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BJ’s finds success with a novel dine-in/takeout combo

Customers who spend a certain amount in-restaurant can pick off a special $6 menu of heat-and-eat take-home dishes.
Photograph: Shutterstock

A new line of $6 heat-and-eat take-home entrees has become a significant sales driver for BJ’s Restaurants, pushing up average dine-in checks while serving as an effective lure for value-conscious customers, executives of the casual-dining chain told investors yesterday.

They revealed that another draw is being tested specifically for lunchtime bargain hunters. The tiered menu offers midday entrees for $8, $10 and $12.  The test is the latest sign that lunch is becoming a major battleground for casual-dining chains, many of which had all but ceded that daypart to quick-service and fast-casual brands.

BJ’s officials said the chain is also continuing to work on a beer subscription club—apparently a paid membership program that will entitle participants to access to special beers.

Along with an offer of take-home bottles of wine for $10, the new $6 take-home line and the beer subscription club are part of an effort by BJ’s to blaze new revenue streams, CEO Greg Trojan told financial analysts. The new chilled entrees, introduced in November, were a significant contributor to the company’s same-store sales gain of 0.4% for the fourth quarter of 2019. Sales have been particularly brisk in January and February of this fiscal year, and already rival some of the brand’s most popular in-store items in volume, he noted.

Trojan said the intake is “nearly 100% incremental.”

The offer resembles Olive Garden’s periodic limited-time offer of a bargain-priced take-home meal for customers who dine on-site. This week, the Darden Restaurants brand tried a variation where dine-in parties that ordered two entrees could take home two more for no additional charge.

In BJ’s program, customers who spend at least $9.95 on food eaten inside the restaurant can order up to three chilled entrees off a special to-go menu for $6 each. Six choices are offered: ziti; chicken Alfredo; spicy peanut chicken with soba noodles; spaghetti and meatballs; roasted chicken; and turmeric-spiced cauliflower and quinoa, a vegetarian dish.

“They are at an all-time high in incidence,” Trojan said.

The launch of heat-and-eat entrees is in addition to a revamp of BJ’s catering program and its offer of family-sized meal packs for off-premise business.

The officials did not provide details of the $10 wine program, mentioning it only in passing.

BJ’s net income for Q4 totaled $14.5 million, a 35% increase over the year-ago figure, on revenues of  $291.1 million, up 3.8%.

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