DEERFIELD, IL-Sandwich chain Cosi is significantly stepping up its store-opening pace this year with between 45 and 55 new units on tap. That number is nearly double the 27 the company opened last year, bringing its total portfolio to 123 locations.

Also increasing is the number of franchise-operated restaurants in the chain. Of its total store base, 13 are franchised. In contrast, only 14 of the new stores opening this year will be operated by the locally-based company.

Executives also announced a leasing agreement to develop future stores in the Persian Gulf, targeting wealthy European tourists. However, the firm will “continue to focus on our US franchise developments first and foremost,” said William Koziel, Cosi’s CFO, during its fourth-quarter conference call.

New units opening will take shape in a new prototype store Cosi is rolling out. But Koziel says that there are no plans to retrofit the entire chain, though some older stores this year will get a “fresher” look, with new paint, furniture, awnings and other additions.

Cosi’s same-store sales inched up 0.4% year over year during the quarter, which ended Jan. 1, while total revenues increased 8.3% to just over $31.4 million. The company reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $12.3 million.

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