Cracker Barrel Old Country Store expects fiscal Q1 earnings to be above expectations, raises full-year guidance as customer traffic trends improve, shoppers increase spending; restaurant chain reports earnings on Nov. 22

LEBANAON, Tennessee , November 7, 2011 () – Restaurant chain Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. said Monday that it expects its fiscal first-quarter net income above expectations and raised its full year guidance as customer traffic trends improved and shoppers spent more.

Restaurants have suffered as consumers eat out less, holding on to habits formed during the recession. But Cracker Barrel said that the decline in customer traffic lessened during each month of the quarter and the average check was higher overall.

The operator of Cracker Barrel restaurants and gift shops expects net income of between 99 cents and $1.04 per share for the three months ended Oct. 28.

Analysts expect net income of 90 cents per share, according to FactSet.

The Lebanon, Tenn.-based company expects revenue of $598.4 million, nearly flat with the $598.7 million it reported for last year's first quarter.

Analysts expect revenue of $600.6 million.

Revenue in restaurants open at least one year fell 1.6 percent during the quarter, as the average check rose but traffic fell. In the chain's retail stores, the measure fell 1.3 percent. The measure is considered a key gauge of a retailer's fiscal health because it excludes stores that open and close during the year.

The company will report first-quarter results on Nov. 22.

For the year, the company now expects net income of $4.10 to $4.25 per share, up from a September prediction of $4.05 to $4.20 per share. Analysts expect earnings of $4.10 per share.

The guidance excludes charges related to a proxy battle with investment firm Biglari Holdings, Cracker Barrel's biggest shareholder. The chain expects those charges to be 11 cents to 14 cents per share.

Biglari, run by Sardar Biglari, seeks a bigger stake in Cracker Barrel. He has complained that the company isn't living up to its potential.

Shares rose 58 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $43.51 in premarket trading.

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