On the Margin
Pope’s visit was no blessing for Cosi

Pope’s visit was no blessing for Cosi

This post is part of the On the Margin blog.

All sorts of things can affect a restaurant’s sales: weather, Hollywood Box Office performance, auto sales, gas prices, employment growth and, now, papal visits.

Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S. late last month, to New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia was apparently not much of a blessing for some of those cities’ restaurant owners.

Cosi Inc. on Wednesday said that its systemwide same-store sales in September fell 3.6 percent, and 0.3 percent for the third quarter ended Sept. 28. Same-store sales fell 4.5 percent in September at company-owned locations, and 0.3 percent for the quarter.

One of the reasons the company listed for the disappointment was “business interruptions resulting from the Pope’s visit” Sept. 22 through Sept. 26.

The Pope’s visit hurt 30 percent of the chain’s 79 company-owned locations, impacting company-owned same-store sales by 90 basis points in September, and 30 basis points for the month. The company has 30 franchisee locations.

Cosi wasn’t the only one. Restaurateur David Chang tweeted that the Pope was a “restaurant cooler on par with the Super Bowl and the Oscar’s.” And restaurant owners in Philadelphia apparently had weak sales during the Pope’s visit there.

Yet it was a tough one for the Boston-based Cosi, which is working to turn around its operations following years of weakness. The company has units concentrated in urban areas like New York, Chicago and Boston, and apparently the intense security surrounding the Pope’s visit kept people from visiting its restaurants.

But that wasn’t the only thing that affected Cosi’s sales. The Labor Day shift hurt sales, as did the closure of a pair of franchisee restaurants in California.

“While I am disappointed in the overall sales results this quarter, I am confident about the momentum I continue to see,” CEO RJ Dourney said in a statement.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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