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Can Mobile Paying Save BJ's Restaurants?

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/04/05/can-mobile-paying-save-bjs-restaurants.aspx

Nickey Friedman
April 5, 2014

It can be very annoying when you're at a restaurant, you're finished, and you want to leave but you're waiting forever to get your check and then to pay. A sudden trend seems to have emerged among the beer-and-burger casual-dining chains in which they have added mobile tablet-paying options at the table. Chili's of Brinker International (NYSE: EAT) and Applebee's of DineEquity (NYSE: DIN) are on this bandwagon. Now that BJ's Restaurants (NASDAQ: BJRI) has also jumped on board, it seems that they all have something else in common with one another as well.


Source: BJ's Restaurants.

The not-so-heady results
On Feb. 19, BJ's Restaurants reported fiscal fourth-quarter results. Revenue rose 8.1% to $199.8 million. Same-store sales slipped 2.7%. Adjusted non-GAAP net income plunged 78% to $1.7 million or $0.06 per diluted share.

BJ's Restaurants used every excuse under the sun (or lack of sun) for the shortfall. The company blamed the weak holiday shopping season, the calendar, "industrywide traffic trends," "macro-economic trends," "promotional environment," and the "impact of weather on certain of our markets." It's hard to say how much weather had to do with it, since the chain primarily operates in California, Florida, and Texas, and these places didn't exactly see a lot of snow over the October to December time frame.

However, we kind of already knew all this from the report three months earlier. Back in November, CFO Gregory Levin stated, "We expect the casual dining industry in general to remain challenging through at least the end of this year and most likely into early next year."

Source: BJ's Restaurants

Pay me now
Again from the past report, CEO Greg Trojan warned of "certain capacity constraints, particularly in our restaurant kitchens." It's interesting to note that BJ's Restaurants has addressed this problem in two ways. First, it launched a new menu. Hopefully it's easier on the kitchen this time. If you're ever popped into a BJ's Restaurant before, you've probably noticed that the menu is so long and overwhelming that it reads like a book. It's little wonder that it's a challenge for the kitchen.

Second, the company has been testing a mobile "pay at the table" app that allows customers to use their smartphones or tablets to pay their bills. It sounds like a cool idea. Customers can pay and leave more quickly, which makes them happy, and BJ's Restaurants can turn the tables more quickly, which makes waiting guests happier and gives the company the ability to potentially increase its sales faster.

BJ's Restaurants even plans to allow an option where you can order your food ahead of time using your mobile device. How cool is that? You can literally have your beer and appetizer waiting for you when you get seated. Once again, happy customers and higher sales. The comp