Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc., parent to the Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana brands, has been slowly reopening its dining rooms that were all closed in the COVID-19 pandemic, executives said Wednesday
“Our business mix historically had been more heavily weighted toward the dine-in occasion, compared to our fast-casual peers for both brands, at approximately 26% of our revenue,” said Richard Stockinger, Fiesta CEO, in a third-quarter earnings call.
“The evolving status of the pandemic has clearly had an impact on consumer comfort levels with the dining experience,” Stockinger told analysts. The company had closed all of its dining rooms June 12.
The Dallas-based fast-casual company has 23 Pollo Tropical dining rooms open and 20 Taco Cabana dining rooms, he said. About 70 patios are now open.
“We are evaluating sales trends weekly to determine which units should be open for dining business,” he said. “We continue to operate our drive-throughs, as well as our counter, curbside pickup, delivery and online ordering.”
Stockinger said Fiesta said it had two key criteria for reopening dining rooms: the ability to maintain a safe health environment for team members and guests and the ability to generate a profit on dining room sales.
During the quarter, Pollo Tropical’s new smartphone application, developed by Bottle Rocket, went live in July.
“We expect to significantly grow our online sales through this much improved experience,” Stockinger said. “Although the app was just recently launched, loyalty club sign-ups since the app went live have increased 53% compared to the average weekly sign-up rate prior to the new app.”
Fiesta is also if the process of selling its 16 owned properties, completed four sales in the third quarter and five in the fourth quarter, Stockinger said.
The remaining seven properties are under contract or have offers, he noted. “There can be no assurance that those transactions will ultimately be completed,” Stockinger added.
For the third quarter ended Sept. 17, Fiesta’s net income swung to a profit of $4.6 million, or 18 cents a share, from a loss of $22.2 million, or 84 cents a share, in the same period last year. Revenues fell 16.4% to $137.3 million from $164.2 million in the prior-year quarter.
Same-store sales were down at both brands in the third quarter, with a decrease of 11.1% at Pollo Tropical and a decline of 14.2% at Taco Cabana.
As of Sept. 27, Fiesta owned and operated 138 Pollo Tropical restaurants and 145 Taco Cabana restaurants. All of the Pollo Tropical restaurants are in Florida, and all of the Taco Cabana restaurants are in Texas. The company also franchised 33 Pollo Tropical units and seven Taco Cabana units.
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