ITEM 7A.QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURE ABOUT MARKET RISK
Commodity Price Risks
We are exposed to commodity price risks. Many of the ingredients we use to prepare our food, as well as our packaging materials and utilities to run our restaurants, are ingredients or commodities that are affected by the price of other commodities, exchange rates, foreign demand, weather, seasonality, production, availability and other factors outside our control. We work closely with our suppliers and use a mix of forward pricing protocols under which we agree with our supplier on fixed prices for deliveries at some time in the future, fixed pricing protocols under which we agree on a fixed price with our supplier for the duration of that protocol, formula pricing protocols under which the prices we pay are based on a specified formula related to the prices of the goods, such as spot prices, and range forward protocols under which we agree on a price range for the duration of that protocol. However, a majority of the dollar value of our purchases is effectively at spot prices. Generally, our pricing protocols with suppliers can remain in effect for periods ranging from one to 24 months, depending on the outlook for prices of the particular ingredient. In several cases, we have minimum purchase obligations. We’ve tried to increase, where practical, the number of suppliers for our ingredients, which we believe can help mitigate pricing volatility, and we follow industry news, trade issues, exchange rates, foreign demand, weather, crises and other world events that may affect our ingredient prices. Increases in ingredient prices could adversely affect our results if we choose for competitive or other reasons not to increase menu prices at the same rate at which ingredient costs increase, or if menu price increases result in customer resistance.
Changing Interest Rates
We are also exposed to interest rate risk through fluctuations of interest rates on our investments. Changes in interest rates affect the interest income we earn, and therefore impact our cash flows and results of operations. As of December 31, 2017, we had $362.1 million in investments and interest-bearing cash accounts, including insurance-related restricted trust accounts classified in other assets, and $129.3 million in accounts with an earnings credit we classify as interest income, which combined earned a weighted average interest rate of 0.97%.
Foreign Currency Exchange Risk
A portion of our operations consist of activities outside of the U.S. and we have currency risk on the transactions in other currencies and translation adjustments resulting from the conversion of our international financial results into the U.S. dollar. However, a substantial majority of our operations and investment activities are transacted in the U.S., and therefore our foreign currency risk is not material at this date.