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BJs-Restaurants-lays-off-16000-coronavirus_0.jpg BJ's
Casual dining company BJ's Restaurants ready to reopen dining rooms.

BJ’s Restaurants: We’re ready 'to begin reopening restaurants’

Casual dining chain saw same-store sales plunge 70% in latest week despite strong takeout and delivery sales.

BJ’s Restaurants said Friday it is ready to reopen dining rooms once jurisdictions give the casual dining chain the green light, which could happen soon as some states ease dine-in restrictions as early as Monday, April 27.

“Despite the current short term challenges we face due to mandated dining room closures, our teams are preparing to begin reopening restaurants once state and local officials allow us,” CEO Greg Trojan said Friday in a regulatory filing. 

Trojan said the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based chain is “working intently to develop social distancing and other protocols to ensure that we deliver a safe experience for both our team members and our guests.”

The announcement comes as the brand saw same-store sales plunge 70% for the week ended April 21 despite a surge in takeout and delivery orders, the company said Friday in a COVID-19 business update.  

On Monday, Georgia and Tennessee are allowing restaurants to resume dine-in service, a critical revenue generator for full-service restaurants like BJ’s. 

Trojan said the company's “large restaurants and flexible seating layout will provide us a strong advantage to take care of our guests' needs and grow sales as we transition back to dine-in and off-premise operations.”

BJ’s does not have any restaurants in Georgia, but does operate one restaurant in Tennessee. On Friday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said restaurants in the state can reopen Monday at 50% occupancy.

BJ’s declined to say which restaurants will begin to reopen first. 

“BJ’s is monitoring the markets where it has operations and openings, of course, are contingent on governors’ guidelines state by state,” a company spokesman told Nation’s Restaurant News. 

In the meantime, BJ’s provided investors with a business update ahead of its May 7 first quarter earnings. 

The brand has 209 restaurants open during the crisis, but has temporarily laid off about 16,000 hourly restaurant workers.

Same-store sales during the week ended March 24 declined 82%. That coincides with the onset of mandated dining room closures across the U.S.

Like other chains reporting preliminary results, the company said sales are improving in April. 

For the week ended April 21, the chain said same-store sales dropped 70%, an improvement driven by sequential weekly sales growth from take-out and delivery orders. 

Average weekly off-premise sales have grown each week since March 24. Average weekly sales grew from $19,458 for the week ended March 24 to $31,716 for the week ended April 21, BJ’s reported.

Trojan said investments the company made to boost its digital ordering channels prior to COVID-19 has helped guests “during these unprecedented times.”

“Our team members are successfully delivering high quality food and gold standard service that our guests have come to expect from BJ’s as we grow our take-out and delivery sales in the 205 BJ’s restaurants which continue to operate. As a result, we continue to see strong week-over-week growth in our off-premise channel,” he said.

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Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven


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