting requirements applicable to other public companies, but not to emerging growth companies, including, but not limited to, an exemption from the auditor attestation requirement of Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley, reduced disclosure about executive compensation arrangements pursuant to the rules applicable to smaller reporting companies and no requirement to seek non-binding advisory votes on executive compensation or golden parachute arrangements. We have elected to adopt these reduced disclosure requirements. We may take advantage of these provisions until we are no longer an emerging growth company. We will remain an emerging growth company until the earlier of (1) the last day of our fiscal year following the fifth anniversary of the first sale of our common stock pursuant to an effective registration statement under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), (2) the last day our first fiscal year in which we have total annual gross revenue of at least $1.0 billion, (3) the date on which we have issued more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during the prior three-year period and (4) the date on which we are deemed to be a large accelerated filer, which means the market value of our common stock held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of the last business day of our prior second fiscal quarter.

In addition, Section 107 of the JOBS Act also provides that an emerging growth company can take advantage of the extended transition period provided in Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act for complying with new or revised accounting standards. An emerging growth company can therefore delay the adoption of certain accounting standards until those standards would otherwise apply to private companies. However, we are choosing to “opt out” of such extended transition period and, as a result, we will comply

33


with new or revised accounting standards on the relevant dates on which adoption of such standards is required for non-emerging growth companies. Section 107 of the JOBS Act provides that our decision to opt out of the extended transition period for complying with new or revised accounting standards is irrevocable.

We cannot predict if investors will find our common stock less attractive as a result of our taking advantage of these exemptions. If some investors find our common stock less attractive as a result of our choices, there may be a less active trading market for our common stock and our stock price may be more volatile.

If we are unable to implement and maintain the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting, our independent registered public accounting firm may not be able to provide an unqualified report on our internal controls, which could adversely affect our stock price.

Pursuant to Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley and the related rules adopted by the SEC and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, starting with the second annual report that we file with the SEC, our management will be required to report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. In addition, once we no longer qualify as an emerging growth company under the JOBS Act and lose the ability to rely on the exemptions related thereto discussed above, our independent registered public accounting firm will also need to attest to the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting under Section 404. We may encounter problems or delays in completing the implementation of any changes necessary to our internal control over financial reporting to conclude such controls are effective. If we conclude and, once we no longer qualify as an emerging growth company under the JOBS Act, our independent registered public accounting firm concludes, that our internal control over financial reporting is not effective, investor confidence and our stock price could decline.

Matters impacting our internal controls may cause us to be unable to report our financial information on a timely basis and thereby subject us to adverse regulatory consequences, including sanctions by the SEC or violations of NYSE rules, and result in a breach of the covenants under our financing arrangements. There also could 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 could suffer if we or our independent registered public accounting firm were to report a material weakness in our internal controls over financial reporting. This could materially adversely affect us and lead to a decline in the price of our common stock.

Claims for indemnification by our directors and officers may reduce our available funds to satisfy successful third-party claims against us and may reduce the amount of money available to us.

Our charter and bylaws provide that we will indemnify our directors and officers, in each case to the fullest extent permitted by Tennessee law. In addition, we have entered and expect to continue to enter into agreements to indemnify our directors, executive officers and other employees as determined by our board of directors. Under the terms of such indemnification agreements, we are required to indemnify each of our directors and officers, to the fullest extent permitted by the laws of the State of Tennessee, if the basis of the indemnitee’s involvement was by reason of the fact that the indemnitee is or was a director or officer of the Company or any of its subsidiaries or was serving at the Company’s request in an official capacity for another entity. We must indemnify our officers and directors against all reasonable fees, expenses, charges and other costs of any type or nature whatsoever, including any and all expenses and obligations paid or incurred in connection with investigating, defending, being a witness in, participating in (including on appeal), or preparing to defend, be a witness or participate in any completed, actual, pending or threatened action, suit, claim or proceeding, whether civil, criminal, administrative or investigative, or establishing or enforcing a right to indemnification under the indemnification agreement. The indemnification agreements also require us, if so requested, to advance within 30 days of such request all reasonable fees, expenses, charges and other costs that such director or officer incurred, provided that such person will return any such advance if it is ultimately determined that such person is not entitled to indemnification by us. Any claims for indemnification by our directors and officers may reduce our available funds to satisfy successful third-party claims against us and may reduce the amount of money available to us.

Future offerings of debt securities, which would rank senior to our common stock upon our bankruptcy or liquidation, and future offerings of equity securities that may be senior to our common stock for the purposes of dividend and liquidating distributions, may adversely affect the market price of our common stock.

In the future, we may attempt to increase our capital resources by making offerings of debt securities or additional offerings of equity securities. Upon bankruptcy or liquidation, holders of our debt securities and shares of preferred stock and lenders with respect to other borrowings will receive a distribution of our available assets prior to the holders of our common stock. Additional equity offerings may dilute the holdings of our existing shareholders or reduce the market price of our common stock, or both, and may result in future limitations under the tax code that could reduce the rate at which we utilize any net operating loss carryforwards to reduce our taxable income. Preferred stock, if issued, could have a preference on liquidating distributions or a preference on dividend payments or both that could limit our ability to make a dividend distribution to the holders of our common stock. Our decision to issue securities in any future offering will depend on market conditions and other factors beyond our control and may have

34


the effect of reducing the market price of our common stock and diluting the ownership interest of existing stockholders in J. Alexander Holdings, Inc.

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments

Not applicable.

Item 2. Properties

As of March 15, 2017, we operated 19 J. Alexander’s restaurants, 12 Redlands Grill restaurants, one Lyndhurst Grill restaurant and 12 Stoney River restaurants. The following table gives the locations of, and describes our interest in, the land and buildings used in connection with our restaurants:

 

 

Site and Building

 

Site Leased and Building

 

Site and Building

 

 

 

Owned by the Company

 

Owned by the Company

 

Leased to the Company

 

Total

Location

JAX

SR

RG

LG

 

JAX

SR

RG

 

JAX

SR

RG

 

 

Alabama

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Colorado

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Florida

1

 

1

 

 

3

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

6

Georgia

 

1

1

 

 

1

1

 

 

 

1

 

 

5

Illinois

1

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

Kansas

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Kentucky

 

1

 

 

 

1

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

3

Louisiana

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

2

Missouri

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Michigan

1

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

3

North Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

2

Ohio

 

 

2

1

 

2

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

6

Tennessee

2

 

1

 

 

 

1

 

 

1

2

1

 

8

Texas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

1

Total

6

3

8

1

 

10

3

3

 

3

6

1

 

44

JAX = J. Alexander’s restaurants

SR = Stoney River restaurants

RG = Redlands Grill restaurants

LG = Lyndhurst Grill restaurant

Most of our lease agreements may be renewed at the end of the initial term (generally 15 to 20 years) for periods of five or more years. Certain of these leases provide for minimum rentals plus additional rent based on a percentage of the restaurant’s gross sales in excess of specified amounts. These leases usually require us to pay all real estate taxes, insurance premiums and maintenance expenses with respect to the leased premises.

Our corporate offices are located in leased office space in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to the properties listed in the table above, we remain party to two additional leases for closed locations, one of which we have subleased to a third party through the term of the original lease.

Certain of our owned restaurants are mortgaged as security for our mortgage loan and secured line of credit. Refer to Part II, Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data – Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements, Note 10 – Debt in this Annual Report for additional information.

 

Item 3. Legal Proceedings

The information required by this Item is incorporated by reference to Part II, Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data – Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements, Note 17(c) – Commitments and Contingencies – Litigation Contingencies in this Annual Report.

 

35


Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures

Not applicable.

 

 


36


PART II

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

The common stock of J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. began “regular-way” trading on the NYSE under the symbol “JAX” on September 29, 2015.  As the Company’s stock began publicly trading during the fourth quarter of 2015, the following table summarizes the quarterly price range of its common stock since that time, as reported in price quotations from the NYSE:

 

2016:

Low

 

 

High

 

First Quarter

$

8.52

 

 

$

11.03

 

Second Quarter

 

9.18

 

 

 

10.90

 

Third Quarter

 

9.16

 

 

 

10.35

 

Fourth Quarter

 

8.35

 

 

 

11.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015:

Low

 

 

High

 

Fourth Quarter

$

8.80

 

 

$

12.10

 

The closing sale price of our common stock on March 15, 2017 was $9.80.

 Holders of Our Common Stock

The number of record holders of J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. common stock at March 15, 2017, was approximately 3,800. A substantially greater number of shareholders hold our stock in “street name” and such shares are held of record by banks, brokers and other financial institutions.

Dividend Policy

The Company has not paid a dividend since listing its common stock on the NYSE during the fourth quarter of 2015. We currently intend to retain all available funds and any future earnings to fund the development, operations and growth of our business and to repay indebtedness and repurchase shares, and therefore we do not anticipate paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Additionally, our ability to pay dividends on shares of our common stock is limited by restrictions on the ability of our subsidiaries and us to pay dividends or make distributions under the terms of current agreements governing our indebtedness. Any future determination to declare and pay cash dividends will be at the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on, among other things, our financial condition, results of operations, cash requirements, contractual restrictions and such other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors.

In addition, since we are a holding company, substantially all of the assets shown on our consolidated balance sheet are held by our subsidiaries. Accordingly, our earnings, cash flow and ability to pay dividends are largely dependent upon the earnings and cash flows of our subsidiaries and the distribution or other payment of such earnings to us in the form of dividends. The ability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends is currently restricted by the terms of our credit facility and may be further restricted by any future indebtedness we or they incur.

Share Repurchase Program

The following table summarizes repurchases of equity securities by the Company during the year ended January 1, 2017:

37


Period

 

Total Number

of Shares Repurchased

 

 

Weighted Average Price Paid

per Share

 

 

Total Number of Shares Purchased as

Part of Publicly Announced Plans

or Programs (1)

 

 

Maximum Number of Shares that

May Yet Be Purchased Under the

Plans or Programs (2)

 

1/4/2016 - 2/3/2016

 

 

-

 

 

$

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

1,500,000

 

2/4/2016 - 3/3/2016

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

1,500,000

 

3/4/2016 - 4/3/2016

 

 

53,250

 

 

 

10.10

 

 

 

53,250

 

 

 

1,446,750

 

4/4/2016 - 5/3/2016

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

1,446,750

 

5/4/2016 - 6/3/2016

 

 

44,707

 

 

 

10.54

 

 

 

44,707

 

 

 

1,402,043

 

6/4/2016 - 7/3/2016

 

 

202,102

 

 

 

10.56

 

 

 

202,102

 

 

 

1,199,941

 

7/4/2016 - 8/3/2016

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

1,199,941

 

8/3/2016 - 9/3/2016

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

1,199,941

 

9/4/2016 - 10/3/2016

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

1,199,941

 

10/4/2016 - 11/3/2016

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

1,199,941

 

11/4/2016 - 12/3/2016

 

 

5,000

 

 

 

10.00

 

 

 

5,000

 

 

 

1,194,941

 

12/4/2016 - 1/1/2017

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

1,194,941

 

Total

 

 

305,059

 

 

$

10.47

 

 

 

305,059

 

 

 

1,194,941

 

 

(1)

On October 29, 2015, J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc.’s Board of Directors approved a three-year stock purchase program, effective on such date, under which the Company can repurchase up to 1,500,000 shares of its common stock through October 29, 2018.  Repurchases will be made in accordance with applicable securities laws and may be made from time to time in the open market.  The timing, prices and amount of repurchases will depend upon prevailing market prices, general economic and market conditions and other considerations. The repurchase program does not obligate the Company to acquire any particular amount of stock.

 

 

(2)

As of the last day of the applicable period.

As of March 15, 2017, the number of shares that have been repurchased under this program totaled 305,059 for an aggregate purchase price of $3,203.  

Equity Compensation Plan Information

The information required under this Item is incorporated herein by reference to our definitive proxy statement to be filed with the SEC no later than 120 days after the close of our fiscal year ended January 1, 2017. On March 15, 2017, our Board of Directors approved the First Amendment to the J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. 2015 Equity Incentive Plan (the “Plan”) which is included in this Annual Report as Exhibit 10.9.  The amendment made certain clarifying changes to the Plan and updated certain provisions.

Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities

In August 2014, in connection with our formation, we issued 1,000 shares of common stock to FNFV for an aggregate consideration of $1.00. These securities were issued in reliance on the exemption contained in Section 4(2) of the Securities Act on the basis that the transaction did not involve a public offering. No underwriters were involved in the sale.

In connection with the reorganization transaction, prior to the Spin-off, we issued to FNFV, Newport Global Opportunities Fund AIV-A LP (operating under a new fund name “Newport Global Opportunities Fund I-A LP” effective January 7, 2016) and each other person holding membership interests of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC, approximately 15 million shares of common stock in consideration of the delivery to us of all of the outstanding limited liability company membership interests of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC held by such persons. These shares of common stock were issued in reliance on the exemption contained in Section 4(2) of the Securities Act on the basis that the transaction did not involve a public offering. No underwriters were involved in the transaction.

Comparison of Cumulative Total Return

The following graph compares the cumulative stockholders return on our common stock from September 29, 2015 (the effective date on which we began trading under the symbol “JAX” on the NYSE) through January 1, 2017 to that of the total return index for the S&P 500, S&P Smallcap 600 and S&P Restaurants industry sector assuming an investment of $100 on September 29, 2015. In calculating total stockholder return for this period, reinvestment of dividends, if any, is assumed. The indices are included for comparative purposes only. They do not necessarily reflect management’s opinion that such indices are an appropriate measure of the relative performance of our common stock. This graph is not “soliciting material,” is not deemed filed with the Securities and

38


Exchange Commission and is not to be incorporated by reference in any of our filings under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, whether made before or after the date hereof and irrespective of any general incorporation language in any such filing.

 


39


Item 6. Selected Financial Data

The following table summarizes consolidated financial information of J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. Our financial results for the years ended December 28, 2014 and December 29, 2013 as well as the period from October 1, 2012 through December 30, 2012 are the historical results of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC, including the earnings prior to and up to September 27, 2015.  For the period beginning January 2, 2012 through September 30, 2012, our historical results represent those of J. Alexander’s Corporation.  The selected historical financial data set forth below should be read in conjunction with Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data of Part II to this Annual Report.

 

Successor

Predecessor

 

(Dollars in thousands, except Per Share Data and Average Weekly Same Store Sales)

Year ended January 1, 2017 (1)

 

 

Year ended January 3, 2016 (1)

 

 

Year Ended December 28, 2014 (1)

 

 

Year Ended December 29, 2013 (1)

 

 

October 1, 2012 to December 30, 2012 (1)

 

 

January 2, 2012 to September 30, 2012 (1)

 

Statement of Operations Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net Sales

$

219,582

 

 

$

217,914

 

 

$

202,233

 

 

$

188,223

 

 

$

40,341

 

 

$

116,555

 

Depreciation and amortization of restaurant property and equipment

 

8,834

 

 

 

8,222

 

 

 

7,652

 

 

 

7,228

 

 

 

1,425

 

 

 

4,117

 

Pre-opening expenses

 

1,443

 

 

 

275

 

 

 

681

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

Transaction and integration expenses

 

64

 

 

 

7,181

 

 

 

785

 

 

 

(217

)

 

 

183

 

 

 

4,537

 

Asset impairment charges and restaurant closing costs

 

3

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

5

 

 

 

2,094

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

-

 

Income from continuing operations before income taxes

 

9,539

 

 

 

7,339

 

 

 

9,286

 

 

 

7,824

 

 

 

2,725

 

 

 

374

 

Loss from discontinued operations

 

(434

)

 

 

(429

)

 

 

(443

)

 

 

(4,785

)

 

 

(506

)

 

 

(1,412

)

Net income (loss)

 

7,043

 

 

 

5,355

 

 

 

8,515

 

 

 

2,901

 

 

 

2,218

 

 

 

(959

)

Balance Sheet Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents

 

6,632

 

 

 

13,424

 

 

 

13,301

 

 

 

18,069

 

 

 

11,127

 

 

 

6,853

 

Working capital (deficit) (2)

 

(13,331

)

 

 

(3,574

)

 

 

(4,102

)

 

 

1,001

 

 

 

(640

)

 

 

(1,416

)

Total assets

 

163,038

 

 

 

155,836

 

 

 

150,638

 

 

 

150,981

 

 

 

132,749

 

 

 

83,872

 

Total debt

 

23,307

 

 

 

20,893

 

 

 

22,651

 

 

 

34,520

 

 

 

20,654

 

 

 

17,648

 

Total members' / stockholders' equity

 

104,320

 

 

 

98,803

 

 

 

96,889

 

 

 

88,455

 

 

 

91,394

 

 

 

42,508

 

Other Financial Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net cash provided by operating activities

 

16,417

 

 

 

16,010

 

 

 

17,955

 

 

 

15,907

 

 

 

5,656

 

 

 

3,036

 

Net cash used in investing activities

 

(21,016

)

 

 

(13,986

)

 

 

(10,693

)

 

 

(6,126

)

 

 

(1,159

)

 

 

(2,608

)

Net cash used in financing activities

 

(2,193

)

 

 

(1,901

)

 

 

(12,030

)

 

 

(2,839

)

 

 

(223

)

 

 

(7,941

)

Capital expenditures

 

20,777

 

 

 

11,431

 

 

 

10,536

 

 

 

6,610

 

 

 

1,159

 

 

 

2,535

 

Per Share Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic earnings (loss) per share:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Income from continuing operations, net of tax

$

0.50

 

 

$

0.39

 

 

$

0.60

 

 

$

0.51

 

 

$

0.18

 

 

$

0.03

 

Loss from discontinued operations, net

 

(0.03

)

 

 

(0.03

)

 

 

(0.03

)

 

 

(0.32

)

 

 

(0.03

)

 

 

(0.09

)

Basic earnings (loss) per share

$

0.48

 

 

$

0.36

 

 

$

0.57

 

 

$

0.19

 

 

$

0.15

 

 

$

(0.06

)

Diluted earnings (loss) per share:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Income from continuing operations, net of tax

$

0.50

 

 

$

0.38

 

 

$

0.60

 

 

$

0.51

 

 

$

0.18

 

 

$

0.03

 

Loss from discontinued operations, net

 

(0.03

)

 

 

(0.03

)

 

 

(0.03

)

 

 

(0.32

)

 

 

(0.03

)

 

 

(0.09

)

Diluted earnings (loss) per share

$

0.47

 

 

$

0.36

 

 

$

0.57

 

 

$

0.19

 

 

$

0.15

 

 

$

(0.06

)

 

(1)

We utilize a 52- or 53-week accounting period which ends on the Sunday closest to December 31, and each quarter typically consists of 13 weeks. The period January 2, 2012 to September 30, 2012 included 39 weeks of operations, and the period October 1, 2012 to December 30, 2012 included 13 weeks of operations. Fiscal years 2016, 2014 and 2013 each included 52 weeks of operations.  Fiscal year 2015 included 53 weeks of operations, including 14 weeks in the fourth quarter.

 

(2)

Defined as total current assets minus total current liabilities.


40


Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

Overview

As of the end of fiscal year 2016, the Company, as the sole managing member of its subsidiary J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC, owns and operates three complementary upscale dining restaurant concepts: J. Alexander’s, Redlands Grill and Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill.  For more than 20 years, J. Alexander’s guests have enjoyed a contemporary American menu, polished service and an attractive ambiance.  In February 2013, our team brought our quality and professionalism to the steakhouse category with the addition of the Stoney River concept.  Stoney River provides “white tablecloth” service and food quality in a casual atmosphere at a competitive price point.  Our Redlands Grill concept offers guests a different version of our contemporary American menu and a distinct architectural design and feel. In fiscal 2017, we successfully converted one of our previous J. Alexander’s locations in Ohio to the Lyndhurst Grill, which will continue to offer a contemporary American menu.

Our business plan has evolved over time to include a collection of restaurant concepts dedicated to providing guests with what we believe to be the highest quality food, high levels of professional service and a comfortable ambiance. By offering multiple restaurant concepts and utilizing unique non-standardized architecture and specialized menus, we believe we are positioned to continue to scale and grow our overall restaurant business in an efficient manner in urban and affluent suburban areas.  We want each of our restaurants to be perceived by our guests as a locally managed, stand-alone dining experience.  This differentiation permits us to successfully operate each of our concepts in the same geographic market.  If this strategy continues to prove successful, we may expand beyond our current four concept model in the future.

While each concept operates under a unique trade name, each of our restaurants is identified as a “J. Alexander’s Holdings Restaurant.”  As of January 1, 2017, we operated a total of 43 locations across 15 states. During 2017, as of the date of this Annual Report, we have closed one J. Alexander’s location, opened one J. Alexander’s location and opened one Stoney River location. Additionally, as discussed above we have converted one J. Alexander’s location to Lyndhurst Grill. Further, during 2015, we began a plan of transitioning a total of between 14 and 16 of our J. Alexander’s restaurants to Redlands Grill restaurants. Other restaurant locations may be added or converted in the future as we determine how best to position our multiple concepts in a given geographic market.

We believe our concepts deliver on our guests’ desire for freshly-prepared, high quality food and high quality service in a restaurant that feels “unchained” with architecture and design that varies from location to location.  Through our combination with Stoney River, we have grown from 33 restaurants across 13 states in 2009 to 44 restaurants across 15 states as of March 15, 2017.  Our net sales growth since 2009 has allowed us to invest significant amounts of capital to drive growth through the continuous improvement of existing locations, the development of plans to open new restaurants, and the hiring of personnel to support our growth plans.  

We plan to execute the following strategies to continue to enhance the awareness of our concepts, grow our revenue and improve our profitability by:

 

pursuing new restaurant development;

 

expanding beyond our current existing restaurant concepts;

 

increasing our same store sales through providing high quality food and service; and

 

improving our margins and leveraging infrastructure.

We believe there are opportunities to open up to four new restaurants annually.  We are actively pursuing development opportunities within certain of our concepts, and we are currently evaluating approximately 30 locations in approximately 20 separate markets in order to meet our stated growth objectives. The most recent restaurant openings include a J. Alexander’s restaurant opened in Lexington, Kentucky during March 2017 and a Stoney River restaurant opened in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in February 2017.

In addition, the Company expects to open another new J. Alexander’s restaurant and another new Stoney River restaurant during either the fourth quarter of 2017 or early in the first quarter of 2018.

Recent Transactions and Basis of Presentation

The historical results of operations for periods prior to September 28, 2015 discussed in this Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations are those of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC and its consolidated subsidiaries. Through a series of reorganization transactions, on September 28, 2015, J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. became the sole managing member of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC, and now controls its business and affairs.  Therefore, J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. began consolidating the financial results of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC on September 28, 2015, which corresponds to the first

41


day of the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2015.  It should also be noted that on September 28, 2015, the Company became an independent, publicly-held company through a Spin-off distribution transaction whereby FNF distributed to holders of its FNFV Group common stock one hundred percent of its shares of the Company’s common stock.  

The locations that began the transition from a J. Alexander’s restaurant to a Redlands Grill restaurant during 2015 have been included in the J. Alexander’s results of operations, average weekly same store sales calculations and all other applicable disclosures.

The following events had an impact on the presentation of our historical results of operations in recent years:

 

In September 2012, FNF acquired JAC.  JAC was subsequently converted from a corporation to a limited liability company, J. Alexander’s, LLC, on October 30, 2012.  The acquisition was treated as an acquisition for accounting purposes with FNF as the acquirer and JAC as the acquiree.  In February 2013, the operations of Stoney River were contributed to J. Alexander’s by Fidelity Newport Holdings, LLC (“FNH”), a majority-owned subsidiary of FNF.  Additionally, in February 2013, J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC assumed the $20,000 FNF Note, which was accounted for as a distribution of capital.  The note accrued interest at 12.5%, and the interest and principal were payable in full on January 31, 2016.  During fiscal years 2015, 2014 and 2013, $493, $2,479 and $2,139 of interest expense payable to FNF was recorded related to this note.  In May 2015, this note was repaid in full.

 

 

During 2013, we closed three underperforming J. Alexander’s restaurants:

 

 

o

Chicago, Illinois – closed February 2013;

 

o

Orlando, Florida – closed April 2013; and

 

o

Scottsdale, Arizona – closed April 2013.

For financial reporting purposes, the Orlando and Scottsdale locations were deemed to represent discontinued operations while results related to the Chicago location are reflected as a component of continuing operations.

Performance Indicators

We use the following key metrics in evaluating our performance:

Same Store Sales. We include a restaurant in the same store restaurant group starting in the first full accounting period following the eighteenth month of operations. Our same store restaurant base consisted of 41 restaurants at January 1, 2017 and 40 restaurants at January 3, 2016. Changes in same store restaurant sales reflect changes in sales for the same store group of restaurants over a specified period of time. This measure highlights the performance of existing restaurants, as the impact of new restaurant openings is excluded.

Measuring our same store restaurant sales allows us to evaluate the performance of our existing restaurant base. Various factors impact same store sales including:

 

consumer recognition of our concepts and our ability to respond to changing consumer preferences;

 

 

overall economic trends, particularly those related to consumer spending;

 

 

our ability to operate restaurants effectively and efficiently to meet guest expectations;

 

 

pricing;

 

 

guest traffic;

 

 

spending per guest and average check amounts;

 

 

local competition;

 

 

trade area dynamics; and

 

 

introduction of new menu items.

42


Average Weekly Sales. Average weekly sales per restaurant is computed by dividing total restaurant sales for the period by the total number of days all restaurants were open for the period to obtain a daily sales average. The daily sales average is then multiplied by seven to arrive at average weekly sales per restaurant. Days on which restaurants are closed for business for any reason other than scheduled closures on Thanksgiving and Christmas are excluded from this calculation. Revenue associated with reduction in liabilities for gift cards which are considered to be only remotely likely to be redeemed (based on historical redemption rates) is not included in the calculation of average weekly sales per restaurant.

Average Weekly Same Store Sales. Average weekly same store sales per restaurant is computed by dividing total restaurant same store sales for the period by the total number of days all same store restaurants were open for the period to obtain a daily sales average. The daily same store sales average is then multiplied by seven to arrive at average weekly same store sales per restaurant. Days on which restaurants are closed for business for any reason other than scheduled closures on Thanksgiving and Christmas are excluded from this calculation. Sales and sales days used in this calculation include only those for restaurants in operation at the end of the period which have been open for more than eighteen months. Revenue associated with reduction in liabilities for gift cards which are considered to be only remotely likely to be redeemed (based on historical redemption rates) is not included in the calculation of average weekly same store sales per restaurant.

Average Check. Average check is calculated by dividing total restaurant sales by guest counts for a given time period. Total restaurant sales includes food, alcohol and beverage sales. Average check is influenced by menu prices and menu mix. Management uses this indicator to analyze trends in guests’ preferences, the effectiveness of menu changes and price increases and per guest expenditures.

Average Unit Volume. Average unit volume consists of the average sales of our restaurants over a certain period of time. This measure is calculated by multiplying average weekly sales by the relevant number of weeks for the period presented. This indicator assists management in measuring changes in guest traffic, pricing and development of our concepts.

Cost of Sales. Cost of sales is an important metric to management because it is the only truly variable component of cost relative to the sales volume while other components of cost can vary significantly due to the ability to leverage fixed costs at higher sales volumes.

Guest Counts. Guest counts are measured by the number of entrees ordered at our restaurants over a given time period.

Our business is subject to seasonal fluctuations. Historically, the percentage of our annual revenues earned during the first and fourth quarters has been higher due, in part, to increased gift card redemptions and increased private dining during the year-end holiday season. In addition, we operate on a 52- or 53-week fiscal year that ends on the Sunday closest to December 31. Each quarterly period has 13 weeks, except for a 53-week year when the fourth quarter has 14 weeks.  Fiscal year 2015 was a 53-week fiscal year.  As many of our operating expenses have a fixed component, our operating income and operating income margins have historically varied from quarter to quarter. Accordingly, results for any one quarter are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected for any other quarter, or for the full fiscal year.

Key Financial Definitions

Net Sales. Net sales consist primarily of food and beverage sales at our restaurants, net of any discounts, such as management meals and employee meals, associated with each sale. Net sales are directly influenced by the number of operating weeks in the relevant period, the number of restaurants we operate and same store sales growth.

Cost of Sales. Cost of sales is comprised primarily of food and beverage expenses and is presented net of earned vendor rebates. Food and beverage expenses are generally influenced by the cost of food and beverage items, distribution costs and menu mix. The components of cost of sales are variable in nature, increase with revenues, are subject to increases or decreases based on fluctuations in commodity costs, including beef prices, and depend in part on the controls we have in place to manage cost of sales at our restaurants.

Restaurant Labor and Related Costs. Restaurant labor and related costs includes restaurant management salaries, hourly staff payroll and other payroll-related expenses, including management bonus expenses, vacation pay, payroll taxes, fringe benefits and health insurance expenses.

Depreciation and Amortization. Depreciation and amortization principally includes depreciation on restaurant fixed assets, including equipment and leasehold improvements, and amortization of certain intangible assets for restaurants. We depreciate capitalized leasehold improvements over the shorter of the total expected lease term or their estimated useful life. As we continue our restaurant openings, depreciation and amortization is expected to increase as a result of our increased capital expenditures.

43


Other Operating Expenses. Other operating expenses includes repairs and maintenance, credit card fees, rent, property taxes, insurance, utilities, operating supplies and other restaurant-level related operating expenses.

Pre-opening Expenses. Pre-opening expenses are costs incurred prior to opening a restaurant, and primarily consist of manager salaries, relocation costs, recruiting expenses, employee payroll and related training costs for new employees, including rehearsal of service activities, as well as lease costs incurred prior to opening. We currently target pre-opening costs per restaurant at approximately $650.

General and Administrative Expenses. General and administrative expenses are comprised of costs related to certain corporate and administrative functions that support development and restaurant operations and provide an infrastructure to support future company growth. These expenses reflect management, supervisory and staff salaries and employee benefits, travel, information systems, training, corporate rent, depreciation of corporate assets, professional and consulting fees, technology and market research. These expenses have increased as a result of costs associated with being a public company, and we believe such expenses will continue to increase related to our anticipated growth. However, as we are able to leverage these investments made in our people and systems, we expect these expenses to decrease as a percentage of net sales over time.

Interest Expense. Interest expense consists primarily of interest on our outstanding indebtedness. Our debt issuance costs are recorded at cost and are amortized over the lives of the related debt under the effective interest method.

Income Tax (Expense) Benefit. This represents expense or benefit related to the taxable income at the federal, state and local level. As a partnership, J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC generally pays no tax on its income, and each of its members is required to report such member’s allocable share of the partnership’s income on such member’s income tax returns.  As a result of the reorganization transactions effective September 28, 2015, J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc., directly or indirectly, became the owner of all of the outstanding Class A Units of J. Alexander’s Holdings, LLC. Therefore, beginning after the date of the reorganization, J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. pays federal, state and local tax on its allocable share of income of the partnership.

Discontinued Operations. On April 3, 2013 we closed our Orlando, Florida location and on April 15, 2013 we closed our Scottsdale, Arizona location. We determined that these closures met the criteria for classification as discontinued operations. Refer to Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data - Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements - Note 2 (c) Summary of Significant Accounting Policies—Discontinued Operations and Restaurant Closing Costs for more information.

Results of Operations

Year Ended January 1, 2017 (52 weeks) Compared to Year Ended January 3, 2016 (53 weeks)

The following tables set forth, for the periods indicated, (i) the items in the Company’s Consolidated Statements of Income and Comprehensive Income, including our results expressed as a percentage of net sales, and (ii) other selected operating data:

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

January 1,

 

 

January 3,

 

 

Percent Change

 

(Dollars in thousands)

 

2017

 

 

2016

 

 

2016 vs. 2015

 

 

 

(52 weeks)

 

 

(53 Weeks)

 

 

 

 

 

Net sales

 

$

219,582

 

 

$

217,914

 

 

 

0.8

%

Costs and Expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost of sales

 

 

69,320

 

 

 

68,806

 

 

 

0.7