Restaurants

Cyberattack on meatpacker JBS could pressure restaurant margins if not resolved quickly, analysts say

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Key Points
  • The cyberattack on JBS could cause pain for restaurants if it isn't resolved quickly, analysts say.
  • Beef prices rose after the meatpacker disclosed the attack.
  • JBS said it has made "significant progress" in the resolving the ransomware attack that impacted operations in North America and Australia.

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A worker walks past a mural outside the JBS SA pork processing plant in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., on Friday, June 5, 2020.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The cyberattack on JBS, the world's largest meatpacking company, could cause pain for restaurants if the situation isn't resolved quickly, analysts say.

On Tuesday, the Brazilian company said it has made "significant progress" in the resolving the ransomware attack that impacted operations in North America and Australia. JBS expects that the vast majority of its plants will be back on Wednesday. It initially disclosed the attack on Monday.

In the meantime, beef prices rose. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that prices for choice cuts of beef ticked up 1.1% to $334.56 per 100 pounds on Tuesday. JBS accounts for roughly 23% of the total cattle capacity in the United States, according to the Steiner Consulting Group.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Andrew Strelzik wrote in a note on Tuesday that he expects the pricing environment to return to normal once plants resume full production. Most large restaurant chains have contracts with their major suppliers to insulate them from near-term blips, like the JBS attack, according to Strelzik.

"We do not anticipate meaningful margin implications for restaurants assuming a relatively quick resolution," he said.

A prolonged impact to JBS' operations could mean bigger consequences for the restaurants that serve beef, including shortages or longer-lasting inflation.

Truist analyst Jake Bartlett likened the situation to a fire at a Tyson Foods plant in 2019, which affected 5% to 6% of U.S. supply and led beef prices to spike in the following month.

"JBS plant shutdown impacts a greater portion of supply, but the supply disruption is likely for a much shorter time period (the Holcomb plant re-opened in ~5 months)," Bartlett wrote. "That said, this is a bad time for a supply disruption as spiking demand is already stressing the supply chain."

The summer months are already a time of higher demand for beef as grilling season kicks off. Bartlett said he wasn't sure which restaurant chains depended on JBS for their beef, but he pointed out that Texas Roadhouse, Shake Shack, Burger King franchisee Carrols Restaurant Group, Cracker Barrel and Darden Restaurants as the companies he covers with the highest beef exposure.

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JBS: Majority of North American plants will be operational Wednesday after cyberattack