Eggs Up Grill doesn’t shout value, either. It’s an implicit message, Richardson notes. That’s become ever-critical amid inflationary trends, and, specifically, the continued rise of menu prices sector-wide. In truth, $11 isn’t far removed, if at all, from what it costs to eat at a fast casual.
The social lure, though, is something Eggs Up Grill has only leaned further into. Namely, by adding mimosas in 2021. Alcohol sales now account for 3–5 percent of take, on average. The initiative is live in about 75 percent of restaurants, with the rest working through permitting.
Again, it’s become a vibrant strategy across the lexicon. First Watch rolled alcohol nationwide for the first time in November 2020. As of June 2021, it was in 244 restaurants and accounted for 3.6 percent of in-restaurant sales at corporate units. Alcohol also increased First Watch’s average in-restaurant customer spend by 30 cents.
Another Broken Egg, which was founded right outside of New Orleans, really began amplifying its beverage program in 2020 and saw average sales hike from $10 to $16. Pitchers of Bloody Marys and mimosas soared 20 percent in 2020. Mix climbed from 8 percent in 2019 to 12.5 percent a year later.
Alongside a dine-in renaissance, the sudden one-two combo of off-premises gains has settled far higher than 2019 marks as well.
Eggs Up Grill’s guest counts are roughly 3 points higher versus pre-COVID, Richardson says, which is something few casual chains can mirror. This as total sales from off-premises ballooned 15 points. So one is not covering for the other.
In turn, when you layer in alcohol gains, Eggs Up Grill’s average-unit volumes are $150,000 higher today than before the crisis (to more than $1 million). The top half of the system is $200,000 ahead.
Development has picked up parallel to sales growth, with Eggs Up Grill closing 2021 with 54 locations compared to 37 year-end 2019, or growth of 45 percent. “Fifteen or 16” should open in 2022, and the brand has a total committed pipeline of just about 100 restaurants, Richardson says.
“It’s an experience our guest can count on,” he says of the big picture. “So as things stabilized and became more normal in our markets, we were that place where you could count on [to go to]. You could count on us before, and you could count on us when you came back and we had new things that we were doing.”
Richardson is referencing third-party delivery, online ordering, call-in ordering, and catering. Also, Eggs Up Grill launched virtual brand Biscuits, Bowls & Burgers in 2021 to reach new guests and grow its weekday lunch revenue. It’s in 30 percent of units. “I think it’s a here-to-stay solution,” Richardson says.
Eggs Up Grill added resources in culinary development last year and fitted new stores with an equipment enhancement package that includes a streamlined design and the addition of fryers. The chain’s fresh prototype, launched in 2020, is a 2,300–2,800 square-foot-box that seats 85 guests. It’s upbeat, clean, modern, and features a pickup station to open access for online orders and third-party delivery. A pickup window debuted last year at Rome, Georgia, store as well. Eggs Up Grill more recently conducted its first redesign/reimaging at a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, venue.
“We always focus on how do you take friction out of the guest experience and make it a pleasant experience,” Richardson says, noting there’s currently two pickup windows in the system. “So given the significant rise in off-premises sales, how do we make that more efficient to order ahead of time instead of having to find the parking place, walk in, and wait for somebody.”
The new prototype is visible in about a third of the system. Richardson says the model centered on “the key cues of what Eggs Up Grill is about.”
“We’ve had phenomenal success with that in new restaurants,” he says. “Great compliments, from franchisees, but most importantly from our guests who consistently have been long-time users of existing Eggs Up Grills, but now get to experience the new stores. There’s been a noticeable positive impact on how they think about the brand.”