Red Robin Names Denny Marie Post CEO

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. has named Denny Marie Post CEO, replacing Steve Carley, who is retiring after six years at the helm, the company said. Post, who is also president of Red Robin, joined the company in 2011 as senior vice president and chief marketing officer. She was promoted to executive vice president and chief concept officer in March 2015, and promoted again, to president, in February. She indicated that her move to CEO, effective Monday, was part of a planned succession at the Greenwood, Colo.-based operator. Post also joins the company’s board of directors. “I am honored to have this opportunity, and greatly appreciate the thoughtful way Steve and the board planned the succession,” Post said in a statement. “As a team, we have a tremendous legacy to build on, a strong and inspiring culture, talented leadership from our restaurants to our home office, and a collective commitment to deliver a superior guest experience. As much as we have accomplished so far, we have many more ‘best years’ to come.” Carley said he will continue to serve as an advisor to Red Robin through the end of the year. During his tenure as CEO, Carley spearheaded the growth of more than 540 restaurants in North America, the company said. He has also led Red Robin through a brand revamp over the last few years that has included the development of a barbell menu strategy that includes both value-positioned and premium burgers, as well as the launch of the fast-casual Burger Works brand. In February, Red Robin pledged to double earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by 2020 with a plan that includes revenue growth, expense management and more efficient capital deployment. “I’m grateful for my time at Red Robin, and, after working in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years, I am looking forward to relaxing and enjoying my family,” Carley said in a statement. “Denny has true passion for Red Robin. She has proven herself as a leader, and she’s well-suited to guide the company’s next phase of growth.” In addition, Red Robin said Kalen Holmes, former executive vice president of partner resources at Starbucks Corp., and Steven Lumpkin, former executive vice president, chief financial officer at Applebee’s International Inc., have been named board members. Red Robin operates and franchises 540 restaurants under the Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews and Red Robin Burger Works brands. Red Robin said same-store sales decreased 3.2 percent at company-owned restaurants for the July 10-ended second quarter, driven by a 3.9 percent drop in traffic that was partially offset by a 0.7 percent increase in average check. . Net income declined 32 percent to $7.6 million, or 55 cents per share, compared with $11.2 million, or 78 cents per share, a year ago. System-wide revenues totaled $366 million, compared to $363.2 million a year ago. – Source: NRN.

Logan’s Roadhouse Files for Bankruptcy

Nashville-based restaurant chain Logan’s Roadhouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday with plans to restructure its operations and close 18 locations. Logan’s said in a statement that its CEO, Sam Borgese, will leave the company, but it was not immediately clear when a replacement would be identified. The steak and Southerninspired casual dining chain said that it had secured support for its restructuring plan from its first-lien lenders and bondholders and landed up to $25 million in bankruptcy financing. The company’s “customers continue to face pressure on discretionary income, directly correlating to depressed restaurant sales and reduced customer traffic,” Logan’s chief restructuring officer Keith Maib said in a court filing. Logan’s has 18,964 employees, including 1,002 full-time workers, at its 234 company-owned locations, according to a court filing. The company has 26 franchised restaurants. “A plan is in place to assist employees in closing restaurants, reassigning employees to other Logan’s restaurants and providing them with outplacement services and assistance with applying for jobs,” Logan’s said in a statement. Logan’s has about $416 million in debts, almost all of which is secured, according to a court filing. The company posted $606.4 million in revenue in 2015 and a loss of $112 million before earnings, interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, including one-time restructuring charges. Founded in Lexington, Ky., in 1991, the company went public in 1995 and was sold to the Cracker Barrel chain in 1999. LRI Holdings bought the company in 2006. LRI is currently controlled by Kelso & Co., according to a court filing. The owners completed a debt exchange in 2015 in a move that eliminated $18.5 million in annual debt payments, but it was insufficient. Foot traffic fell by 8.8% in the first half of 2016 and sales fell 4%. – Source: USA TODAY.

Jeffrey F. Carcara Named CEO of Barteca Restaurant Group

Jeffrey F. Carcara was named CEO of Barteca Restaurant Group, the parent company of Barcelona Wine Bar and bartaco Restaurants, effective immediately. He succeeds the company’s founder, Andy Pforzheimer, who remains in the role of chairman. The Norwalk, Connecticut-based Barteca currently has restaurants in operation or under construction in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The handover has been a measured transition, taking place over the past year, as Carcara worked alongside Pforzheimer and Barteca co-founder Sasa Mahr-Bautz, who is remaining in his role as chief creative officer. “I have been working in the restaurant industry for 38 years and had a strong desire to step back, but there wasn’t a way to do that without having the right person to take over,” Pforzheimer explains. “Barcelona, and later bartaco, have always been ‘works in progress’ to me. They need to keep changing and evolving or we all— customers, managers, employees—get bored. Jeff has the energy and imagination to keep this grand experiment interesting, and the experience to manage a company that has grown so quickly. I feel very lucky.” Carcara, 46, joined Barteca in 2015 bringing with him more than 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry. He started his career at Hillstone Restaurant Group and after a significant tenure went on to join Seasons 52. At Seasons 52, Carcara held several executive positions including Senior Director of Operations and was integral in growing the brand from one restaurant to more than 30 across the country. Before assuming his role as CEO of Barteca, Carcara was the COO of Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group. “I don’t think there’s any better job in the restaurant business. Barteca has some of the best concepts in the industry, and one of the strongest teams,” says Carcara. “The chance to work with Andy and Sasa for the last year has been a great learning experience, and a highlight of my career. I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity.” – Source:

Subway Gets its First Logo Update in 15 Years

Subway has updated its logo for the first time in 15 years, marking the sixth time the brand has changed its logo in its 50-year history. According to Subway, the “fresh, contemporary” logo was created by the brand’s creative team in partnership with a variety of design partners. The sandwich chain has also introduced a symbol to go along with the updated logo, and both will begin to appear in Subway restaurants, communications and digital experiences worldwide early next year. The refreshed logo is being featured in a new campaign that Subway has launched to shine a spotlight on its fresh, locally-sourced offerings. It comes roughly a year after the chain announced its pledge to rid its food of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. Called SearchforBetter, the campaign was created by Boston-based MMB, which served as Subway’s agency of record for years before the chain puts its account under review last summer in the midst of the Jared Fogle scandal. BBDO won the account last August and has since then created a number of spots for the chain, but a Subway spokesperson said that the brand maintains “a relationship with MMB, as well as other agencies” and uses them for creative projects in addition to BBDO. The SearchforBetter spots will launch during NBC’s coverage of the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Both spots put a focus on Subway’s commitment to fresh food, including its antibiotic-free chicken and its mission to serve food without artificial preservatives whenever possible. – Source: The Drum, Glasgow, Scotland.

Noodles & Company Cutting Marketing, Slowing Growth after Bad Quarter

Noodles & Company will cut back on marketing efforts in poor-performing markets such as Denver, slow the growth of new locations and cut back on some of the service in the restaurant in order to reduce expenses. It’s all part of an effort to reverse another quarter of negative earnings per diluted shares, restaurant officials said on an earnings call recently. Ten days after chairman and CEO Kevin Reddy left the company following a string of disappointing quarters, interim CEO Dave Boennighausen said the Broomfield-based fast-casual restaurant chain is making several changes in order to reverse its fortunes. Noodles announced a 3-cent-per-diluted-share loss for the second quarter of 2016 and said that its same-store restaurant sales continued to fall at a rate of 1 percent systemwide. The company will cut back on its biggest-ever marketing effort that it launched at the end of 2015 and will
shift the resources that continue to go into it from under-performing markets into markets like Washington D.C. and Indianapolis that are showing small- to mid-single-digit increases in comparable store sales, Boennighausen said. The chain’s home market of Denver is one of those under-performing markets, he confirmed. “We did see struggles in Denver,” he said in response to an analyst question during the earnings call. “It’s very competitive … That’s one where the marketing is not able to cut through the clutter.” After opening 49 new company-owned restaurants in 2015, Noodles officials will slow that number to 35 to 40 this year and drastically to 10 to 15 in 2017, Boennighausen said. It will target only “A-plus locations” in terms of real estate and will target markets where the company already has multiple locations and is doing well, he said. It also will look to reduce expenses by having customers, who now are served by restaurant employees after ordering and have their plates picked up by staff, bus their own tables, Boennighausen said. That can reduce labor costs and can meet a norm that the fast-casual industry already has set of self-busing, he said. The biggest area of concern for the chain is under-performing new restaurants, which are averaging just 80 percent of typical store sales, he said. While he acknowledged that closing under-performing locations is “on our radar,” Boennighausen said Noodles will look more into using best practices to improve execution at these locations. Finally, the chain sees some opportunity to increase revenue, Boennighausen added. It will continue to ramp up off-premises dining through improvement of its take-out and delivery services, he said. And it will emphasize the variety of options on its menu while taking a close look at lowperforming items and deciding whether to revamp recipes or to possibly discontinue those items, he said. – Source: Dallas Business Journal.

McDonald’s Extends Recruitment of New Staff to 15-Year-Olds

Andrew Mace is a typical, busy 15-year-old. He plays football and runs track at Northridge High School and raises goats and rabbits for 4-H. But what most distinguishes him from others his age — in fact, from most teenagers — is that he has a job. Andrew started working this summer for McDonald’s in Johnstown. His hiring is part of an initiative by Mortellaro McDonald’s to employ 15-year-olds. “I think it’s helped me a lot,” Andrew said of his new job. “It’s just (taught me) all-around leadership. I want to grow into and be a better person.” The Mortellaro McDonald’s franchise has hired about 70 15-year-olds (some have since turned 16) for the company’s 15 stores in six counties in the central and eastern part of the state. The initiative was not sparked by the tight labor market in the region, said Brian Mortellaro, who owns eight of the stores while his father, Joe, owns the other seven. Instead, it was about tapping a pool of workers who many employers ignore, basically giving him his pick of 15-year-olds who want to work. “It’s more of an untapped market, and it’s easier to penetrate,” he said. Mortellaro uses the 15-yearolds for mostly service jobs — working the cash register and the drive-thru, bringing orders to customers and cleaning tables. They aren’t allowed on the grills or fryers. Since they likely haven’t worked before, he can train them the way he wants. “You can mold them. They haven’t had a lot of outside experience. It’s kind of nice to give them their first work experience. It’s rewarding,” said Mortellaro, who has a 17-year-old daughter, who works for him, along with 14-year-old twins. While restaurants typically have steady turnover, Mortellaro knows that some of these workers are likely to stick around for years to come and maybe one day even move into managerial positions. Exactly how many 15-year-olds hold a job isn’t clear. Federal and state employment data don’t track workers under the age of 16. But it doesn’t figure to be many. Despite a rise in recent years coming out of the recession, teen employment is well below where it was in the 1970s when nearly 60 percent of teenagers had a job or were looking for one, according to placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Today, only about a third of teenagers are in the labor market. “If you look at the participation rate for 16- to 19-year-olds, it’s pretty much at the lowest point in history,” said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide. Ayers said many students are bypassing summer jobs and instead are focused on bolstering their high-school resumes to get into the college of their choice. So their summers and spare time are spent on school activities, sports, volunteer work and academics. “Education is king, not just for college but wanting to get the most out of high school,” he said. “There’s a bigger payoff getting a scholarship or getting into a better school and, in the long run, that’s what people are focusing on.” As for 15-year-olds, there may be practical reasons why most employers won’t hire them. There is limit on what kinds of jobs they can do and the hours they can work. They’re also too young to drive, so transportation can become an issue. “It’s more of a hassle. Why would I bother with that when I can hire someone a year or two older,” Ayers said. Beyond the obvious financial gains for teens who work, there are work-experience gains that make them more valuable to employers in the future. In particular, they learn so-called soft skills, such as how to interact with customers and co-workers, the kind of thing that can’t be taught in school. The Mortellaro restaurants aren’t alone in hiring 15-year-olds and even 14-year-olds. Kroger has hired teenagers that young in the Columbus division since the early 1990s. They generally are put to work on the cash register or bagging groceries. They typically work evenings and weekends, when stores are the busiest, said Jennifer Jarrell, a Kroger spokeswoman. The store has about 90 workers those ages spread through 122 stores in the division. That’s less than one-half of 1 percent of the 19,000 workers for Kroger in the region. As is the case with Mortellaro, Kroger likes the notion of hiring young workers who could end up staying with the company for decades. Because of Kroger’s size, employees who start off bagging groceries could grow into jobs there in real estate or advertising, for example. “We do see quite of few that come for that job and end up staying for a career,” Jarrell said. Morgan Anderson, 15, of Newark, said she had been wanting to work for a year before she got a job at a McDonald’s in Newark owned by Mortellaro. She wants to save up money for a car and also will need to pay for the insurance and gasoline. “I’m a really independent person,” she said. “I don’t want people providing for me. I want to provide for myself.” Another one of the recent hires, Myah Harding, 15, of Mount Vernon, has found out two truths from working at the McDonald’s in her hometown: It’s tiring and the wages look much smaller after taxes are taken out. “It’s not as easy as I thought,” she says. She said she now understands how her dad feels when he gets home from work. “Your job looks so easy. Why are you so tired?” she said she has often asked him. “He told me, ‘Go get a job and find out.'” – Source: The Columbus Dispatch.

How Cheryl Bachekder Helped Rejuvenate Popeyes

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen reclaimed its heritage and its momentum—just in time to take on KFC. Back in early 2008, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits languished in quick-service mediocrity. A new management team led by Cheryl Bachelder, a one-time president of rival KFC, had been charged to steady the 1,900-unit company, but a litany of internal and external pressures complicated the task. Same-store sales, average unit volume (AUV), and transaction counts had suffered years of declines, and those downward trends placed the company at odds with its franchisees, many of whom considered the Atlanta-based company mismanaged and self-serving. As if that wasn’t enough, the Great Recession struck, spurring a precipitous drop in consumer confidence that further challenged gains. Then, in March 2008, Popeyes founder Al Copeland, who had built the fried chicken–peddling chain from a single unit into a global enterprise of some 800 units, died at the age of 64. Though Copeland had not directed the brand for more than 15 years, his death seemed a symbolic public blow to a brand clamoring for good news—any good news. “The brand hadn’t been managed well,” says Dick Lynch, one of Bachelder’s early management hires and the company’s chief brand officer, “and we needed to get back on track.” And that’s exactly what Popeyes did. In the last eight years, the chain has become a reinvigorated, lively force in the quick-service game, shifting its results, public perception, and its future prospects. In 2015, Popeyes added nearly $700 million in systemwide sales for the year— leapfrogging Papa John’s to enter the top 20 in the QSR 50—and captured same-store sales gains of 5.7 percent at its domestic units, the seventh consecutive year of positive comp sales. The enterprise also reached two new development milestones: opening a record 219 restaurants in 2016—125 of them in the U.S.—and crossing 2,500 total units, an army of restaurants scattered across the U.S. and more than two dozen other nations around the globe. For the once-sluggish chain, one Bachelder herself described as “tired, dirty, and slow,” things are looking up. But the road to recovery was far from smooth. Earning its way. In 1972, Copeland opened Chicken on the Run in Arabi, Louisiana, a New Orleans suburb on the eastern edge of the Mississippi River. Within months of opening, lackluster sales prompted Copeland—a one-time local doughnut magnate unafraid of bold ideas—to change course. He altered his eatery’s menu from traditional Southern-fried chicken to spicy, New Orleans–style chicken and also installed the Popeyes moniker, a nod to Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, the detective character in The French Connection portrayed by Gene Hackman. By the mid-1980s, Popeyes was a growing phenomenon. The chain boasted more than 500 units, including restaurants outside the U.S., and had become the third-largest quick-service chicken chain. But Copeland’s ambitious appetite proved too mighty. In 1991, his company was forced into bankruptcy after his 1989 purchase of rival Church’s Fried Chicken soured. The company reorganized as AFC (America’s Favorite Chicken) Enterprises shortly thereafter. Throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century, Popeyes struggled to find solid footing. It acquired and then sold brands like Seattle’s Best Coffee and Cinnabon. It lacked direction and purpose amid a revolving door of CEOs, as well as persistent sales, profit, and store-traffic declines. Franchisees became increasingly frustrated. When Bachelder was appointed CEO in 2007, the company was drowning in a surging wave of missteps. “It was the land of silos,” says Amy Alarcon, Popeyes’ vice president of culinary innovation, who joined the company in 2007. “Franchisees looked at us with plenty of suspicion, and we had to break through that noise and unite.” Bachelder and her leadership team responded by introducing a Strategic Roadmap designed to fuel results, unify the brand, re-establish trust with franchisees, and propel the brand’s floundering marketplace standing. There was the launch of new products, including snack items and lighter alternatives to the core bone-in chicken offering; a store remodeling project; new menuboards; and a new advertising agency. The multi-million-dollar efforts were designed to drive traffic and stop consistent same-store sales declines. “We weren’t a national advertiser in 2008, and were only in about 30 percent of the U.S.,” Lynch says, calling the company’s advertising spend “completely inefficient.” Soon after, Annie, a fictional character played by actress Deidrie Henry, became the brand’s new spokeswoman, a position designed to share blunt talk about Popeyes’ authentic and tasty food. There was also a revised name, as Popeyes dropped its “Chicken & Biscuits” tag in favor of “Louisiana Kitchen,” an effort to celebrate the brand’s heritage of Louisiana-inspired home cooking. “We wanted to tell the brand’s story and give Popeyes brand relevance … and that started with bringing the brand back to its Louisiana roots and making it authentic. We believed we couldn’t tell our brand story without a new brand identity,” says Lynch, who developed brand strategy and innovation plans for concepts like Burger King, Ruby Tuesday, and Buffalo Wild Wings before his arrival at Popeyes in 2008. Above all, however, leadership needed to restore the trust of its franchisees, a relationship that had withered and weakened amid consistent instability. “Franchisees had every reason to be unhappy, and we needed to demonstrate we could get the brand back on track,” Lynch says. Indeed, Popeyes’ leadership was focused on regaining its franchisees’ trust. Lynch recalls long and robust discussions among leadership about the brand’s core customer. Was it the consumer, investors, or franchisees? “We decided it was our franchisees, and we needed to understand how our franchisees were making money and how we could help them make more,” he says. “If they were happy, then everything else would take care of itself.” Everything became about the brand and driving its success with franchisees top of mind, Lynch says. There were operational introductions like a guest satisfaction monitor, increased food-safety assessments, and a store-level scorecard that measured key metrics like sales, profits, employee turnover, and guest experience. “We looked to better understand store-level profitability, cost savings, and traffic drivers,” he says. On the guest experience side, for instance, store managers received customer satisfaction reports along with action plans to rectify issues. If the store received a low score for, say, hot food, then the system would point out specific interventions such as checking certain elements of kitchen equipment or more closely monitoring hold times to drive improvement. Popeyes’ leadership also inspired its culinary team to be creative and innovative, so long as new creations featured ingredients or cooking techniques authentic to Louisiana. The company’s culinary brain trust responded with six to eight limited-time offerings every year, including popular options like Wicked Chicken and Rip’n Chick’n, which captured imaginations and customers. “We had a laser-sharp focus on translating the personality of Louisiana into our food so that our products could tell the story of our brand,” Alarcon says, adding that Popeyes’ culinary resolve “has come to define us, separate us, and lift us away from our competitive set.” Eager to inject Louisiana’s bold, flavorful, and creative personality into its food—weaving in the French, German, African, Italian, and British influences that pepper the region’s robust culinary scene—Popeyes’ culinary team hit other home runs with LTOs like Chicken Waffle Tenders—a portable and affordable product—and Red Stick Chicken, in which chicken strips were marinated in Tabasco sauce and cayenne before being battered and deep-fried. The culinary creativity further spurred the chain’s resurgence, reinforcing Popeyes’ Louisiana brand heritage and providing the quick serve a strong point of differentiation. Building on the momentum. Same-store sales and profitability began ticking upward in 2009 as the brand’s marketplace positioning became more clear and distinctive. Franchisees, once a largely disgruntled group, hopped on the bandwagon—“The alignment with our franchisees is more powerful than anyone will ever know,” Lynch says—and there was collective movement around a simply stated yet ambitious brand purpose: “Food that ignites our desire to serve.” “We all rallied behind those words and focused on our roadmap,” Lynch says. In 2014, Forbes called Popeyes the “KFC Killer” and credited the chain for “crushing rivals with a mix of upscale marketing and unapologetically greasy comfort food that customers—and investors—can’t resist.” The sentiment continues to ring true. In 2008, Popeyes’ AUV sat at $1 million. Today, it’s more than $1.4 million. In 2008, Popeyes’ stock price sat as low as $3.50 a share. Today, the ticker for Popeyes hovers near $60. “It’s pretty remarkable how [Bachelder] and her team have turned things around given how disjointed things were eight to nine years ago,” says analyst Alton Stump of Cleveland-based Longbow Research. “You have a system today that’s closely aligned, and everybody is on the same page to generate the best returns they possibly can.” The core components of Popeyes’ recent renaissance—the focus on its Louisiana heritage, new product proliferation, and franchisee relations—remain very present in 2016 as Popeyes aims to continue its brand-building efforts and record-breaking results. “It’s an enduring strategy,” Lynch says. “We’re working to create a legacy of systems, protocols, policies, and values that live beyond us.” Earlier in 2016, the company identified a collection of bold, long-term goals to be achieved over the next seven to 10 years, including driving U.S. restaurant AUVs from approximately $1.4 million to $2 million, increasing franchisee profitability from $340,000 to $500,000 per restaurant, and growing Popeyes’ global unit count from 2,500 to 4,000 restaurants. To accomplish these ambitious objectives, Popeyes’ new Strategic Roadmap focuses even more so on its Louisiana heritage, which leaders continue to see as Popeyes’ key brand differentiator. It also focuses on routine operational excellence at the restaurant level as a means to increase traffic counts. Popeyes is also doubling down on its people, which leadership sees as critical to driving profitability. Earlier this summer, the chain rolled out an employee engagement system in which about 60,000 crew members answered questions about their engagement with the brand and their individual restaurants. The company is now in the early stages of action planning against that data, thoughtfully and earnestly seeking concrete ways to increase employee engagement. “This is different and new territory for us,” Lynch says of the employee engagement push, “but crucial for our continued success.” The company’s three strategic pillars—Louisiana, operational excellence, and its people—will soon be enabled by ONE Technology, an initiative to build a common technology platform for the entire Popeyes system. “All of these programs need to be supported and facilitated by technology, both guest and employee facing, that seek to make lives better,” Lynch says. Stump says the technology piece is critical for Popeyes, which still has room to grow on both unit count—where it trails chicken category leader KFC by some 1,700 units—and AUV, where Chick-fil-A more than doubles Popeyes’ output. “Popeyes’ collection of data from franchisees over the years, something the brand wasn’t doing before [Bachelder’s] arrival, has helped the franchisees generate better returns and pick better sites, and ONE Technology is the next step here,” Stump says. “Popeyes has to get down to one POS system, not the 40 or so they have now.” Bachelder, meanwhile, will continue to lead the charge as CEO after inking a new multi-year employment agreement with Popeyes’ board of directors earlier this year. “One of Cheryl’s greatest talents is that she knows the right questions to ask at the right time,” Lynch says of his longtime colleague. “Best of all, she creates an environment in which these questions are addressed creatively and constructively.” Stability at the top, combined with a clear plan for the future, provides Popeyes leadership plenty of confidence that the momentum of the last eight years will continue. “We know it doesn’t get any easier, that the mountain keeps getting steeper and steeper,” Lynch says, “but we’ve had our turnaround and don’t want to do another. Everyone— our corporate staff, our franchisees, our crew, our customers, and [Wall Street]—understands what we were here to do, and that’s to continue our growth trajectory.” – Source:

Black Bear Diner Announces Key Addition to Executive Leadership Team

Black Bear Diner, the rapidly expanding family dining concept headquartered in Redding, California, announced the addition of restaurant industry veteran Tim Kaliher as chief operating officer. Kaliher, formerly vice president of operations for O’Charleys, Inc., is responsible for leading Black Bear Diner’s operational efficiency as the concept expands nationally. He is a member of the executive leadership team. “Our growth trajectory is accelerating quickly,” said Bruce Dean, CEO and co-founder of Black Bear Diner. “Tim’s leadership, experience and operational savvy will ensure that we remain efficient and effective in several aspects of our growth plan. Tim is an important addition to the Black Bear Diner family and we are very happy to have him on board.” Black Bear Diner has experienced 22 consecutive quarters of increased same-store sales and also achieved an 18 percent increase in system wide sales in 2015. The brand growth is being fueled by a mix of new and existing franchisees in existing markets, as well as corporate stores in newer markets. Black Bear Diner is on track to open up 14 new units in 2016, and already has 20 units in the pipeline for 2017. The brand has a goal of 100 units by 2018, with an eye towards eastward expansion. “I’m excited to join a brand that has tremendous momentum in the family dining segment,” said Kaliher. “This is a unique opportunity to help a strong brand sustain its robust growth pattern and work with a very talented roster of industry leaders. I’m thrilled to be part of the Black Bear Diner family.” The executive leadership team of Black Bear Diner includes Bruce Dean, CEO and co-founder; Robin Yoshimura, chief financial officer; Doug Branigan, chief development officer; David Doty, chief marketing officer; and Tim Kaliher, chief operating officer. Black Bear Diner is an award-winning family dining concept offering bear-sized food portions at an excellent value, with locations spread across eight western states. All Black Bear Diner restaurants feature a unique bear-inspired and log-cabin theme, designed to remind guests of a time when life was a little simpler and service and quality were the cornerstones of business. – Source: Black Bear Diner.

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday: All 10 of the Chain’s Illinois Restaurants Abruptly Close

Tuesday was the last day you could eat at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Illinois. All 10 Illinois restaurants — franchises of the Maryville, Tenn.-based casual dining chain — closed their doors Wednesday, including four suburban Chicago locations. RT Midwest Holdings, a Minnesota-based franchisee that previously reorganized through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in 2012, operated the Ruby Tuesday restaurants in Illinois. “As the franchisor of this concept, we went to great lengths in assisting the franchisee to remain open but he has made the decision to close his restaurants,” Ruby Tuesday said in a statement. Efforts to reach Guerrino Ruta, president of RT Midwest, were unsuccessful Friday. The closed Chicago-area Ruby Tuesday locations are in Gurnee, Melrose Park, Downers Grove and Skokie. Other Illinois locations included Rockford, Champaign, Effingham, Morton, Decatur and DeKalb. “We appreciate the patronage of the many residents and guests that have dined at the Illinois Ruby Tuesday restaurants over the years along with the dedicated employees of the franchisee and will evaluate opportunities to return to the market in the future,” Ruby Tuesday said. Ruby Tuesday was founded in 1972, opening its first restaurant in Knoxville, Tenn. The company went public in 1996 and launched its franchise operation the following year. As of March, there were 729 Ruby Tuesday restaurants in 44 states, 13 foreign countries and Guam. Most of the restaurants are corporate-owned. RT Midwest operated 11 of the company’s 28 U.S. franchise locations. It closed its Quincy, Ill., restaurant in March. Ruby Tuesday had nearly 800 locations in 2012 and has been closing restaurants in recent years amid soft sales. In fiscal 2015, same-restaurant sales were down 0.5 percent, an improvement over the previous year, when they fell 5.3 percent. In April, Ruby Tuesday reported a 5.1 percent revenue decline and a $3.1 million net loss for its fiscal 2016 third quarter. The company is scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings Aug. 11. – Source: The Chicago Tribune.

Chipotle Promotes Tuition Reimbursement Program

Restaurant chains have expanded their educational perks. Chipotle Mexican Grill has partnered with an online education startup to help the restaurant chain expand a tuition reimbursement program that could result in some employees paying as little as $250 per year to take college courses. The program, which Chipotle unveiled, is a partnership with Colorado-based Guild Education and will allow employees at the burrito chain to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees, taking college courses, earn a GED, or study English as a second language. The partnership builds on an existing tuition reimbursement program that already exists at Chipotle. That employee benefit received a big notable upgrade about a year ago, when Chipotle expanded the benefit to part-time employees after previously only offering the perk to salaried workers. Here’s how Chipotle came up with the $250 figure: Employees would have access to up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement per year provided by the company. An additional $5,815 could come from federal grants (though only for qualified candidates). Through those programs and the discounted tuition that Guild is offering, that’s how college costs can in some cases reach such a low figure. Broadly, restaurant chains and retailers have in recent years aimed to entice workers with better paying jobs and perks to lure and retain talent. Much of the media’s attention has focused on wage increases, but other perks like tuition reimbursement can be an important competitive advantage for companies like Chipotle. Rival restaurant chains have moved to augment their own educational programs in recent years. Starbucks, for example, also works with an online education company in a perk it says can cover all college expenses. McDonald’s also has a
college program, albeit it is less generous. For Chipotle, an investment in the education of the company’s more than 60,000 employees can make sense strategically: about 90% of Chipotle restaurant managers came from lower-paid crew positions. Gretchen Selfridge, restaurant support officer at Chipotle, told Fortune that since the company expanded the tuition perk to part-time employees in 2015, Chipotle has contributed about $5 million to 1,500 employees’ education. A majority of those that took advantage of the perk were those working in crew and cashier positions. Selfridge said that while the number of employees that are taking advantage of the perk is low, Chipotle is hopeful that figure will increase due to the new partnership announced recently. “Most of our employees wouldn’t have an idea of how to fill out a grant,” says Selfridge, who points out that many employees hired by the restaurant chain would be first-generation college students. “This partnership can help them find ways to cover even more costs.” Selfridge explained that the company’s recent efforts to tout tuition reimbursement has also helped Chipotle confront the negative perception that comes with working at a restaurant chain. In her time talking with Chipotle’s young restaurant staff, Selfridge says she’s heard many times that employees thought college was out of reach (because it was too expensive) and also that their parents deemed a job at Chipotle as a dead-end gig. “When these kids and their parents realize there is tuition reimbursement, it shows we aren’t trying to retain them in the fast food industry forever,” Selfridge says. – Source: Fortune.

Long John Silver’s Names Marketing Veteran to the Corporate Communications Team

Long John Silver’s, has named Karen Wantland, Director, Media and Local Store Marketing. Wantland’s responsibilities include overseeing strategic planning and implementation of national and local media, driving traffic and awareness. She reports to Vice President of Media, Promotions and Marketing, Marilyn Nicholson. Wantland brings more than 20 years of experience in marketing and advertising to Long John Silver’s and has worked with a variety of well-known, national brands. “I have known Karen for many years. Her versatility, creativity and organizational skills pack a powerful punch,” said Nicholson. “She has a wide range of experience in marketing, media, public relations and advertising and has a record of helping her clients succeed.” Previously, Wantland was a media director at Scoppechio for ten years and a media supervisor at Doe Anderson prior to that. She has worked with major names including YUM! Brands, Churchill Downs, Longhorn Steakhouse and University of Louisville, to name a few. Wantland serves on many boards and is active in her community. – Source: Long John Silver’s.

Jamba Juice Continues Franchise Expansion in the Portland Market

Offering freshly made fruit juices, signature smoothies and better-for-you food options, Jamba Juice is expanding in Portland and announced it has opened a new store in the city. The new store is located on 13565 N. Cornell Road, on the corner of Cornell Rd. and Murray Blvd. The store is owned by Jamba franchise group The Cinnamon Bums, Inc. which is based in Oregon. The Cinnamon Bums owns 20 additional Jamba locations in Oregon and in Southwest Washington. “We’re thrilled to continue to grow in the Portland market, and bring the goodness of Jamba Juice’s nutritious and delicious offerings to our community,” said Steve Foltz, a principal at The Cinnamon Bums. “The new location provides shoppers and visitors a convenient location to enjoy our better-for-you menu offerings on the go.” The opening continues Jamba Juice’s tradition of providing a wide variety of nutritious and freshly prepared menu selections that are wholesome and healthy. The Jamba Juice menu offers beverage choices for every palette and taste, with strong roots in their hallmark freshly squeezed juices, made to order with whole food ingredients. Jamba Juice’s signature Smoothies are blended masterpieces made with real fruit. Jamba isn’t just about beverages – guests can also enjoy Jamba’s steel-cut oatmeal, Baked Goods, and Energy Bowls. The Cinnamon Bums has been a long-time philanthropic partner in the community and participates with many charitable organizations throughout the region. – Source: Jamba, Inc.

J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. Announces Plans for Newest Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill

J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. said it has signed a lease to develop a new Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill at University Place in Chapel Hill, NC. Lonnie J. Stout II, President and Chief Executive Officer of J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc., said the new Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill, representing the 12th in the Company’s collection, will be located at 201 South Estes Drive. Construction on the new restaurant is slated to begin in early August with opening scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year. “We are pleased to announce plans for our newest Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill,” Stout said, “marking our entry into North Carolina.” The Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill at University Place will be approximately 7,900 square feet with seating for up to 225 guests. The restaurant will employ an operating staff of approximately 80 full and part-time professionals. According to Stout, the newest Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill will offer a high-quality menu with emphasis on hand-cut steaks, seafood and featured entrées, served in a sophisticated atmosphere. “The menu will be broader than offered in most steakhouses,” Stout emphasized, “and every steak entrée will come with a side item. Guests will enjoy such offerings as a coffee-cured filet, bone-in rib eye and classic New York strip steak, as well as our house specialties ranging from signature steak and biscuits, pasta and chicken to shrimp, sea bass and salmon.” The Stoney River fullservice bar will feature hand-crafted cocktails and over 30 varietals of wine by the glass and more than 120 bottles of wine on its boutique wine list. The new Stoney River in Chapel Hill will be open seven days a week for dinner and on Sunday for brunch. Operating hours will be announced prior to the opening of the restaurant. In addition to the new location planned for University Place in Chapel Hill, J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc. presently owns and operates 11 Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill restaurants in Annapolis and Towson, MD; Atlanta, Duluth and Roswell, GA; Deer Park, IL; Louisville, KY; Chesterfield, MO; and Germantown, Franklin and Nashville, TN. – Source: J. Alexander’s Holdings, Inc.

JAB Beech Completes Acquisition of Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc., an indirect controlled subsidiary of JAB Holding Company, announced the successful completion of the acquisition of Krispy Kreme by JAB Beech. The acquisition was announced on May 9, 2016, and the transaction closed and became effective following the vote by shareholders of the Company to approve the deal at a special shareholder meeting earlier in the day. Under the terms of the transaction, Company shareholders will receive $21 per share in cash for each share they own. As a result of the completion of the acquisition, Krispy Kreme’s common stock will cease trading as of on the New York Stock Exchange. – Source: Krispy Kreme.

Ignite to Close 8 More Restaurants

Ignite Restaurant Group Inc. will close at least eight more restaurants in the third quarter, after closing three Joe’s Crab Shack units in the second quarter ended June 27, executives said. The Houston-based casual-dining company, which also owns and operates the 26-unit Brick House Tavern + Tap chain, took an $8.2 million asset impairment charge in the second quarter related to closures, said Brad Leist, Ignite chief financial officer, in an earnings call. “In the third quarter, we plan to close eight of these impaired restaurants, along with potentially a few others, due to underperformance,” Leist said. “The decision to close these restaurants is specifically aimed at improving our operating margins, as well as our current future financial covenant ratios.” As of June 27, Ignite had 127 Joe’s Crab Shack units, down from 138 in the same period a year ago. The company closed seven Joe’s restaurants in the third quarter of 2015. Robert Merritt, Ignite president and CEO, told analysts that the company’s second-quarter sales were impacted significantly by a downturn in the oil and gas economies of Texas, from where Ignite gets about 30 percent of its sales. Restaurants in the Northeast also performed poorly in the quarter, he said. “I’ll be as candid as I can be,” Merritt said. “We’re not happy with the operating results. In fact, we’re a bit embarrassed about the operating results.” Ignite’s net loss for the second quarter was $10.4 million, or a loss of 40 cents a share, which swung from net income of $86,000 in the prior-year period. Second-quarter revenue fell 8.7 percent, to $130.8 million, from $143.2 in the same period a year ago. Ignite same-store sales declined 6.7 percent systemwide, with a 6.8-percent decrease at Joe’s Crab Shack and a 6.3-percent decrease at Brick House. Ignite had tried to make the Joe’s brand more upscale, Merritt said, which “frankly the consumer didn’t respond well to.” Merritt said the company was “taking steps to reverse that. And we’re pulling every lever and pushing every button we can think of in Texas.” While Merritt said he wouldn’t “try to sugarcoat it,” he was seeing positive signs, with a new menu in September that would restore a number of items that had been removed, and working on operations. Sales in the first weeks of the third quarter showed improvement in areas other than Texas, Merritt said. “Some of the things we’re doing are having a positive effect,” he said, “and we will continue to fight the fight in those areas where it’s not.” The second-quarter 6.8-percent same-store sales decrease at Joe’s Crab Shack included a 7.1-percent decrease in traffic and a 0.8-percent decrease in mix that were partially offset by a 1.1-increase in price, Leist said. Same-store sales at Brick House declined 6.3 percent in the quarter, comprised of a 6.9-percent decrease in traffic and mix that was offset by a 0.6-percent increase in price, he said. Leist added that full-year guidance was for a 4-percent to 8percent same-store sales decline systemwide. As of June 27, Ignite owned 127 Joe’s Crab Shack units and 26 Brick House restaurants. – Source: NRN.

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