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Also part of its plan to boost sales, BJ’s will roll out a new menu next week that includes more items for the “increasing number of calorie- and health-conscious guests,” said Trojan.

The new menu also features more items under $10 with bolder flavors, smaller portions and lower-calorie options. Trojan noted a kale and Brussels sprout salad for $9.50, for example, and Mediterranean chicken pita tacos with Greek yogurt crema for $8.95.

The rollout will be supported by a media campaign, set to launch in March, that will include print, digital, social media and television. Trojan said the media effort will bring “a new level of storytelling” to increase brand awareness for the casual-dining chain.

The chain is also addressing service speed with its menu changes. Over the past year, BJ’s slowed its new product pipeline to focus on improving food quality and reducing the complexity of the menu. Rather than the 160-165 items on the menu previously, the new menu set to roll out next week will have about 135 items, even with the new additions, Trojan said.

Last year, the chain launched a new Brewhouse Burger line that Trojan described as a hit with guests. The line is already selling at almost half the rate of all the chain’s signature pizzas combined.

The burgers were designed to beef up the mid-priced menu category with a starting price of $6.95, but the lower-cost items put pressure on BJ’s average check, which declined 0.4 percent during the quarter.

Still, said Trojan, “It’s an investment worth making as we seek to drive traffic.

BJ’s reported on Wednesday a 93-percent decline in fourth quarter net income. The results were dampened in part by one-time charges, including separation costs associated with the departure of the chain’s chief marketing officer, Matt Hood, and write-downs related to an underperforming unit in Texas.

The company did not respond to questions about Hood’s departure.

In addition, the chain incurred settlement costs after the Alcoholic Beverage Commission in Texas determined the company’s system of supplying beer from out-of-state brewery units didn’t meet code. In the settlement, BJ’s agreed to start brewing beer locally for those restaurants, which will start in 2015.

BJ’s plans to open 15 new restaurants in 2014, but Trojan left room to change that plan if the macroeconomic climate remains as choppy and volatile as it has been.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout