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The Legacy Companies to Acquire the West Bend Electrics Division of Focus

The Legacy Products Companies (“Legacy”) and Focus Products Group International, LLC (“Focus”) announced today that they have entered into a letter of intent by which Legacy would acquire the West Bend Electrics division of Focus. Focus, founded in 2001, is a growth oriented national provider of leading brands in Bath and Home Fashion for both retail and commercial accounts.  Focus is a portfolio company of Centre Lane Partners, LLC. “We are pleased to announce our intent to acquire the West Bend Electrics division, our 4th acquisition in 2016.   West Bend meets our criteria of well-known and longstanding brands with significant growth potential,” said Neal Asbury, CEO of The Legacy Companies.

Marc Navarre, Focus’s President and CEO, said, “We are pleased to see the West Bend Electrics division, with such a rich history in the housewares arena find an excellent home with Legacy allowing us to concentrate on our Textiles business.” The parties intend to sign a definitive purchase agreement within the next [45] days and close the transaction upon signing.  The transaction is subject to the parties entering into a definitive purchase agreement for the acquisition. – Source: The Legacy Companies/Focus Products Group International, LLC

Dairy Queen Plans L.A. Expansion of Its Quick-Service Restaurant Concept

Dairy Queen is sweet on Los Angeles. The 76-year-old Minneapolis ice cream maker is planning on opening 50 to 60 stores in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange counties in the next decade. It would be a significant step up from the brand’s 98 locations in California. “Those four counties represent one of the most populated areas and probably one of the biggest restaurant markets in the country,” Mike Mettler, director of national franchise sales at American Dairy Queen Corporation, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, said yesterday. “They really represent one of the biggest growth opportunities for Dairy Queen as a brand.” The L.A. move is part of Dairy Queen’s nationwide push of its quick-service restaurant concept DQ Grill and Chill, which includes new locations and conversions of existing stores. Started in 2002, the restaurant has a menu with burgers and chicken sandwiches that the company hopes can compete with Jack in the Box and Burger King. “The cost of real estate has risen and competition in our segment has increased, so it’s important to be in the right location,” said Mettler, adding it must be a stand-alone building able to accommodate a drive-thru. “To get the right location, we need a broad menu so people come more frequently.” Fifty to 60 percent of a Dairy Queen’s store revenue comes from the drive-thru, said Mettler, although he declined to provide average revenue figures. The company says that those looking to open a franchise need at least $400,000 in equity and almost an acre of land. It is taking its time finding the properties and partners in the area. “We want to open stores that will be around another 76 years,” he said. – Source: Los Angeles Business Journal.

Cheesecake Factory Buys into North Italia, Flower Child

The Cheesecake Factory Inc. is making minority equity investments in North Italia and Flower Child, two concepts founded by Fox Restaurants Concepts LLC, the companies said. Calabasas Hills, Calif.-based Cheesecake Factory, under the terms of the agreements, is making initial minority equity investments in the two concepts and will provide ongoing growth capital. Phoenix, Ariz.-based Fox Restaurants will continue to manage the day-to-day operations, and the agreements allow for The Cheesecake Factory to acquire a future majority or full ownership position in either or both concepts. “We are pleased to partner with Sam Fox to support the growth of these two highly differentiated concepts,” said David Overton, Cheesecake Factory chairman and CEO, in a statement. “We share a similar culture and philosophy, making this is a good strategic fit for both companies.” Casual-dining North Italia, founded in 2002, has nine locations in five states. Fast-casual Flower Child, founded in 2014, has five locations in three states, emphasizing salads, bowls and wraps. “North Italia and Flower Child are such exciting brands within our family,” said Sam Fox, founder of Fox Restaurants Concepts. “After spending a good amount of time with David and his team, it became very clear to me that we share the same values in terms of our commitment to delivering amazing food and hospitality to our guests, while also recognizing that our team members are our greatest asset.” The Cheesecake Factory said the deals were not expected to have a material impact on its financials “for the foreseeable future.” In the Nation’s Restaurant News Top 100 survey earlier this year, Cheesecake Factory ranked No. 36 among chains in U.S. system wide sales, booking $1.9 billion in the fiscal year ended Dec. 2015. The company has 193 full-service Cheesecake Factory units in the United States and Puerto Rico. It also has 12 Grand Lux Cafes and one RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen. Fox Restaurant Concepts has 53 restaurants in eight states, including True Food Kitchen. Among its 16 concepts are also: The Arrogant Butcher, Blanco Tacos + Tequila, Culinary Dropout, Doughbird, The Greene House, The Henry, Juby True, Little Cleo’s Seafood Legend, Olive & Ivy Restaurant & Marketplace, Wildflower American Cuisine and Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar. – Source: NRN.

Chain Restaurants Applaud Court Decision on Overtime Rules

The National Council of Chain Restaurants’ Executive Director Rob Green applauded the decision by U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant to grant a preliminary injunction to postpone the U.S. Labor Department’s misguided overtime regulations.  “Today, Judge Mazzant agreed with what NCCR and our coalition allies have been saying all along: that the Labor Department’s ill-conceived overtime regulation is a dramatic government overreach causing significant harm to small businesses and their employees around the country,” Green said. “The regulatory ‘timeout’ imposed by Judge Mazzant should allow Congress to vote to stop the regulation once and for all and would also let the incoming Trump administration create a more realistic and workable overtime solution based on sound economic considerations.” The National Council of Chain Restaurants is the leading trade association exclusively representing chain restaurant companies. For more than 40 years, NCCR has worked to advance sound public policy that best serves the interests of restaurant businesses and the millions of people they employ. NCCR members include the country’s most-respected quick-service and table-service chains. NCCR is a division of the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade group. – Source: National Council of Chain Restaurants.

Einstein Bagels, Caribou Coffee Mashup at 42 Locations and Growing

A new concept pairing Lakewood-based Einstein Bros. Bagels with Caribou Coffee is off to a fast start, opening 42 locations in eight states since launching last year. Coffee & Bagels isn’t done growing, either. By the end of the year, the Einstein-Caribou mashup will add another four locations, bringing the total to 46 since the first store opened in Colorado Springs in September 2015. Last month, locations in Denver and Boulder were among the crush of openings. “What we found in a lot of consumer research we’ve done is when you wake up in the morning, you have to make a decision: Do I want a great coffee experience or a great breakfast sandwich?” said Sarah Spiegel, president of U.S. retail and chief operating officer for the brands. “What we’re trying to say is you don’t have to choose, you can have both.” More Coffee & Bagels are forthcoming, although Spiegel said they don’t have any exact goals for the coming year. So far, all but three locations are company-owned. “We are now at the point where we can start licensing,” she said. “We didn’t have any licensed locations until July of this year. That first year, we wanted to focus on the concept and working out the kinks.” The mashup was born of the brands’ shared ownership. Colorado-based Einstein Noah Restaurant Group was acquired by investment group JAB Holding Co. in 2014. Minneapolis-based Caribou Coffee has been owned by the same privately-held group since 2013. JAB, the investment arm of Germany’s welthy Reinman family owns or has a stake in many well-known brands, including Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Keurig, Jimmy Choo and Coty. Darren Tristano, president of food industry research firm Technomic, said when it comes to co-branding, the combinations that seem to work the best are those that bring together complementary — but not overlapping — concepts. Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, for example, have had success pairing up, the former targeted toward breakfast and lunch and the latter toward evening and dessert. Yum Brands, owner of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, on the other hand, is actually shifting away from co-branding, he said. “When it comes down to complementary brands we will probably see more combinations,” Tristano said. For Einstein and Caribou, the Coffee & Bagels model has allowed both brands to expand their reach into new areas of the country, Spiegel said. Florida, for one, is a strong market for Einstein but never had a Caribou presence. The opposite can be said for Minnesota, where Minneapolis-based Caribou is very strong and Einstein is not. So far, some Coffee & Bagels have been conversions of former Einstein locations, while others are brand new locations, Spiegel said. Caribou and Einstein both have a combination of company-owned and franchise stores. “We really wanted to try to preserve as much of the full brands as we could,” Spiegel said. “There are some small adjustments we had to make so the two could really come together. The team really tried to take an approach of how do we marry these two together in a seamless way? It doesn’t feel like you’ve got Caribou and you’ve got Einstein.” – Source: The Denver Post.

Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar Names Industry Veteran Eric Taylor as New President

Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar announced today that Eric Taylor will take over as President of the company. With this new executive addition, Boston’s gains a wealth of knowledge and leadership expertise to support its efforts to positively impact and grow the brand. Taylor arrives at Boston’s with more than 15 years of senior leadership experience at several international restaurant brands, including Sbarro and Bennigan’s. In his most recent position, Taylor served as the Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer at Rita’s Italian Ice and was responsible for expanding its global footprint while overseeing more than 600 units. With Taylor’s expertise in growing franchise brands and leading sales operations, he plans to immediately step in and assist in achieving Boston’s goal to develop the brand through strategic and targeted growth. “Aside from being a loyal Boston’s customer for more than 10 years, I immediately saw the value in the brand and recognized its growth potential in the U.S.,” said Taylor. “I am fully committed to putting my best foot forward in developing this brand to accurately reflect the quality product and premium services in which it offers.” As President, Taylor’s day-to-day responsibilities will include oversight on all U.S. operations and strategic planning for franchise development. With his sights set on building off of Boston’s “Road to 100”, a growth strategy implemented earlier this year, Taylor will first visit several locations across the U.S. to establish trusting relationships with franchisees, develop best practices, and better link the brand with executive operations. In addition to a clear focus on franchise development, Taylor will also work to leverage Boston’s newly designed prototype by highlighting the brands premium sports bar as a competitive standard in the casual dining segment. “The Boston’s team is thrilled to welcome Eric Taylor as the new Boston’s U.S. president, as he exemplifies the leadership style and operational experience that Boston’s needs to grow and succeed as a company,” said Mark Pacinda, President & CEO of Boston Pizza International. “Eric has established an expertise in successfully developing franchise brands both domestically and internationally and understands what it takes to effectively rise to the top in the casual dining segment.” Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar’s U.S. operations are based in Dallas. The company currently has 29 locations operating in 22 states and 12 locations in Mexico. The company’s sister brand, Boston Pizza, has more than 400 locations throughout Canada and is considered the No. 1 casual dining brand in the country. – Source: BOSTON’S.

Bojangles’®, Inc. Appoints Laura Roberts as Vice President, General Counsel, Secretary and Compliance Officer

Bojangles’, Inc. announced that its board of directors has appointed Laura Roberts as Vice President, General Counsel, Secretary and Compliance Officer. Roberts has previously served as Associate General Counsel and Senior Director with the iconic restaurant brand, which she joined in 2013. In her new role, Roberts will oversee all legal aspects of the company, including corporate governance, franchising, real estate, compliance and regulatory affairs. She has a wealth of corporate legal experience and was instrumental in preparing Bojangles’ for its initial public offering in 2015. “Laura has been a tremendous asset to our organization, and I am pleased to welcome her to my senior leadership team,” said Bojangles’ President and CEO Clifton Rutledge. “As we execute our strategic plans, build new concept restaurants, collaborate with our franchisees to implement innovative technology and prepare our organization for long-term sustainable growth, we will lean a great deal on Laura’s leadership abilities and legal expertise.” Roberts began her legal career at Shearman & Sterling, LLP in New York, New York and later joined Baker Botts, LLP in Houston, Texas, where she advised clients on corporate governance, real estate and other general corporate matters. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia University School of Law and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management from Idaho State University. “The board is very confident in Laura’s ability to lead the company’s legal function,” said William A. Kussell, Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors. “She has the business and legal experience necessary for the position, and she is highly respected within the organization. Her legal acumen, collaborative work ethic, and exceptional business knowledge have been essential in helping the brand operate effectively as a newly public company. She will do an outstanding job as our new General Counsel.” Roberts is admitted to practice law in the States of North Carolina, Texas and New York. She is also professionally affiliated with the Women’s In-House Counsel Leadership Institute, the Association of Corporate Counsel and the International Franchise Association. Roberts lives in Charlotte with her husband Jake, and their two children, Sophia and Henry. Source: Bojangles’, Inc.

Guy Fieri Opens Restaurant in Foxwoods Resort Casino

Foxwoods Resort Casino, Big Night Entertainment Group (BNEG) and Celebrity Chef Guy Fieri announced the opening of Guy Fieri’s Foxwoods Kitchen + Bar at Foxwoods Resort Casino. This fall, chef, restaurateur, author and host of Food Network’s top-rated show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, is bringing his love affair with food to BNEG’s impressive roster of award-winning dining and entertainment venues which include GEM Italian Kitchen, Nightclub & Lounge, Red Lantern Boston, Red Lantern Foxwoods, Scorpion Bar Patriot Place, Scorpion Bar Foxwoods, High Rollers Luxury Lanes & Lounge, Shrine, and Empire Asian Restaurant & Lounge. The new restaurant is located on the casino level of the Grand Pequot Tower. The aesthetic of the 9,800-square-foot venue is conceived by Peter Niemitz of Niemitz Design Group and is guaranteed to wow guests with its’ open kitchen with large wood ceiling beams, floor to ceiling windows, custom furniture in brown leathers and suedes, and hand-made metal iron chandeliers which create a modern rustic feel. A 42-foot wooden top bar designed with tempered glass overlooks the casino and two 90” television screens sit above the bar for guests to view their favorite sporting events. A symbolic Eagle presides over the restaurant’s center banquette and an eight-top chef’s table located next to the kitchen provides for an all-encompassing dining experience. “We are thrilled to welcome Guy and his incredible team to the Foxwoods and Big Night families,” says Ed Kane, principal of Big Night Entertainment Group. “His culinary expertise combined with the full flavor profiles of his signature dishes are unlike anything offered throughout the area.” Chef Fieri brings his signature American-style cuisine to the people of Foxwoods featuring robust, bold flavors with menu highlights like his Insta-famous Trash Can Nachos, BBQ Bahn Mi, Bacon Mac-N-Cheese Burger, and Lobster Agra Diavolo, as well as a hearty selection of signature sandwiches, burgers, fork + knife entrees and mouthwatering desserts like the Seven-Layer Dark Chocolate Whiskey Cake. Additionally, the 258-seat restaurant features a full premium bar with an extensive selection of liquors, wines, bottled and draft beers. Chef Fieri’s creative cocktail menu includes house made syrups and craft cocktails featuring daring flavors and signature drinks like the Caliente Margarita, the Tattooed Mojito and Guido’s Freaky Tiki. “Bringing my restaurant to Foxwoods is a huge opportunity for me,” says Chef Fieri. “Working with Big Night Entertainment, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, and the Foxwoods team has been exciting because these are folks who know how to bring a big time experience to their guests. At Guy’s, we’re all about scratch-made food, killer cocktails, and a good time.” – Source: fsrmagazine.com.

Cracker Barrel Benefits from Cost Savings, Menu Promotions in First Quarter

Successful menu promotions, including a pumpkin spice pancake breakfast and a harvest kale chicken salad, contributed to an increase in comparable restaurant sales at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. in the recent quarter. Net income in the first quarter ended Oct. 28 was $48,355,000, equal to $2.01 per share on the common stock, up 18% from $40,865,000, or $1.71 per share, in the prior-year period. Results were helped by cost savings initiatives and the favorable commodity environment. Total revenue increased 1% to $709,971,000 from $702,629,000. During the quarter, comparable restaurant sales increased 1.3%, with average check up 3% and traffic down 1.7%. “This quarter marked the 10th consecutive quarter of positive sales growth and our 20th consecutive quarter of outperforming the casual dining industry,” said Sandra B. Cochran, president and chief executive officer, during a Nov. 22 earnings call with financial analysts. “We believe the differentiation of our brand experience and our excellent operations execution and our broadened marketing efforts helped us in outpacing the industry.” In addition to seasonal menu offerings, the company launched a marketing campaign in the quarter highlighting “Breakfast Y’all Day” at Cracker Barrel restaurants. “Breakfast all day has been a key differentiator to the Cracker Barrel brand since 1969, and we chose a play on words to convey our distinct Southern brand heritage in a humorous way, particularly targeting the millennial consumer,” Ms. Cochran said. “With breakfast all day emerging as a recent topic of conversation among consumers looking for a differentiated experience, and with it being one of our natural brand strengths we identified an opportunity to interact with guests through the use of our billboard advertising, social and digital media and retail merchandise in a fun and uniquely Cracker Barrel way.” Based on year-to-date performance, the company raised its previous fiscal 2017 earnings guidance and now expects earnings per diluted share of $8.10 to $8.25. The company anticipates total revenue of between $2.95 billion and $3 billion, reflecting the expected opening of 12 to 14 new restaurants, with projected comparable restaurant sales in the range of 1% to 2%. “While we continue to believe our efforts will resonate with our core and targeted guest base we remain cautious in our traffic outlook for the fiscal year,” Ms. Cochran said. “Yet I remain confident that our continued strategic focus to enhance the core, expand the footprint and extend the brand will further move the brand forward and deliver solid returns for our shareholders.” – Source: FoodBusinessNews.net.

McDonald’s Corp. to Offer Table Service at all of its U.S. Locations

McDonald’s Corp. plans to offer table service at all of its U.S. restaurants, upending decades of fast-food tradition in a bid to placate pickier customers. Table service is currently in about 500 locations, but will be rolled out to the entire U.S. chain, McDonald’s said at an event in New York. The company also is bringing mobile ordering and payments to the country in 2017, as well as more digital kiosks. McDonald’s already has table service at some locations in New York, Florida and Southern California, as well as many places abroad. It’s coming soon to markets such as Boston and San Francisco, the company said. New positions will be created at restaurants to serve food and help customers with touch-screen orders. The shift is significant for a company most responsible for popularizing fast food — along with a more stripped-down approach to restaurant service. But competition and the rise of fast-casual chains have elevated expectations. Customers also are looking to technology to help make restaurants more convenient. “Customers are getting increasingly demanding, and their expectations will only grow,” Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook said at the event. – Source: McDonald’s Corp.

Einstein Bagels, Caribou Coffee Mashup at 42 Locations and Growing

A new concept pairing Lakewood-based Einstein Bros. Bagels with Caribou Coffee is off to a fast start, opening 42 locations in eight states since launching last year. Coffee & Bagels isn’t done growing, either. By the end of the year, the Einstein-Caribou mashup will add another four locations, bringing the total to 46 since the first store opened in Colorado Springs in September 2015. Last month, locations in Denver and Boulder were among the crush of openings. “What we found in a lot of consumer research we’ve done is when you wake up in the morning, you have to make a decision: Do I want a great coffee experience or a great breakfast sandwich?” said Sarah Spiegel, president of U.S. retail and chief operating officer for the brands. “What we’re trying to say is you don’t have to choose, you can have both.” More Coffee & Bagels are forthcoming, although Spiegel said they don’t have any exact goals for the coming year. So far, all but three locations are company-owned. “We are now at the point where we can start licensing,” she said. “We didn’t have any licensed locations until July of this year. That first year, we wanted to focus on the concept and working out the kinks.” The mashup was born of the brands’ shared ownership. Colorado-based Einstein Noah Restaurant Group was acquired by investment group JAB Holding Co. in 2014. Minneapolis-based Caribou Coffee has been owned by the same privately-held group since 2013. JAB, the investment arm of Germany’s welthy Reinman family owns or has a stake in many well-known brands, including Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Keurig, Jimmy Choo and Coty. Darren Tristano, president of food industry research firm Technomic, said when it comes to co-branding, the combinations that seem to work the best are those that bring together complementary — but not overlapping — concepts. Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, for example, have had success pairing up, the former targeted toward breakfast and lunch and the latter toward evening and dessert. Yum Brands, owner of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, on the other hand, is actually shifting away from co-branding, he said. “When it comes down to complementary brands we will probably see more combinations,” Tristano said. For Einstein and Caribou, the Coffee & Bagels model has allowed both brands to expand their reach into new areas of the country, Spiegel said. Florida, for one, is a strong market for Einstein but never had a Caribou presence. The opposite can be said for Minnesota, where Minneapolis-based Caribou is very strong and Einstein is not. So far, some Coffee & Bagels have been conversions of former Einstein locations, while others are brand new locations, Spiegel said. Caribou and Einstein both have a combination of company-owned and franchise stores. “We really wanted to try to preserve as much of the full brands as we could,” Spiegel said. “There are some small adjustments we had to make so the two could really come together. The team really tried to take an approach of how do we marry these two together in a seamless way? It doesn’t feel like you’ve got Caribou and you’ve got Einstein.” – Source: The Denver Post.

Church’s Chicken® Promotes Joseph Christina to Chief Executive Officer

Church’s Chicken announced that Joseph Christina has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Company. Christina has served as Executive Vice President of U.S. Operations at Church’s Chicken since 2013, overseeing operations at more than 1,150 franchise and company-owned restaurants in 29 states. He succeeds Jim Hyatt, who was CEO of Church’s Chicken since 2011 and who will remain on the Company’s Board of Directors. Christina, who brings 32 years of experience in restaurant operations, has driven key improvements in the Company over the last three years, including a simplified operational and data-driven approach. In addition, he has overseen initiatives that reduced overhead costs, enhanced franchise relations and improved revenue performance. “I’m honored to take on the new role of CEO at Church’s, and I look forward to building on the progress we’ve achieved under Jim’s leadership,” said Christina. “I am committed to empowering our team members and providing the strategic direction to ensure we continue to deliver an outstanding experience to Church’s and Texas Chicken guests around the world.” Prior to joining Church’s, Christina was Senior Vice President at Burger King where he was responsible for a division with $2 billion in sales. During that time, he reversed a four-year division sales slump with unique local marketing plans, while cutting $2 million in costs from the company’s 2,000 restaurants in 19 states. Previous positions included VP of Global Operations and Training, and Division Vice President, Franchise Operations, where he led operations for the company’s Southeast Division comprised of 350 franchisees and 1,800 Restaurants. “Joe is an exceptional restaurant operations executive with a proven track record who is known for his team-building and results-driven approach,” said Tully Friedman, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “He has had a tremendous impact since joining the company, and we are confident that, as CEO, Joe will provide the leadership, insight and energy needed for Church’s next phase of success.” – Source: Church’s Chicken®.

Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. Names Santiago Abraham as Chief Information Officer

Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. announced that Santiago Abraham will assume the role of chief information officer (CIO) effective December 5, 2016. As CIO, Abraham will be responsible for the company’s technology strategy, policies, processes and practices to support its evolving business. Abraham brings more than 20 years of business technology experience delivering solutions, applications and capabilities for a diverse number of hospitality-related industries. Most recently Abraham was vice president, IT strategy, sourcing & vendor management at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., where he led a five-year program to transform and modernize the company’s enterprise technology. While at Royal Caribbean he also spearheaded a decade-long effort to optimize revenue systems at the company, resulting in a best-in-industry reservations system. “We’re pleased to have Santiago join Buffalo Wild Wings and look forward to his contributions in developing an enterprise-wide technology strategy that will further our innovation and differentiation in the marketplace,” said Sally Smith, president and chief executive officer. “His extensive technology expertise and leadership experience will help us to use technology as a marketing and revenue generation tool, as well as an efficiency tool to help reduce operating costs.” “I am delighted to join Buffalo Wild Wings and utilize my technology expertise to help the Company develop an enterprise-wide technology strategy that contributes to its growth and profitability,” said Santiago Abraham. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to build a technology organization that supports our business plan and objectives.” – Source: Buffalo Wild Wings.

A ‘Better Pizza’ Chain Has Raised $150 Million to Take Over America

In the last year, MOD Pizza has nearly doubled in size — and it’s not slowing down now. On Wednesday, the fast-casual pizza chain told Business Insider that it had raised another $42 million of equity, led by Fidelity Management and Research Company and PWP Growth Equity. That brings the total capital raised this year by MOD Pizza to $77 million — more than half of the almost $150 million the chain has raised. “It’s an overnight success 10 years in the making,” cofounder and CEO Scott Svenson told Business Insider. The last few years have been explosive for the pizza company. In 2015, Technomic named MOD Pizza the fastest growing the restaurant business, as it grew a whopping 220% in the year. In 2016, the growth continues, with Svenson saying the chain will go from 92 locations to an estimated 195 by year’s end. Svenson and his wife, Ally Svenson, founded MOD Pizza in 2008. When the pair opened the first location in Seattle, the idea of a fast-casual pizza company was still mostly uncharted territory. MOD Pizza was intended to be a classier and healthier option, in opposition to take out-centric chains like Domino’s or Pizza Hut. The chain serves up made-to-order, thin crust pies. Similar to Chipotle’s groundbreaking fast-casual system, customers can pick ingredients and see the pizzas being made in front of their eyes, with the entire process taking about 15 minutes. While the chain has options like sausage and just plain cheese on the menu it also has more creative options like the “Calexico,” a take of buffalo chicken, and pizza salad on a warm asiago crust. The menu also includes salads, cinnamon and garlic strips, and shakes.  “You get a really high quality hand produced individualized product made super fast, at a great value, individualized just the way you want it,” said Svenson. “It’s healthy and it’s delivered in a really cool aspirational environment.” MOD Pizza isn’t the only fast-casual pizza chain that has attempted to take on the pizza delivery giants in the last decade. Chipotle has opened seven locations of its own fast-casual pizza chain, Pizzeria Locale. Another competitor, Blaze Pizza, is on track to hit $300 million in revenue in 2017. However, according to Svenson, what sets MOD Pizza apart from the competition is its culture and focus on employees. The chain emphasizes acceptance in its hiring, recruiting people who have spent time in jail and dealt with drug addiction. MOD Pizza attempts to pay employees at living wage, with company minimum wage starting at $10.50. In addition to other benefits, including paid time off and healthcare, the company offers an emergency fund that employees can tap into in times of need, such as unexpected accidents. “By virtue of doing that, and by doing that the right way, we’re going to build a better business than we would have otherwise,” said Svenson. “You don’t need to focus just on the profit or just on the business performance. You can also focus on the impact you’re making.” The company has no plans to slow down following 2016’s explosive growth. With the new round of funding, Svenson says that the chain wants to continue to expand, throughout the US and internationally (MOD Pizza currently has three locations in the UK). While MOD Pizza has no plans to go public at this point, Svenson says it’s something that the company would only consider as a means to reach more people and share the company’s values. “We think there’s an opportunity to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives,” said Svenson. “We’re having so much fun, and we’re so grateful for the fact that we’re able to make the impact that we are… We’re going to take it as far as we can.” – Source: Business Insider.

Panda Restaurant Group Makes Second Investment in Just Salad

Just Salad, the New York City-based salad chain, has received a second investment from Panda Express operator Panda Restaurant Group Inc., the company said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the investment will enable the 29-unit chain to expand its fast-casual brand into new markets. “We are thrilled to continue our relationship with an investor that understands our industry better than anyone and is committed to partnering with us strategically to continue to grow the Just Salad brand nationally and internationally,” Nick Kenner, CEO of Just Salad, said in a statement. The deal comes nearly a year after Panda Restaurant Group made an initial investment in Just Salad. The chain has since expanded into new markets, adding units at Kansas State University and in Chicago. The company recently unveiled a new design in New York City, and will renovate its flagship restaurant there next month. Kenner and Rob Crespi founded Just Salad in 2006. The chain has locations in New York and Chicago, as well as Hong Kong and Dubai. Just Salad lets customers customize their salads with a selection of quality ingredients. Panda Restaurant Group and its founders, Andrew and Peggy Cherng, have been increasingly aggressive in investing in emerging concepts. Its investment a year ago in Just Salad came along with investments in three concepts from other countries looking to expand in the U.S., including YakiYan, Ippudo, and Uncle Tetsu. Panda Restaurant Group has also invested in the fast-casual pizza chain Pieology. In September, the Cherng Family Trust Office hired a pair of investing veterans to make private equity and venture investments in various sectors, including hospitality. “We’re excited to expand our partnership with Just Salad as they continue to grow,” Andrew Cherng said in a statement. “With their commitment to healthy, affordable food and expansion into new markets, it’s an exciting time to be partnered with such a strong brand.” The investment comes at a time of active interest in emerging growth chains, particularly fast-casual concepts. Several such investments have been announced in recent days, including a $42 million investment in MOD Pizza, a $25 million investment in &pizza and a $20 million investment in Honeygrow. – Source: NRN.

Smith & Wollensky Announces International Expansion

The venerable U.S. steakhouse, Smith & Wollensky, is expanding its global presence. Dublin based investors, Danu Partners acquired Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, Inc. (SWRG) from Bunker Hill Capital earlier this year. “Following our first successful international launch in London, we want to bring the unique Smith & Wollensky experience to other key international cities,” says Leonard Ryan of Danu partners. “Our teams in the U.S. and London have worked closely together to build a robust infrastructure and this is a perfect platform on which to build a global business.” Joining the team will be international development executive Oliver Munday who has worked for the last 20 years in growing U.S. restaurant brands around the world. “Having completed transactions in over 30 different countries with multiple restaurant brands including Hard Rock, Margaritaville and Planet Hollywood, Oliver brings the contacts and expertise needed to allow us to reach our full potential on the international stage,” says SWRG’s president and CEO Michael Feighery. “Smith & Wollensky occupies a very special place among the great U.S. fine dining restaurant brands and there is global demand for such a classic American steakhouse experience,” says Munday. “We will only be entertaining a handful of select markets—including Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok, Dubai and Mexico City—but interest is already strong.” Since Danu purchased Smith & Wollensky they have embarked upon a program of significant reinvestment in the brand. The new 2015 London restaurant located in the Adelphi building on John Adam Street is evidence of its commitment to the brand’s heritage, while executing a more contemporary interpretation of the classic American steakhouse. Extending global expansion is the next logical step in the brand’s growth. Similar attention, detail and restaurant upgrades are underway at existing U.S. locations in Chicago, Miami and Columbus, as the company explores additional domestic markets and opportunities for the more casual and social extension brand, Wollensky’s Grill, now open in Chicago. – Source: fsrmagazine.com.

Del Frisco’s Names New Leader as Long-Time CEO Retires

Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group named an industry veteran to lead the company after long-time CEO Mark Mednansky announced his retirement. Norman J. Abdallah, 54, who has been a director at Southlake-based Del Frisco’s since 2011, will become chief executive officer immediately. The company said Mednansky would remain with the company through the end of the year to facilitate a transition. Del Frisco’s said Abdallah most recently was an operating partner for CIC Partners, a Dallas-based private equity firm with interest in restaurant companies. He also led a turnaround at Romano’s Macaroni Grill that resulted in a sale to Ignite Restaurant Group. “Norman is highly regarded as a strategic, results-driven restaurant executive with a strong entrepreneurial work ethic and has demonstrated a commitment to business and operational excellence,” said Del Frisco’s Chairman, Ian R. Carter, in a prepared statement. Mednansky, 59, spent the past 18 years with Del Frisco’s, serving as CEO since March 2007, and earlier as chief operating officer for the company that owned the steakhouse chain. Del Frisco’s has been posting disappointing financial results as it continued to push forward with the expansion of its Grille concept. Last month, the company said total comparable store restaurant sales declined by 3 percent in the third quarter, even as the company reported a $786,000 profit. Del Frisco’s, which was assembled under Dallas-based private equity firm Lone Star Funds, went public in the summer of 2012. Since then, it has been growing the Grille concept across the country, but has experienced growing pains. After going public at $13, its shares have increased only modestly in four years, despite strong financial markets. Del Frisco’s operates 52 restaurants across 24 states under three brands, its Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, and Del Frisco’s Grille. – Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Elior Group (Paris:ELIOR), one of world’s leading operators in the contracted food industry, has announced its entry into the Indian market with the simultaneous acquisitions of MegaBite Food Services and CRCL, two leading contract caterers for the business & industry market. The new subsidiary, Elior India, will serve 135,000 meals per day with over 3,500 employees. “This move in India allows us to expand into emerging markets, which is one of the objectives of our 2016-2020 strategic plan,” declares Philippe Salle, Elior Group Chairman and CEO. “We believe India is one of the most promising markets with significant growth potential and a very fragmented profile. The combined acquisitions of MegaBite and CRCL will position the Group among the top 3 contract caterers in the Indian market.” MegaBite Food Services is the top player in premium corporate catering in Bangalore. It was founded in 2005 by three ex-hoteliers. MegaBite employs more than 850 people. It operates a central kitchen in Bangalore and provides 28,000 meals each day in Bangalore and 1,800 meals daily in Mumbai. Its customers include Cisco, Microsoft, Google, McKinsey and Shell. MegaBite has been wholly acquired by Elior Group. “We are extremely excited to be part of Elior Group. We look forward to harnessing their global expertise to delight our customers even more as this has been the core of our value proposition. We believe this relationship can help us introduce more innovative offerings for our customers,” comments Chef Prabhakar of MegaBite Food Services. Based in Chennai, CRCL is the largest industrial catering company in South India. With over 33 years of experience in the contract catering business, CRCL is the fourth largest catering company in India. CRCL employs upwards of 2,650 people over multiple sites and serves over 100,000 meals each day. Its customer list includes prestigious names like Daimler, Pfizer, MRF and Vellore Institute of Technology. Elior Group has acquired a majority stake in CRCL. “We look forward to this partnership which we believe will deliver a higher value to our customers and enable this business to move to the next level. This will be a strong platform for accelerated growth over the coming years. We expect this alliance to achieve global standards,” declares D.R.E. Reddy, Managing Director of CRCL. Elior Group Chairman and CEO Philippe Salle explains: “We are convinced that food offering is a critical employee value proposition in an increasingly competitive and changing work space. The awareness is still nascent in India and we believe that we are in the right place at the right time with the right partnerships. Both MegaBite and CRCL are premium top contract catering companies whose values are aligned with those of Elior Group.” The transaction is expected to close within the next 90 days, subject to customary closing conditions. – Source: Elior Group.

 
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