Restaurants have been hit hard by restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (NASDAQ:RRGB) is optimistic, as it has seen five straight weeks of improving comparable sales and average net sales per restaurant, the company said in its recent business update. 

Since the peak impact from COVID-19-related store closings, the burger chain has seen its off-premise sales triple from pre-COVID19 levels. Now that stores are starting to reopen, the company says it is trying to maintain the off-premise sales momentum while also gaining traction as dining rooms reopen. 

gourmet burger and fries with glass of beer in the background

Image source: Getty Images.

Preliminary results have shown that overall comparable restaurant sales have declined 47% for the week ended May 24. But for stores with dining rooms that have reopened, the comparable sales were down only 31.9%. At that time, the company had reopened 38% of its company-operated dining rooms at limited capacity.

Overall preliminary first-quarter total sales have decreased 25% over the year-ago period. The gourmet burger chain is hoping to capitalize on growth it was seeing before the impacts of the pandemic, as well as the off-premise sales growth it has seen since. The first eight weeks of the fiscal quarter saw comparable sales growth of 3.7%. And while the most recent eight weeks showed a decline of 43%, this is off the lows of greater than 50% decreases it saw in April. 

Red Robin's president and CEO, Paul Murphy, said he was "very encouraged" by the sales trend and optimistic for the future. "Our enhanced execution, developed around our strategic plan and implemented on an accelerated basis as restaurants reopen, which has resulted in record dine-in and off-premise Guest satisfaction scores," Murphy said.