“In order to achieve our 3 percent comp sales objective, we plan to focus on our value oriented traffic and check building menu additions, growing our off-premises sales, and continuing to drive promotion and discounting efficiency while maintaining our strength in traffic,” Trojan said.
By adding the Tri-Tip entrees to the Brewhouse Special lineup, guests have the opportunity to get a value meal on a Thursday night. Other specials include 50 percent-off large pizza Monday and $3 Pizookie Tuesday deals.
“When we look at our Brewhouse Specials they've continued to perform well for us,” BJ’s CFO Gregory Levin said. “I was just looking at our Pizookie incident rate and frankly that number was flat with a year ago. That tells you that our guests are still liking it.”
The Brewhouse Specials are a strong contributor to transaction growth, but that doesn’t mean other areas of the menu are being ignored. Higher priced entrees, like prime rib, which is only available on the weekend, continue to perform well along with the brand’s lineup of healthier items, like zoodles, which aren’t included in the specials.
“We're still seeing good popularity,” Trojan said. “Brewhouse Specials are not losing momentum. In fact, I would say our mid-week sales performance is stronger due to Brewhouse Specials. If there's a softness day of the week-wise, it's been more on the weekends than during the week and I think the value offerings of Brewhouse Specials and happy hour during the week are really helping keep it healthy.”
Investments in menu innovation, upgrades to the kitchen, and infrastructure to accommodate the growing off-premises part of the business has put a lot on the plate for operators, Trojan said. These initiatives are important for the brand, however, if it wants to stay competitive with other casual dining chains. “[There’s] still room for improvement, of course, but we continue to build greater separation in terms of guest experience versus our competition,” Trojan said.
On average, each restaurant spent about 125 hours completing the kitchen reorganization that was rolled out last quarter. At the end of Q2, between 160–170 locations—or about 80 percent of the system—were operating with the Gold Standard Kitchen System. Levin expects the whole fleet to be updated by the end of July.
After evaluating existing processes, including ordering, storage, and prep work, the new system was developed to eliminate inefficiencies in the kitchen. The new layout optimizes processes for in-house operations and allows restaurants to expand off-premises business.
“Our gold standard kitchen systems are creating a new level of kitchen organization and process driving even better food quality and speed while as importantly making our kitchens more satisfying places for our team members to work,” Trojan said. “While our investments in training and labor came at a somewhat difficult time given the wage pressures we're facing, we believe we're making this investment at exactly the right time.”