By the end of this past week, BJ’s Restaurants expected to have more than 85 percent of its dining rooms open as sales increase weekly.
As of Thursday, 178 dining rooms were open in 24 states. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, only four of the brand’s 209 units have been temporarily shut down. Three of those closed locations resumed operation last week.
Quarter-to-date, same-stores sales have declined 64 percent, which accounts for full or partial closures due to nationwide protests. In the week ended June 9, comps were down 42.6 percent and average weekly sales were approximately $64,900, including 41 stores affected by protests.
THE COVID-19 ROAD FOR BJ’S SO FAR
For units not affected by curfews or protests, comp sales have recouped 70 percent of prior year’s level, with average weekly sales of $75,000. At these stores, off-premises sales remain at 70 percent of what they were while dining rooms were shut down. The company has attributed the strength in off-premises sales to a rise in traffic and increase in average check due to the Family Feast offerings, take-home entrees, and to-go alcoholic beverage sales.
The improvement is welcomed news for BJ’s, which saw same-store sales drop as low as 82 percent in the fourth week of March. The company has seen double-digit weekly sales increases in the past four weeks.
CEO Greg Trojan said during the company’s Q1 earnings call in May that the company has dining rooms that transition well to social distancing guidelines.
“Our dining rooms are typically larger than our competitors, and we have less 6-foot seating than most, as well,” Trojan said during the call. “Both are nice advantages, enabling us to provide a safe environment for a large number of guests. The great news is, as we expected, guests are eager to get back out to a social dining experience, and they are doing so in a manner that respects the prudent safety protocols these times demand.”
In an effort to improve its financial position, BJ’s announced May 1 that it received a $70 million investment from Act III Holdings, which is owned by Panera Bread founder and former CEO Ron Shaich.
During the pandemic, the company laid off 16,000 of its 21,000 hourly employees, 200 restaurant managers, and 40 Restaurant Support Center employees. Trojan and other leaders took a 20 percent pay cut and Restaurant Support employees making over $100,000 had their salary reduced.
With sales continually increasing and more dining rooms coming online, BJ’s expects to see positive cash flow and more furloughed employees returning to work.
“Our guests are returning in increasing numbers to dine with us at BJ’s. We are seeing a strong appreciation for the safety measures and precautions we have implemented for them and our team members, including our new touchless digital menus and mobile pay options,” said Trojan in a statement. As our dining rooms re-open, we continue to bring back furloughed team members and we look forward to bringing back even more as additional dining rooms open in the next several weeks.”