WaBa Grill, one of the nation’s leading healthy rice bowl chains, announced that 2021 was the best year in company history, with same store sales (SSS) and total system sales (TSS) surging past the prior-year records established in 2020. As it celebrated 15 years in business in 2021, and continued to make impressive gains across the sales spectrum, WaBa Grill registered a year-end SSS increase of 23.1% while TSS rose 24.1% over the previous year. WaBa Grill’s total-year SSS in 2021 represents a remarkable jump of 27.5% over the same pre-pandemic period for 2019, illustrating an extraordinary 24-month upward sales trajectory as last year ended. WaBa Grill also reported that 2021 systemwide AUV reached nearly $900,000 – another milestone for the popular brand well-known for its healthy and fresh menu served at super speed.
“As we closed the books on 2021 and celebrated 15 years in business, we looked back with considerable pride at having reached such an impressive array of milestones and achievements, but also with deep gratitude for our dedicated franchise partners who serve as our most passionate brand ambassadors,” says Andrew Kim, President & CEO of WaBa Grill. “Now, as we turn our attention to 2022, and our next 15 years, we are emboldened by all we have accomplished during an extraordinary 12-month period when everything we have worked on came together to allow us to drive unprecedented store-level sales performance and profitability.”
Characteristic of WaBa Grill’s rich history, menu evolution continued to play a significant role in WaBa’s 2021 success and helped fuel the brand’s record-setting results. In Q3 last year, WaBa Grill proudly announced the arrival of a new plant-based protein option in collaboration with the nation’s #1 tofu brand, Nasoya Foods USA. WaBa Grill’s Plantspired Steak, a Korean-inspired alternative to steak, was an overnight sensation at the almost 200 WaBa Grill locations throughout California and Arizona – pushing sales nearly 5% higher in the first six weeks following launch.
WaBa Grill’s entire menu of fire-grilled options became even more accessible last year as the brand’s digital channels continued to thrive, representing more than 25% of total sales at year-end. Loyalty sales, which totaled $8.1 million in 2020, skyrocketed 50% to nearly $12 million in 2021, while WaBa Grill’s guest-friendly app attracted more than 100,000 new users. The brand’s promise of “Always Low-Cost Delivery” continued to drive positive guest feedback scores, reflecting customer awareness and appreciation for WaBa Grill’s internal delivery offerings versus its competitors. Additionally, WaBa Grill was named a top heath-focused franchise in QSR magazine’s 2021 “Best Franchise Deals” report.
Franchise momentum and expansion also helped to fuel WaBa Grill’s phenomenal year. The brand opened three new locations in 2021 and will open its 200th restaurant in 2022. Moreover, on the heels of two successful 2021 openings in Kern County, WaBa Grill cemented an agreement to open 13 more new stores throughout Central California. WaBa Grill’s famous flame-grilled menu will soon be commonplace throughout vibrant communities between Bakersfield and Fresno. As new operators continue to embrace WaBa Grill’s successful franchise model, and the brand expands its footprint, franchisees will be guided from a new Orange County, Calif., franchise support center and WaBa Grill HQ where the company recently relocated to help bolster operations and manage future growth.
“As the WaBa brand continues to evolve in the years to come, our multidimensional growth strategy includes continued efforts to innovate our products and ongoing investments in digital marketing. Our success story will be authored by an unwavering commitment to a bold, healthful menu, the leveraging of technology, and optimizing our operational system to deliver enduring value to guests,” says Mark Finnegan, Chief Marketing & Information Officer at WaBa Grill. “The tremendous momentum we captured last year exceeded even our most ambitious goals and the fact that we experienced such a remarkable performance during our 15th anniversary year makes it even more special.”
Since 2006, WaBa Grill has been serving its famous rice bowls, plates and salads made with fresh vegetables, healthy grains and high-quality proteins including fresh, never frozen chicken, marinated ribeye steak, wild-caught salmon, jumbo shrimp, and organic tofu, all prepared to order on an open-fire grill and customized with a variety of flavorful sauces including the fan favorite WaBa Sauce. Along with takeout and curbside pickup, guests may place orders via the WaBa Rewards App for always low-cost delivery along with any of WaBa’s third-party delivery partners.
The nearly 200-unit brand is primed to continue expansion having identified key markets throughout the western U.S. and is seeking franchise partners interested in expanding their portfolios with an established healthy fast casual brand on the rise.