Dorian Drake’s Founder Passes Away at 92

Ed Dorian Sr., Dorian Drake’s founder and former chairman, passed away on Wednesday, April 20th following a long battle with cancer. He was 92. The creation of Dorian International, and the subsequent purchase of Drake America, were major milestones in Ed Sr.’s long and richly varied business career. He was very proud of the company he founded, and it meant a lot to him to know that the team running the company today has continued to carry on his legacy. His life was also greatly enriched by the many people he came to know from the various industries we serve and the companies that provide us valuable services. – Source: Dorian Drake.

The Middleby Corporation Acquires the Follett Corporation

The Middleby Corporation announced the acquisition of Follett Corporation, a leading manufacturer of ice machines, ice and water dispensing equipment, ice storage and transport products and medical grade refrigeration products for the foodservice and healthcare industries. The company, which is headquartered in Easton, Penn., has approximately $140 million in annual revenues. “Follett is a highly respected, industry leading brand in foodservice and healthcare markets with a long-standing reputation for innovation. Follett offers unique product solutions to help customers improve safety, sanitation, labor productivity and water and electric usage,” said Selim A. Bassoul, Chairman and CEO of The Middleby Corporation. “Follett is a strategic fit with our growing beverage platform, complementing existing Middleby brands in a number of domestic and international market niches, and providing for opportunities to offer combined beverage and ice solutions. We are excited about Follett’s past record of growth and its strong position for future growth, which will be further enhanced within the broader Middleby group.” – Source: The Middleby Corporation.

McDonald’s Names New Chairman

McDonald’s Corp. has named director Enrique Hernandez Jr. the company’s non-executive chairman. Hernandez, 60, replaces Andrew McKenna, the longtime board member who had been chairman since 2004, but announced his decision to retire earlier this year. Hernandez was elected at McDonald’s annual shareholders meeting. Hernandez is the president and CEO of Inter-Con Security Systems Inc., based in Pasadena, and has been a director with McDonald’s since 1996. “Rick has been a tremendous asset to the board,” McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a statement. “He provides strong counsel, has a deep knowledge and passion for the brand and shares our desire to continue delivering long-term value for our shareholders and the McDonald’s system.” Hernandez began his career as a litigation attorney with Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison in Los Angeles and joined Inter-Con in 1984 before becoming CEO in 1986. “I am delighted to have someone of Rick’s talent and experience, who has served this board so well, now guide it forward,” McKenna said in a statement. Hernandez is also a director with Chevron Corporation, Wells Fargo & Company and Nordstrom Inc., where last week he finished 10 years as the company’s chairman. He is also a member of the board of trustees at the University of Notre Dame and is a member of the Harvard College Visiting and Harvard University Resources committees and the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation. Hernandez has a bachelor’s degree in government and economics from Harvard and has a law degree from Harvard Law School. He takes the chairmanship of a company that has righted its sales ship this year following three years of weakness, thanks to the introduction of all-day breakfast and value offerings this year. Source: NRN.

MTY to Acquire Cold Stone Parent Company

Canadian company MTY Food Group, Inc. has agreed to acquire Kahala Brands, Ltd., parent company of 18 brands, including Cold Stone Creamery, Blimpie and Pinkberry. The acquisition of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company is contingent on the merger of a wholly-owned subsidiary of MTY with and into Kahala. The cash-and-stock deal, expected to be complete within 74 days, is valued at $300 million. MTY is the franchisor and operator of more than 2,700 restaurants under 39 brands, including TCBY, Madisons New York Grill & Bar and Big Smoke Burger. The acquisition of Kahala Brands will result in a combined entity of approximately 5,500 units under 57 brands with total system-wide sales of more than $1.5 billion as well as $190 million a year in revenue. MTY, which operates restaurants mainly in Canada as well as 14 other countries, is headquartered in St.-Laurent, Que. After the transaction is complete, the company’s U.S. headquarters will move to Scottsdale, Ariz. “This is one of the most important days in the history of MTY, being able to acquire a great portfolio of brands managed by among the very best people in the industry,” said Stanley Ma, chair of the board and chief executive officer of MTY. “MTY had been searching for the right foundation for its U.S. expansion for the last three years, and it has finally found the perfect match. The combination of the two companies’ portfolio and expertise will produce tremendous opportunities in Canada, in the United States and worldwide.” – Source:

NRA Expert: Sustainability Efforts Can Help Restaurants Cut Costs

Sustainability initiatives can not only help restaurants save natural resources, but they can also help operators save money, a National Restaurant Association expert says. Laura Abshire, NRA director of sustainability policy and government affairs, said the 2016 NRA Show saw a number of innovations aimed at making restaurants, especially in kitchen equipment, greener. “Sustainability can be a great way to save costs in your restaurant,” Abshire said in an interview at the show in Chicago. “One of the things we are seeing a lot is the tracking of inventory — the food coming in and going out of your restaurant.” Technologies to track food inventory can save operators “sometimes 2 to 6 percent on your food costs,” she said. In the NRA’s 2016 survey of top table-service menu trends, environmental sustainability was No. 6 among operators’ trend rankings. “Locally sourced meats and seafood” was No. 1, and “locally grown produce” was No. 3 in the survey. Technology is also helping restaurateurs get a handle on energy and water costs by using both more efficiently, she said. “If you can get your energy bills down and your water bills down — there are a lot of technologies out there to help you do that — you can really save on your bottom line,” Abshire said. Additionally, 2016 NRA Show vendors displayed a large number of products, especially service ware like cups and plates, made from recycled paper. The NRA offers low-cost ideas for restaurants in sustainability through its ConServe Program. – Source: NRN.

CKE Restaurants Promotes Jim Sullivan to Executive Vice President of Domestic Development

CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc. (“CKE”), parent company of Carl’s Jr.® and Hardee’s® restaurant chains, announced the promotion of Jim Sullivan to Executive Vice President, Domestic Development. In his new role, Sullivan will spearhead domestic and real estate development activities and focus on the company’s agenda for continual growth. Sullivan first joined CKE in 2012 as Senior Vice President of Domestic Franchise Development. In this role, he was responsible for restaurant and franchise development, including managing franchise sales and growth of the domestic franchise system. Through his leadership, CKE’s franchise community experienced substantial and sustained growth, including generating the highest net increase in U.S. locations among all traditional freestanding hamburger drive through restaurants during 2015. In addition, he has been instrumental in successfully completing the company’s refranchising program. “With his nearly 20 years of franchise development experience, Jim has been a tremendous asset to our executive management team and I am honored to promote him to Executive Vice President of domestic development,” said CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc. CEO, Andrew F. Puzder. “I am confident that Jim will help us successfully amplify our domestic footprint through his superb leadership and seamless execution.” Prior to joining CKE, Sullivan served as Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer for Friendly’s Ice Cream LLC where he was responsible for the company’s development, real estate and franchising activities. – Source: CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc.

Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. Completes the Acquisition of Six Burger King® Restaurants in Michigan

Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. announced that on May 24, 2016 it completed the acquisition of six BURGER KING® restaurants in the Detroit metropolitan area. Carrols also announced today that Paul Flanders, Chief Financial Officer, will be participating in a fireside chat discussion at the Stephens 2016 Spring Investment Conference at The Lotte New York Palace Hotel. Carrols’ discussion will take place on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 1:00 PM ET. Investors and interested parties may listen to a webcast of this discussion by visiting under the tab “Investor Relations”. – Source: Carrols/BURGER KING®.

Jamba, Inc. Reports Inducement Grants Under NASDAQ Listing Rule 5635(c)(4)
Jamba, Inc. announced that Marie Perry, who recently joined Jamba to succeed Karen Luey, Jamba’s current Executive Vice President, Chief Financial and Administration Officer after a transition period, has been granted (i) (a) nonqualified stock options to purchase up to 75,000 shares of the Company’s common stock at an exercise price per share of $11.65, equal to the closing price of the Company’s common stock on the date of grant and (b) 6,000 restricted stock units, in each case vesting annually over three years subject to her employment; and (ii) an award of 85,000 restricted stock units of which 40,000, 25,000 and 20,000 would vest upon achievement of stock price targets of $19.50, $24.00 and $28.50 during the three year period after grant, respectively (targeting an approximate 15%, 22.5% and 30% total stockholder return over a three year period), so long as Ms. Perry remains an employee of Jamba Juice Company and/or its affiliates. Additionally, upon a change of control during the three year period after the grant date whereby the Company’s stockholders receive per-share consideration equaling or exceeding any of the price targets listed above, the units will vest in the amounts listed above for each price target (as adjusted for any stock splits, dividends, or similar transactions). The grants were made as an inducement that was a material component of Ms. Perry’s compensation and subsequent acceptance of employment with the company and was granted as an employment inducement award pursuant to NASDAQ Listing Rule 5635(c)(4) approved by the majority of the company’s independent directors. – Source: Jamba, Inc.

McDonald’s Leaves Door Open for Move to Downtown Chicago

McDonald’s is leaving the door open for a possible move to downtown Chicago. At the company’s annual shareholder meeting, CEO Steve Easterbrook said that the company “is committed to leaving no stone unturned” when asked about rumors that Oak Brook-based McDonald’s is considering moving its headquarters downtown. McDonald’s is analyzing all aspects of its business in an ongoing turnaround, and Easterbrook said that includes considering whether it is in the right facilities. For months, rumors of McDonald’s moving some of its corporate workforce to the city have run rampant, with Willis Tower considered to be one possible location. A source with knowledge of the situation said Thursday that McDonald’s would not move into Willis Tower. But other downtown buildings, some higher-profile than others, have also been fodder for the rumor mill. In his response to a shareholder’s question, Easterbrook acknowledged that “the pace of change outside the company had been running quicker than the pace of change within,” and he vowed that McDonald’s will continue to look for every way in which it can improve its business. Since Easterbrook took the helm last March, McDonald’s has removed items from its menu to improve efficiency and speed up order times. The fast food giant also launched all-day breakfast, which the executive said has “ignited” progress in other parts of the business. In addition to the inquiry about a possible headquarters move, the CEO faced questions about marketing to children, the minimum wage and animal welfare polices at the meeting, which took place at McDonald’s headquarters as thousands of protesters supporting the Fight for $15 movement marched outside. The protesters arrived late Wednesday and spent the night in tents outside the headquarters building, forcing McDonald’s to encourage its Oak Brook employees to work from home Thursday. The meeting’s core agenda lasted just over 20 minutes, with all of the company’s directors being re-elected to new terms and all the shareholder proposals voted down, including a request to broaden McDonald’s promise to use fewer antibiotics in beef and pork and a proposal to “align corporate values with political contributions.” The question-and-answer period only included questions submitted before the meeting began, which led some attendees to interrupt the proceedings. Attendees at the meeting said those who stood were asked to sit down and stay quiet by security. The meeting was closed to the media but it was broadcast over the Internet. Watchdog group Corporate Accountability International, which has fought McDonald’s on a number of issues including marketing to children and affiliations with hospitals, called the lack of an open session “unprecedented.” “This shift indicates a significant tightening of the meeting,” press secretary Kara Kaufman said. – Source: The Chicago Tribune.

Billy Sims Taps Former Bennigan’s Exec for VP Gig

Billy Sims BBQ has named Jennifer Gamble as the brand’s VP of Marketing. Gamble served as VP of Marketing for Dallas-based Bennigan’s Franchising Company, where she was instrumental in rebuilding the iconic casual dining brand, according to a company press release. She developed and executed the international chain’s marketing strategy, directed the design and rollout of new menus, oversaw multiple outside agencies and worked directly with each of the chain’s franchisees on grand openings and local store marketing plans. Prior to joining Bennigan’s in 2005, Gamble served in key marketing positions at YUM! Brands’ Pizza Hut subsidiary and FASTSIGNS International. “Finding the right fit in a marketing vice president is critical to fostering brand consistency and efficacy throughout our franchisee network,” said Jeff Jackson. president of Billy Sims BBQ. “We are amidst a trajectory and are seeking an individual who can mastermind all our moving marketing parts and people. I believe we’ve found just that in Jennifer. We’re excited to have her on board.” – Source:

Johnny Rockets Hires New Chief Financial Officer

Johnny Rockets, the franchisor and operator of Johnny Rockets restaurants, announced the appointment of Susanne Stover, who will be joining the company as its new chief financial officer and member of its executive team. Stover will be reporting directly to chief executive officer, Charles Bruce, and will lead and implement effective strategies to drive growth and a financial infrastructure for the brand. Bruce says, “I am thrilled to welcome Susanne to Johnny Rockets. She has the right focus and relevant experience with a solid track record in leading long-term growth strategies in the restaurant, e-commerce, entertainment and real estate industries. Susanne’s strong business and financial acumen and deep understanding of our business makes her uniquely qualified to help drive growth and success for all our stakeholders.”  Before joining Johnny Rockets, Stover was the senior vice president and chief financial officer at the New York Racing Association, where she was responsible for developing and implementing financial infrastructure and driving strategic growth. In addition, she identified, analyzed, and implemented cost-cutting and revenue generating programs for the racing company that has three thoroughbred racetracks and 1,500 employees. Stover has held leadership positions as the chief financial officer for Rosa Mexicano restaurant chain and controller at the casual dining restaurant chain California Pizza Kitchen. Earlier in her career, Stover held positions at The Walt Disney Company, KPMG Peat Marwick, and Ernst & Young. Susanne Stover will be based in Orange County, California, at Johnny Rockets corporate headquarters. — Source:

Exclusive: CIC Ends Talks with Yum Brands over China Business

A consortium that includes sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp. (CIC) and U.S. buyout firm KKR & Co KKR.N has ended discussions to buy a stake in Yum Brands Inc’s YUM.N China unit, according to people familiar with the matter. Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum Brands, owner of the Pizza Hut and KFC fast-food chains, has been looking to spin off its 7,205 China restaurants by the end of 2016, amid pressure from activist investor Corvex Management, whose founder, Keith Meister, is on Yum’s board. One of the main sticking points was the CIC consortium’s desire to have majority control in the China business, something Yum would not entertain because of the negative tax implications on proceeds. CIC’s consortium also had concerns around achieving the investment returns it desires in a capital-intensive business amid a slowing Chinese economy, the people added, asking not to be identified because the negotiations were confidential. “Our board is fully committed to maximizing shareholder value, and we are making great progress towards the separation of our China business by year-end and at the same time returning significant capital to our shareholders,” a Yum spokeswoman said. “Our China business is a large, unique and valuable asset … We’re confident that, as a well-capitalized, standalone public company, it will have a long runway for continued growth,” she added. KKR declined to comment, while CIC did not respond to a request for comment. Separately on Friday, Yum unveiled a $4.2 billion share buyback and declared a quarterly dividend of 46 cents per share. The move follows its previous commitment to return $6.2 billion of capital to shareholders before the planned separation of its China business. Yum, still the largest fast-food chain in China, has been losing ground to McDonald’s Corp MCD.N as they both strive to revive sales in the teeth of growing competition from local rivals and a slowing economy. In recent years, it has sought to address challenges in supply chain control and food safety. It is common for newly public listed companies in China to secure so-called “anchor investors” prior to a public listing. The spin-off is expected to proceed with or without an anchor investor. The auction for a roughly 20 percent stake in Yum’s China unit also includes Singapore state investor Temasek Holding and another private equity-backed consortium, Reuters reported this week. Second round bids for the auction are due by the end of this month. Questions continue to persist around valuation, as Yum pursues its China unit spin. The entire China unit is valued between $8 billion and $11 billion, based on its core earnings of about $1 billion, according to the sources. “I will tell you as a large shareholder, the Yum board selling this business for $7 billion or $8 billion is not the right thing, and I don’t think anyone would disagree about that,” Corvex’s Meister told CNBC in an interview in April. Corvex owns 5.2 percent of Yum, according to Thomson Reuters data. – Source: Reuters.

Todd Penegor Takes the Helm at Wendy’s

Todd Penegor was officially named CEO of The Wendy’s Co, completing his long transition that began last fall, when former CEO Emil Brolick announced his retirement. Brolick had guided the 6,500-unit chain since 2011, before announcing his retirement in October. Penegor, who had been CFO, was picked as Brolick’s successor, and has been transitioning into the job in the months since then. He led the company’s first-quarter earnings call earlier this month, for instance. “The transition of CEO duties from Emil Brolick to Todd Penegor has been seamless, as expected,” Wendy’s chairman Nelson Peltz said in a statement. “Todd’s strong leadership, operational expertise and great passion for Wendy’s will benefit the brand and all of Wendy’s stakeholders. We are also very grateful for Emil’s many contributions and his efforts to ensure that he retired with an excellent successor in place, and a highly capable senior leadership team.” Penegor takes over a chain that has generated some momentum in recent quarters, with same-store sales rising 7 percent on a two-year basis in the first quarter, while operators have started building new units and remodeling existing locations. Gunther Plosch has taken over as Wendy’s CFO. Bob Wright, executive vice president and chief operations officer, will take over leadership for the international division. – Source: NRN.

Coca-Cola Reorganizes its International Operating Structure

The Coca-Cola Co. will reorganize its international operating structure into three groups. Starting Aug. 1, the company will have three units: Europe, Middle East and Africa Group; Latin America Group; and Asia Pacific Group. The Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Group is made up of the business units that currently make up the Europe and the Eurasia and Africa Groups. In Europe, the Central and Southern Europe and Russia, Ukraine and Belarus business units will be combined into a new business unit – Central and Eastern Europe – to better support the bottling footprint in that region. In Africa, two business units will be reconfigured to more closely align operations with bottling operations on the continent, with the formation of a new South and East Africa business unit and a West Africa business unit. Brian Smith. currently president of the company’s Latin America Group, will become president of the EMEA Group. Smith is a 19-year Coca-Cola veteran with a track record of driving business results, developing and exporting talent and providing strong franchise leadership across Latin America, including past roles as division president of Brazil and business unit president for Mexico. Alfredo Rivera, currently president of the Latin Center Business Unit, will become president of the Latin America Group. Rivera is a 19-year veteran of the Coca-Cola system who has held both company and bottler leadership positions throughout his career in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil and Ecuador. John Murphy, currently president of the South Latin Business Unit, will become president of the Asia Pacific Group. Murphy has held senior company and bottling roles in a number of markets during his 28-year career, including Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and North America, in addition to roles in Latin America. – Source: The Coca-Cola Co.

Arby’s Pushing Into ‘Meat-Oriented’ Middle East With 25 Outlets

Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc., controlled by private equity firm Roark Capital Group Inc., is planning to open 25 locations in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia over the next seven years. The expansion marks the first international push for Arby’s since 2010, when it agreed to open 100 restaurants in Turkey. The Middle East locations, the first of which will open in Kuwait this year, will be owned and operated by Kharafi Global, which also runs Johnny Rockets restaurants in the region. “U.S. brands do very well in the Middle East,” Chief Executive Officer Paul Brown said during an interview in Chicago. “It’s a very meat-oriented culture.” The new restaurants, which are planning to substitute beef for pork in bacon, will also sell chicken, Brown said. The units will be mostly stand-alone, with many located on the bottom floor of urban office buildings. Still, the Atlanta-based chain, which began in the 1960s selling roast-beef sandwiches, is mostly focused on growth in the U.S., where it has about 96 percent of its 3,322 restaurants. “There’s room for well over 6,000 in the U.S. — we have a huge potential,” Brown said. “That’s our primary focus, but we do think there’s the potential to grow internationally.” Arby’s also is in discussions about opening in Asia and other Middle East countries, Brown said. Latin America is a priority as well, he said. Protein Push. Since 2014, Arby’s has been advertising protein-heavy foods, such as deli sandwiches with double meat, to help it stand out among U.S. fast-food chains. More recently, it’s touted bourbon-bacon sandwiches and buffalo-chicken sliders. The new marketing has helped boost Arby’s sales and attract younger customers. First-quarter same-store sales rose 5.8 percent, outpacing that of McDonald’s Corp., Wendy’s Co. and Jack in the Box Inc. Roark bought Arby’s from Wendy’s in 2011 for $130 million in cash, including debt. The buyout firm got about 82 percent of the company, giving it control of more than 3,600 stores at the time. Since then, Arby’s has been remodeling locations and closing underperforming ones. It’s also revamped its marketing and website, and in 2013 named former hotel executive Brown as CEO. About 70 percent of Arby’s restaurants are franchised. Urban Push. Now, the chain is looking to smaller, urban locations to help fuel domestic growth. A second unit in New York will open before the end of the summer, and the chain is also planning its first store in the city of Los Angeles. Because rents are typically higher in cities, urban stores may sell breakfast fare to help offset the increased expenses. About 225 restaurants already sell some morning foods such as sausage gravy biscuits and French-toast sticks, giving Arby’s an entry into the crowded U.S. fast-food breakfast space. McDonald’s last year started selling breakfast items all day, while Burger King just introduced a new breakfast burrito and Dunkin’ Donuts is touting new croissant sandwiches. Arby’s is considering selling beer and wine in some of its urban locations and will probably test it this year, Brown said. It’s a move similar to one made by Taco Bell, which recently began offering alcoholic drinks at a Cantina location in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. “There’s maybe opportunity in certain areas,” Brown said. “We’re always trying things.” – Source: Bloomberg News.

See the Looks: Taco Bell Tests New Restaurant Designs

Taco Bell is overhauling four California locations with sleek seating, distressed wood, funky pendant lighting and other elements in a test that may help the chain appear more like a chic loft than a fast-food taco joint. Four company-owned locations in Orange County, Calif. will get the new looks this summer, along with plans to expand last year’s new Cantina design to more urban locations this year. Each of four new test designs — California Sol, Heritage, Modern Explorer and Urban Edge — has its own distinct details, yet might also remind older patrons of the fast feeder’s early California days. Taco Bell described the California Sol look as blurring the lines of indoor and outdoor with a “laidback, beachy feel.” The Heritage look is known as a modern interpretation of its original Mission Revival style, including warm white walls, tiles and heavy timber. Modern Explorer, meanwhile, is a more rustic, modern style that can work in suburban or rural locations. And Urban Edge is meant to be “an eclectic mix of international and street style done the Taco Bell way.” The latest designs, which some might think are reminiscent of an upscale Chipotle Mexican Grill or even a restaurant with table service, were worked on internally and follow September’s Cantina openings in Chicago and San Francisco. Cantina locations, with open kitchens and in some cases alcohol on the menu, may also get an expansion. The next city being considered for the so-called urban development is Atlanta, Taco Bell said.  It is also considering a number of areas for future locations, including major metropolitan areas and smaller cities with some downtown appeal. Taco Bell remodeled about 600 restaurants last year and opened another 275, counts it expects to outpace this year. The chain has about 7,000 U.S. restaurants and plans to build another 2,000 restaurants by 2022. And 200 of those upcoming locations, or 10% of the total, are meant to be urban locations. Taco Bell has previously said it wants to build or remodel about 600 locations a year. Taco Bell is not the only U.S. chain giving itself a bit of a makeover. On Monday, Applebee’s said it is putting American-made wood-fired grills in nearly 2,000 U.S. restaurants as part of a broader plan to remodel restaurants and introduce new restaurant designs. Applebee’s said the wide range of work, including putting in the new grills and training meat cutters, along with marketing led by Barkley, means an investment of more than $75 million by its franchisees. Taco Bell declined to share financial details on its redesigns, but shared that the costs of the new design remodels are equal to costs of current remodels. Taco Bell is owned By Yum Brands, which has given its KFC chain a fresh look more inspired by founder Colonel Sanders in some locations. – Source: AdvertisingAge.

Walking the Floor: Innovations from NRA Show 2016

Several years ago the National Restaurant Association instituted the Food and Beverage (FABI) Awards, which have become an important part of the hoopla surrounding its massive NRA Show held annually in Chicago. Chosen by a panel of expert judges representing culinary education, the restaurant press and multiple segments of the foodservice industry, their purpose is to recognize innovations in food and beverage that can make a significant impact on the restaurant business. The FABIs are especially valuable because they constitute a leading indicator of emerging consumer dining trends. 1. Next-gen healthful. From their inception, the FABIs have recognized creative gluten-free products, and there’s typically a batch of organic-food winners, too. Examples of both are among this year’s honorees, but there are also products that suggest the shape of things to come. Pepsico Foodservice’s Stubborn Soda, for example, delivers “an elevated soda experience” with unexpected flavor combinations like Wild Black Cherry with Tarragon. Equally important, the beverages use Fair Trade Certified Cane Sugar, prized by sweet-seeking Millennials who want a less guilt-inducing alternative to the conventional refined stuff. Grower Pete’s Organic Living Baby Butter Lettuce is a hydroponically grown, roots-attached lettuce that addresses the nascent demand for living foods, which advocates tout for their higher nutrient values versus cooked foods. Brio Ice Creams offer a veritable smorgasbord of benefits, running the gamut from what they include, like antioxidants and probiotics, to what they exclude, like GMOs and hormones. The cherry on top: They have half the fat and 20% fewer calories than traditional premium ice creams. It’s like a dietary brass ring for consumers who love to feel virtuous while they indulge. 2. Snackification. Our growing propensity to eschew three squares in favor of multiple smaller bites throughout the day has led to a flurry of innovation in the snack-food categories, both sweet and savory. Boulart’s Ciabatta Bites come in various flavors like red pepper and onion for eating or dipping. Stonefire’s Naan Dippers are bite-sized, too. They’re also made with buttermilk and ghee and baked in a tandoor oven. Hail Merry, a multiple FABI winner in the past, scored again this year with Salted Brownie Merry Bites, plant-based, chewy chocolate treats made with organic virgin coconut oil, while Prince Waffles’ Sweet Filled Authentic Belgian Waffles are filled with real fruit, custard or Belgian chocolate. Diners can wash down these tasty treats with Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company’s Squeezed Fresh Tomato Juice, which boasts fresh tomatoes as its one and only ingredient–a terrific example of the trend toward simple foods that’s moving rapidly into foodservice from the retail-grocery sector. 3. Foreign accents. American diners’ willingness to experiment with ethic foods and flavors constitutes one of the foundations of contemporary menu R&D, and the 2016 FABIs represent an especially broad sampling of the world’s pantry. Hailing from different parts of the globe, Atalanta’s Peruvian Sauces and Bulsara’s Original All Natural 15 Minute Easy Tandoori Wet Rub Marinade both deliver authentic flavors of less familiar cuisines. By contrast, Rustichella d’Abruzzo’s 90” Rapida Spaghetti promises a familiar favorite that cooks to a perfectly al dente texture in a mere 90 seconds. Australis Aquaculture’s Skin-On Barramundi is sustainably grown seafood from down under, while Sevillo Fine Foods offers Fire Roasted Artichoke Hearts and Slow Roasted Red Tomatoes straight from the Mediterranean kitchen. Other standouts this year plugged into consumers’ predilection for smoked foods, as with Atalanta’s L’Estornell Smoked Oil, cold-smoked and made from Arbequina olives, and Wagshal’s USDA Prime Smoked Beef Brisket that boasts a 50+ day curing and smoking process.  Like the products described above, they exemplify what FABI winners have in common: a killer combination of labor savings to the operator and appealing taste to the diner. – Source: Retail & E-Commerce/Food & Beverages.

Restaurants Projected to Add 515K Summer Jobs

Restaurants are expected to add 515,000 jobs this summer season, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 18th Annual Eating and Drinking Place Summer Employment Forecast.  The projected 2016 gain would represent the fourth consecutive year in which restaurants add at least 500,000 jobs during the summer season. Summer is the busiest season for restaurants in many parts of the country, and the stronger business leads to additional employment opportunities at all levels of a restaurant operation.  Roughly one in six eating and drinking place establishments operate on a seasonal basis, and many of these are only open for business during the summer season.  These seasonal businesses do all of their hiring for the summer months, and therefore are responsible for the bulk of the summer jobs. Although restaurants will add over 500,000 jobs this summer, hiring will be somewhat dampened compared to recent years, with the projected increase of 515,000 seasonal jobs representing the smallest gain since 2012.  Eating and drinking places added a record 551,200 jobs during the 2013 summer season, followed by gains of 515,900 jobs during the 2014 season and 527,100 jobs during the 2015 season. The expected curtailed hiring during the 2016 summer season will be due in large part to higher labor costs that restaurant operators face in many regions of the country, as well as a relatively tighter labor market compared to recent years. The states projected to add the most eating and drinking place jobs during the 2016 summer season are New York (44,400), California (41,700), Massachusetts (30,700), Texas (29,700), Ohio (25,500), New Jersey (25,300), Illinois (22,800) and Michigan (21,900).  The states projected to register the largest proportional employment increase during the 2016 summer season are Maine (32.1 percent increase), Alaska (18.9 percent increase), Delaware (17.6 percent increase), Rhode Island (15.1 percent increase) and New Hampshire (14.3 percent increase). Due to the fact that their busiest seasons for travel and tourism are not in the summer months, two states are projected to register declines in eating and drinking place employment during the 2016 summer season: Florida (-10,900) and Arizona (-7,600). Summer employment is defined as the average number of eating and drinking place jobs in June, July and August. The number of summer jobs is the difference between the projected total 2016 summer employment and the March 2016 employment level. Generally, the U.S. restaurant industry begins to ramp up its summer seasonal hiring in April, and it peaks in June, July and August. Eating and drinking places account for approximately three-fourths of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce. The restaurant industry is typically the nation’s second largest creator of seasonal jobs during the summer months – ranking only behind the construction industry. – Source: The National Restaurant Association.

Red Robin, UberEats, The Kitchen on Evolution in a Changing Economy

Turning the tables on conventional solutions was the theme of the keynote presentation at the National Restaurant Association Show on Sunday, an event that turned the spotlight on three innovators approaching the industry in very different ways. The Kitchen focuses on community. First up in a series of interviews by NRA president and CEO Dawn Sweeney was Kimball Musk, co-founder of the Boulder, Colo.-born farm-to-table concepts The Kitchen and the more-casual sister brand Next Door, who believes “food is the new internet” as a community builder. The seven restaurants in Colorado, Chicago and, soon Memphis, Tenn., have grown with close ties to local farms. The restaurants also help fund a nonprofit called The Kitchen Community, which builds learning gardens in schools designed to teach children about where food comes from. The program will include 300 learning gardens by mid-July reaching more than 160,000 kids every school day. Kimball, who serves on the board for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and whose brother is Elon Musk, CEO of both Tesla Motors and Space X, sees a future for restaurants in serving truly local food and developing mutually beneficial partnerships with farmers. As a $2 million buyer from local farms in Colorado, The Kitchen has been able to train farmers to better meet the restaurants’ needs. “We come in as a trusted buyer. We explain that you have to show up at 7 a.m. If you want to work with restaurants, that’s how you do it,” he said. The company’s same-store sales grew 25 percent in 2015, he said, indicating that the focus on local growers is having an impact. “People really got the value of local,” he said. “I’m really excited about the future of local food.” Red Robin Gourmet Burgers reinvents itself. Denny Marie Post, president of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews, described how her casual-dining brand has worked to reinvent itself over the past five years. Born as a Seattle tavern with lively bar sales and great burgers, Red Robin morphed into a family oriented, kid-centric brand, only to find those guests abandoning them when the recession hit. So the Greenwood Village, Colo.-based chain returned to its roots to refocus on great burgers, shakes and brews with a redesign to accommodate both families and adults on a “date night.” And, though Red Robin has dived deep into customer research to reshape the brand, she predicted much will change over the next five years as consumer needs evolve. Guests still want a quick restaurant meal, but they want to have more control over their experience, she said, citing as an example the pizza chains that have taught her son to track their meal’s arrival from oven to doorstep. “We’ve really got to figure out this new piece of putting the guest in control,” she said. Post noted that the only segment of casual dining that’s growing now is take out and delivery. “There will always be a place for coming out for a great dining experience,” said Post, “but the winners are those that will figure out how to package that whole thing up and bring it home.” UberEats helps restaurants get delivery ready. Jason Droege, head of Uber Everything, is someone who is helping to make that happen. The ride-sharing service Uber is only six years old, but is operating in 400 cities round the world with more than 1 million active drivers doing 5 million trips per day. Now, in 14 cities and growing rapidly, Uber has launched UberEats, which works with restaurants to deliver meals, giving diners access to food from restaurants they may never visit but learn to crave. UberEats works with restaurants to design a limited menu they want to offer for delivery, perhaps avoiding dishes that don’t travel well or can’t be prepared quickly. Restaurants can also determine what distance they’d like to allow their food to travel. Droege described it as a service that works to meet the specific needs of restaurant operators. In Toronto, for example, UberEats helped the restaurant Khao San Road stay in business during a temporary closure as it moved to a new location. The restaurant found temporary commissary space and kept offering delivery through UberEats during the transition, allowing employees to stay on the job. It’s a service Uber is passionate about. “And it’s no secret Uber invests heavily in businesses it’s passionate about,” said Droege. Droege said he loved working around the “magic” of the restaurant industry, “taking raw ingredients and forming them into something people consume that can change their mood or the life of a city,” he said. For many workers today, the restaurant industry is also vital to the future health of the American economy, argued Joe Kadow, NRA chairman and executive vice president and chief legal officer for Bloomin’ Brands Inc. In 2014, the number of households with incomes under $25,000 grew at the highest rate, while there was no growth in the number of households earning between $75,000 and $99,999. Globalization and technology have put jobs out of reach for many people, he said. Kadow said that while presidential candidates like Donald Trump would love to blame Mexico and China, and the Democratic candidates would blame “greedy corporations,” the reality is that “the traditional pathways are disappearing for those who don’t have the right skills and education. ”The restaurant industry, meanwhile, remains an opportunity open to all, he said. “The restaurant industry is one of the few paths left to the middle class,” he said. – Source: NRN.


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