Cosi goes cold on melts

by Eric Schroeder
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Cosi Cubano melt sandwich
Cosi has removed its melts category as part of its menu reduction plan.

BOSTON — With two consecutive years of losses topping $15 million, Cosi, Inc. is adjusting its approach to attracting and keeping customers. On tap for 2016 is a reduced menu.

RJ Dourney, Cosi
RJ Dourney, president and CEo of Cosi

“We were on a roll coming out of 2014 into early 2015,” said RJ Dourney, president and CEO of Cosi, in a March 24 conference call with analysts. “Traffic was up, trial was up, and then we seemed to hit a wall. We immediately dug in and identified the root causes of this issue and with discipline implemented corrective action. During the time when we saw the decrease in traffic, we had deployed a series of initiatives that caused us to lose sight of one of our strengths — making speed and what we call ease-of-use, a competitive advantage.”

Cosi, Inc. sustained a loss of $15,655,000 in the year ended Dec. 28, 2015, which compared with a loss of $16,625,000 in fiscal 2014. Total revenues, though, increased 16 percent to $89,890,000 from $77,758,000. In the fourth quarter ended Dec. 28, the company recorded a loss of $3,558,000, which compared with a loss of $4,537,000 a year ago. Total revenues in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015 totaled $24,016,000, up from $19,504,000 a year ago.

To help refocus, Dourney said Cosi has been testing a reduced menu. The new menu is easier to read and steers customers to what Cosi considers to be the “cravable” items on the menu, he explained.

“It is easier for the hourly employee to execute and easier for managers to manage,” he said. “Early results of the test are showing traffic is up and costs are down, and the guest and our people are happy with the changes. With discipline we will roll this out systemwide.”

Dourney said Cosi has reduced its menu by about 20 percent.

“The melt category is gone, and we have additionally removed a handful of other items,” he said.

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