Cosi bowl to go gluten-free, add more calories
by Eric Schroeder
DEERFIELD, ILL. — Although about 90% of customers have said they “love them” during their first five months on the market, Cosi bowls will be receiving a makeover, said Carin Stutz, president and chief executive officer of Cosi, Inc.
Introduced in January, the bowls initially were available in three varieties, each on a bed of grains and each with fewer than 500 calories. But beginning in June, the bowls will be gluten-free and most likely will include more than 500 calories.
In a May 16 conference call with analysts to discuss first-quarter financials, Ms. Stutz said that while most consumers liked the bowls, some compared them to other bowls that already are in the marketplace.
“They want them to be bigger and more plentiful,” she said. “So we did try to go with the 500 calorie and try to zero in on a real healthy number, but the consumer is saying we want those to be a little more filling.
“There are a lot of requests for gluten-free. So, the new grain on those (bowls) will be a gluten-free base.”
Cosi initially used Colusari red rice, barley and rye as the “bed of grains” for the bowls. Colusari red rice is gluten-free, while barley and rye are not. Cosi has not disclosed what grain will be the gluten-free base for the revamped bowls.
One purpose of the Cosi bowl introduction was to bolster the dinner business, and to a degree, that has been a success, Ms. Stutz said.
“As you look at it as a percentage of the product mix, (Cosi bowls) s.k.u.s well over 10% at dinner time, and just slightly under that at lunch,” she said. “So we know that it has a higher pull there. We have not done any marketing of it yet to really try to drive that business yet. But, just from the product mix alone, we believe that it is a great product for us for dinner.”
In addition to Cosi bowls, the restaurant chain will be adding a Smart Fit salad to its menu. The salad has been received well in a pilot restaurant in Chicago, Ms. Stutz said.
“It’s kind of one of the superfood type of a salad with sweet potatoes, fresh avocado and kale,” she said.
Coffee, which accounts for approximately 4% of total revenues at Cosi, is another area expected to get attention after several years of being somewhat neglected.
“We recognize that that’s an area where we’ve lost that battle somewhat over time,” said William Koziel, chief financial officer. “I think other folks have been more aggressive in the coffee category. And you look at the Dunkin’ Donuts of the world, and the McDonald’s, and everyone who has jumped into coffee. We have done some work on our coffees and we’re going to start to promote that more heavily. We really believe there is an opportunity for Cosi in that segment and we’re going to push more aggressively. We have a promotion that’s going to be running shortly around a flavored coffee. We really want to re-engage the guest with the coffees we’ve now put into the restaurants to move forward.”
Cosi sustained a loss of $2,741,000 in the first quarter ended April 1, which compared with a loss of $1,128,000 in the same period a year ago. Net revenues fell 13% to $21,561,000 from $24,673,000.