Menu upgrades, store remodels on tap for Einstein

by Eric Schroeder
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LAKEWOOD, COLO. — Even as its search for a new chief executive officer continues, quick-casual restaurant operator Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc. remains focused on its mission to attract and retain customers while evolving the brand.

“We are focused on several key items, including service excellence, menu upgrades, catering, remodels and the opening of 75 to 85 new company, franchise and licensed locations,” Michael Arthur, interim president and c.e.o., said during a May 1 conference call with analysts to discuss first-quarter results.

Mr. Arthur, who has been interim president and c.e.o. since Jeff O’Neill resigned Feb. 24, said a program is under way to upgrade and place more emphasis on the lunch day part. Einstein Noah is “revisiting” its lunchtime sandwich and bread offerings, and reintroducing an improved bagel dog, he said. The new bagel dog is a ¼-lb Hebrew National all-beef hot dog encased with a daily fresh-baked bagel bun.

Remodeling also is taking center stage at Einstein.

“We are going to expand a program that we tested last year in 12 Orlando (Fla.)-area locations,” Mr. Arthur said. “With an average cost to remodel of $115,000, we experienced a profitable sales lift. We think we can replicate this success in other markets and are now planning our next 20 store remodel phase with as many as 75 total remodel projects by the end of 2014. About two-thirds of the remodels will be concentrated in three cities with the balance in flagship locations and their respective markets.”

Manny Hilario, chief operating officer, also commented on Einstein’s “plan to win” strategy, saying the restaurant chain completed a project during the first quarter to recertify all its bakers to ensure that each store prepares products in a manner that reflects Einstein’s standards for presentation and freshness.

“Our ‘plan to win’ also entails ensuring that our crew provides better customer service, effectively manages speed of service, and maintains store cleanliness,” he said.

Net income in the first quarter ended April 1 was $2,058,000, equal to 12c per share on the common stock, down 12% from $2,361,000, or 14c per share, in the same period a year ago. Net revenues were $106,388,000, up 3.3% from $109,868,000 in the same period a year ago.
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