Since the very first location opened in Mount Shasta, California, Black Bear Diner has delighted guests with a singular dine-in atmosphere. The cabin-themed restaurants sport stone accents, carved wooden bears, and other rustic details.
Combine these distinctive on-site elements with strict COVID regulations in California (which holds the lion’s share of the brand’s locations), and Black Bear Diner would appear especially vulnerable to the chilling effects of the pandemic. But despite the challenges, the chain weathered the storm well. In 2020, it only closed one store (for reasons unrelated to COVID) and opened six units. And last year, it added another.
“It has frankly validated what’s always been important in the past, and then it shows the demand for brands like us when we’ve seen the strength of the recovery,” says Anita Adams, CEO of Black Bear Diner.
Adams joined the company in 2017 as CFO before adding president to her title in 2019. She assumed the chief executive role in January 2020, two months before the pandemic seized the U.S. Though new to the post, she’s deftly guided the brand through two years of widespread upheaval. In that time, off-premises grew from 7 to 20 percent of total sales and has since remained steady even as dining rooms fill back up. As of January, same-store sales were up 16 percent compared to 2019 levels.