Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

New Dairy Queen sandwiches not a hit at Texas stores

Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., eats an ice-cream bar at the Dairy Queen booth on the exhibition floor prior to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in in 2014.
Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., eats an ice-cream bar at the Dairy Queen booth on the exhibition floor prior to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in in 2014. Bloomberg News

Dairy Queen is touting new additions to its menu nationwide, including artisan-style baked sandwiches. But marketing for the so-called DQ Bakes is causing some confusion in Texas, land of the Dude and the Hungr-Buster.

Unlike Dairy Queens in other parts of the country, where the menu is limited to ice cream treats and a few food items, Texas DQs have long had their own specialized menus featuring mainstays like the Dude chicken-fried-steak sandwich and steak fingers with country gravy and Texas toast.

Pushing a new line of hot food items here is causing indigestion for operators. Only about half have decided to carry the items and the initial response hasn’t been so hot, said Larry Newell, president of the Texas Dairy Queen Operators Council in Bedford.

So Newell decided to set the record straight with Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate owns International Dairy Queen.

In a Nov. 6 letter to Buffett, Newell said new artisanal sandwiches made with Ciabatta bread or Brioche buns haven’t exactly been a hit with customers used to the regular fare of hamburgers and chicken strips.

“Warren, we gotta be honest here; some of us aren’t even sure how to pronounce “Ciabatta” or “Brioche.” But we can pronounce “Texas Toast,” the letter states.

While Dairy Queen CEO John Gainor said publicly that the new sandwiches have been doing especially well nationwide, Newell told Buffett that “we’re not seeing the response from our Texas guests that Mr. Gainor cites. In fact, we’re not too sure that folks come to Dairy Queen for these hard-to-say items at all.”

Newell closed his letter with an invitation to the Oracle of Omaha. “So Warren: c’mon down. We’d love to have you. If you want a fancy baked sandwich, we can do that for you, but what keeps our doors open is the great Texas Country Food that you can’t get anywhere else.”

Reached Friday, Newell said had yet to hear from Buffett’s office.

Oil’s “day of reckoning” still to come

While you may think things are tough financially in the oil patch now, many in the oil and gas industry think the “day of reckoning” may actually be next spring.

This less than cheery outlook hung like a dark cloud over those attending a seminar at Fort Worth’s City Club on Thursday sponsored by the Haynes and Boone law firm.

Attorneys, accountants and investment bankers were told there is a growing consensus that lower commodity prices will be around for some time — possibly as long as another 18 months — dour news made worse by bank regulators stepping up pressure on lenders about energy loans.

“The day of reckoning may be next spring,” said Brian Barnard, administrative partner for Haynes and Boone in Fort Worth “There will be more bloodletting.”

Barnard partially based his assessment on a survey the law firm did this fall of oil and gas lenders, producers and service providers. In that survey, 79 percent expected a decrease in their revolving lines of credit, with an average drop of 39 percent.

Through the end of October, energy companies have so far reported a net reduction of 4.2 percent, about $1.23 billion in the aggregate, in their credit lines, Haynes and Boone reported.

Steve Pezanosky, one of the firm’s bankruptcy attorneys, said that in some ways this down cycle “seems deeper” than the one in the 1980s because so many of the energy explorers and service companies are so heavily leveraged, making it hard for them to get financing to stay afloat.

He pointed to a chart showing that the number of U.S. energy company bankruptcies has steadily increased since January, when only a handful were filed, to more than 30 in October. Another chart showed that the cumulative secured and unsecured debt for energy producers was $12.5 billion.

Making matters worse, another chart showed, second-lien debt is growing in prominence. Bankrupt Quicksilver Resources in Fort Worth, for example, has $825 million in second-lien debt, a factor that makes it hard for investors with cash to step in and offer help.

“Better days may be a couple of years away,” Pezanosky said. Max B. Baker

Arlington CPA firm expands

Certified public accounting firm Sutton Frost Cary, with offices in Arlington and Fort Worth, has acquired the audit practice of Dallas-based Albright, Hill & Sumpter firm, effective Oct. 1.

Sutton Frost has served the Metroplex for 25 years, working with private and publicly-held businesses in construction, manufacturing, insurance, distribution and technology, as well as nonprofit organizations and employee benefit plans.

Sutton Frost Cary said it has joined the BDO Alliance USA, a nationwide association of independently owned local and regional accounting, consulting and service firms with similar client service goals.

TCU wins top Worthy Award

Texas Christian University’s Marketing and Communication team was awarded the top honor in the recent Worthy Awards, a program of the Greater Fort Worth Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

The Worthy Awards honors the best in strategic communications campaigns, programs and tactics practiced by professionals and students in the greater Fort Worth area. A record 94 entries were received this year.

The TCU team won Best of Show for the 10th Anniversary Schieffer Symposium. In all, 19 Worthy Awards, 18 Awards of Excellence and 15 Awards of Achievement were presented.

The Balcom Agency won eight awards, including four Worthy Awards; the Pavlov Agency won seven, including two Worthy Awards; J.O. Design won five awards, including one Worthy Award; and TCU won five, including Best of Show and one Worthy Award.

Sperry Van Ness firms merge

Commercial brokers Steve Fithian and James Blake have merged their Fort Worth Sperry Van Ness offices to form Sperry Van Ness/Trinity Advisors.

Fithian, with 25 years experience, operated Sperry Van Ness/Visions Commercial, and Blake, with 30 years experience, ran Sperry Van Ness/Summit Commercial. The company provides commercial real estate brokerage, leasing, consulting and property management.

“We both felt it was an excellent time to look at growing our companies,” Blake said. “I have known Steve for 20 years, and we both have been affiliated with Sperry Van Ness for over 10 years. We are now the only Sperry Van Ness office in Fort Worth.”

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko