Noodles & Co., which just went public today, is a hit with investors so far — the company's shares doubled to $36.19 as of 12:50 p.m. (which would, incidentally, typically get you four meals at their restaurants).
The dining chain, which plants many of its locations near hungry college students in towns such as Evanston, Ill. Ann Arbor, Mich. Chapel Hill, N.C., and Columbia, Mo., is looking to expand from 343 locations to a whopping 2,500 in the next 15 to 20 years. (It's already more than doubled in the last six years.) It's certainly a step above ramen, with its restaurants offering a selection of 14 vegetables and six proteins, and dishes ranging from pad Thai to mac 'n' cheese, as per its S-1 filing.
The company, which made $300 million in sales for the year ended Jan. 1, plans to use proceeds from the IPO mostly to pay back loans and for working capital and general corporate purposes.
Noodles & Co., now trading under the ticker NDLS, has a number of earnest reasons for why investors should be interested in its concept — and here are some of them:
1. Forty percent of Noodles & Co. customers visit "at least" once a month.
According to a report commissioned by the chain, "Our customers skew slightly younger and more affluent than the general population, and according to a recent Gallup survey, this demographic spends more on dining than others."
2. The company's "per person spend" is $8...
...for the 12 months ended April 2, 2013. Noodles & Co. has added more beverages and appetizers and items such as "slow-braised naturally raised pork" in October 2012 to get consumers to spend more.
3. "Whether you are a mother with kids or a businessperson with a BlackBerry, you simply order your food, grab a drink and take a seat."
While it's unclear how many businesspeople still use a BlackBerry, Noodles & Co. says it takes only five minutes to cook each dish, which is then brought to the table on china. "You do not have to jostle your gear or carry trays of food to or from your table," the chain says in the filing.
4. The average volume at a Noodles & Co. was $1.18 million at the end of 2012.
For company-owned locations.
5. The company's CEO and COO came from Chipotle, where they expanded that chain to more than 400 locations.
Between 2000 and 2005, with financial backing from McDonald's.
6. Menu boards with pictures make people feel comfortable and safe.
"Our new Welcome Wall menu board, placed at the entrance of each of our company-owned restaurants, shows pictures of our dishes in an easily understandable layout so customers can fully grasp our world of flavors without feeling overwhelmed. We believe this merchandising enables our customers to peruse our offerings without feeling the pressure of holding up a line of hungry people."
7. Cashiers are called "noodle ambassadors."
This is "to highlight their role in helping our customers explore our global menu."
8. Variety eliminates the "veto vote."
"We believe our variety ensures that even the pickiest of eaters can find something to crave, which eliminates the 'veto vote' and encourages people with different tastes to enjoy a meal together."
9. 750,000 people are in the "Noodlegram club."
"...which provides the latest company news and special offers."
10. "We believe our genuine, nice people separate us from our competitors."
No jerks allowed.
11. Open kitchens are where it's at.
They're "the focal point" of the restaurants.
12. There's something called "hero lunches."
Restaurants invite certain customers to bring in a group of his or her friends for "an exclusive menu tasting at their local Noodles location."
13. Sales at all of the 150 largest "fast casual concepts" grew 8.4% to $21.5 billion in 2011.
That's according to data from Technomic. That compares with 3.5% growth for the 500 biggest restaurant chains in the U.S.
Sapna Maheshwari is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Maheshwari reports on retail and e-commerce.
Contact Sapna Maheshwari at email@example.com.
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