Noodles & Company is reporting record average unit volumes for April, as well as record digital sales, even as dine-in traffic continues to increase, the chain reported Thursday.
The fast casual said its April AUVs at company-owned locations topped $1.35 million, a 13% increase over the same period in 2019.
“While we recognize that there remains uncertainty surrounding COVID, and that the industry is likely benefitting from recent government stimulus, we continue to feel very confident about our trajectory and remain convinced that we are an even stronger business coming out of the pandemic than we were a year ago,” Noodles CEO Dave Boennighausen told analysts.
The Broomfield, Colo.-based chain reported total revenue of $109.6 million for the quarter ended March 30, compared to $100.3 million for the same period a year ago.
Noodles said it saw record digital sales in both March and April, even as dine-in sales recovered to 60% of pre-pandemic levels in April.
The chain has previously noted that it is embarking on a franchising push, after an extended pause, with the long-term goal of having half of all new locations run by franchisees. Noodles said it intends to open two to four franchised units this year, though the bulk of the 10 to 15 new restaurant openings in 2021 will be company stores.
Like nearly all operators, Boennighausen said Noodles is “seeing one of the most competitive labor environments” in nearly two decades.
Noodles, however, is benefitting from strong retention metrics, he says.
“Our turnover is down significantly versus where we were a year ago,” he said. “Management turnover is almost half of what it was a few years ago … That said, as we continue to add new units coming through the pipeline, as we continue to have increases in our average unit volumes, we’re certainly focused on ensuring that we continue to have a significant application flow to support those restaurants.”
Noodles previously announced it is adding steamers to every kitchen, which can shave about a minute of the cooking times of most of the chain’s dishes. Currently, they’ve been installed in 23% of the chain’s units, with plans to roll them out systemwide by the end of the year.
“Early results have been in line with our test, resulting in improved cook times, reduced labor hours and better taste of food scores,” CFO Carl Lukach told analysts.