The Untold Truth Of BJ's Brewhouse

With as many restaurant chains as there are in the United States, it would be almost impossible to have eaten at every single one. Especially as so many are regional, and so many have shut down certain locations, you might not have even heard of some restaurant chains that other people across the country can't get enough of. And if you've never heard of BJ's Brewhouse, you certainly aren't alone. The restaurant has plenty of locations, but there aren't that many on the East Coast, for instance, and other areas as well.

BJ's Brewhouse, then, might not even be on your radar — but it should be. The chain is akin to Chili's or even The Cheesecake Factory, with a large menu all at reasonable prices. Really, the untold truth of BJ's Brewhouse is intriguing, even if you've never eaten at the chain restaurant. So, keep reading to learn more about the franchise and how the unsuspecting casual eatery has managed to become such a success over the years.

The chain opened in Southern California

Odds are, if you live in California or the West Coast in general, you've seen at least one BJ's Brewhouse around town. And there's a reason for that. The restaurant chain actually first started out in Southern California in 1978, so it makes sense that they would have initially expanded just around Southern California, and then California in general. And that's exactly what happened.

As of 2021, there are 62 BJ's Brewhouse locations across the state of California, and that's no small number. Though the restaurant has expanded pretty quickly and efficiently over the years, they make it clear that they're proud of how they got their start in California. As their website states, they put a "Southern California twist" on quite a few of their beloved menu items, so no matter what location you're eating at — in California or Texas or even Connecticut — you'll get some of their So-Cal flair.

BJ's Brewhouse started out as a pizza joint

If you were to step into a BJ's Brewhouse today, you would probably be pretty impressed at just how many different items they have on their menu. They have appetizers like Ahi Poke, chicken wings, sliders, and more, and their entrees are impressive too. You can get Jambalaya, Spicy Peanut Chicken, and Prime Rib all at the same place. But back when BJ's Brewhouse first got started, there was only one thing on their menu, and it might shock you: pizza!

According to their website, BJ's Brewhouse first got its start as a pizza joint, serving up Southern California pizza. And while their menu has obviously expanded since then, they still pay homage to their humble beginnings with 18 signature pizzas, ranging from a tavern-cut style to deep-dish, and even custom creations. Additionally, the pizza at BJ's Brewhouse isn't just like any other pizza. "We craft our hand-pressed deep dish pizza dough to be double-proofed, which means it rises twice," they describe on their website. Clearly, BJ's has come a long way over the years, but it's always been a place to grab a great slice of pizza, that's for sure.

BJ's didn't always serve craft beer

Now, obviously, you can tell by the name that BJ's Brewhouse serves beer. After all, that's exactly what a brewhouse is, isn't it? But back when the chain first opened and was operating at a smaller level, they weren't serving the kind of handcrafted beer that BJ's is known for today.

Specifically, it wasn't until 1996, almost twenty years after they first opened, that BJ"s Brewhouse introduced their handcrafted beer when they opened their location in Brea, California. BJ's was inspired to pair their own handcrafted beers with their own delicious pizzas, and opened their first brewery with was big enough to supply all the surrounded restaurants with their craft beer. Since then, BJ's beer offerings have only grown, and it's something that fans of the chain have come to expect when visiting the restaurant. These days, their beer isn't just paired with their pizza, but with everything on their menu, which is quite a lot.

They invented the delicious Pizookie dessert

If there's one thing that BJ's Brewhouse is known for among its many devoted fans, it's their famous dessert. And BJ's doesn't just serve up your typical desserts found at most chain restaurants like mediocre cake or ice cream. On the contrary, most of BJ's dessert menu is comprised of one thing that they invented: the Pizookie. Yes, it sounds weird, but the Pizookie is really just a pizza-cookie, and BJ's Brewhouse is famous for them.

The Pizookie is simply just a cookie made like a pizza, in a deep-dish skillet, topped with ice cream and sometimes some other toppings like sauces, syrups, nuts, or chocolate chips. And there are a ton of flavors to choose from, too. There's a peanut butter Pizookie, white chocolate macadamia nut Pizookie, cookies n' cream Pizookie, and a strawberry shortcake Pizookie, just to name a few. It might seem odd that BJ's Brewhouse only offers Pizookie's and ice cream floats on their dessert menu, but when you have an item as loved as the Pizookie, it makes sense.

The beer at BJ's Brewhouse has won a ton of awards

To say that BJ's Brewhouse is well-known for its craft beer would be an understatement. The restaurant chain is a brewhouse, after all, and they've come a long way in the beer that they offer since they first opened. Specifically, BJ's Brewhouse has not only come out with a variety of new beers, but those beers have also gone on to win a ton of awards. Basically, if you're not drinking the beer at BJ's Brewhouse, you're missing out.

According to BJ's website, their restaurants offer 11 signature beers, in addition to many different seasonal beers that are rotated throughout the year. BJ's Brewhouse also owns seven different brewing operations and their beers have earned 220 awards. Some of those awards include the 2019 A&M Honey Bock, Honey Beer (BJ's Boulder); 2018 Quad, Belgian-Style Quadrupel (BJ's Boulder); 2016 Razz-Jerry Tart, Fruited Wood & Barrel-Aged Sour Beer (BJ's Brea); 2015 LightSwitch® Lager, Session Beer (BJ's Temple); 2015 Magnolia's Peach®, Fruit Wheat Beer (BJ's Chandler), amongst others.

BJ's Brewhouse is involved with a wide array of nonprofits and charities

BJ's Brewhouse isn't just a chain restaurant purely focused on revenue and profits. Obviously, it's important to the restaurant to make enough money to continue working, paying their employees well, and just operate smoothly. But it's clear that BJ's Brewhouse also cares about making enough money to donate to charitable foundations and stay involved in each restaurant's local community.

Specifically, BJ's launched BJ's Restaurants Foundation, a non-profit which has, according to its website, donated to over 100 charities, "including Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, Girls Inc. and countless children's charities." Additionally, BJ's Brewhouse also runs fundraisers for local schools, offers local schools the opportunity to participate in their Awesome Achievement program which rewards students with a free kid's meal for successful school work, and many employees volunteer in their communities through the BJ's Restaurants Foundation. The chain clearly wants to be seen as altruistic, and there's no denying that they are involved in the community and generous as well.

COVID obviously forced BJ's to shift how it operates

Sadly, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States, many restaurants were forced to shut down their dine-in operations, and they struggled financially. However, BJ's Brewhouse was able to make the most of the situation, and really upped their take-out and delivery game.

Specifically, BJ's Brewhouse worked hard to ensure their customers could still get their favorite menu items, despite the locations not offering in-person dining. "The investments we have made in the last few years in take-out, delivery and digital ordering capabilities are providing our guests with the BJ's menu they crave during these unprecedented times," former CEO Greg Trojan said in a statement, per FSR Magazine. "Our team members are successfully delivering high quality food and gold standard service that our guests have come to expect from BJ's as we grow our take-out and delivery sales in the 205 BJ's Restaurants which continue to operate." Additionally, before restaurants were allowed to open up again, BJ's got ready to reopen safely, and proved that COVID couldn't take them down.

BJ's new app may just be a restaurant industry game-changer

In terms of making sure their customers have a smooth and easy dining experience when they eat at a BJ's Brewhouse, the chain has created a pretty impressive phone app. The app has been hailed by others in the restaurant business, and is even being touted as the new "industry standard" by Food Digital.

Not only does the app allow customers to place to-go orders and pay for them, but diners can also place an order for a dine-in experience, and even pay for it all from their phone. More than that, consumers can even put their name on the waitlist on the way to the restaurant to cut down on how long they have to wait for a table. "We're not trying to duplicate an express lunch where you're on super-speed time, and the great thing about those two functionalities within our app [Dine-In Order Ahead and Mobile Pay] is that they do speed up the experience greatly, but you almost don't notice it," Former CEO Greg Trojan told FSR Magazine (via Food Digital). "You sit down, have a relaxed conversation, and think: that was a 35-minute experience, not a 55-minute experience, and that's great." So, if you need a quick meal, download the BJ's app before heading in!

BJ's Brewhouse went through a big leadership change in 2021

Among the many changes that restaurants tend to face during their operational run, one of the biggest is a change in leadership. While Greg Trojan served as CEO of BJ's Brewhouse for almost nine years, he stepped down on September 1, 2021, and made way for the company's new CEO, the former CFO, Greg Levin. And while it might be confusing to go from one CEO named Greg to the next, BJ's Brewhouse has made it work.

Specifically, Pete Bassi, BJ's lead independent director, told Nation's Restaurant News that former CEO Trojan truly made a huge difference for the company. "He also greatly strengthened our foundation, scale and geographic diversity, which we will continue to leverage for accelerated near- and long-term growth," Bassi said in a statement. "We look forward to Greg continuing to serve on BJ's Board as we will continue to benefit from his deep knowledge of the company and the restaurant industry." With the former CFO becoming the new CEO, it stands to reason that BJ's Brewhouse will likely see some financial gains in the future.

BJ's Brewhouse has struggled to hire employees

Because the COVID19 pandemic changed the way that restaurants operated, BJ's Brewhouse also had to shift some things as 2020 turned into 2021. Specifically, in 2021, when things in the United States started to return to normal, like many restaurants, BJ's Brewhouse found itself with a labor shortage. In fact, in April 2021, they reported that they needed to hire 5,000 more hourly employees, as well as over 125 managers.

But as CEO Greg Levin told FSR Magazine, the biggest priority that BJ's Brewhouse had in terms of hiring employees was to make sure they could find people who enjoyed working there and wanted to continue to do so. "The ability to hold on to those from a long-term perspective or sustainability, as we said, really comes down to making sure we've got the right team members on there," Levin explained. "They're working the correct amount of hours and the right shifts so that they like and love working at BJ's from that standpoint." As BJ's Brewhouse tries to hire more people, only time will tell how things will pan out in the long run. 

BJ's isn't jumping on the pumpkin spice bandwagon with its seasonal desserts

Everyone knows that once August turns into September, and the weather starts to cool down even just a tiny bit, people get so excited for the fall season. Pumpkin spice lattes appear on coffee menus, sweaters and boots start to take over shopping centers, and fall-flavored treats are just about everywhere. There truly is something so special and warm and nostalgic about the fall time, and BJ's Brewhouse has decided to take advantage of that fact by releasing seasonal items. 

But in order to set themselves apart from other restaurants offering simple pumpkin-spice desserts, BJ's Brewhouse decided to instead offer an apple pie-inspired take on their signature dessert, the Pizookie. Starting in September 2021, BJ's Brewhouse introduced the Sweet Cinnamon Apple Pizookie, a warm, sweet cinnamon cookie layered with cinnamon-spiced apple pieces and caramel bits all topped with two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of caramel, according to ChewBoom.