Così Inc. ended a volatile year with sales swinging slightly positive, according to company results for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 26.
Same-store sales for the Deerfield, Ill.-based fast-casual chain rose 2.6 percent for the quarter, with a 0.9-percent gain at company-operated locations and a 5.3-percent increase at franchised units. At corporate units, traffic rose 0.6 percent and check increased 0.3 percent.
“I was pleased to see the positive systemwide comparable-sales trend Così achieved in the fourth quarter, culminating with an 8.2-percent increase in December,” Carin Stutz, the company’s newly hired chief executive, said in a statement. “This sales performance only reinforces my confidence in the long-term potential of this great brand.”
Così said unseasonably warm weather and several marketing initiatives drove increases in fourth-quarter same-store sales. During that three-month period, the chain promoted the return of its Turkey & Stuffing Sandwich for the Thanksgiving holiday season and ran a buy-one-get-one offer during December for salads, sandwiches and flatbread pizzas after 4 p.m.
Revenue for the fourth quarter rose 3.3 percent to $26.2 million, compared with $25.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2010, reflecting an extra operating week in 2011.
Così’s sales have fluctuated over the past few years, as the chain suffered a significant drop in traffic during the recession, and has since had an uneven recovery. After the chain’s same-store sales finished fiscal 2010 up 2.4 percent, they rose 1.7 percent in the first quarter of 2011 before falling 0.2 percent in the second quarter and 3 percent in the third quarter.
On Aug. 31, 2011, former chief executive James Hyatt resigned from Così, setting off a fight between the company’s board of directors and activist investor Brad Blum, who offered to run company for an annual salary of $1. Over the fall, Blum pushed for a no-confidence vote in Così’s board and brought forth a nonbinding resolution expressing 95 shareholders’ wish to change the brand’s strategy toward Blum’s vision, which the board ignored.
Così expects to report full earnings results on March 29.
The company operates 80 restaurants and franchises another 56 locations in 17 states, the District of Columbia and the United Arab Emirates.