- BJ’s Restaurants has sold $70 million of common stock to Act III Holdings and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, according to a press release.
- BJ's CEO Greg Trojan said in the release that the funds will help the restaurant bring back staff, reopen dining rooms and implement necessary safety protocols.
- Act III Holdings was founded by Ron Shaich, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Panera Bread.
Act III’s investment could go a long way for BJ’s restaurants, especially as it slowly opens up its dining rooms as states ease dine-in restrictions. The investor has plenty of experience in the restaurant industry, especially with Shaich at the helm. Act III previously invested in Cava in May 2018, which then went on to acquire Zoe’s Kitchen, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.
That expertise could translate well as BJ's navigates the coronavirus crisis, which has hit casual dining chains particularly hard.
In early April, BJ’s temporarily laid off about 16,000 hourly restaurant workers due to restrictions on dine-in operations and said it plans to gradually bring back these employees as sales begin to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels. It later furloughed 200 restaurant managers and 40 restaurant support center employees.
Comp sales declined during the week ended March 24 by 82%, improving to a negative 70% during the week ended April 21, according to an April press release. The improvement was related to mid-teens sequential weekly growth in the company’s off-premise sales for takeout and delivery.
Off-premise sales grew from a weekly average of $11,402 in the week ending March 17 to an average fo $31,716 in the week ending April 21, boosted by both traffic and check, with check size growing due to the growth in orders from its Family Feast offerings and to-go beverages, which include BJ’s craft beer six packs and growlers, bottles of wine and margaritas to-go.
Trojan also appears to be optimistic about the company’s future.
“Despite the current short term challenges we face due to mandated dining room closures, our teams are preparing to begin reopening restaurants once state and local officials allow us,” Trojan said in an April press release.
The company has been developing social distancing and other protocols to ensure that the restaurant offers a safe experience for staff and guests, Trojan said, adding that the large layout of its restaurants and flexible seating give the casual dining chain an advantage.
Correction: In a previous version of this article's headline, the founder of Act III Holdings was misidentified. Ron Shaich, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Panera Bread, founded the company.