BJ's plans growth outside West

<!--paging_filter--><p>BJ&rsquo;s Restaurants Inc. will begin testing television advertising and will roll out a new loyalty program in the second quarter, the company said Thursday.</p>
<p>After reporting <a href="http://nrn.com/article/bjs-4q-profits-42">a 42-percent increase in net income for the fourth quarter</a> and a 5.1-percent same-store sales increase, BJ&rsquo;s chair and chief executive Jerry Deitchle told analysts in a call that positive sales growth has continued into 2012.</p>
<p>For the first six weeks of the year, same-store sales are up 4 percent, lapping a 7-percent increase for the same period last year, Deitchle said.</p>
<p>The year ahead will bring more efforts to drive sales, but the chain also is positioning itself for growth outside its home base in the West. BJ&rsquo;s 115 locations are spread across 13 states.</p>
<p>BJ&rsquo;s has long envisioned national growth of up to 300 restaurants, and Deitchle said the company recently hired a consulting group to evaluate its domestic potential.</p>
<p>The chain now sees up to 425 possible BJ&rsquo;s locations nationally, although growth will remain &ldquo;careful and measured.&rdquo;</p>
<p>Deitchle also indicated that the company might be open to joint ventures, although none are currently planned.</p>
<p>BJ&rsquo;s first East Coast location is expected to open in the Washington, D.C., area at the end of this year or in early 2013.</p>
<p>This year, 15 new restaurants are planned and one smaller-format grill unit will be relocated a larger site.</p>
<p>Executives also discussed:</p>
<p>&bull; <strong>Television advertising test:</strong> A small test of television advertising will begin in the second quarter in two markets and likely will involve only a handful of restaurants, Deitchle said.</p>
<p>Although BJ&rsquo;s is a relatively small chain, and it may be early to consider national advertising, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s important to begin our learning of what benefit, if any, TV might offer BJ&rsquo;s,&rdquo; Deitchle said.</p>
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