What is unit growth looking like for Boston’s? What are the target markets and what level of interest is the chain receiving from franchisees?
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, we opened four restaurants which was 20 percent growth for us. Also, worth noting, we signed several franchise and development agreements mid-2020 as well. In 2021, we have opened one of the five we have under construction to open in 2021, which will result in nearly 25 percent growth. Next year is looking to be even better. We will have 27 restaurants in the U.S. by the end of the year, and we have 437 in North America, including Canada and Mexico.
Three markets are generating the most interest—the Southwest, West Texas/Panhandle, and the Upper Midwest, specifically the Dakotas, Michigan, and Ohio. But we are fielding inquiries from across the country. The other opportunity that is exciting is the interest we are getting from hotels. We are now an approved brand for both Marriott and IHG. They have realized that a branded restaurant is a benefit to their franchise partner, can attract more hotel guests and be a destination for the surrounding community.
Why are hotels interested?
For a long time hotels have tried to make a go of the restaurant space with their own concepts. This takes a great deal of behind the scenes effort to curate recipes, processes, procedures, marketing, menu creation, etc. At Boston’s Pizza we take care of all of that. Additionally, for hotels we have customized offerings beyond our core menu to address the breakfast and banquet needs of a hotel.
Describe the progress of the new prototype and how it’s expected to help franchisees going forward?
We began the project in 2019, but then it was idled for several months, as we focused on our franchise partners immediate needs and the brand's success. The end of 2020 and the past few months, we have made significant progress. We have a new, much more efficient prototype that is roughly 25 percent smaller, but has the same number of seats as our larger prototype. We have expanded the patio, which can be modified to be three or four seasons, depending on the location, to maximize its use.
The to-go area has been modified to improve efficiency and handle the influx of business. We have value-engineered the FF&E and building materials to reduce costs and really put the focus on the guest experience. Our AV is topnotch. We continue to have both family and sports bar areas, but the flow and energy of the restaurant is much better. We will have the first restaurant built in Canada this year and have our architects working on versioning it for the U.S.
The spatial efficiency we have created is a huge win for our conversion opportunities. Often when we take on a second-generation space, the building dictates the dining room design. The modular kitchen equipment and more efficient spatial utilization will allow us to drop our kitchen into most conversion opportunities without a significant cost to modify the structure. We believe we can take 30 percent out of the building cost, generate more revenue per seat, and increase/accelerate the ROI.