Shakey's 'pauses' expansion plans, 'tightens belt' to ride out pandemic

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 15 2020 11:50 AM | Updated as of Jul 15 2020 01:08 PM

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MANILA - Shakey's Pizza Asia Ventures Inc said Wednesday it has put its expansion plans "on pause" while focusing on delivery and digital channels serving home consumptions to ride out the coronavirus pandemic. 

Shakey's has deferred the opening of 38 new stores this year, its director, president and CEO Vicente Gregorio said during the company's virtual annual stockholders meeting.

"What was supposed to be a record breaking year in terms of organic expansion has now been put on pause. Prudence dictates that we review all our existing network, as well as our planned expansion strategy amidst our economic uncertainties brought about by the crisis," Gregorio said. 

The restaurant industry was one of the sectors forced to shut when the enhanced community quarantine was imposed in March. Dine in has since been allowed in June but only up to 30 percent capacity. 

"QUINTESSENTIAL" PIZZA POISED FOR RECOVERY

At least 267 branches or 95 percent of its network are now open compared to just 24 in end-March. Out of its total stores, 12 are in the "ICU" (intensive care units), Gregorio said.

Two of its 4 Middle East branches are also closed but whether it will be for good, "it remains to be seen," Gregorio said, adding that the focus now was on local branches.

Profits for the first 6 months of the year has declined "significantly" due to COVID-19 and resulting lockdowns, but Gregorio said that with the belt-tightening measures and the "quintessential" pizza would likely survive the pandemic.

The company entered the crisis with P1 billion in cash and P5 billion in unused credit lines. It has also benefitted from the "strong" demand for in home and out of store consumption, Gregorio said. 

Investments in delivery and its digital platforms over the years gave Shakey's the "edge" during the lockdowns, he said. 

Recovery back to pre-pandemic levels may happen in 2022 to 2023. Shakey's has so far imposed standard-exceeding health measures and is pilot testing its "al fresco" concept for a safer experience, Gregorio said. 

"Our pre-COVID balance sheet provides us some room, and we remain confident that, while we put our growth-oriented strategy on pause, we will be more than ready to revert to these plans when the good times return," Gregorio said. 

"Until then we will focus on our efforts on maximizing existing assets, most especially those geared to guests who remained at home...We are geared up to not only survive but also thrive," he added.