In total, JINYA opened six stores during 2020. JINYA Ramen Bar rolled out four of those in Denver; Athens, Georgia; Henderson, Nevada; and Reston, Virginia. The new bushi model accounted for the other two openings. Going forward, JINYA has franchising plans for both concepts.
Mike LaRue, vice president of franchise sales, says interest in bushi has been organic; there hasn’t been much marketing behind the new brand, but existing operators have taken notice. For bushi specifically, JINYA is looking at nontraditional locations that are ideally between 400 and 1,000 square feet.
“We've gotten a lot of interest from pretty high-traffic airports,” LaRue says. “We're in the fortunate position from a JINYA Ramen Bar perspective, you’re planted all over the country. So it wouldn't be too difficult to develop in other markets outside of Southern California. So we don't necessarily have anything specific. However, if you look at the major metro markets, that’s generally an easy target.”
“People know JINYA, so when they see bushi, they somewhat understand,” he continues. “And so I think once we actually start marketing the brand, I think we’ll expect to see a significant amount of traction. But right now, we're very fortunate that all of the interest that we've seen, it's been organic.”
In 2020, JINYA inked deals with five new franchisees to add 14 restaurants to its pipeline. This year, the company expects to open 15 domestic and international restaurants in Arizona, California, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Vancouver, Canada. LaRue notes that unlike other casual-dining brands that have been trying to survive, JINYA has been forwarding-thinking and has tried to map out the next five to 10 years. Operators in certain markets are starting to expand their current area development schedules.
JINYA recently onboarded a new real estate partner that’s putting the company on the radar of some of the biggest developers in the country. LaRue says that across the board—from both an investor and landlord perspective—JINYA is gaining significant interest because of its unique menu offering and diverse concepts.
It’s very [advantageous], obviously right now, especially with times changing, not just from a real estate perspective, but obviously from an off-premise dining perspective,” says LaRue, in reference to JINYA’s multiple brands. “We're seeking multi-unit developers. And when they own a market and they have the ability to adapt to how to come into the trade area based off of what's available, having that flexibility puts us and the franchisees in a very good position.”
Before he joined JINYA in January, one of the things that excited LaRue the most was the fact that the brand earned a high amount of revenue per square foot pre-pandemic. And that was without the added boost of online ordering. In other words, the potential is clear cut.
Bartek is just as bullish. As long as JINYA executes, he believes the brand can “knock it out of the park” with in-store dining, third-party delivery, and the new bushi concept.
“Whatever it is, I think we have a spot,” Bartek says. “So we're pursuing all angles, trying to learn as much as we can about all these things, and be there because I think this is the kind of brand that can really succeed in all those arenas. And with the different concepts, as well, there’s something for everyone.”