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Black Bear Diner CEO Anita Adams discusses how the brand built positive momentum in an increasingly stagnant segment

When you think of a family-dining scene, you might envision booths stuffed with parents and kids, surrounded by piles of pancakes and decor that has been largely unchanged over the years. Black Bear Diner wants to change that image.

The fast-growing brand is veering away from some of the hallmarks of the category, including heavy discounting, to focus on creating lively mountain lodge-themed dining rooms that encourage guests to unplug and connect over a broad menu ranging from omelets to steaks.

So far it appears to be working.

The Redding, Calif.-based chain is one of few bright spots in an increasingly stagnant category. The family-dining segment saw U.S. sales grow just 1.7% in the Latest Year, from $15.9 billion to $16.2 billion in the Latest Year, according to the latest Top 200 data.

Much of that growth has come been driven by a few up-and-coming family dining brands like Black Bear Diner that have freshened up the stale segment with new ideas around experience, menu trends, and technology.

With 141 locations in 14 states, Black Bear Diner saw systemwide sales grow 16.7% in 2018, to $291.6 million, according to the latest Top 200 data. The majority of its family-dining competitors saw sales decline in the same period.

Known for its restaurant conversion strategy, Black Bear Diner plans to continue adding 20 to 22 restaurants per year to its steadily growing family.

NRN talked to recently named Black Bear Diner CEO Anita Adams about how the chain has found success as a modern family-dining chain as well as what it is focused on going forward. 

Experience as the new value menu