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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
  
FORM 10-K
  
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 29, 2020
or
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from                      to                     
Commission File Number: 001-35987
 
NOODLES & COMPANY
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
 
 
Delaware84-1303469
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)(IRS Employer Identification No.)
520 Zang Street, Suite D 
Broomfield, CO
80021
(Address of principal executive offices)(Zip Code)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (720214-1900
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each classTrading SymbolName of each exchange on which registered
Class A common stock, par value $0.01 per shareNDLSNasdaq Global Select Market
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
 
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    Yes  ¨    No  x
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.    Yes  ¨    No  x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days Yes  x     No  ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    Yes  x     No  ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company.  See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filerAccelerated filer
Non-accelerated filerSmaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.    
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.     
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).    Yes      No  
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates as of June 30, 2020, the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, was $172.2 million. This amount was calculated based on the closing price of the common stock on June 30, 2020 on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. All executive officers and directors of the registrant have been deemed, solely for the purpose of the foregoing calculation, to be “affiliates” of the registrant.
As of February 22, 2021, there were 45,357,796 shares of the registrant’s Class A common stock, par value of $0.01 per share outstanding.





DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s proxy statement relating to its 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, to be held on or about April 27, 2021, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, where so indicated. Such proxy statement will be filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year to which this report relates.



Table of Contents                
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 Page
PART I
ITEM 1.
ITEM 1A.
ITEM 1B.
ITEM 2.
ITEM 3.
ITEM 4.
PART II
ITEM 5.
ITEM 6.
ITEM 7.
ITEM 7A.
ITEM 8.
ITEM 9.
ITEM 9A.
ITEM 9B.
PART III
ITEM 10.
ITEM 11.
ITEM 12.
ITEM 13.
ITEM 14.
PART IV
ITEM 15.
ITEM 16.
SIGNATURES
EXHIBITS



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PART I
ITEM 1.    Business
General
Noodles & Company is a restaurant concept offering lunch and dinner within the fast-casual segment of the restaurant industry. We opened our first location in Denver, Colorado in 1995, offering noodle and pasta dishes, staples of many different cuisines, with the goal of delivering fresh ingredients and flavors from around the world under one roof. Today, our globally-inspired menu includes a wide variety of high quality, cooked-to-order dishes, including noodles and pasta, soups, salads and appetizers. We believe that we offer our customers value, with per person spend of $10.12 for the fiscal year ended December 29, 2020.
We offer more than 20 globally-inspired dishes together on a single menu that can be enjoyed inside our restaurants, taken to-go, or delivered to our customers. We believe we will benefit from trends in consumer preferences such as the increasing desire for convenience and to engage with brands digitally, as well as the broader demand for international cuisines. At many restaurants, customers are limited to a particular ethnic cuisine or type of dish, such as a sandwich, burrito or burger. At Noodles & Company, we aim to eliminate the “veto vote” by satisfying the preferences of a wide range of customers, whether a family or parent with kids, a group of coworkers, an individual or a large party.
Our menu is well suited for off-premise dining occasions in which customers order at our restaurant or online but then eat their meal from the comfort of their home or office. Our menu items travel particularly well and that our digital capabilities as well as the breadth of our menu position the brand well for changing consumer trends around convenience. We also believe that our globally-inspired menu, focused on noodle and pasta dishes, differentiates us from other restaurants. We believe our attributes—global flavors, variety, dishes prepared-to-order and fast service—allow us to compete against multiple segments throughout the restaurant industry and provide us a larger addressable market for lunch and dinner than competitors who focus on a single cuisine. We strive to provide a pleasant dining, pick-up or delivery experience by quickly preparing fresh food with friendly service at a price point we believe is attractive to our customers.

Noodles & Company is a Delaware corporation that was organized in 2002. Noodles & Company and its subsidiaries are sometimes referred to as “we,” “us,” “our,” and the “Company” in this report. We refer to our Class A Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share, as our “common stock.”
Our Response to COVID-19
The onset of the novel coronavirus outbreak, known as the global pandemic COVID-19 (“COVID-19 pandemic”) resulted in significant disruption to the restaurant industry and adversely affected our business. The greatest impact to our sales and overall financial results was during the initial stages of the pandemic, beginning the third week of March 2020 through the end of May 2020. During this period, we temporarily closed nearly all of our dining rooms and migrated to a nearly entire off-premise model, driven by local government imposed restrictions in areas where we operate our restaurants. Since the initial disruption, we have seen sequential improvement in our financial performance. While the second half of the year included several heightened periods of hospitalizations and infection rates, particularly during the fourth quarter, the financial impact to our business was not as severe as the initial stages of the pandemic.
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we did the following:
Placed further emphasis on our already in place off-premise measures, including:
Implementing direct delivery nationwide through the Noodles app and website;
Expanding our third-party delivery service; and
Launching curbside delivery at all of our restaurants
Negotiated a bank amendment for covenant relief and other liquidity flexibility;
Implemented temporary salary reductions and furloughs at our support center and reductions in force throughout the organization;
Closed nearly all of our dining rooms beginning the third week of March 2020 through May 2020, limiting our service to off-premise only. We began re-opening dining rooms in May 2020 as a result of reduced restrictions by local governments. However, during the fourth quarter, our business was further impacted due to a rise in hospitalizations and
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local restrictions and the vast majority of our dining rooms closed again. We have since reopened a majority of our dining rooms with limited capacity, and will continue to open the remaining dining rooms as appropriate.

The Company continues to prioritize health and safety measures including taking steps to protect the health and safety of its team members and guests by doing the following:
Increased cleaning and sanitizing protocols;
Implemented additional training and operational manuals for its restaurant employees, as well as enhanced handwashing procedures;
Installation of plexiglass at point of sale terminals;
Requirements for wearing of masks by all team members and guests; and
Health screening process for all team members before the start of each shift.

Our Concept and Business Strengths
Convenience. Our customers experience the Noodles brand through our company-owned and franchise operated locations, through our website www.noodles.com and through our mobile app. In 2020, approximately 57% of our sales were derived from digital ordering, where guests have the opportunity to select in-restaurant quick pick-up, curbside service, or delivery to their home or office. In select restaurants, particularly new locations, we offer the added convenience of order-ahead drive through pick-up windows. We believe that the breadth of ways that consumers can access our brand, the variety inherent in our menu, and how well our food travels is a business strength in relation to consumer trends towards convenience.
Variety. We have purposefully chosen a range of healthy to indulgent dishes to satisfy multiple dietary and lifestyle preferences. Our menu encourages customers to customize their meals to meet their tastes and nutritional preferences with our selection of a variety of fresh vegetables and nine proteins. Additionally, customers are able to customize the noodle that their dish is prepared with, including healthy options such as our zucchini noodle (“Zoodles”), cauliflower infused rigatoni (“Caulifloodles”), gluten free pipette noodles and the more recently launched cauliflower gnocchi.
All of our dishes are cooked-to-order with fresh, high quality ingredients sourced from our carefully selected suppliers. Our commitment to the freshness of our ingredients is further demonstrated by our use of seasonal ingredients and healthy add-in options such as seasoned tofu. Our culinary team strives to develop new dishes and limited time offerings to further reinforce our brand positioning and regularly provide our customers additional options. Choice has always been a great strength of the brand, and we continue to innovate in ways that allow guests to enjoy the world flavors they know and love, as well as discover new ones with all of the benefits of healthier options. For example, the introduction of zucchini noodles in 2018 removed a major obstacle to the brand by providing a low-carb, gluten free noodle alternative to our guests. Zoodles can be substituted into any of our dishes or enjoyed in a signature dish. We have continued to innovate around plant-based menu options, like cauliflower-infused rigatoni and more recently, cauliflower gnocchi, which is gluten-free, low-carb and provides a full serving of vegetables. This focus on culinary innovation allows us to prepare and serve high quality food, meet changing consumer trends and acquire new customers.
Value. The quality of our food and the welcoming ambiance of our restaurants creates an overall customer experience that we believe is unique and differentiated. Our per person spend is competitive not only within the fast-casual segment, but also within the quick-service segment. We deliver value by combining a family-friendly dining environment with the opportunity to enjoy many dishes containing a variety of fresh ingredients. We also offer kids meals which, at a fixed low price, provide the opportunity for parents to feed their children a balanced meal with sides such as broccoli, carrots, applesauce and a smaller portion of our house made rice crispy treat.
Our Brand Experience. Our locations are designed individually, which we believe creates an inviting restaurant environment. We believe the ambiance is warm and welcoming, with muted lighting and colors, comfortable seating and our own custom music mix, which is intended to make our customers feel relaxed and at home. We believe we deliver an exceptional overall dining experience. Our customers expect not only great food from our restaurants, but also warm hospitality and attentive service.
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Consistent with our culture of enhanced customer service, we seek to hire individuals who will deliver prompt, attentive service by engaging customers the moment they enter our restaurants. Our training philosophy empowers both our restaurant managers and team members, also referred to as employees, to add a personal touch when engaging with our customers. Our restaurant managers are critical to our success, as we believe that their entrepreneurial spirit and outreach efforts build our brand in our communities.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic approximately 60% of our transactions were off-premise occasions. Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in late March, and for the remainder of 2020, nearly all of our sales were off-premise, driven by temporarily closed dining rooms in most jurisdictions and a change in consumer behavior. This led to a higher level of mobile ordering, more contactless pick-ups and an increase in our guests requesting delivery through our own channels or a third party aggregator. We were able to swiftly adapt to these changes in customer behavior due to prior investments in our off-premise channel, such as our elevated technology capabilities available to our guests through our website and mobile app, and our quick-pick up counters. Additionally, in the majority of our locations, we provide curbside pick-up available to our guests directly through our mobile app. During 2019, we also began incorporating pick-up windows into many of our new restaurants to increase our level of convenience.
Our Operational Strategy
We believe our brand and globally-inspired menu resonates with consumers, and we believe our restaurants, team members and online engagement provide customers a unique and high-quality experience. We are focused on offering customers flavorful, cooked-to-order dishes in a warm and welcoming environment at an attractive value.
Restaurant initiatives. Our plan to improve our performance includes the following four key strategies:
Enhancing convenience for our customers. We have meaningfully improved convenience for customers during the past few years and we believe there still remains significant opportunity to increase convenience for our customers. In 2019, we relaunched our digital platform making it easier for guests to navigate our menu and customize their orders. The digital platform introduced a new and improved Noodles Rewards program that incorporates points and tier-based rewards to further customer engagement. Additionally, we have reduced friction for off-premise channels by allowing our guests to have their meals delivered curbside by using features on our Noodles app or to use our quick pick-up counter within our locations. Finally, we continue to offer an additional level of convenience for our customers through our third-party delivery program.
Focusing on our global flavors and menu offerings. We believe that our globally-inspired menu, focused on noodle and pasta dishes, differentiates us from other restaurants. We also believe this global variety, which includes a range of healthy to indulgent dishes that are cooked to order with fresh, high-quality ingredients, remains a competitive strength. We believe we have significant potential to broaden awareness and drive new guests with our zucchini and cauliflower-infused dishes. Additionally, we continue to test the next evolution of our core offerings to increase the frequency of our loyal guests.
Improving efficiencies and unit-level margins. The increased demand for off-premise and digital sales has accelerated our ability to optimize our staffing model and vendor efficiencies. We are actively enhancing our supply chain and food preparation procedures to reduce inbound ingredient costs and improve labor efficiency. During the year, we improved our sales-based labor model to more efficiently staff our restaurants, optimized scheduling for food preparation and reduced our labor hours from our Noodle Ambassadors who serve as front of house cashiers. We expect to further optimize our labor model through new equipment packages and a new kitchen design that we expect to improve throughput, food quality, off-premise ease of pick-up and provide flexibility for future culinary innovation. In 2020, we began incorporating these changes into our new restaurants as well.
Improving manager selection, training and development of our teams. Team member retention is a critical component to our success. We have increased our focus on the selection, training and development of our restaurant teams by implementing certain changes to our restaurant compensation program, and more recently in 2020, expanding our benefits program. Our investment in extensive training tools and learning management systems have improved overall training execution, improved employee turnover and encouraged career development within our teams.
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Restaurant Portfolio and Franchising
Restaurant Portfolio. As of December 29, 2020, we had 378 company-owned restaurants and 76 franchise restaurants in 29 states. Our restaurants are typically approximately 2,600 square feet and are located in end-cap, in-line or free-standing locations across a variety of suburban and urban markets. We are currently executing a smaller square footage design which largely includes drive thru pick-up windows as we embed our new operating model into new restaurants. We anticipate that this design will better facilitate future expansion and better meet the needs of the changing consumer experience.
Restaurant Development. Given improvement in results, operating effectiveness and liquidity, we are currently pursuing a disciplined development pipeline to execute new unit growth in 2021, and expect an annual unit growth rate of approximately 7% to 10% beginning in 2022. We anticipate this unit growth to include a combination of both company and franchise development. In 2020, we opened four new company-owned restaurants and sold nine restaurants to a franchisee.

Franchising. As of December 29, 2020, we had 76 franchise units in 16 states operated by 10 franchisees. In 2020, our franchisees acquired nine restaurants previously operated by the Company and closed one restaurant. We have a total of nine area developers who have signed development agreements providing for the opening of 72 additional restaurants in their respective territories. We expect franchising to be a larger part of our growth strategy in future years. We look for experienced, well-capitalized franchise partners who are able to leverage their existing infrastructure and local knowledge in a manner that benefits both our franchisees and us. We expect to continue to offer development rights in markets where we do not intend to build company-owned restaurants. We may offer such rights to larger developers who commit to open 10 or more units, or to smaller developers who may commit to open fewer restaurants. We do not currently intend to offer single-unit franchises. We believe the strength and attractiveness of our brand will attract experienced and well-capitalized area developers.
Certain Restaurant Closures. We closed six company-owned restaurants in 2020 and five company-owned restaurants in 2019, most of which were at or approaching the expiration of their leases or in trade areas that are not as well positioned for current consumer trends. We currently do not anticipate a significant number of restaurant closures for the foreseeable future; however, we may from time to time close or relocate certain restaurants, that are at, or near, the expiration of their leases or in trade areas that are not as well positioned for current consumer trends.
Site Development and Expansion
We consider our site selection and development process critical to our long-term success. We have used a combination of our own internal team and outside real estate consultants to locate, evaluate and negotiate new sites using various criteria. In making site selection decisions, we use several analytical tools designed to uncover the key site, demographic, business, retail, competitive and traffic characteristics that drive successful locations. Once a location has been approved by our executive-level selection committee, we begin a design process to match the characteristics and feel of the location to the trade area.
Restaurant Management and Operations
Friendly Team Members. We believe our genuine, friendly team members separate us from our competitors. We value the individuality of our team members, which we believe results in a management, operations and training philosophy distinct from that of our competitors. We strive to hire team members who share our values, a passion for food, have a competitive spirit and will operate our restaurants in a way that is consistent with our high standards. We seek to hire individuals who will deliver prompt, attentive service by engaging customers at all points during the Noodles brand experience. We empower our team members to enrich the experience of our customers and directly address any concerns that may arise in a manner that contributes to the success of our business.
Restaurant Management and Employees. Each restaurant typically has a restaurant manager, an assistant manager, a shift manager and team members. We cross-train our employees in an effort to create a depth of competency in our critical restaurant functions. To lead our restaurant management teams, we have area managers (each of whom is responsible for between five and 10 restaurants), as well as regional directors (each of whom is responsible for between approximately 50 and 60 restaurants).
Training and Career Development. We believe that our training efforts create a culture of continuous learning and professional growth that allows our team members to continue their career development with us. Within each restaurant, two to four team members are designated to lead the training efforts and ensure a consistent approach to team member development. We produce
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training materials that encourage individual contributions and participation from our team members while also requiring adherence to certain guidelines and procedures.
Food Preparation and Quality. Our teams use classic professional cooking methods, including sautéing many of our vegetables, in full kitchens resembling those of full-service restaurants. All team members, including our restaurant managers, spend their first several days working solely with food and learning these techniques, and we spend a significant amount of time ensuring that each team member learns how to prepare and cook our food properly.
The majority of our restaurants have exhibition-style kitchens. This design demonstrates our commitment to cooking fresh food in an accessible manner. We provide each customer with individual attention and make every effort to respond to customer suggestions and concerns in a personal and hospitable way.
We require all of our dishes to be cooked to order at food safe temperatures or, in the case of salads, subject to our produce washing protocols, which helps to ensure that the food we serve to our customers is safe. We have designed our food safety and quality assurance programs to maintain high standards for our food and food preparation procedures. Our director of quality assurance oversees comprehensive restaurant and supplier audits based upon the potential food safety risk of each food. We also consider food safety and quality assurance when selecting our distributors and suppliers. Our suppliers are inspected by federal, state and local regulators or other reputable, qualified inspection services, which helps ensure their compliance with all federal food safety and quality guidelines. We regularly inspect our suppliers to ensure that the ingredients we buy conform to our quality standards and that the prices we pay are competitive. We also rely on our own recipes, specifications and protocols to ensure that our food is consistently the best quality that is possible when it is served, including a physical examination of ingredients when they arrive at our restaurants. We train our employees to pay detailed attention to food quality at every stage of the food preparation cycle, and we have developed a daily checklist that our employees use to assess the freshness and quality of food supplies. Finally, we encourage our customers to provide feedback regarding our food quality so that we can identify and resolve problems or concerns as quickly as possible.
Restaurant Marketing
Our strategic marketing efforts seek to drive sales and increase brand loyalty by highlighting our competitive strengths through a variety of channels including digital marketing, social media, public relations, guest engagement and local marketing. We focus on attributes that set us apart including the breadth and customization of our menu and our best-in-class convenience offerings, and ultimately use a data-driven approach to guide our strategy.
Our Menu Offering. At the heart of our marketing is our ongoing mission to nourish and inspire every guest, team member and community we serve. We focus some of our marketing efforts on new menu offerings to broaden our appeal to our customers. While most of these marketing efforts are focused on prompt consumer action to directly drive traffic, we remain focused on our broader mission.
Loyalty Program. Our Noodles Rewards program has more than 3.5 million members and allows us to build a relationship with each guest. The program allows guests to accumulate reward points associated with each purchase that can be redeemed for tasty offers such as free bowls, shareables and delivery. Rewards members are the first to learn about new offerings, which allows us to build a relationship with each guest.
Seamless Digital Experiences. With our website and our app, we offer guests a seamless ordering experience. From exploring and selecting new dishes, to finding the perfect shareable, or redeeming rewards points, our digital experience has been carefully designed to highlight our food without the hassle.
Digital and Search Advertising. We use targeted digital advertising in all our markets. This helps to increase top of mind awareness with potential guests and drives both frequency and trial. We use first party data to be more effective and efficient with our advertising spend, and to ensure we are improving the return on our investment. In addition, digital advertising provides us with the opportunity to promote specific product categories, convenient offerings such as curbside and direct delivery and encourage consumer action, resulting in immediate increases in our customer traffic and long-term customer loyalty.
Online, Social and Other Media Tools. We rely on our website, www.noodles.com, to promote our business and increase brand awareness. The information on or available through our website is not, and should not be considered, a part of this
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report. Our guests are encouraged to sign up to receive communications through our Noodles Rewards program, updating them on new menu offerings and promotional opportunities. We also communicate with our guests using social media, such as our Facebook and Instagram pages, our Twitter feed, and direct contact made through our guest feedback form posted to our website. Our online and social media capabilities provide exciting opportunities to target and personalize customer communications.
Human Capital Management
We believe the strength of our workforce is one of the significant contributors to our success as a brand. This is largely attributed to our team members who strive every day to create an environment for our guests where they feel welcomed and cared for. Therefore, one of our strategic priorities is to develop people as a differentiator, including investing in the following areas of focus:
Oversight and Management. We recognize the diversity of our guests, team members and communities, and believe in creating an inclusive and equitable environment that represents a broad spectrum of backgrounds and cultures. Working under these principles, our Human Resources department is tasked with managing employment-related matters, including recruiting and hiring, onboarding and training, compensation and benefit planning, performance management and talent development. Our management and cross-functional teams also work closely to evaluate human capital management issues such as team member retention, workplace safety, harassment and bullying, as well as to implement measures to mitigate these risks.

Our Board of Directors and Board committees provide oversight on certain human capital matters. Our Compensation Committee, with input from members of our management, has responsibility for administering and approving annually certain elements of compensation, including our incentive compensation plans and equity-based plans. Management provides input into the design of our incentive compensation programs to ensure that these programs support the Company’s business objectives and strategic priorities. The annual business plan initially established by our management, but approved by our Board, is an important element of our Compensation Committee’s decision-making process for performance measures and goals.

Total Rewards. We have demonstrated a history of investing in our workforce by offering competitive salaries and wages. To foster a stronger sense of ownership and align the interests of our team members with shareholders, restricted stock units are provided to eligible team members under our stock incentive programs. Additionally, we provide incentive compensation through annual bonus plans for all eligible team members. Furthermore, we offer comprehensive, targeted and innovative benefits to all eligible team members. This includes comprehensive health, dental and vision insurance coverage, a 401(k) program and paid time off.

In 2020, we announced the expansion of our already comprehensive team member benefits program called LifeAtNoodles. The new benefits include education, wellness, family planning, expanded time off and recognition initiatives for all team members.

Mental Health. Our new benefits prioritize mental health by offering free in-person and virtual counseling for all team members. We also offer mental health awareness live webinars, focusing on identifying mental health symptoms, and supporting individuals with mental health issues to ensure all team members are supported.

Family Planning. We also support team members growing families by offering six weeks of paid paternity leave and surrogacy and adoption assistance for qualifying team members of up to $10,000. This is in addition to our back-up dependent care assistance, which provides team members with 10 days of back-up child, elder, or pet care to assist with unexpected situations, and exceptional phase-in and phase-out maternity leave which includes 100% pay for a reduced schedule during the four weeks before and after the arrival of a child.

Tuition. We offer tuition assistance for all team members and their immediate family to help families meet their educational goals and career aspirations.
We are continually focused on how we can offer the best workplace in our industry and we are proud of these new benefits that honor our commitment to inclusion and diversity.
The health and well-being of our employees and guests remains our top priority. We are benefiting from investments over the past year including sanitizers throughout the restaurants, wellness protocols and enhanced handwashing. In addition, we are closely following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and local health departments and have implemented social
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distancing, wearing face masks and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of our high-traffic areas. Collectively, these efforts give our employees and guests confidence that we remain dedicated to our commitment to keep them safe.
As of December 29, 2020, we had approximately 8,400 employees, including approximately 500 salaried employees and approximately 7,900 hourly employees. None of our employees are unionized or covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and we consider our current employee relations to be good.

Suppliers
Maintaining a high degree of quality in our restaurants depends in part on our ability to acquire fresh ingredients and other necessary supplies that meet our specifications from reliable suppliers. We carefully select suppliers based on quality and their understanding of our brand, and we seek to develop mutually beneficial long-term relationships with them. We work closely with our suppliers and use a mix of forward, fixed and formula pricing protocols. In some cases, we have made efforts to increase the number of suppliers for our ingredients, which we believe can help mitigate pricing volatility. We monitor industry news, trade issues, weather, crises and other world events that may affect supply prices. In addition, a substantial volume of our produce items are grown in Mexico and other countries and any new or increased import duties, tariffs or taxes, or other changes in U.S. trade or tax policy, could result in higher food and supply costs.
Seasonality
Seasonal factors and the timing of holidays cause our revenue to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Our revenue per restaurant is typically lower in the first and fourth quarters, due to reduced winter and holiday traffic, and higher in the second and third quarters.
Competition
We face competition from the casual dining, quick-service and fast-casual segments of the restaurant industry. These segments are highly competitive with respect to taste, price, food quality and presentation, service, location and the ambiance and condition of each restaurant, among other things. Our competition includes a variety of locally owned restaurants and national and regional chains who offer dine-in, carry-out and delivery services. Many of our competitors have existed longer and have a more established market presence with substantially greater financial, marketing, personnel and other resources than we have. Among our competitors are a number of multi-unit, multi-market fast-casual restaurant concepts, some of which are expanding nationally. As we expand, we will face competition from these concepts and new competitors that strive to compete with our market segments.
We also face competition from firms outside the restaurant industry, such as grocery stores and home meal replacement services, who sell prepared meals for takeout and in some cases, offer delivery service.
Intellectual Property and Trademarks
We own a number of trademarks and service marks registered or pending with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”). The marks we have registered with the PTO include the following: Noodles & Company, the Noodles & Company logo, Your World Kitchen, Noodles & Company World Kitchen, Noodles World Kitchen, Noodles Rewards and Wisconsin Mac & Cheese. We also have certain trademarks registered or pending in certain foreign countries. In addition, we own the Internet domain name www.noodles.com. The information on, or that can be accessed through, our website is not part of this report. We believe that our trademarks, service marks and other intellectual property rights have significant value and are important to the marketing of our brand, and it is our policy to protect and defend vigorously our rights to such intellectual property.
Governmental Regulation and Environmental Matters
We are subject to extensive and varied federal, state and local government regulation, including regulations relating to public and occupational health and safety, sanitation and fire prevention. We operate each of our restaurants in accordance with standards and procedures designed to comply with applicable codes and regulations. However, an inability to obtain or retain health department or other licenses could adversely affect our operations. Although we have not experienced, and do not anticipate, any significant difficulties, delays or failures in obtaining required licenses, permits or approvals, any such problem could delay or prevent the opening of, or adversely impact the viability of, a particular restaurant or group of restaurants.
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In addition, in order to develop and construct restaurants, we need to comply with applicable zoning, land use and environmental regulations. Federal and state environmental regulations have not had a material effect on our operations to date, but more stringent and varied requirements of local governmental bodies with respect to zoning, land use and environmental factors could delay or even prevent construction and increase development costs for new restaurants. We are also required to comply with the accessibility standards mandated by the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which generally prohibits discrimination in accommodation or employment based on disability. We may in the future have to modify restaurants, for example by adding access ramps or redesigning certain architectural fixtures, to provide service to or make reasonable accommodations for disabled persons. While these expenses could be material, our current expectation is that any such actions will not require us to expend substantial funds.
In addition, we are subject to the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and various other federal and state laws governing similar matters including minimum wages, overtime, workplace safety and other working conditions. Our failure to fully comply with these laws could subject us to potential litigation and liability. We are also subject to various laws and regulations relating to our current and any future franchise operations.
We are also subject to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (the “PPACA”), which requires health care coverage for many previously uninsured individuals and expands coverage for those already insured. We began offering such benefits in 2015. It is possible that legislation will be passed by Congress and signed into law that repeals the PPACA, in whole or in part, and/or introduces a new form of health care reform. It is unclear at this point what the scope of any such legislation will be and when it would become effective. Because of the uncertainty surrounding possible replacement health care reform legislation, we cannot predict with any certainty the likely impact of the PPACA’s repeal or the adoption of any other health care reform legislation on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Whether or not there is alternative health care legislation enacted in the U.S., there may be significant disruption to the health care market in the coming months and years and the costs of the Company’s health care expenditures may increase.
We are subject to federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations concerning waste disposal, pollution, protection of the environment and the presence, discharge, storage, handling, release and disposal of, or exposure to, hazardous or toxic substances (“environmental laws”). These environmental laws can provide for significant fines and penalties for non-compliance and liabilities for remediation, sometimes without regard to whether the owner or operator of the property knew of, or was responsible for, the release or presence of the hazardous or toxic substances. Third parties may also make claims against owners or operators of properties for personal injuries and property damage associated with releases of, or actual or alleged exposure to, such substances. We are not aware of any environmental laws that will materially affect our earnings or competitive position, or result in material capital expenditures relating to our restaurants. However, we cannot predict what environmental laws will be enacted in the future, how existing or future environmental laws will be administered, interpreted or enforced, or the amount of future expenditures that we may need to make to comply with, or to satisfy claims relating to, environmental laws. It is possible that we will become subject to environmental liabilities at our properties, and any such liabilities could materially affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Management Information Systems
We use a variety of applications and systems to securely manage the flow of information within each restaurant, and within our central support office infrastructure. All of our restaurants use computerized management information systems, which we believe are scalable to support any future growth plans. We use point-of-sale (“POS”) computers designed specifically for the restaurant industry. Our POS system provides a touch screen interface, a graphical order confirmation display and integrated, high-speed credit card and gift card processing. Our online ordering system allows customers to place orders online or through our mobile app. Orders taken remotely are routed to the point-of-sale system based on the time of customer order pickup. The POS system is used to collect daily transaction data, which generates information about daily sales, product mix and average check that we actively analyze. All products sold and prices at our company-owned restaurants are programmed into the system from our central support office. We also continue to modernize and make investments in our information technology networks and infrastructure, specifically in our physical and technological security measures, to anticipate cyber-attacks and defend against breaches and to provide improved control, security and scalability. Enhancing the security of our financial data, customer information and other personal information is a high priority for us.
Our in-restaurant back office computer system is designed to assist in the management of our restaurants and provide labor and food cost management tools. These tools provide restaurant operations management and our central support office quick access to
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detailed business data and reduces restaurant managers’ administrative time. The system provides our restaurant managers the ability to submit orders electronically with our distribution network. The system also supplies sales, bank deposit and variance data to our accounting department on a daily basis. We use this data to generate daily sales information and weekly consolidated reports regarding sales and other key measures.
Franchisees use similar point of sale systems and are required to report sales on a daily basis through an online reporting network and submit their restaurant-level financial statements on a quarterly and annual basis. We also offer certain restaurant technology support services to our franchisees.
Financial Information About Segments
We operate as a single accounting segment. Financial information related to our business is included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Available Information
We maintain a website at www.noodles.com, including an investor relations section at investor.noodles.com, on which we routinely post important information, such as webcasts of quarterly earnings calls, and any related materials. You may access our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, amendments to those reports and other reports relating to us that are filed with or furnished to the SEC, free of charge in the investor relations section of our website as soon as reasonably practicable after such material is electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC.
The contents of the websites mentioned above are not incorporated into and should not be considered a part of this report. The references to the URLs for these websites are intended to be inactive textual references only.
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ITEM 1A.    Risk Factors
Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 that involve risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to the risks and uncertainties discussed under this Item 1A. “Risk Factors,” Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and Item 1. “Business.” In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terms such as “may,” “might,” “will,” “objective,” “intend,” “should,” “could,” “can,” “would,” “expect,” “believe,” “design,” “estimate,” “predict,” “potential,” “plan” or the negative of these terms and similar expressions intended to identify forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performances or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. We discuss these risks, uncertainties and other factors in greater detail below. These statements reflect our current views with respect to future events and are based on currently available operating, financial and competitive information. Unless required by United States federal securities laws, we do not intend to update any of these forward-looking statements to reflect circumstances or events that occur after the statement is made.
Risks Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19 pandemic) has adversely affected and could continue to adversely affect our financial results, operations and outlook for an extended period of time.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and restrictions imposed by federal, state and local governments in response to the outbreak, have disrupted and is expected to continue to disrupt our business. During 2020, Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) guidance and government imposed restrictions have required individuals located in many areas where we operate our restaurants to practice social distancing, limit gathering in groups and/or “stay home” except for “essential” purposes. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions, we were required to temporarily close some of our restaurants, restrict the use of many of our dining rooms while still offering takeout and delivery, and/or implement modified work hours. The mobility restrictions, fear of contracting the coronavirus and the sharp increase in unemployment caused by the closure of businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, have adversely affected and are expected to continue to adversely affect our guest traffic, which in turn could adversely impact our liquidity, financial condition or operating results. Even as and when the mobility restrictions are loosened or lifted, guests may still be reluctant to return to in-restaurant dining. Additionally, the impact of lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic related unemployment may dampen consumer spending for the foreseeable future.

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we did the following:
Placed further emphasis on our already in place off-premise measures, including:
Implementing direct delivery nationwide through the Noodles app and website;
Expanding our third-party delivery service; and
Launching curbside delivery at all of our restaurants
Negotiated a bank amendment for covenant relief and other liquidity flexibility;
Implemented temporary salary reductions and furloughs at our support center and reductions in force throughout the organization;
Closed nearly all of our dining rooms beginning the third week of March 2020 through May 2020, limiting our service to off-premise only. We began re-opening dining rooms in May 2020 as a result of reduced restrictions by local governments. However, during the fourth quarter, our business was further impacted due to a rise in hospitalizations and local restrictions and the vast majority of our dining rooms closed again. We have since reopened a majority of our dining rooms with limited capacity, and will continue to open the remaining dining rooms as appropriate.

The Company has prioritized taking steps to protect the health and safety of its team members and guests by doing the following:
Increased cleaning and sanitizing protocols;
Implemented additional training and operational manuals for its restaurant employees, as well as enhanced handwashing procedures;
Installation of plexiglass at point of sale terminals;
Requirements for wearing of masks by all team members and guests; and
Health screening process for all team members before the start of each shift.

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Although the ultimate severity of the COVID-19 pandemic remains uncertain at this time, we expect that the pandemic may continue to adversely impact the Company's financial condition and results of operations, including, but not limited to:
Reduced demand as customers may self-impose or be subject to governmental restrictions to dine at our restaurants due to illness, quarantine or limitations on social gatherings;
Changes in consumer spending behaviors due to the COVID-19 pandemic as customers choose to avoid public gathering places, which may continue to impact traffic in our restaurants;
Changes in our lunch business as it relates to guests who visit us during corporate lunch breaks, particularly if trends related to work from home continue;
The ability for our franchisees to have the financial capacity to pay their franchise royalty fee obligations that we have historically received. We are working with our franchisees to support their financial liquidity during this period of uncertainty. For a period of time, we granted deferral of certain royalties, information technology support, and marketing fees earned from franchisees;
An impact on our liquidity, which may require us to pursue additional sources of financing to meet our financial obligations. Obtaining such financing is not guaranteed and is largely dependent upon market conditions and other factors. Further actions may be required to improve our cash position, including but not limited to, further reductions of corporate expenses and foregoing additional capital expenditures and other discretionary expenses;
An increase in cyber security threats and attempts to breach our security networks as more business and activities have shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on congregating and physical movements; and
Uncertainty on the duration of how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last or if hospitalizations and infection rates will subside even after vaccines are successfully widely administered, when government restrictions and mandates will be imposed or lifted, or the longer term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer behavior.

The extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Company's operations and financial results depends on future developments and is highly uncertain due to the unknown duration and severity of the outbreak. The situation is changing rapidly and future impacts may materialize that are not yet known.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
We may not achieve our operational, strategic or financial goals.
We continue to pursue a number of financial, operational and strategic goals and we may be unsuccessful in achieving some or all of them. Our strategies are designed to, among other objectives, improve restaurant operations and increase our restaurant revenue, comparable restaurant sales, net income, restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin and adjusted EBITDA. However, these strategies may not be successful in achieving our goals in part or at all. Further, we may encounter difficulty in executing these strategies. Failing to execute our operational strategies could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Our strategies include improving our menu offerings, such as through the introduction of Zoodles, Caulifloodles and Family Meals; pursuing off-premise opportunities, for example through our dedicated pick-up shelving and third-party delivery; improving efficiencies and unit level margins by simplifying operations; enhancing our menu structure and layout; and improving manager selection, training and development of our teams. However, customers may not favor new menu offerings or may not find initiatives aimed at off-premise dining appealing, and our efforts to increase our sales growth and improve our offerings may be unsuccessful. Additionally, our operational initiatives may be ineffective at reducing costs or may reduce the quality of the customer experience. Any failure of our new initiatives could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Further, we have had, and expect to continue to have, priorities and initiatives in various stages of testing, evaluation and implementation, upon which we expect to rely to improve our results of operations and financial condition. Failure to achieve successful implementation of our initiatives could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We believe our culture, from the restaurant level up through management, is an important contributor to our success. As time passes, however, we may have difficulty maintaining our culture or adapting it sufficiently to meet the needs of our business. Among other important factors, our culture depends on our ability to attract, retain and motivate employees who share our enthusiasm and dedication to our concept. Our comparable restaurant sales, and more broadly, our business, financial condition or results of operations, could be materially adversely affected if we do not maintain our infrastructure and culture.
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Our strategic and operational goals are designed to improve our results of operations, including restaurant revenue and profitability. The level of comparable restaurant sales, which represent the change in year-over-year sales for restaurants open for at least 18 full periods, affects our restaurant revenue growth and will continue to be a critical factor affecting profitability. Our ability to increase comparable restaurant sales depends in part on our ability to successfully implement our initiatives. It is possible that such initiatives will not be successful, that we will not achieve our target comparable restaurant sales growth or that the change in comparable restaurant sales could be negative, which may cause a decrease in restaurant revenue and profitability that could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Changes in economic conditions could materially affect our ability to maintain or increase sales at our restaurants.
The restaurant industry depends on consumer discretionary spending. The United States in general or the specific markets in which we operate have suffered during certain historical periods and in the future may suffer from depressed economic activity, recessionary economic cycles, low consumer confidence as a result of stock market volatility and other reasons, high levels of unemployment, reduced home values, increases in home foreclosures, investment losses, personal bankruptcies, reduced access to credit or other economic factors that may affect consumers’ discretionary spending. Traffic in our restaurants could decline if consumers choose to dine out less frequently or reduce the amount they spend on meals while dining out. Negative economic conditions (including negative economic conditions resulting from war, terrorist activities, global economic occurrences or trends or other geo-political events) might cause consumers to make long-term changes to their discretionary spending behavior, including dining out less frequently or dining at lower priced restaurants on an extended or permanent basis. If comparable restaurant sales decrease, our profitability would decline as we spread fixed costs across a lower level of restaurant revenue. Reductions in staff levels, additional asset impairment charges and additional restaurant closures could result from prolonged negative comparable restaurant sales, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Competition from other restaurant companies could adversely affect us.
We face competition from the casual dining, fast-casual and quick-service segments of the restaurant industry. These segments are highly competitive with respect to taste, price, food quality and presentation, service, location and the ambiance and condition of each restaurant, among other things. Our competition includes a variety of locally owned restaurants and national and regional chains who offer dine-in, carry-out and delivery services. Many of our competitors have existed longer and have a more established market presence with substantially greater financial, marketing, personnel and other resources than we have. Among our competitors are a number of multi-unit, multi-market fast-casual restaurant concepts, some of which are expanding nationally. We continually face competition from these concepts and new competitors that strive to compete with our market segments. For example, additional competitive pressures come from the deli sections and in-store cafés of grocery store chains, as well as from convenience stores and online meal preparation sites. These competitors may have, among other things, lower operating costs, food offerings more responsive to consumer preferences, better locations and facilities, more experienced management, more effective marketing and more efficient operations.
Several of our competitors compete by offering menu items that are specifically identified as low in carbohydrates, gluten-free, or rich in protein. In addition, many of our competitors emphasize lower-cost value options or meal packages, or strategies we do not currently pursue. Any of these competitive factors may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Our marketing programs may not be successful.
We incur costs and expend other resources in our marketing efforts to attract and retain customers. These initiatives may not be successful, resulting in expenses incurred without the benefit of higher revenues. Additionally, many of our competitors have more marketing resources and we may not be able to successfully compete. If our competitors increase spending on marketing, or if our marketing funds decrease for any reason, or if our advertising and promotions are less effective than those of our competitors, our financial performance could be materially affected.
Many of our competitors are devoting increased resources to their social media marketing programs. Social media can be challenging because it reaches a broad audience with an ability to respond or react, in near real time. In addition, social media can facilitate the improper disclosure of proprietary information, personally identifiable information, or inaccurate information. As a result, if we do not appropriately manage our social media strategies, our marketing efforts in this area may not be successful and could damage our reputation, negatively impacting our restaurant sales and financial performance.
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Negative publicity relating to one or more of our restaurants, including our franchised restaurants, could reduce sales at some or all of our other restaurants.
Our success is dependent in part upon our ability to maintain and enhance the value of our brand, consumers’ connection to our brand and positive relationships with our franchisees. We may be faced with negative publicity relating to food quality, restaurant facilities, customer complaints or litigation alleging illness or injury, health inspection scores, integrity of our or our suppliers’ food processing, employee relationships or other matters, regardless of whether the allegations are valid or whether we are held to be responsible. The negative impact of adverse publicity relating to one restaurant may extend far beyond the restaurant or franchise involved to affect some or all of our other restaurants. The risk of negative publicity is particularly great with respect to our franchised restaurants because we are limited in the manner in which we can regulate them, especially on a real-time basis. Negative publicity generated by such incidents may be amplified by the use of social media. A similar risk exists with respect to unrelated food service businesses, if consumers associate those businesses with our own operations or are concerned with the food safety of the broader restaurant industry.
Additionally, employee claims against us based on, among other things, wage and hour violations, discrimination, harassment or wrongful termination may also create negative publicity that could materially adversely affect us and divert our financial and management resources that would otherwise be used to benefit the future performance of our operations. A significant increase in the number of these claims or an increase in the number or scope of successful claims could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations. Consumer demand for our products and our brand’s value could diminish significantly if any such incidents or other matters create negative publicity or otherwise erode consumer confidence in us or our products, or in the restaurant industry as a whole, which would likely result in lower sales and could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Food safety and foodborne illness concerns could have an adverse effect on our business.
We cannot guarantee that our internal controls and training will be fully effective in preventing all food safety issues at our restaurants, including any occurrences of foodborne illnesses such as E. coli, Hepatitis A, listeria, norovirus and salmonella. The risk of illnesses associated with our food might also increase in connection with the expansion of our catering and delivery businesses or other situations in which our food is served or delivered in conditions that we cannot control. Furthermore, we and our franchisees rely on third-party vendors throughout our supply chain, making it difficult to monitor food safety compliance and increasing the risk that foodborne illness would affect multiple locations rather than a single restaurant. Some foodborne illness incidents could be caused by third-party vendors and transporters outside of our control. New illnesses resistant to our current precautions may develop in the future, or diseases with long incubation periods could arise, that could give rise to claims or allegations on a retroactive basis. One or more instances of foodborne illness in any of our restaurants or markets or related to food products we sell could negatively affect our restaurant sales nationwide if highly publicized on national media outlets or through social media. This risk exists even if it were later determined that the illness was wrongly attributed to us or one of our restaurants.
A number of other restaurant chains have experienced incidents related to foodborne illnesses that have had a material adverse effect on their operations, including E. coli, listeria and norovirus outbreaks at other fast-casual concepts. These incidents at other restaurants could cause some customers to have a negative perception of fast-casual concepts generally, which can negatively affect our restaurants. The occurrence of a similar incident at one or more of our restaurants, or negative publicity or public speculation about an incident, could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations. 
Adverse weather conditions could affect our sales.

Adverse weather conditions, such as regional winter storms, floods and hurricanes, could affect our sales at restaurants in locations that experience these weather conditions, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations. It is possible that weather conditions may impact our business more than other businesses in our industry because of the significant concentration of our restaurants in the Upper Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Mid-Atlantic states.
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We are subject to risks associated with long-term non-cancellable leases and the costs of exiting leases at restaurants we have closed or may close in the future may be greater than we estimate or could be greater than the funds we raise to address closure costs.

We do not own any real property. Payments under our operating leases account for a significant portion of our operating expenses and we expect the new restaurants we open in the future will similarly be leased. Our leases generally have an initial term of ten years and generally can be extended only in five-year increments (at increased rates). All of our leases require a fixed annual rent, although some require the payment of additional rent if restaurant sales exceed a negotiated amount. Generally, our leases are “net” leases, which require us to pay all of the cost of insurance, taxes, maintenance and utilities. We generally cannot cancel these leases. Additional sites that we lease are likely to be subject to similar long-term non-cancelable leases. In connection with closing restaurants, we may nonetheless be committed to perform our obligations under the applicable lease including, among other things, paying the base rent for the balance of the lease term. In addition, as each of our leases expires, we may fail to negotiate renewals, either on commercially acceptable terms or at all, which could cause us to pay increased occupancy costs or to close restaurants in desirable locations.
Opening and operating new restaurants entails numerous risks and uncertainties.
One element of our operational strategy is the opening of new restaurants and operating those restaurants on a profitable basis. In 2020, we opened four company-owned restaurants, refranchised nine restaurants and closed six company-owned restaurants. Our franchisees did not open any restaurants and closed one restaurant. We expect to open between ten and fifteen company-wide restaurants in 2021 with such openings primarily taking place in well-established existing markets.
Opening new restaurants presents numerous risks and uncertainties. We may not be able to open new restaurants as quickly as planned. In the past, we have experienced delays in opening some restaurants and that could happen again. Delays or failures in opening new restaurants could materially adversely affect our business strategy and our expected results.
Our ability to open new restaurants also depends on other factors, including: site selection; negotiating leases with acceptable terms; identifying, hiring and training qualified employees; the state of the labor market in each local market; timely delivery of leased premises to use; managing construction and development costs; avoiding the impact of inclement weather, natural disasters and other calamities; obtaining construction materials and labor at acceptable costs; securing required governmental approvals, permits and licenses; and accessing sufficient capital.
Our new restaurants may be smaller in terms of square footage and seating than our current restaurants, in accordance with our increased focus on off-premise dining opportunities. Customers may react negatively to these re-designed, smaller stores, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Our long-term success is partially dependent on our ability to effectively identify appropriate target markets and secure appropriate sites for new restaurants. 
In order to build new restaurants, we must first identify target markets where we can expand our footprint, taking into account numerous factors, including the location of our current restaurants, local economic trends, population density, area demographics and geography. The selection of target markets for expansion is challenging. We also must locate and secure appropriate sites for new restaurants, which is one of our biggest challenges. There are numerous factors involved in identifying and securing an appropriate site, including, among others: identification and availability of locations; competition; financial conditions affecting developers and potential landlords; developers and potential landlords obtaining licenses or permits for development projects on a timely basis; proximity of potential development sites to an existing location; anticipated development near our new restaurants; and availability of acceptable lease arrangements. If we are unable to fully implement our development plan, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
New restaurants, once opened, may not be profitable.
New restaurants may not be profitable, and their sales performance may not follow historical patterns. In addition, our average restaurant sales and comparable restaurant sales may underperform our expectations. Our ability to operate new restaurants profitably and increase average restaurant sales and comparable restaurant sales will depend on many factors, some of which are beyond our control, including: consumer awareness, understanding and support of our brand; general economic conditions, local
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labor costs and prices we pay for the food products and other supplies we use; changes in consumer preferences; competition; temporary and permanent site characteristics of new restaurants; and changes in government regulation.
If our new restaurants do not perform as planned, our business and future prospects could be harmed. In addition, if we are unable to achieve our expected average restaurant sales, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Opening new restaurants in existing markets may negatively affect sales at our existing restaurants.
The consumer target area of our restaurants varies by location, depending on a number of factors, including population density, other local retail and business attractions, area demographics and geography. As a result, opening a new restaurant in or near markets in which we already have restaurants could materially adversely affect the sales of these existing restaurants. Existing restaurants could also make it more difficult to build our consumer base for a new restaurant in the same market. Our core business strategy does not entail opening new restaurants that we believe will materially affect sales at our existing restaurants, but we may selectively open new restaurants in and around areas of existing restaurants that are operating at or near capacity to effectively serve our customers. Sales cannibalization between our restaurants may become significant in the future as we continue to expand our operations and could affect our sales growth, which could, in turn, materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Risks Related to Our Employees, Executives and Franchisees
Our business could be adversely affected by difficulties in hiring and retaining top-performing employees.
Our success depends on the efforts of our employees and our ability to hire, motivate and retain qualified employees. There may be a small supply of qualified individuals in some of the communities in which we operate, and competition in these communities for qualified individuals could require us to pay higher wages and provide greater benefits. We devote significant resources to training our employees and strive to reduce turnover in order to keep top performing employees and better realize our investment in training new employees. However, turnover among our restaurant employees may increase. Failure to hire and retain top-performing employees could impact our financial performance by increasing our training and labor costs and reducing the quality of our customers’ experiences.
If we or our franchisees face labor shortages or increased labor costs, our operating results could be adversely affected.
Labor is a primary component in the cost of operating our restaurants. If we face labor shortages or increased labor costs because of increased competition for employees, higher employee turnover rates, increases in the federal, state or local minimum wage or other employee benefits costs (including costs associated with health insurance coverage), our operating expenses could increase. In addition, our success depends in part upon our and our franchisees’ ability to attract, motivate and retain a sufficient number of well-qualified restaurant operators and management personnel, as well as a sufficient number of other qualified employees, including customer service and kitchen staff. Qualified individuals needed to fill these positions are in short supply in some geographic areas. In addition, restaurants have traditionally experienced relatively high employee turnover rates. Our and our franchisees’ ability to recruit and retain qualified individuals may delay the planned openings of new restaurants or result in higher employee turnover in existing restaurants, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
If we or our franchisees are unable to continue to recruit and retain sufficiently qualified individuals at wages comparable to those we currently pay, our business could be materially adversely affected. Competition for these employees could require us or our franchisees to pay higher wages, which could result in higher labor costs. In addition, increases in the minimum wage, which have become more common and more material in size in recent years, would increase our labor costs. Additionally, costs associated with workers’ compensation are rising, and these costs may continue to rise in the future. We may be unable to increase our menu prices in order to pass these increased labor costs on to consumers, in which case our margins would be negatively affected, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We may not be successful in executing our franchise strategy.
In addition, to the extent we are able to identify franchisees for the franchising of existing restaurants or the development of new restaurants, our success is dependent on the performance of our franchisees in successfully operating the restaurants. Our
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franchisees may not achieve financial and operational objectives, and they may close existing restaurants due to underperformance or they may ultimately be unsuccessful in developing new restaurants. We may also not be able to manage our franchise system effectively. Failure to provide our franchisees with adequate support and resources could materially adversely affect these franchisees, as well as cause disputes between us and them and potentially lead to material liabilities.
We rely in part on our franchisees, and if our franchisees cannot develop or finance new restaurants, build them on suitable sites or open them on schedule, our success may be affected.
We rely in part on our franchisees and the manner in which they operate their locations to develop and promote our business. Although we have developed criteria to evaluate and screen prospective franchisees, we cannot be certain that our franchisees will have the business acumen or financial resources necessary to operate successful franchises in their franchise areas and state franchise laws may limit our ability to terminate or modify these franchise arrangements. Moreover, despite our training, support and monitoring, franchisees may not successfully operate restaurants in a manner consistent with our standards and requirements or may not hire and train qualified managers and other restaurant personnel. The failure of our franchisees to operate their franchises successfully could have a material adverse effect on us, our reputation, our brand and our ability to attract prospective franchisees and could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Franchisees may not have access to the financial or management resources that they need to open the restaurants contemplated by their agreements with us or be able to find suitable sites on which to develop them, or they may elect to cease development for other reasons. Franchisees may not be able to negotiate acceptable lease or purchase terms for the sites, obtain the necessary permits and government approvals or meet construction schedules. Any of these problems could reduce our franchise revenues.
Risks Related to Our Supply Chain and Technology
We rely heavily on information technology, and any material failure, weakness, interruption or breach of security could prevent us from effectively operating our business.
We rely heavily on information systems, including point-of-sale processing in our restaurants, for management of our supply chain, payment of obligations, collection of cash, credit and debit card transactions and other processes and procedures. We also rely on third-party vendors to provide information technology systems and to securely process and store related information, especially as it relates to credit and debit card transactions and online ordering. Our franchisees also rely on information systems and third-party vendors. Our ability to efficiently and effectively manage our business depends significantly on the reliability and capacity of these systems. Our operations depend upon our and our franchisees’, and our vendors’, ability to protect computer equipment and systems against damage from physical theft, fire, power loss, telecommunications failure or other catastrophic events, as well as from internal and external security breaches, viruses and other disruptive problems. Avoiding such incidents in the future will require us and our franchisees and vendors to continue to enhance information systems, procedures and controls and to hire, train and retain employees. The failure of these systems to operate effectively, maintenance problems, upgrading or transitioning to new platforms, or a breach in security of these systems could result in delays in customer service and reduce efficiency in our operations. Remediation of such problems could result in significant, unplanned capital investments and harm our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We may be harmed by breaches of security of information technology systems or our confidential consumer, employee, financial, or other proprietary data.

We use many information technology systems throughout our operations, including systems that record and process customer sales, manage human resources and generate accounting and financial reports. For example, our restaurants use computerized management information systems, including point-of-sale computers that process customer credit card, debit card and gift card payments, and in-restaurant back office computer systems designed to assist in the management of our restaurants and provide labor and food cost management tools. Our franchisees use similar point of sale systems and are required to report business and operational data through an online reporting network. Through these systems, we have access to and store a variety of consumer, employee, financial and other types of information related to our business. We also rely on third-party vendors to provide information technology systems and to securely process and store related information. Our franchisees also use information technology systems and rely on third-party vendors. If our technology systems, or those of third-party vendors we or our franchisees rely upon, are compromised as a result of a cyber-attack (including from circumvention of security systems, denial-of-service attacks, hacking, “phishing” attacks, computer viruses, ransomware, malware, or social engineering) or other external or internal methods, it could materially adversely affect our reputation, business, financial condition or results of operations.
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The cyber risks we face range from cyber-attacks common to most industries to attacks that target us due to the confidential consumer information we obtain through our electronic processing of credit and debit card transactions. Like others in our industry, we have experienced many attempts to compromise our information technology and data, and we may experience more attempts in the future. For example, in 2016, we experienced a malware attack that compromised the security of the payment information of some customers who used debit or credit cards at certain locations between January 31, 2016 and June 2, 2016. We subsequently made payments of approximately $11 million to certain payment card companies for card issuer losses, card replacement costs and other charges issued by payment card companies, and incurred additional fees and costs associated with the malware attack, including legal fees, investigative fees, other professional fees, costs of communications with customers and capital investments for remediation activities. In addition to property and casualty insurance, which may cover restoration of data, certain physical damage or third-party injuries, we have cybersecurity insurance related to a breach event. However, damage and claims arising from such incidents may not be covered or may exceed the amount of any available insurance.

Because cyber-attacks take many forms, change frequently, are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and may be difficult to detect for significant periods of time, we may not be able to respond adequately or timely to future cyber-attacks. If we or our franchisees, or third-party vendors, were to experience a material breach resulting in the unauthorized access, use, or destruction of our information technology systems or confidential consumer, employee, financial, or other proprietary data, it could negatively impact our reputation, reduce our ability to attract and retain customers and employees and disrupt the implementation and execution of our strategic goals. Moreover, such breaches could result in a violation of various privacy-related laws and subject us to investigations or private litigation, which, in turn, could expose us to civil or criminal liability, fines and penalties imposed by state and federal regulators, claims for purportedly fraudulent transactions arising out of the actual or alleged theft of credit or debit card information, compromised security and information systems, failure of our employees to comply with applicable laws, the unauthorized acquisition or use of such information by third parties, or other similar claims, and various costs associated with such matters.

We rely heavily on certain vendors, suppliers and distributors, which could adversely affect our business.
Our ability to maintain consistent price, quality and safety throughout our restaurants depends in part upon our ability to acquire specified food products and supplies in sufficient quantities from third-party vendors, suppliers and distributors at a reasonable cost. We do not control the businesses of our vendors, suppliers and distributors and our efforts to specify and monitor the standards under which they perform may not be successful. Furthermore, certain food items are perishable, and we have limited control over whether these items will be delivered to us in appropriate condition for use in our restaurants. If any of our distributors or suppliers perform inadequately, or our distribution or supply relationships are disrupted for any reason, our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows could be materially adversely affected. If we cannot replace or engage distributors or suppliers who meet our specifications in a short period of time, including any suppliers who are a sole source of supply of a particular ingredient, that could increase our expenses and cause shortages of food and other items at our restaurants, which could cause a restaurant to remove items from its menu. If that were to happen, affected restaurants could experience significant reductions in sales during the shortage or thereafter, especially if customers change their dining habits as a result. Our focus on a limited menu would make the consequences of a shortage of a key ingredient more severe. In addition, because we provide moderately priced food, we may choose not to, or may be unable to, pass along commodity price increases to consumers. These potential changes in food and supply costs could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
In addition, we use various third-party vendors to provide, support and maintain most of our management information systems. We also outsource certain accounting, payroll and human resource functions to business process service providers. The failure of such vendors to fulfill their obligations could disrupt our operations. Additionally, any changes we may make to the services we obtain from our vendors, or new vendors we employ, may disrupt our operations. These disruptions could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We also partner with various third-party vendors to deliver our food. If any of our delivery vendors perform inadequately, or our delivery relationships are disrupted for any reason, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Our ability to continue to expand our digital business, delivery orders and catering is uncertain, and these business lines are subject to risks.
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Our revenue from digital orders has increased significantly from prior years. This growth rate may not be sustainable, and if our digital business does not continue to expand it may be difficult for us to achieve our planned sales growth. We have also increased our efforts to promote delivery orders, which have also grown considerably. We rely on third-party providers to fulfill delivery orders, and the ordering and payment platforms used by these third parties, or our mobile app or online ordering system, could be damaged or interrupted by technological failures, user errors, cyber-attacks or other factors, which may materially adversely impact our sales through these channels and could negatively impact our brand. Additionally, our delivery partners are responsible for order fulfillment and may make errors or fail to make timely deliveries, leading to customer disappointment that may negatively impact our brand. We also incur additional costs associated with using third-party service providers to fulfill these digital orders and the costs of delivering may have a material adverse impact on restaurant level margins. Moreover, the third-party restaurant delivery business is intensely competitive, with a number of players competing for market share, online traffic, capital, and delivery drivers and other people resources. The third-party delivery services with which we work may struggle to compete effectively, and if they were to cease or curtail operations, or fail to provide timely delivery services in a cost-effective manner, or if they give greater priority on their platforms to our competitors, our delivery business may be negatively impacted. We have also introduced catering offerings on both a pick-up and delivery basis, and customers may choose our competitors’ catering offerings over ours, be disappointed with their experience with our catering, or experience food safety problems if they do not serve our food in a safe manner, which may negatively impact us. Such delivery and catering offerings also increase the risk of illnesses associated with our food because the food is transported and/or served by third parties in conditions we cannot control.
Because all of these offerings are relatively new, it is difficult for us to anticipate the level of sales they may generate. That may result in operational challenges, both in fulfilling orders made through these channels and in operating our restaurants as we balance fulfillment of these orders with service of our traditional in-restaurant guests as well. Any such operational challenges may negatively impact the customer experience associated with our digital, delivery or catering orders, the guest experience for our traditional in-restaurant business, or both. These factors may materially adversely impact our sales and our brand reputation.
Changes in food and supply costs could adversely affect our results of operations.
Our profitability depends in part on our ability to anticipate and react to changes in food and supply costs. Shortages or interruptions in the availability of certain supplies caused by seasonal fluctuations, unanticipated demand, problems in production or distribution, food contamination, product recalls, government regulations, inclement weather or other conditions could materially adversely affect the availability, quality and cost of our ingredients, which could harm our operations. Weather related issues, such as freezes, heavy rains or drought, may also lead to temporary spikes in the prices of some ingredients such as produce or meats. Increasing weather volatility or other long-term changes in global weather patterns, including any changes associated with global climate change, could have a significant impact on the price, availability and timing of delivery of some of our ingredients. In addition, at certain times of the year a substantial volume of our produce items is imported from Mexico and other countries. Any new or increased import duties, tariffs or taxes, or other changes in U.S. trade or tax policy, could result in higher food and supply costs. Any increase in the prices of the food products most critical to our menu, such as pasta, beef, chicken, wheat flour, cheese and other dairy products, tofu and vegetables, could materially adversely affect our operating results. Although we try to manage the impact that these fluctuations have on our operating results, we remain susceptible to increases in food costs as a result of factors beyond our control, such as general economic conditions, seasonal fluctuations, weather conditions, demand, food safety concerns, generalized infectious diseases, product recalls and government regulations.
Our inability or failure to recognize, respond to and effectively manage the accelerated impact of social media could have an adverse effect on our business.
There has been a widespread and dramatic increase in the use of social media platforms that allow users to access a broad audience of consumers and other interested persons.  The availability of information on social media can be virtually immediate, as can its impact, and users of many social media platforms can post information without filters or checks on the accuracy of the content posted.  Adverse information concerning our restaurants or brand, including user reviews, whether accurate or inaccurate, may be posted on such platforms at any time and can quickly reach a wide audience.  The resulting harm to our reputation may be immediate, without affording us an opportunity to correct or otherwise respond to the information, and it is challenging to monitor and anticipate developments on social media in order to respond in an effective and timely manner.  
In addition, although search engine marketing, social media and other new technological platforms offer great opportunities to increase awareness of and engagement with our restaurants and brand, our failure to use social media effectively in our marketing efforts may further expose us to the risks associated with the accelerated impact of social media. Many of our competitors are
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expanding their use of social media and the social media landscape is rapidly evolving, potentially making more traditional social media platforms obsolete. As a result, we need to continuously innovate and develop our social media strategies in order to maintain broad appeal with guests and brand relevance, and we may not do so effectively.  A variety of additional risks associated with our use of social media include the possibility of improper disclosure of proprietary information, exposure of personally identifiable information of our employees or guests, fraud, or the publication of out-of-date information, any of which may result in material liabilities or reputational damage. Furthermore, any inappropriate use of social media platforms by our employees could also result in negative publicity that could materially damage our reputation or lead to litigation that materially increases our costs.
New technologies or changes in consumer behavior facilitated by these technologies could negatively affect our business.
Advances in technologies or certain changes in consumer behavior driven by such technologies could impact the manner in which meals are marketed, prepared, ordered and delivered. We may pursue certain of those technologies, but consumers may not accept them, or we may fail to successfully integrate them into our operations, thereby harming our financial performance. In addition, our competitors, some of whom have more resources than us, may be more effective at responding to such advances in technologies and erode our competitive position.
Legal, Accounting, and Regulatory Risks
Changes to estimates related to our property, fixtures and equipment or operating results that are lower than our current estimates at certain restaurant locations may cause us to incur impairment charges on certain long-lived assets, which may materially adversely affect our results of operations.
In accordance with accounting guidance as it relates to the impairment of long-lived assets, we make certain estimates and projections with regard to individual restaurant operations, as well as our overall performance, in connection with our impairment analyses for long-lived assets. When impairment triggers are deemed to exist for any location, the estimated undiscounted future cash flows are compared to its carrying value. If the carrying value exceeds the undiscounted cash flows, an impairment charge equal to the difference between the carrying value and the fair value is recorded. The projections of future cash flows used in these analyses require the use of judgment and a number of estimates and projections of future operating results. If actual results differ from our estimates, additional charges for asset impairments may be required in the future. Over the past several years we have recognized significant impairment charges and if future impairment charges continue to be significant, this could have a material adverse effect on our business or results of operations.
Failure of our internal control over financial reporting could adversely affect our business and financial results.
Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Internal control over financial reporting is a process to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting for external purposes in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”). Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting is not intended to provide absolute assurance that we would prevent or detect a misstatement of our financial statements or fraud. Any failure to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting could limit our ability to report our financial results accurately and timely or to detect and prevent fraud. The identification of a material weakness could indicate a lack of controls adequate to generate accurate financial statements that, in turn, could cause a loss of investor confidence and decline in the market price of our common stock. We may not be able to timely remediate any material weaknesses that may be identified in future periods or maintain all of the controls necessary for continued compliance. Likewise, we cannot assure you that we will be able to retain sufficient skilled finance and accounting personnel, especially in light of the increased demand for such personnel among publicly traded companies.
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Governmental regulation may adversely affect our ability to open new restaurants or otherwise adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We are subject to various federal, state and local regulations, including those relating to building and zoning requirements and those relating to the preparation and sale of food. Our restaurants are also subject to state and local licensing and regulation by health, sanitation, food and occupational safety and other agencies. We may experience material difficulties or failures in obtaining the necessary licenses, approvals or permits for our restaurants, which could delay planned restaurant openings or affect the operations at our existing restaurants. In addition, stringent and varied requirements of local regulators with respect to zoning, land use and environmental factors could delay or prevent development of new restaurants in particular locations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there could be additional governmental regulations that arise that could impact our business.
We are subject to the ADA and similar state laws that give civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in the context of employment, public accommodations and other areas, including our restaurants. We may in the future have to modify restaurants, for example, by adding access ramps or redesigning certain architectural fixtures, to provide service to or make reasonable accommodations for disabled persons. The expenses associated with these modifications could be material.
Our operations are also subject to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act, which governs worker health and safety, the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs such matters as minimum wages and overtime and a variety of similar federal, state and local laws that govern these and other employment law matters. In addition, federal, state and local proposals have been made related to paid sick leave and similar matters. Changes in these laws or implementation of new proposals could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Changes in employment laws may adversely affect our business.
Various federal and state labor laws govern the relationship with our employees and affect operating costs. These laws include employee classification as exempt/non-exempt for overtime and other purposes, minimum wage requirements, unemployment tax rates, workers’ compensation rates, mandatory health benefits, immigration status and other wage and benefit requirements. Some jurisdictions, including some of those in which we operate, have recently increased their minimum wage by a significant amount, and other jurisdictions are considering similar actions, which may increase our labor costs. Significant additional government-imposed increases in the following areas could materially affect our business, financial condition, operating results or cash flow: overtime rules; mandatory health benefits; vacation accruals; paid leaves of absence, including paid sick leave; and tax reporting.
Immigration laws have recently been an area of considerable focus by the Department of Homeland Security, with enforcement operations taking place across the country, resulting in arrests, detentions and deportation of unauthorized workers. Some of these changes and enforcement programs may increase our obligations for compliance and oversight, which could subject us to additional costs and make our hiring process more cumbersome or reduce the availability of potential employees. Although we require all workers to provide us with government-specified documentation evidencing their employment eligibility, some of our employees may, without our knowledge, be unauthorized workers. Unauthorized workers are subject to deportation and may subject us to fines or penalties, and if any of our workers are found to be unauthorized we could experience adverse publicity that negatively impacts our brand and may make it more difficult to hire and keep qualified employees. Termination of a significant number of employees who were unauthorized employees may disrupt our operations, cause temporary increases in our labor costs as we train new employees and result in additional adverse publicity. We could also become subject to fines, penalties and other costs related to claims that we did not fully comply with all recordkeeping obligations of federal and state immigration compliance laws. These factors could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
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The effect of changes to healthcare laws in the United States may increase the number of employees who elect to participate in our healthcare plans, which may increase our healthcare costs and further changes, or the repeal of existing healthcare laws may further significantly increase our healthcare costs and negatively impact our financial results in future periods.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (the “PPACA”) requires health care coverage for many previously uninsured individuals and expands coverage for those already insured. We began offering such benefits in July 2015, and as a consequence we are incurring additional expenses for employee healthcare. If we fail to continue to offer such benefits, or the benefits we elect to offer do not meet the applicable requirements, we may incur penalties. It is also possible that by making changes or failing to make changes in the healthcare plans we offer, we will become less competitive in the market for our labor. Finally, continuing to implement the requirements of the PPACA is likely to impose additional administrative costs. The future costs and other effects of these new healthcare requirements cannot be determined with certainty, but they may continue to significantly increase our healthcare coverage costs and could materially adversely affect our, business, financial condition or results of operations.
In addition to changes to the PPACA that have been implemented recently, it is possible that additional legislation will be passed by Congress and signed into law that further repeals the PPACA, in whole or in part, and/or introduces a new form of health care reform. It is unclear at this point what the scope of such legislation would be and when it would become effective. Because of the uncertainty surrounding possible replacement health care reform legislation, we cannot predict with any certainty the likely impact of the PPACA’s repeal or the adoption of any other health care reform legislation on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Whether or not there is alternative health care legislation enacted in the U.S., there is likely to be significant disruption to the health care market in the coming months and years and the costs of the Company’s health care expenditures may increase.
New information or attitudes regarding diet and health could result in changes in regulations and consumer consumption habits that could adversely affect our results of operations.
Regulations and consumer eating habits may change as a result of new information or attitudes regarding diet, health and safety. Such changes may include federal, state and local regulations and recommendations from medical and diet professionals pertaining to the ingredients and nutritional content of the food and beverages we offer. The success of our restaurant operations is dependent, in part, upon our ability to effectively respond to changes in any consumer health regulations and our ability to adapt our menu offerings to trends in food consumption. If consumer health regulations or consumer eating habits change significantly, we may choose or be required to modify or remove certain menu items, which may cause us to incur costs to implement those changes and may materially adversely affect the appeal of our menu to new or returning customers. To the extent we are unwilling or unable to respond with appropriate changes to our menu offerings, it could materially affect consumer demand and could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Government regulation and consumer eating habits may impact our business as a result of changes in attitudes regarding diet and health or new information regarding the adverse health effects of consuming certain menu offerings. As discussed in Part I, “Business-Governmental Regulation and Environmental Matters” of this 10-K, these changes have resulted in, and may continue to result in, laws and regulations requiring us to disclose the nutritional content of our food offerings, and they have resulted, and may continue to result in, laws and regulations affecting permissible ingredients and menu offerings. Inconsistencies among state laws with respect to presentation of nutritional content could be challenging for us to comply with in an efficient manner. The PPACA also requires covered restaurants to provide to consumers, upon request, a written summary of detailed nutritional information for each standard menu item, and to provide a statement on menus and menu boards about the availability of this information upon request. An unfavorable report on, or reaction to, our menu ingredients, the size of our portions or the nutritional content of our menu items could negatively influence the demand for our offerings.
Compliance with current and future laws and regulations regarding the ingredients and nutritional content of our menu items may be costly and time-consuming. The risks and costs associated with nutritional disclosures on our menus could also impact our operations, particularly given differences among applicable legal requirements and practices within the restaurant industry with respect to testing and disclosure, ordinary variations in food preparation among our own restaurants and the need to rely on the accuracy and completeness of nutritional information obtained from third-party suppliers.
We may not be able to effectively respond to changes in consumer health and safety perceptions or to successfully implement the nutrient content disclosure requirements and adapt our menu offerings to trends in eating habits. The imposition of additional menu labeling laws could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations, as well as our
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position within the restaurant industry in general.
We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could harm the value of our brand and could adversely affect our business.
Our intellectual property is material to the conduct of our business and our marketing efforts. Our ability to implement our business plan successfully depends in part on our ability to further build brand recognition using our trademarks, service marks, trade dress and other proprietary intellectual property, including our name and logos and the unique ambiance of our restaurants. While it is our policy to protect and defend vigorously our rights to our intellectual property, we cannot predict whether steps taken by us to protect our intellectual property rights will be adequate to prevent misappropriation of these rights or the use by others of restaurant features based upon, or otherwise similar to, our concept. It may be difficult for us to prevent others from copying elements of our concept and any litigation to enforce our rights will likely be costly and may not be successful. Although we believe that we have sufficient rights to all of our trademarks and service marks, we may face claims of infringement that could interfere with our ability to market our restaurants and promote our brand. Any such litigation may be costly and divert resources from our business. Moreover, if we are unable to successfully defend against such claims, we may be prevented from using our trademarks or service marks in the future, may be liable for damages and may have to change our marketing efforts, which in turn could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We could be party to litigation that could adversely affect us by distracting management, increasing our expenses or subjecting us to material money damages and other remedies.
Our customers occasionally file complaints or lawsuits against us alleging we caused an illness or injury they suffered at or after a visit to our restaurants, or that we have problems with food quality or operations. These kinds of complaints or lawsuits may be more common in a period in which the public is focused on health safety issues, or may attract more attention due to publication on various social media outlets. We are also subject to a variety of other claims arising in the ordinary course of our business, including personal injury claims, contract claims and claims alleging violations of federal and state law regarding workplace and employment matters, equal opportunity, discrimination and similar matters and we could become subject to class action or other lawsuits related to these or different matters in the future. In addition, the restaurant industry has from time to time been subject to claims based on the nutritional content of food products sold and disclosure and advertising practices. We may also become subject to various employee and workplace litigation, including claims related to discrimination, harassment, workplace safety, medical and family leave, and wage-and-hour issues, which risk has been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic as discussed above.
Regardless of whether any claims against us are valid, or whether we are ultimately held liable, claims may be expensive to defend and may divert time and money away from our operations and hurt our performance. A judgment in excess of our insurance coverage for any claims could materially adversely affect our financial condition or results of operations. Any adverse publicity resulting from these allegations, even if proven to be false, may also materially adversely affect our reputation or prospects, which in turn could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Risks Related to Our Common Stock and Debt Financing
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly and could fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors due to seasonality and other factors, some of which are beyond our control, resulting in a decline in our stock price.
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly because of several factors, including but not limited to: increases and decreases in AUVs and comparable restaurant sales; profitability of our restaurants; labor availability and costs for hourly and management personnel; changes in interest rates; macroeconomic conditions, both nationally and locally; negative publicity relating to the consumption of products we serve; changes in consumer preferences and competitive conditions; impairment of long-lived assets and any loss on and exit costs associated with restaurant closures; expansion to new markets; the timing of new restaurant openings and related expense; restaurant operating costs for our newly-opened restaurants; increases in infrastructure costs; and fluctuations in commodity prices.
Seasonal factors, particularly weather disruptions, and the timing of holidays also cause our revenue to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Our revenue per restaurant is typically lower in the first and fourth quarters due to reduced winter and holiday traffic and higher in the second and third quarters. As a result of these factors, our quarterly and annual operating results and comparable restaurant sales may fluctuate significantly. Accordingly, results for any one quarter are not necessarily indicative of results to be
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expected for any other quarter or for any year and comparable restaurant sales for any particular future period may decrease. In the future, operating results may fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors. In that event, the price of our common stock would likely decrease.
Future sales of our common stock, or the perception that such sales may occur, could depress our common stock price.
Sales of a substantial number of shares of our common stock in the public market, or the perception that such sales may occur, could depress the market price of our common stock. Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation authorizes us to issue up to 180,000,000 shares of Class A common stock and Class B common stock. As of December 29, 2020, we have 44,383,716 outstanding shares of Class A common stock and no outstanding shares of Class B common stock. In addition, as of such date, approximately 2,094,679 shares of Class A common stock are issuable upon the exercise of outstanding stock options and the vesting of restricted stock units, and 1,913,793 shares of Class A common stock and 28,850 shares of Class B common stock are issuable upon the exercise of warrants. Moreover, as of that date, approximately 3.6 million shares of our common stock are available for future grants under our stock incentive plan and for future purchase under our employee stock purchase plan.
Provisions in our organizational documents and Delaware law may delay or prevent our acquisition by a third party.
Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation, our second amended and restated bylaws and Delaware law each contain several provisions that may make it more difficult for a third party to acquire control of us without the approval of our Board of Directors. For example, we have a classified Board of Directors with three-year staggered terms, which could delay the ability of stockholders to change the membership of a majority of our Board of Directors. Additionally, the terms of outstanding warrants contain change of control provisions which, in the event of a potential change of control transaction, may require the payment of a premium to holders of such warrants. These provisions may make it more difficult or expensive for a third party to acquire a majority of our outstanding equity interests. These provisions also may delay, prevent or deter a merger, acquisition, tender offer, proxy contest or other transaction that might otherwise result in our stockholders receiving a premium over the market price for their common stock.
We may be unable to negotiate favorable borrowing terms, and any additional capital we may require could be senior to existing equity holders, dilute existing equity holders or include unfavorable restrictions.
As a general matter, operating and developing our business requires significant capital. Our credit agreement ends in 2024 and securing access to credit on reasonable terms thereafter will require us to extend or refinance such agreement. In addition, in order to pursue our business and operational strategies, we may need additional sources of liquidity in the future and it may be difficult or impossible at such time to increase our liquidity. Our lenders may not agree to amend our credit agreement at such time to increase our borrowing capacity. Further, our requirements for additional liquidity may coincide with periods during which we are not in compliance with covenants under our credit agreement and our lenders may not agree to further amend our credit agreement to accommodate such non-compliance. Even if we are able to access additional liquidity, agreements governing any borrowing arrangement could contain covenants restricting our operations. If we raise additional funds through future issuances of equity or convertible debt securities, our existing stockholders could suffer significant dilution, and any new equity securities we issue could have rights, preferences and privileges superior to those of holders of our common stock. Any debt financing we secure in the future could involve restrictive covenants relating to our capital-raising activities and other financial and operational matters, which might make it more difficult for us to obtain additional capital and to pursue business opportunities. Moreover, if we issue new debt securities, the debt holders would have rights senior to common stockholders to make claims on our assets. In addition, variable-rate borrowings under our credit agreement typically use LIBOR as a benchmark for establishing the rate of interest. LIBOR is the subject of recent national and international regulatory scrutiny which may result in changes that cause LIBOR to disappear entirely after 2021 or to cause it to perform differently than in the past. The consequences of these LIBOR developments on our variable-rate borrowings, including the possible transition to other rates such as the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”), cannot be predicted at this time, but could include an increase in the cost of our variable-rate borrowings and volatility in our earnings.

ITEM 1B.    Unresolved Staff Comments
None.
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ITEM 2.    Properties
As of December 29, 2020, we and our franchisees operated 454 restaurants in 29 states. Our restaurants are typically approximately 2,600 square feet and are located in a variety of suburban and urban markets. We lease the property for our central support office and all of the properties on which we operate restaurants. The chart below shows the locations of our company-owned and franchised restaurants as of December 29, 2020.
StateCompany-
owned
FranchisedTotal
Arizona— 
California16 — 16 
Colorado59 — 59 
Connecticut— 
Florida— 
Idaho— 
Illinois49 54 
Indiana21 22 
Iowa10 11 
Kansas10 — 10 
Kentucky
Maryland23 — 23 
Michigan— 23 23 
Minnesota44 45 
Missouri10 
Montana— 
Nebraska— 
New York— 
North Carolina10 14 
North Dakota— 
Ohio17 — 17 
Oregon— 
Pennsylvania— 
South Dakota— 
Tennessee— 
Utah16 — 16 
Virginia24 — 24 
Washington— 
Wisconsin47 50 
378 76 454 
We are obligated under non-cancelable leases for our restaurants and our central support office. Our restaurant leases generally have initial terms of 10 years with two or more five-year renewal options. Our restaurant leases may require us to pay a proportionate share of real estate taxes, insurance, common area maintenance charges and other operating costs.

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ITEM 3.    Legal Proceedings
Other Matters
In the normal course of business, the Company is subject to other proceedings, lawsuits and claims. Such matters are subject to many uncertainties, and outcomes are not predictable with assurance. Consequently, the Company is unable to ascertain the ultimate aggregate amount of monetary liability or financial impact with respect to these matters as of December 29, 2020. These matters could affect the operating results of any one financial reporting period when resolved in future periods. The Company believes that an unfavorable outcome with respect to these matters is remote or a potential range of loss is not material to its consolidated financial statements. Significant increases in the number of these claims, or one or more successful claims that result in greater liabilities than the Company currently anticipates, could materially and adversely affect its business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.

ITEM 4.    Mine Safety Disclosures

Not applicable.
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PART II

ITEM 5.    Market for the Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 
Our Class A common stock has traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol NDLS since it began trading on June 28, 2013, the date of our initial public offering (“IPO”). As of February 22, 2021, there were approximately 30 holders of record of our common stock. The number of holders of record is based upon the actual numbers of holders registered at such date and does not include holders of shares in “street name” or persons, partnerships, associates, corporations or other entities in security position listings maintained by depositories.
Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer
We had no share repurchases during the fourth quarter of 2020.
Sales of Unregistered Securities by the Issuer
We sold no unregistered securities that have not been previously included in a Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q or in a Current Report on Form 8-K.
Dividends
No dividends have been declared or paid on our shares of common stock. We do not anticipate paying any cash dividends on any of our shares of common stock in the foreseeable future. We currently intend to retain any earnings to finance the development and expansion of our business. Any future determination to pay dividends will be at the discretion of our Board of Directors and will be dependent upon then-existing conditions, including our earnings, capital requirements, results of operations, financial condition, business prospects and other factors that our Board of Directors considers relevant. Further, the Company’s credit facility and warrants each contain provisions that limit its ability to pay dividends on its common stock. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence” for additional information regarding our financial condition.
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ITEM 6.    Selected Financial Data
The following table summarizes the consolidated historical financial and operating data for the periods indicated. The statements of operations data for the fiscal years ended December 29, 2020, December 31, 2019 and January 1, 2019, and the balance sheet data as of December 29, 2020 and December 31, 2019 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included in Item 8. “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data,” and the statements of operations data from the fiscal years ended January 2, 2018 and January 3, 2017, and the balance sheet data as of January 1, 2019, January 2, 2018 and January 3, 2017 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements not included in this report.
The historical results presented below are not necessarily indicative of the results to be expected for any future period. This information should be read in conjunction with “Risk Factors,” “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes included elsewhere in this report.
We operate on a 52- or 53-week fiscal year ending on the Tuesday closest to December 31. Fiscal year 2016, which ended on January 3, 2017, contained 53 weeks, and all other fiscal years presented below contained 52 weeks. We refer to our fiscal years as 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016. Our fiscal quarters each contain thirteen weeks, with the exception of the fourth quarter of a 53-week fiscal year, which contains fourteen weeks.
 Fiscal Year
 20202019201820172016
 (in thousands)
Revenue:     
Restaurant revenue$388,480 $456,671 $453,671 $451,599 $482,544 
Franchising royalties and fees, and other5,175 5,740 4,170 4,893 4,930 
Total revenue393,655 462,411 457,841 456,492 487,474 
Costs and Expenses:    
Restaurant operating costs (exclusive of depreciation and amortization, shown separately below):
    
Cost of sales97,697 117,179 121,102 121,473 130,630 
Labor126,424 150,565 149,746 150,161 161,219 
Occupancy46,787 48,863 49,020 51,877 55,912 
Other restaurant operating costs71,208 66,684 65,575 64,091 73,011 
General and administrative(1)(2)
42,876 43,446 46,092 39,746 55,654 
Depreciation and amortization21,709 22,086 22,872 24,613 28,134 
Pre-opening443 402 50 935 3,131 
Restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals(3)
6,540 7,747 7,142 37,446 47,311 
Total costs and expenses413,684 456,972 461,599 490,342 555,002 
(Loss) income from operations(20,029)5,439 (3,758)(33,850)(67,528)
Loss on extinguishment of debt— 746 626 — 
Interest expense, net3,146 2,942 4,305 3,839 2,916 
(Loss) income before income taxes(23,175)1,751 (8,689)(37,689)(70,444)
Provision (benefit) for income taxes84 104 (248)(207)1,233 
Net (loss) income(23,259)1,647 (8,441)(37,482)(71,677)
Accretion of preferred stock to redemption value(4)
— — — (7,967)— 
Net (loss) income attributable to common stockholders$(23,259)$1,647 $(8,441)$(45,449)$(71,677)
_____________
(1)General and administrative expenses in 2016 include a $10.6 million charge for estimated losses associated with claims and anticipated claims by payment card companies from our 2016 data security incident, a $2.7 million charge for severance expenses and a $3.0 million charge for an employment-related litigation settlement.
(2)General and administrative expenses in 2018 include a charge of $3.4 million for the final assessment related to data breach liabilities, and a $0.3 million charge for a litigation settlement related to a Delaware gift card matter.
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(3)Restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals include $4.1 million, $2.6 million, $1.5 million, $16.2 million and $41.6 million of charges in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016. Fiscal 2019 includes the write down of assets related to the sale of nine company-owned restaurants to a franchisee that was completed in January of 2020. Included in the impairment charges are eight restaurants in 2020, two restaurants in 2019, one restaurant in 2018, 34 restaurants in 2017 and 54 restaurants in 2016 that were identified as impaired. Additionally, we recognized $1.1 million, $0.4 million, $4.1 million, $20.1 million, and $2.3 million in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively, of closure costs which are also included in restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals. The closure costs recognized during 2020, 2019 and 2018 include closure costs of six, five and 19 restaurants closed throughout 2020, 2019 and 2018, most of which were at or approaching the expiration of their leases, and 2017 includes closure costs of 55 restaurants closed during the first quarter of 2017. Closure costs in 2020 and 2019 were partially offset by gains of $0.6 million and $0.4 million, respectively, resulting from the adjustments to liabilities as lease terminations occur. Restaurant impairments and closure costs in all periods presented above include amounts related to restaurants previously impaired or closed.
(4)Represents the accretion of the preferred stock issued to L Catterton to its full redemption value.
 Fiscal Year
 20202019201820172016
 (in thousands, except share and per share data and restaurants)
(Loss) earnings per Class A and Class B common share, combined:     
Basic$(0.53)$0.04 $(0.20)$(1.20)$(2.58)
Diluted$(0.53)$0.04 $(0.20)$(1.20)$(2.58)
Weighted average Class A and Class B common shares outstanding, combined:    
Basic44,272,474 44,036,947 42,329,556 37,759,497 27,808,708 
Diluted44,272,474 44,976,436 42,329,556 37,759,497 27,808,708 
Selected Operating Data:    
Company-owned restaurants at end of period378 389 394 412 457 
Franchise-owned restaurants at end of period76 68 65 66 75 
Company-owned:    
Average unit volumes (1)
$1,064 $1,168 $1,119 $1,072 $1,075 
Comparable restaurant sales (2)
(11.6)%2.9 %3.4 %(2.7)%(0.9)%
Restaurant contribution (3)
$46,364 $73,380 $68,228 $63,997 $61,772 
Restaurant contribution margin (3)
11.9 %16.1 %15.0 %14.2 %12.8 %
 _______________
(1)Average unit volumes (“AUVs”) consist of average annualized sales of all company-owned restaurants for a given time period.
(2)Comparable restaurant sales represent year-over-year sales for restaurants open for at least 18 full periods. For fiscal year 2020, restaurants that were temporarily closed or operating at reduced hours and dining capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic remained in comparable restaurant sales.
(3)Restaurant contribution represents restaurant revenue less restaurant operating costs, which are the cost of sales, labor, occupancy and other operating items. Restaurant contribution margin represents restaurant contribution as a percentage of restaurant revenue. Restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are non-GAAP measures that are neither required by, nor presented in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”), and the calculations thereof may not be comparable to similar measures reported by other companies. These measures are supplemental measures of the operating performance of our restaurants and are not reflective of the underlying performance of our business because corporate-level expenses are excluded from these measures.
Restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin have limitations as analytical tools, and should not be considered in isolation or as substitutes for analysis of our results as reported under GAAP. Management does not consider these measures in isolation or as alternatives to financial measures determined in accordance with GAAP. However, management believes that restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are important tools for investors and other interested parties because they are widely-used metrics within the restaurant industry to evaluate restaurant-level productivity, efficiency and performance. Management also uses these measures as metrics to evaluate the profitability of incremental sales at our restaurants, restaurant performance across periods and restaurant financial performance compared with competitors. See Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included elsewhere in this annual report on Form 10-K for a discussion of restaurant contribution, restaurant contribution margin and other key performance indicators.

A reconciliation of (loss) income from operations to restaurant contribution is presented below:
 Fiscal Year
 20202019201820172016
 (in thousands)
(Loss) income from operations$(20,029)$5,439 $(3,758)$(33,850)$(67,528)
Less: Franchising royalties and fees, and other5,175 5,740 4,170 4,893 4,930 
Add: General and administrative42,876 43,446 46,092 39,746 55,654 
Depreciation and amortization21,709 22,086 22,872 24,613 28,134 
Pre-opening443 402 50 935 3,131 
Restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals 6,540 7,747 7,142 37,446 47,311 
Restaurant contribution$46,364 $73,380 $68,228 $63,997 $61,772 
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 As of
 December 29, 2020December 31, 2019January 1, 2019January 2, 2018January 3, 2017
 (in thousands)
Balance Sheet Data:     
Total current assets$23,714 $29,322 $23,351 $22,058 $25,788 
Total assets (4)
353,631 378,519 172,032 185,233 209,461 
Total current liabilities58,129 58,034 33,147 43,869 49,033 
Total long-term debt40,949 40,497 44,183 57,624 84,676 
Total liabilities (4)
323,932 327,948 119,351 149,372 183,643 
Total stockholders' equity29,699 50,571 52,681 35,861 25,818 
_____________
(4)     Beginning in fiscal 2019, total assets and total liabilities include the adoption of ASU 2016-02.
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ITEM 7.    Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with Item 6. “Selected Financial Data” and our consolidated financial statements and related notes included in Item 8. “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.” This section of the Form 10-K generally discusses 2020 and 2019 items and year-to-year comparisons of 2020 to 2019. Discussions of 2018 items and year-to-year comparisons of 2019 and 2018 that are not included in this Form 10-K can be found in “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” in Part II, Item 7 on our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019. In addition to historical information, this discussion and analysis contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results may differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of certain factors including, but not limited to, those discussed in Item 1A. “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this report.
We operate on a 52- or 53-week fiscal year ending on the Tuesday closest to December 31. Fiscal years 2020 and 2019, which ended on December 29, 2020 and December 31, 2019, respectively, contained 52 weeks. We refer to our fiscal years as 2020 and 2019. Our fiscal quarters each contained 13 operating weeks.
Overview
Noodles & Company is a restaurant concept offering lunch and dinner within the fast-casual segment of the restaurant industry. We opened our first location in 1995, offering noodle and pasta dishes, staples of many different cuisines, with the goal of delivering fresh ingredients and flavors from around the world under one roof. Today, our globally-inspired menu includes a wide variety of high quality, cooked-to-order dishes, including noodles and pasta, soups, salads and appetizers. We believe we offer our customers value with per person spend of approximately $10.12 in 2020.
Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Our Business
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significant disruption to the restaurant industry and adversely affected our business. The greatest impact to our sales and overall financial results was during the initial stages of the pandemic, beginning the third week of March 2020 through the end of May 2020. During this period, we temporarily closed nearly all of our dining rooms and migrated to a nearly entire off-premise model, driven by local government imposed restrictions in areas where we operate our restaurants.

COVID-19 related disruption mitigated somewhat during the summer in 2020, due to more relaxed government restrictions in certain markets and seasonal weather which allowed for outdoor gatherings. Comparable sales meaningfully and progressively improved during this time compared to the initial disruption at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, during the fourth quarter, our business was further impacted due to a rise in hospitalizations and local restrictions. During this more recent period, we did not see the same level of volatility in our sales or overall financial results compared to the initial stages of the pandemic, driven in part by our investment in our off-premise model and continued safety protocols.

The health and well-being of our employees and guests was and continues to remain our top priority. We invested in safety standards and restaurant supplies to enforce a high level of cleanliness by providing sanitizers throughout the restaurants, reinforcing wellness protocols and requiring frequent handwashing. In addition, we closely followed recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and local health departments and implemented social distancing restrictions, face mask requirements, enhanced cleaning processes and enhanced sanitizing in our high-traffic areas. Collectively, these efforts give our employees and guests confidence that we remain dedicated to our commitment to keep them safe.

Our business was well-positioned for the transition to largely off-premise dining. We continued our investment in digital technology to promote our off-premise channel, including implementing direct delivery nationwide through the Noodles app and website, expanding our third party delivery services, and launching curbside delivery at all of our restaurants. The shifting demand pattern towards our off-premise offerings, including delivery, has caused a reduction in our restaurant level margins due primarily to higher delivery fees, partially offset by improved efficiencies throughout the balance of our expense profile, most notably in our labor model.

The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our longer-term operational and financial performance will depend on future developments, including the availability and widespread distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Many of these future developments are outside of our control and all are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted. As of the date of this filing,
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significant uncertainty continues to exist concerning the magnitude of the impact and the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the date of this filing, substantially all of our restaurants continue to operate, and dining rooms are open in over 90% of our company-owned locations. While we cannot predict the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic will impact our business, we intend to continue to actively monitor the evolving situation and may take further actions that alter our business operations as may be required by federal, state or local authorities or that we determine are in the best interests of our team members, customers, suppliers and shareholders. For a further discussion of the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our financial results refer to the “Results of Operations.”

Recent Trends, Risks and Uncertainties
Comparable Restaurant Sales. In fiscal 2020, system-wide comparable restaurant sales decreased 12.0%, comprised of an 11.6% decrease for company-owned restaurants and a 14.5% decrease for franchise restaurants primarily due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including temporary closures of restaurants. Comparable restaurant sales represent year-over-year sales comparisons for restaurants open for at least 18 full periods. For fiscal year 2020, restaurants that were temporarily closed or operating at reduced hours and dining capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic remained in comparable restaurant sales.
Our full year comparable sales results were impacted by volatility related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we believe that the volatility in our sales performance was offset by our strong brand positioning and ability to meet the needs of today's consumer for great tasting healthy food served conveniently where and when guests want it. Our ability to return to positive comparable sales depends, among other reasons, on (i) the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, (ii) limitations imposed by federal, state and local governments with respect to reduced seating capacity in our restaurants and other social distancing measures, (iii) our customers’ future willingness to eat at restaurants and (iv) macroeconomic conditions and the length of time required for the national and local economies to achieve economic recovery following the crisis.
Cost of Sales. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have and expect to continue to incur incremental costs of sales, including the use of additional packaging supplies to support the continued increase in to-go and off-premise orders. Despite the increased packaging costs, we have continued to work with our suppliers for ongoing supply chain savings resulting in lower cost of sales. To date, there has been minimal disruption to our supply chain network, including the supply of our ingredients, packaging or other sourced materials, though it is possible that more significant disruptions could occur if the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the markets in which we operate. We are working closely with our distributors and contract manufacturers as the situation evolves. We intend to continue to actively monitor the situation, including the status of our supply chain, to determine the appropriate actions to minimize any interruptions.
Labor Costs. Similar to much of the restaurant industry, our base labor costs have risen in recent periods. In 2020, we were able to offset the impact of increased base labor costs through labor efficiencies such as our procedures around optimizing food preparation times. Additionally, with the increased adoption of digital ordering from our customers, we modified our labor model to reduce the number of front of house labor hours in our restaurants. Some jurisdictions in which we operate have recently increased their minimum wage and other jurisdictions are considering similar actions. Significant additional government-imposed increases could materially affect our labor costs.
Other Restaurant Operating Costs. We have and expect to continue to incur additional third-party delivery fees resulting from a significant expansion of our use of third-party delivery services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Restaurant Development. Given an anticipated increase in favorable real estate availability, we expect to incorporate increased unit development into our strategic growth plan for 2021 and beyond. In 2021, we plan to open between ten and fifteen restaurants system-wide and develop a pipeline to support a 7% to 10% unit growth rate beginning in 2022.
In 2020, we opened four company-owned restaurants, refranchised nine restaurants and closed six company-owned restaurants, while our franchisees closed one restaurant and did not open any restaurants in 2020. As of December 29, 2020, we had 378 company-owned restaurants and 76 franchise restaurants in 29 states.
Certain Restaurant Closures. We closed six and five company-owned restaurants in 2020 and 2019, respectively, most of which were at or approaching the expiration of their leases. We currently do not anticipate significant restaurant closures for the foreseeable future; however, we may from time to time close certain restaurants, including closures at, or near, the expiration of their leases.
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Impairment of Long-lived Assets. We impaired eight restaurants in 2020 and two restaurants in 2019 and wrote down the assets related to the sale of nine company-owned restaurants to a franchisee that closed in January of 2020.

Impairment is based on our current assessment of the expected future cash flows of various restaurants based on recent results and other specific market factors. Many of these restaurants we had opened in the last three to four years in newer markets where brand awareness of our restaurants was not as strong and where it had been more difficult to adequately staff our restaurants. Although impairment charges have meaningfully declined since 2017, we may recognize impairment charges in the future.

Key Measures We Use to Evaluate Our Performance

To evaluate the performance of our business, we utilize a variety of financial and performance measures. These key measures include revenue, average unit volumes (“AUVs”), comparable restaurant sales, restaurant contribution, restaurant contribution margin, EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA.
Revenue
Restaurant revenue represents sales of food and beverages in company-owned restaurants. Several factors affect our restaurant revenue in any period, including the number of restaurants in operation and per-restaurant sales.
Franchise royalties and fees represent royalty income and initial franchise fees. While we expect that the majority of our revenue and net income growth will be driven by company-owned restaurants, our franchise restaurants remain an important factor impacting our revenue and financial performance.
Seasonal factors cause our revenue to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Our revenue per restaurant is typically lower in the first and fourth quarters due to reduced winter and holiday traffic and higher in the second and third quarters. As a result of these factors, our quarterly and annual operating results and comparable restaurant sales may fluctuate significantly.
Average Unit Volumes
AUVs consist of the average annualized sales of all company-owned restaurants for a given time period. AUVs are calculated by dividing restaurant revenue by the number of operating days within each time period and multiplying by the number of operating days we have in a typical year. This measurement allows management to assess changes in consumer traffic and per person spending patterns at our restaurants.
Comparable Restaurant Sales
Comparable restaurant sales refer to year-over-year sales comparisons for the comparable restaurant base. We define the comparable restaurant base to include restaurants open for at least 18 full periods. As of the end of 2020, 2019 and 2018, there were 368, 383 and 392 restaurants, respectively, in our comparable restaurant base for company-owned locations. This measure highlights performance of existing restaurants, as the impact of new restaurant openings is excluded. For fiscal year 2020, restaurants that were temporarily closed or operating at reduced hours and dining capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic remained in comparable restaurant sales. Changes in comparable restaurant sales are generated by changes in traffic, which we calculate as the number of entrées sold, or changes in per-person spend, calculated as sales divided by traffic. Per-person spend can be influenced by changes in menu prices and the mix and number of items sold per person.
Measuring our comparable restaurant sales allows us to evaluate the performance of our existing restaurant base. Various factors impact comparable restaurant sales, including, but not limited to:
consumer recognition of our brand and our ability to respond to changing consumer preferences;
overall economic trends, particularly those related to consumer spending;
our ability to operate restaurants effectively and efficiently to meet consumer expectations;
pricing;
the number of restaurant transactions, per-person spend and average check amount;
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marketing and promotional efforts;
abnormal weather patterns;
food safety and foodborne illness concerns;
the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic;
local competition;
trade area dynamics;
introduction of new and seasonal menu items and limited time offerings; and
opening new restaurants in the vicinity of existing locations.
Consistent with common industry practice, we present comparable restaurant sales on a calendar-adjusted basis that aligns current year sales weeks with comparable periods in the prior year, regardless of whether they belong to the same fiscal period or not. Since opening new company-owned and franchise restaurants is a part of our growth strategy and we anticipate new restaurants will be a component of our revenue growth, comparable restaurant sales are only one measure of how we evaluate our performance.
Restaurant Contribution and Restaurant Contribution Margin
Restaurant contribution represents restaurant revenue less restaurant operating costs which are cost of sales, labor, occupancy and other restaurant operating costs. Restaurant contribution margin represents restaurant contribution as a percentage of restaurant revenue. We expect restaurant contribution to increase in proportion to the number of new restaurants we open and our comparable restaurant sales growth.

We believe that restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are important tools for investors and other interested parties because they are widely-used metrics within the restaurant industry to evaluate restaurant-level productivity, efficiency and performance. We also use restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin as metrics to evaluate the profitability of incremental sales at our restaurants, restaurant performance across periods and restaurant financial performance compared with competitors. Restaurant contribution and restaurant contribution margin are supplemental measures of the operating performance of our restaurants and are not reflective of the underlying performance of our business because corporate-level expenses are excluded from these measures.

EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA
We define EBITDA as net income (loss) before interest expense, provision (benefit) for income taxes and depreciation and amortization. We define adjusted EBITDA as net income (loss) before interest expense, provision (benefit) for income taxes, depreciation and amortization, restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals, certain litigation settlements, data breach assessments, non-recurring registration and related transaction costs, loss on extinguishment of debt, severance costs and stock-based compensation.
We believe that EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA provide clear pictures of our operating results by eliminating certain non-recurring and non-cash expenses that may vary widely from period to period and are not reflective of the underlying business performance.
The presentation of restaurant contribution, restaurant contribution margin, EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA is not intended to be considered in isolation or as a substitute for, or to be superior to, the financial information prepared and presented in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”). We use these non-GAAP financial measures for financial and operational decision making and as a means to evaluate period-to-period comparisons. We believe that they provide useful information to management and investors about operating results, enhance the overall understanding of past financial performance and future prospects and allow for greater transparency with respect to key metrics used by management in its financial and operational decision making.
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The following table presents a reconciliation of net (loss) income to EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA:
 Fiscal Year
 20202019
 (in thousands)
Net (loss) income$(23,259)$1,647 
Depreciation and amortization21,709 22,086 
Interest expense, net3,146 2,942 
Provision for income taxes84 104 
EBITDA$1,680 $26,779 
Restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals (1)
6,540 7,747 
Fees and costs related to transactions and other acquisition/disposition costs (2)
162 190 
Loss on extinguishment of debt (3)
— 746 
Severance costs (4)
536 522 
Stock-based compensation expense (5)
2,554 2,443 
Adjusted EBITDA$11,472 $38,427 
_____________
(1)Restaurant impairments and closure costs in all periods presented above include amounts related to restaurants previously impaired or closed. Additionally, 2020 and 2019 include closure costs of six and five restaurants, respectively. Fiscal year 2020 had $4.1 million of impairment charges and 2019 had $2.6 million of impairment charges and $3.6 million write down of assets for the sale of nine company-owned restaurants to a franchisee that was completed in January of 2020. See Note 6, Restaurant Impairments, Closure Costs and Asset Disposals.
(2)Fiscal year 2019 includes expenses related to transaction and acquisition costs related to the purchase of one franchise restaurant and other refranchising costs.
(3)Fiscal year 2019 includes the loss on extinguishment of debt resulting from writing off certain remaining unamortized debt issuance costs related to our credit facility with U.S. Bank National Association (the “2018 Credit Facility”) which was amended in November 2019.
(4)Severance costs are related to departmental structural changes and the departure of certain executives.
(5)Fiscal year 2019 includes an adjustment related to the departure of Paul Murphy, our former Executive Chairman.


Key Financial Definitions
Cost of Sales
Cost of sales includes the direct costs associated with the food, beverage and packaging of our menu items. Cost of sales also includes any costs related to discounted menu items. Cost of sales is a substantial expense and can be expected to change proportionally as our restaurant revenue changes. Fluctuations in cost of sales are caused primarily by volatility in the cost of commodity food items and related contracts for such items. Other important factors causing fluctuations in cost of sales include seasonality, discounting activity and restaurant level management of food waste.
Labor Costs
Labor costs include wages, payroll taxes, workers’ compensation expense, benefits and incentives paid to our restaurant teams. Similar to certain other expense items, we expect labor costs to change proportionally as our restaurant revenue changes. Factors that influence fluctuations in our labor costs include minimum wage and payroll tax legislation, the frequency and severity of workers’ compensation claims, health care costs and the performance of our restaurants.
Occupancy Costs
Occupancy costs include rent, common area maintenance charges and real estate tax expense related to our restaurants and are expected to grow proportionally as we open new restaurants.
Other Restaurant Operating Costs
Other restaurant operating costs include the costs of repairs and maintenance, utilities, restaurant-level marketing, credit card processing fees, third-party delivery fees, restaurant supplies and other restaurant operating costs. Similar to certain other costs, they are expected to grow proportionally as restaurant revenue grows.
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General and Administrative Expense
General and administrative expense is composed of payroll, other compensation, travel, marketing, accounting and legal fees, insurance and other expenses related to the infrastructure required to support our restaurants. General and administrative expense also includes the non-cash stock compensation expense related to our stock incentive plan.
Depreciation and Amortization
Our principal depreciation and amortization charges relate to depreciation of long-lived assets, such as property, equipment and leasehold improvements, from restaurant construction and ongoing maintenance.
Pre-Opening Costs
Pre-opening costs relate to the costs incurred prior to the opening of a restaurant. These include management labor costs, staff labor costs during training, food and supplies utilized during training, marketing costs and other pre-opening related costs. Pre-opening costs also include rent recorded between the date of possession and the opening date for our restaurants.
Restaurant Impairments, Closure Costs and Asset Disposals
Restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals include the net gain or loss on disposal of long-lived assets related to retirements and replacement of equipment or leasehold improvements, restaurant closures and impairment charges.
Interest Expense
Interest expense consists primarily of interest on our outstanding indebtedness and amortization of debt issuance costs over the life of the related debt reduced by capitalized interest.
Provision (Benefit) for Income Taxes
Provision (benefit) for income taxes consists of federal, state and local taxes on our income.
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Restaurant Openings, Closures and Relocations
The following table shows restaurants opened or closed in the years indicated:
 Fiscal Year
 20202019
Company-Owned Restaurants  
Beginning of period389 394 
Openings
Acquisition (1)
— 
Divestitures (1)
(9)(5)
Closures(6)(5)
End of period378 389 
Franchise Restaurants 
Beginning of period68 65 
Openings— 
Acquisitions (1)
Divestiture (1)
— (1)
Closures (1)(2)
End of period76 68 
Total restaurants454 457 
_____________________________
(1)During 2020, we sold nine company-owned restaurants to a franchisee. During 2019 we acquired one franchise restaurant and sold five company-owned restaurants to a franchisee.


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Results of Operations
The following table summarizes key components of our results of operations for the periods indicated as a percentage of our total revenue, except for the components of restaurant operating costs, which are expressed as a percentage of restaurant revenue.
 Fiscal Year
 20202019
Revenue:  
Restaurant revenue98.7 %98.8 %
Franchising royalties and fees, and other1.3 %1.2 %
Total revenue100.0 %100.0 %
Costs and expenses: 
Restaurant operating costs (exclusive of depreciation and amortization, shown separately below):
 
Cost of sales25.1 %25.7 %
Labor32.5 %33.0 %
Occupancy12.0 %10.7 %
Other restaurant operating costs18.3 %14.6 %
General and administrative10.9 %9.4 %
Depreciation and amortization5.5 %4.8 %
Pre-opening0.1 %0.1 %
Restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals1.7 %1.7 %
Total costs and expenses105.1 %98.8 %
(Loss) income from operations(5.1)%1.2 %
Loss on extinguishment of debt— %0.2 %
Interest expense, net0.8 %0.6 %
(Loss) income before income taxes(5.9)%0.4 %
Provision (benefit) for income taxes— %— %
Net (loss) income(5.9)%0.4 %



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Fiscal Year 2020 compared to Fiscal Year 2019
The table below presents our operating results for 2020 and 2019, and the related year-over-year changes:
 Fiscal YearIncrease / (Decrease)
 20202019$%
 (in thousands)
Revenue:    
Restaurant revenue$388,480 $456,671 $(68,191)(14.9)%
Franchising royalties and fees, and other5,175 5,740 (565)(9.8)%
Total revenue393,655 462,411 (68,756)(14.9)%
Costs and Expenses:    
Restaurant operating costs (exclusive of depreciation and amortization, shown separately below):
    
Cost of sales97,697 117,179 (19,482)(16.6)%
Labor126,424 150,565 (24,141)(16.0)%
Occupancy46,787 48,863 (2,076)(4.2)%
Other restaurant operating costs71,208 66,684 4,524 6.8 %
General and administrative42,876 43,446 (570)(1.3)%
Depreciation and amortization21,709 22,086 (377)(1.7)%
Pre-opening443 402 41 10.2 %
Restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals6,540 7,747 (1,207)(15.6)%
Total costs and expenses413,684 456,972 (43,288)(9.5)%
(Loss) income from operations(20,029)5,439 (25,468)*
Loss on extinguishment of debt— 746 (746)(100.0)%
Interest expense, net3,146 2,942 204 6.9 %
(Loss) income before income taxes(23,175)1,751 (24,926)*
Provision (benefit) from income taxes84 104 (20)(19.2)%
Net (loss) income$(23,259)$1,647 $(24,906)*
Company-owned:
Average unit volumes$1,064 $1,168 $(104)(8.9)%
Comparable restaurant sales(11.6)%2.9 %
_____________
*    Not meaningful.
Revenue
Total revenue decreased by $68.8 million, or 14.9%, in 2020 compared to 2019. This decrease was due to a decline in traffic related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020, temporary store closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, six restaurants permanently closed in 2020, as well as a $10.3 million decrease related to the refranchising of nine total restaurants, partially offset by increases in pricing and growth from the four new restaurants opened in 2020 and the opening of four new restaurants in 2019.
Average unit volumes decreased 8.9% to $1.1 million in 2020 compared to $1.2 million in 2019. System-wide comparable restaurant sales decreased 12.0% in 2020, comprised of an 11.6% decrease at company-owned restaurants and a 14.5% decrease at franchise-owned restaurants.
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Cost of Sales
Cost of sales decreased by $19.5 million, or 16.6%, in 2020 compared to 2019, due primarily to the reduction in restaurant revenue. As a percentage of restaurant revenue, cost of sales decreased to 25.1% in 2020 from 25.7% in 2019. The decrease as a percentage of restaurant revenue was primarily due to ongoing supply chain initiatives, increased menu pricing and lower discounting, partially offset by higher packaging costs associated with the shift to increased off-premise sales in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Labor Costs
Labor costs decreased by $24.1 million, or 16.0%, in 2020 compared to 2019, due primarily to the decline in restaurant sales associated with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as labor initiatives implemented in 2020. These initiatives included modifying our labor model to reduce the number of front of house hours in our restaurants, especially during the time that indoor dining rooms were closed. As a percentage of restaurant revenue, labor costs decreased to 32.5% in 2020 compared to 33.0% in 2019 as a result of the labor initiatives implemented.
Occupancy Costs
Occupancy costs decreased by $2.1 million, or 4.2%, in 2020 compared to 2019, due primarily to the favorable impact of restaurant closures since the beginning of 2019 as well as rent abatements from lease negotiations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a percentage of restaurant revenue, occupancy costs increased to 12.0% in 2020 from 10.7% in 2019, due to modest new unit growth and a reduction in restaurant revenue.
Other Restaurant Operating Costs
Other restaurant operating costs increased by $4.5 million, or 6.8%, in 2020 compared to 2019, due primarily to increased third-party delivery fees partially offset by lower utility costs, lower credit card fees and lower repairs and maintenance in 2020. As a percentage of restaurant revenue, other restaurant operating costs increased to 18.3% in 2020 from 14.6% in 2019, due primarily to increased third-party delivery fees resulting from a significant expansion of our use of third-party delivery services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
General and Administrative Expense
General and administrative expense decreased by $0.6 million, or 1.3%, in 2020 compared to 2019, due primarily to the cost savings initiatives implemented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including position reductions, furloughs, temporary salary reductions and reduction in bonus expense, partially offset by an increase in severance and marketing expense. As a percentage of revenue, general and administrative expense increased to 10.9% in 2020 compared to 9.4% in 2019, due primarily to the decline in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Depreciation and Amortization
Depreciation and amortization decreased by $0.4 million, or 1.7%, in 2020 compared to 2019, due primarily to restaurants impaired or closed. As a percentage of revenue, depreciation and amortization increased to 5.5% in 2020 from 4.8% in 2019, due primarily to the decline in restaurant sales as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pre-Opening Costs
Pre-opening costs remained relatively flat in 2020 compared to 2019.
Restaurant Impairments, Closure Costs and Asset Disposals
Restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals decreased by $1.2 million, or 15.6%, in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, we recognized $4.1 million of impairment charges on eight restaurants. In 2019, we had $2.6 million of impairment charges on two restaurants as well as $3.6 million asset write-down related to the divestiture of company-owned restaurants to a franchisee. Both periods include ongoing equipment costs for restaurants previously impaired. This decrease was partially offset by an increase in closure costs and loss on asset disposals during 2020.
Each quarter we evaluate possible impairment of property and equipment at the restaurant level and record an impairment loss whenever we determine that the fair value of these assets is less than their carrying value. There can be no assurance that such evaluations will not result in additional impairment costs in future periods.
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Loss on Extinguishment of Debt
In November 2019, we entered into the first amendment to the 2018 Credit Facility, (the “Amendment” or “Amended Credit Facility”). As a result, we wrote off unamortized debt issuance costs related to the 2018 Credit Facility and recognized a loss on extinguishment of debt in the amount of $0.7 million in 2019.
Interest Expense
Interest expense increased by $0.2 million, or 6.9% in 2020 compared to 2019. The increase was mainly due to higher average borrowings and a higher average interest rate in 2020 compared to 2019.
Provision (Benefit) from Income Taxes
The effective tax rate was (0.4)% in 2020 compared to 5.9% in 2019. The effective tax rates in 2020 and 2019 are primarily related to changes in indefinite-lived intangibles. We will continue to maintain a valuation allowance against deferred tax assets until there is sufficient evidence to support a full or partial reversal. The reversal of a previously recorded valuation allowance will generally result in a benefit from income tax.
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Quarterly Financial Data
The following table presents select historical quarterly consolidated statements of operations data and other operations data for fiscal years 2020 and 2019. Each fiscal quarter contained 13 operating weeks.
 Quarter Ended
 December 29, 2020September 29, 2020June 30, 2020March 31, 2020December 31, 2019October 1, 2019July 2, 2019April 2, 2019
 (in thousands, except restaurants, unaudited)
Revenue:
Restaurant revenue$105,330 $104,413 $80,021 $98,716 $112,289 $116,759 $118,858 $108,765 
Franchising royalties and fees, and other1,838 1,569 136 1,632 1,582 1,545 1,332 1,281 
Total revenue$107,168 $105,982 $80,157 $100,348 $113,871 $118,304 $120,190 $110,046 
(Loss) income from operations$(3,372)$722 $(12,525)$(4,854)$247 $5,044 $1,238 $(1,090)
Net (loss) income(1)(2)
$(3,819)$(127)$(13,478)$(5,835)$(1,183)$4,243 $438 $(1,851)
Selected Operating Data:
Company-owned restaurants at end of period378 378 380 381 389 391 395 395 
Franchise-owned restaurants at end of period76 76 76 77 68 67 62 64 
Company-owned:
Average unit volumes$1,148 $1,187 $891 $1,036 $1,171 $1,188 $1,201 $1,131 
Comparable restaurant sales(4.2)%(3.6)%(30.1)%(7.0)%1.4 %2.2 %4.8 %3.0 %
Restaurant contribution margin13.6 %15.4 %6.7 %10.7 %17.2 %17.1 %17.1 %12.6 %
_____________
(1)Fiscal 2020 includes $1.1 million of closure costs primarily related to six restaurants closed in 2020, most of which were at or approaching the expiration of their leases and ongoing costs related to previously closed restaurants. Additionally, in 2020 we recognized $4.1 million of impairment charges.
(2)Fiscal year 2019 includes $0.4 million of closure costs primarily related to five restaurants closed in 2019, most of which were at or approaching the expiration of their leases and ongoing costs related to previously closed restaurants. Additionally, in 2019 we recognized $2.6 million of impairment charges and $3.6 million related to the write down of assets held for sale for nine restaurants subsequently sold to a franchisee.

A reconciliation of (loss) income from operations to restaurant contribution is presented below:
 Quarter Ended
 December 29, 2020September 29, 2020June 30, 2020March 31, 2020December 31, 2019October 1, 2019July 2, 2019April 2, 2019
 (in thousands, unaudited)
(Loss) income from operations$(3,372)$722 $(12,525)$(4,854)$247 $5,044 $1,238 $(1,090)
Less: Franchising royalties and fees, and other
1,838 1,569 136 1,632 1,582 1,545 1,332 1,281 
Add: General and administrative11,461 10,827 10,034 10,554 11,022 10,436 11,848 10,140 
Depreciation and amortization5,436 5,541 5,397 5,335 5,460 5,458 5,661 5,507 
Pre-opening60 239 71 73 71 266 65 — 
Restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals 2,557 369 2,558 1,056 4,107 336 2,884 420 
Restaurant contribution$14,304 $16,129 $5,399 $10,532 $19,325 $19,995 $20,364 $13,696 


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Liquidity and Capital Resources
Overview
As of December 29, 2020, our available cash and cash equivalents balance was $7.8 million, and $52.3 million was available for future borrowings under our Second Amended Credit Facility (defined below).
Our short-term obligations consist primarily of certain lease and other contractual commitments related to our operations, normal recurring operating expenses, working capital needs, new store development, capital improvements and maintenance of our restaurants, regular interest payments on our debt obligations and certain non-recurring expenditures (see Contractual Obligations).
Our long-term obligations consist primarily of certain lease and other contractual commitments related to our operations and principal payments on our outstanding debt obligations (see Contractual Obligations). In addition, our growth target for new store development will require capital each year which is expected to be funded by currently available cash and cash equivalents, cash flows from operations and our revolving credit facility.
On May 9, 2018, we entered into the 2018 Credit Facility which consists of a term loan facility in an aggregate principal amount of $25.0 million and a revolving line of credit of $65.0 million, which included a letter of credit subfacility in the amount of $15.0 million and a swingline subfacility in the amount of $10.0 million. The 2018 Credit Facility had a four-year term with a maturity date of May 9, 2022.
Upon execution of the 2018 Credit Facility, we repaid in full our outstanding indebtedness under our Prior Credit Facility using funds drawn on our 2018 Credit Facility. Upon repayment, the Prior Credit Facility and all related agreements were terminated.
In the third quarter of 2018, we sold shares of our common stock in a public offering for aggregate gross proceeds of $25.0 million ($23.0 million after deducting the underwriting discounts and commissions, and net of transaction expenses incurred). We utilized the net proceeds from this transaction to pay down borrowings under the 2018 Credit Facility and to fund working capital obligations, including the payment of the final assessment for data breach liabilities.
In 2018, we paid approximately $5.4 million for the termination of leases related to restaurants closed in the first quarter of 2017, including related fees and expenses.
On November 20, 2019, we amended our 2018 Credit Facility by entering into that certain First Amendment to Credit Agreement (the “Amendment” or “Amended Credit Facility”). Among other things, the Amendment: (i) extended the maturity date to November 20, 2024; (ii) increased the revolving credit facility from $65.0 million to $75.0 million; (iii) delayed step downs of the Company’s leverage covenant; and (iv) increased the limit on capital expenditures to $37.0 million in 2020 and to $45.0 million in 2021 and each fiscal year thereafter.
On June 16, 2020 (the “Effective Date”), we amended our Amended Credit Facility by entering into the Second Amendment to the Credit Facility (the “Second Amendment” or the “Second Amended Credit Facility”). Beginning on the Effective Date and through the third quarter of 2021 (the “Amendment Period”), borrowings under the Second Amended Credit Facility, including the term loan facility (“Borrowings”), will bear interest at LIBOR plus 3.25% per annum. Following the Amendment Period, Borrowings will bear interest at LIBOR plus a margin of 2.00% to 3.00% per annum, based upon the consolidated total lease-adjusted leverage ratio. Among other things, the Second Amendment (i) waives the lease-adjusted leverage ratio and fixed charge ratio covenants through the first quarter of 2021; (ii) amends the Company’s lease-adjusted leverage ratio and fixed coverage ratio covenant thresholds beginning in the second quarter of 2021 through the third quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of 2022, respectively and (iii) limits capital expenditures to $12.0 million in 2020, $12.0 million plus a liquidity-based performance basket up to an additional $12.0 million in 2021, $34.0 million in 2022, $37.0 million in 2023 and $45.0 million annually thereafter. Our Second Amended Credit Facility is secured by a pledge of stock of substantially all of our subsidiaries and a lien on substantially all of our and our subsidiaries’ personal property assets.
As of December 29, 2020, we had $43.8 million of indebtedness (excluding $1.7 million of unamortized debt issuance costs) and $3.2 million of letters of credit outstanding under the Second Amended Credit Facility. The term loan requires principal payments of $187,500 per quarter through the third quarter of 2021, $375,000 through the third quarter of 2022, $531,250 through the third quarter of 2023 and $625,000 per quarter thereafter through maturity.
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Availability of borrowings under the Second Amended Credit Facility is conditioned upon our compliance with the terms of the Amendment, including the financial covenants and other customary affirmative and negative covenants, such as limitations on additional borrowings, acquisitions, dividend payments and lease commitments, and customary representations and warranties. As of December 29, 2020, we were in compliance with all of our debt covenants.
We expect that we will meet all applicable financial covenants in our Second Amended Credit Facility, including the maximum consolidated total lease-adjusted leverage ratio, through at least the next four fiscal quarters. However, there can be no assurance we will meet such financial covenants. If such covenants are not met, we would be required to seek a waiver or amendment from the banks participating in the credit facility. There can be no assurance that such waiver or amendment would be granted, which could have a material adverse impact on our liquidity.
We have historically used cash to fund capital expenditures for new restaurant openings, reinvest in our existing restaurants, invest in infrastructure and information technology and maintain working capital. Our working capital position benefits from the fact that we generally collect cash from sales to customers the same day, or in the case of credit or debit card transactions, within several days of the related sale, and we typically have up to 30 days to pay our vendors.
We believe that we have sufficient liquidity to meet our liquidity needs and capital resource requirements for the next twelve months primarily through currently available cash and cash equivalents, cash flows from operations and undrawn capacity under our revolving credit line.
Cash Flow Analysis
Cash flows from operating, investing and financing activities are shown in the following table:
 Fiscal Year Ended
 December 29,
2020
December 31,
2019
January 1,
2019
 (in thousands)
Net cash provided by operating activities$9,124 $30,060 $5,346 
Net cash used in investing activities(10,945)(18,439)(13,838)
Net cash (used in) provided by financing activities(798)(5,817)9,786 
Net (decrease) increase in cash and cash equivalents$(2,619)$5,804 $1,294 
Operating Activities
Net cash provided by operating activities in 2020 decreased $20.9 million compared to 2019. The change in operating cash flows resulted from a decline in revenue related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020, adjusted for non-cash items such as depreciation and amortization, restaurant impairments, closure costs and asset disposals and stock-based compensation as well as changes in working capital.
Investing Activities
Net cash used in investing activities was primarily related to new restaurant capital expenditures for the opening of four, four and one company-owned restaurant in 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively, as well as information technology expenses.
Financing Activities
Net cash used in financing activities was $0.8 million in 2020 largely related to repayments of long-term debt similar to 2019. During 2018, the primary sources and uses of cash from financing activities included net proceeds of $23.0 million from our public offering of our common stock, net of repayments of $12.1 million on long-term debt.

Capital Resources
Future Capital Expenditure Requirements. Our capital expenditure requirements are primarily dependent upon the pace of our real estate development program and resulting new restaurant openings, costs for maintenance and remodeling of our existing restaurants, as well as information technology expenses and other general corporate capital expenditures.
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Our total capital expenditures for 2020 were $11.8 million, and we expect our 2021 capital expenditures to be in the range of $20.0 million to $24.0 million, utilizing our $12.0 million performance bucket for 2021. Our capital expenditures in 2021 are expected to be related to our construction of new restaurants before any reductions for landlord reimbursements, reinvestment in existing restaurants and investments in technology. We expect such capital expenditures to be funded by a combination of cash from operations and borrowings under our revolving credit facility.
Current Resources. Our operations have not required significant working capital and, like many restaurant companies, we operate with negative working capital. Restaurant sales are primarily paid for in cash or by credit or debit card, and restaurant operations do not require significant inventories or receivables. In addition, we receive trade credit for the purchase of food, beverages and supplies, therefore reducing the need for incremental working capital to support growth.
Contractual Obligations
Our contractual obligations consist of lease obligations, purchase obligations, long-term debt and other liabilities. See Note 4 Long-Term Debt and Note 12 Leases for further discussion. We are obligated under non-cancelable leases for our restaurants, administrative offices and equipment. In addition to those lease obligations, we have legally binding minimum lease payments for leases signed but not yet commenced amounting to $6.1 million as of December 29, 2020. We enter into various purchase obligations in the ordinary course of business. As of December 29, 2020, our binding purchase obligations amounting to $44.2 million relate to volume commitments for beverage and food products, as well as binding commitments for the constructions of new restaurants. Our other liabilities of $4.7 million as of December 29, 2020 include expected payments associated with the employer payroll tax deferral under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) and our commitment under our non-qualified deferred compensation plan.
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements
We did not have any off-balance sheet arrangements or obligations as of December 29, 2020.
Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
Our consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes are prepared in accordance with GAAP. Preparing consolidated financial statements requires us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses. These estimates and assumptions are affected by the application of our accounting policies. Our significant accounting policies are described in Note 1, Business and Summary of Significant Accounting Policies, to our consolidated financial statements. Critical accounting estimates are those that require application of management’s most difficult, subjective or complex judgments, often as a result of matters that are inherently uncertain and may change in subsequent periods. While we apply our judgment based on assumptions believed to be reasonable under the circumstances, actual results could vary from these assumptions. It is possible that materially different amounts would be reported using different assumptions. We believe the critical accounting policies described below affect our more significant judgments and estimates used in the preparation of our consolidated financial statements.
Impairment of Long-Lived Assets
We review long-lived assets, such as property and equipment, right of use assets and intangibles, subject to amortization, for impairment when events or circumstances indicate the carrying value of the assets may not be recoverable. In determining the recoverability of the asset value, an analysis is performed at the individual restaurant level and primarily includes an assessment of historical cash flows and other relevant factors and circumstances. The other factors and circumstances include changes in the economic environment, changes in the manner in which assets are used, unfavorable changes in legal factors or business climate, incurring excess costs in construction of the asset, overall restaurant operating performance and projections for future performance. These estimates result in a wide range of variability on a year to year basis due to the nature of the criteria. Negative restaurant-level cash flow over the previous 12 periods is considered a potential impairment indicator. In such situations, we evaluate future undiscounted cash flow projections in conjunction with qualitative factors and future operating plans. Our impairment assessment process requires the use of estimates and assumptions regarding the future undiscounted cash flows and operating outcomes, which are based upon a significant degree of management’s judgment.
In performing our impairment testing, we forecast our future undiscounted cash flows by looking at recent restaurant level performance, restaurant level operating plans, sales trends and cost trends for cost of sales, labor and operating expenses. We
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believe that this combination of information gives us a fair benchmark to estimate future undiscounted cash flows. We compare this cash flow forecast, excluding occupancy rent expense, to the asset’s carrying value, excluding lease liability, at the restaurant. Based on this analysis, if the carrying amount of the assets is greater than the estimated future undiscounted cash flows, an impairment charge is recognized, measured as the amount by which the carrying amount exceeds the fair value of the asset.
Leases
We lease all restaurant facilities, office space and certain equipment. Pursuant to FASB Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) Topic 842, beginning on January 2, 2019, we record a net operating lease right-of-use (“ROU”) asset and operating lease liability on our Consolidated Balance Sheets for all operating leases with a contract term in excess of 12 months. Prior to the adoption of ASC Topic 842, these leases were treated as operating leases under ASC Topic 840 and therefore were not recorded on our Consolidated Balance Sheets. 
ROU assets represent our right to use an underlying asset for the lease term and lease liabilities represent our obligation to make future lease payments arising from the lease. Operating lease ROU assets and liabilities are recorded at commencement date based on the present value of lease payments over the lease term. To determine the present value of lease payments not yet paid, we estimate incremental borrowing rates corresponding to the reasonably certain lease term. As most of our leases do not provide an implicit rate, we use the incremental borrowing rate based on information available at commencement date in determining the present value of lease payments. Leases with an initial term of 12 months or less are not recorded on the Consolidated Balance Sheets. We recognize lease expense for these short-term leases on a straight-line basis over the lease term. 
Our leases typically contain rent escalations over the lease term. We recognize expense for these leases on a straight-line basis over the lease term. Additionally, tenant incentives used to fund leasehold improvements are recognized when earned and reduce the right-of-use asset related to the lease. These are amortized through the right-of-use asset as reductions of expense over the lease term. Rent expense for the period prior to the restaurant opening is reported as pre-opening expense in the Consolidated Statements of Operations.
Recently Issued Accounting Pronouncements
Refer to Note 1, Business and Summary of Significant Accounting Policies, of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements of this report.
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ITEM 7A.    Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosure about Market Risk
Interest Rate Risk
We are exposed to market risk from changes in interest rates on debt. Our exposure to interest rate fluctuations is limited to our outstanding bank debt, which bears interest at variable rates. As of December 29, 2020, there was $43.8 million in outstanding borrowings under our Second Amended Credit Facility. A plus or minus 1.0% in the effective interest rate applied on these loans would have resulted in a pre-tax interest expense fluctuation of approximately $0.4 million on an annualized basis.
Commodity Price Risk
We purchase certain products that are affected by commodity prices and are, therefore, subject to price volatility caused by weather, market conditions and other factors which are not considered predictable or within our control. Although these products are subject to changes in commodity prices, certain purchasing contracts or pricing arrangements contain risk management techniques designed to minimize price volatility. Typically, we use these types of purchasing techniques to control costs as an alternative to directly managing financial instruments to hedge commodity prices. In many cases, we believe we will be able to address material commodity cost increases by adjusting our menu pricing or changing our product delivery strategy. However, increases in commodity prices, without adjustments to our menu prices, could increase restaurant operating costs as a percentage of restaurant revenue.
Inflation
The primary inflationary factors affecting our operations are food, labor costs, energy costs and materials used in the construction of new restaurants. Increases in the minimum wage directly affect our labor costs. Many of our leases require us to pay taxes, maintenance, repairs, insurance and utilities, all of which are generally subject to inflationary increases. Finally, the cost of constructing our restaurants is subject to inflationary increases in the costs of labor and material. Over the past five years, inflation has not significantly affected our operating results with the exception of increased wage inflation that affected our results from 2016 through 2020. We expect wage inflation to continue to affect our results in the near future.
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ITEM 8.    Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

Noodles & Company
INDEX TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
Consolidated Financial Statements 

See accompanying notes to consolidated financial statements.
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Noodles & Company
Consolidated Balance Sheets
(in thousands, except share data)
December 29,
2020
December 31,
2019
Assets  
Current assets:  
Cash and cash equivalents$7,840 $10,459 
Accounts receivable3,428 3,503 
Inventories9,643 9,871 
Prepaid expenses and other assets2,759 5,386 
Income tax receivable44 103 
Total current assets23,714 29,322 
Property and equipment, net122,917 128,867 
Operating lease assets, net195,618 209,717 
Goodwill7,154 7,154 
Intangibles, net757 883 
Other assets, net3,471 2,576 
Total long-term assets329,917 349,197 
Total assets$353,631 $378,519 
Liabilities and Stockholders’ Equity  
Current liabilities:  
Accounts payable$6,402 $9,351 
Accrued payroll and benefits12,876 13,479 
Accrued expenses and other current liabilities11,632 11,679 
Current operating lease liabilities26,094 22,775 
Current portion of long-term debt1,125 750 
Total current liabilities58,129 58,034 
Long-term debt, net40,949 40,497 
Long-term operating lease liabilities, net210,454 225,014 
Deferred tax liabilities, net240 200 
Other long-term liabilities14,160 4,203 
Total liabilities323,932 327,948 
Commitments and contingencies
Stockholders’ equity: 
Preferred stock—$0.01 par value, 1,000,000 shares authorized and undesignated as of December 29, 2020 and December 31, 2019; no shares issued or outstanding
  
Common stock—$0.01 par value, 180,000,000 shares authorized as of December 29, 2020 and December 31, 2019; 46,807,587 issued and 44,383,716 outstanding as of December 29, 2020; 46,557,934 issued and 44,134,063 outstanding as of December 31, 2019
468 466 
Treasury stock, at cost, 2,423,871 shares as of December 29, 2020 and December 31, 2019, respectively
(35,000)(35,000)
Additional paid-in capital202,970 200,585 
Accumulated deficit(138,739)(115,480)
Total stockholders’ equity29,699 50,571 
Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity$353,631 $378,519 
See accompanying notes to consolidated financial statements.
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Noodles & Company
Consolidated Statements of Operations
(in thousands, except share and per share data)
 Fiscal Year Ended