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Cosi: Catering crash hurting sales

DEERFIELD Ill. Così Inc., parent to the 144-unit fast-casual chain, said this week it narrowed its net loss in the second quarter as successful cost controls offset severe sales dips, especially from its catering operation, which saw sales fall 27.5 percent.

Systemwide same-store sales fell 12.2 percent for the quarter ended June 29, reflecting a 12.7-percent drop at corporate restaurants and 9.8-percent dip at franchised units. At corporate locations, traffic fell 9.8 percent and the average guest check declined 2.9 percent, the company reported.

Cosi said the double-digit drop in catering sales played a large part in the same-store sales decline.

“The impact of the recession on consumer and business spending has created a difficult environment for Così, especially in our catering business given our high density of locations in major metropolitan business areas,” said James Hyatt, the company’s president and chief executive. “We remain intensely focused on working collaboratively with our franchise partners to drive sales and improved operating margins while remaining diligent about controlling administrative costs.”

The company posted a second-quarter net loss of $969,000, or 2 cents per share, compared with a loss of $1.7 million, or 4 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2008. Reduced expenses for food and labor and a near halving of general and administrative expenses helped the bottom line, the company’s report showed.

Latest-quarter revenue fell 13.9 percent to $31.6 million. Since the end of 2008’s second quarter, Così closed five corporate locations. Corporate-store sales excluding those discontinued operations fell 14.3 percent to $31.0 million.

While Così has focused on cost controls during the recession the chain also has worked on improving customer service and debuting new products. Così recently introduced a steak and Gorgonzola sandwich, a steak salad and a lobster salad sandwich, which is available for a limited time.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].


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