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SAN DIEGO-Jack in the Box Inc. is scrapping the test of its JBX Grill concept, a new format that was conceived as a stand-alone fast-casual burger and sandwich chain that would grow along with the company’s existing brands. During a conference call Wednesday in which chairman Robert Nugent bid farewell to the company, Jack in the Box officials said that tests of the JBX format taught them that what they learned in test JBX “can be best leveraged across the existing 2,000 restaurants comprising the core Jack in the Box brand rather than through a separate concept.”

Nugent, a 26-year veteran of the company whose retirement was announced in the spring, said he is leaving at a time when “The company’s financial position is as strong as it’s ever been.” His retirement is effective at the end of the 2005 fiscal year. Wednesday’s call also included estimates of how many new restaurants Jack in the Box expects to open next year.

The scrapping of the JBX test was just one of a list of items that company officials covered in Wednesday’s conference call, which was announced as a discussion of the chain’s long-term strategy. The goal of the strategy is “to become a national restaurant company,” according to the company’s announcement and comments by executives during the conference call.

Jack in the Box will pursue three key strategic initiatives toward its goal of becoming a national restaurant company, according to Linda Lang, president and CEO. In a nutshell, they are growing the business, reinventing the Jack in the Box brand, and driving product innovation with a view toward building customer loyalty for all of the company’s brands.

Elaborating on the growth initiative, Lang said that plans included new unit growth of Jack in the Box restaurants and Quick Stuff convenience stores, increasing the number of franchised Jack in the Box restaurants and “aggressive franchise growth of Qdoba Mexican Grill.”

Specifically, the company’s forecast for 2006 calls for the opening of 45 to 55 new company and franchised Jack in the Box restaurants and 13 to 15 new Quick Stuff convenience stores, compared with 45 to 50 restaurants and 15 Quick Stuff sites in 2005. It expects to open 85 to 95 new company and franchised Qdoba restaurants compared with 75 to 80 for 2005.

One element of reinventing the company’s brand will be re-imaging, according to Lang, who outlined a program for transforming the Jack in the Box image. The program, now being tested at several locations, involves what Lang called “comprehensive interior and exterior enhancements that more effectively integrate Jack’s personality into the facility.” Among these are new color schemes, furniture, lighting, flooring and landscaping as well as music, menu boards, product packaging and employee uniforms.

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