Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc.’s Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana brands will be testing in-restaurant self-order kiosks in 2019, FRGI executives said Monday.
The planned kiosk tests are among other digital and technology additions being made at the two brands, leaders at the Dallas-based company said in a third-quarter earnings call.
“We do about half our business inside the restaurant, whether it be dine-in or take-out,” explained Lynn Schweinfurth, Fiesta’s chief financial officer. With the kiosk pilot in 2019, she added, “we would hope to experience higher average check, better accuracy.”
In addition to the kiosk tests, Taco Cabana is in the process of upgrading point-of-sale tablets at some locations to accept in-dining-room payments and increase sales, said Richard Stockinger, Fiesta’s president and CEO.
Danny Meisenheimer, Fiesta’s chief operating officer and president of Pollo Tropical, said the addition of citrus-marinated crispy chicken as a platform for the brand continued to broaden the appeal, especially among younger customers. The crispy chicken represented between 9 percent and 10 percent of all transactions in the quarter.
Meisenheimer said the division planned to roll out third-party delivery in South Florida in the next few weeks and to expand that in 2019.
In addition, he said, Pollo Tropic is expanding its catering infrastructure, planning for centralized kitchens in South Florida and centralized hub restaurants in other markets.
For the third quarter ended Sept. 30, Fiesta swung to a profit of $2 million, or 8 cents a share, from a loss of $8.3 million, or 31 cents a share, in the prior-year period. Revenues increased 10 percent to $174.6 million from $158.7 million in the same quarter last year.
Earnings fell more than 10 cents a share short of expectations. At noon CST on Tuesday, Fiesta Restaurant Group stock was down about 22 percent, to $19.46 a share, from Monday’s close of $24.94 a share.
Same-store sales at Pollo Tropical increased 6.5 percent in the quarter, including lapping the impact of Hurricane Irma last year. And same-store sales at Taco Cabana increased 12.2 percent, including a positive comparison to sales impacted by Hurricane Harvey in South Texas last year.
As of Sept. 30, Fiesta had 150 company-owned Pollo Tropical and 30 franchised units of that brand and 171 company-owned Taco Cabanas and eight franchised units. During the third quarter, Fiesta opened one company-owned Taco Cabana restaurant in Texas.
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