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Retail Trends

No Secret Ingredient

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“Your mom wants you to eat at Jimmy John’s” is a registered trademark of the restaurant chain, whose signature sandwiches include the J.J. Gargantuan — weighing in at more than one pound and promising to be “huge enough to feed the hungriest of all humans.”

Whatever one makes of the horn-tooting, Jimmy John’s boosted systemwide sales 25.7 percent to nearly $1.3 billion last year. While the franchise end of the business is doing well, there’s a bit of turmoil at headquarters in Champaign, Ill., where founder Jimmy John Liautaud has expressed dissatisfaction with the way Illinois taxes businesses and has threatened to move out of state.

Chipotle Mexican Grill has maintained growth in spite of a sustained campaign by federal officials to make sure Chipotle’s employees are either U.S. citizens or legal residents while making sure the company doesn’t profile, discriminate or violate provisions of Equal Employment Opportunity legislation.

Noodles & Company marked its initial public stock offering at the end of June, with shares rising 104 percent on the first day of trading. Headed by former Chipotle executive Kevin Reddy, Noodles plans to grow 10 to 15 percent a year over the next 15-20 years until it has about 2,500 locations.

BJ’s Restaurants has grown from a single store in Santa Ana, Calif., to more than 130 locations in 15 states, with 17 new locations slated for this year. As BJ’s has grown, so has the menu, with a selection of hamburgers, salads and pasta dishes added to its standard pizza and craft beer offerings.

“There is a long runway of expansion ahead,” says Greg Trojan, president and CEO of the chain. “We continue to believe there is room for at least 425 BJ’s Restaurants domestically.” The company does have challenges to meet, he acknowledges. “Our research tells us … that we lag our bigger national competitors in awareness levels. The good news is that our retention and adoption rates … are very, very high.”

Texas Roadhouse is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, having expanded its presence to 48 states and making its offering of hand-cut steaks, homemade side dishes and fresh-baked bread an award-winning value proposition. Every location has a staff butcher and baker, with everything from the entrees down to the bacon bits and salad dressings made from scratch.

Newcomer Zaxby’s Franchises is a chicken chain serving sandwiches, tenders and wings with nine different sauces of varying degrees of intensity. Founded in 1990 by Zach McLeroy and Tony Townley, the chain has extended its reach through a dozen states in the Southeast plus Indiana.

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