McDonald’s Turnaround Revs-up Abroad as Sales Top Estimates

McDonald’s Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook has more tricks up his sleeve than serving Egg McMuffins all day. A series of upgrades at the company’s international locations — including technological advances like self-service kiosks — boosted sales in some of the restaurant’s chains biggest markets abroad and helped third-quarter results beat analysts’ expectations. While the introduction of all-day breakfast has revived McDonald’s fortunes in the U.S. over the past year, the world’s largest restaurant company has said its turnaround is even further ahead in international markets like the U.K. and Germany. The strong results there last quarter — and the fact that many of those innovations have yet to take hold at McDonald’s domestic locations — signal that the U.S. business may continue to improve, said Michael Halen, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “For the doubters who think this is just a bump from all-day breakfast, they can point to those markets,” he said. “It’s a good sign for the U.S.” Revenue Beats. Revenue was $6.42 billion in the period ended Sept. 30, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said in a statement on Friday. Analysts estimated $6.28 billion, on average. Globally, comparable-stores sales rose 3.5 percent, while analysts projected a 1.5 percent gain, according to Consensus Metrix. The shares increased as much as 3.5 percent to $114.42 in New York, the biggest intraday gain in a year. Through Thursday, McDonald’s had dropped 6.4 percent this year. McDonald’s, which generates about two-thirds of its revenue from outside the U.S., got the biggest boost last quarter from its business abroad. The international lead markets unit — which encompasses the U.K., Canada, Australia and Germany — boosted same-store sales 3.3 percent. That topped analysts’ 1.8 percent average projection. The foundational markets segment, which includes Japan, posted a 10.1 percent comparable-sales increase. Analysts estimated a 2.4 percent gain. In McDonald’s high-growth unit, including China and Russia, comparable-store sales climbed 1.5 percent. Analysts had estimated an increase of 0.5 percent. Those advances outpaced the 1.3 percent increase in U.S. same-store sales, which topped analysts’ 1.2 percent average estimate. Still — with the help of steep discounting, faster kitchens and all-day breakfast — the performance marked the domestic business’s fifth straight quarter of gains. McDonald’s raised prices about 3.5 percent in the U.S. during the quarter, even as the cost of its commodities, like beef and dairy, slipped 6 percent. Grocery prices have now fallen for 10 straight months, a streak of food deflation not seen since 1960. Easterbrook noted that the price gap between dining out and eating at home is the largest it has been in more than 30 years. Still, slow wage growth, higher health-care costs and issues with consumer confidence are bigger factors weighing on sales in the fast-food industry, he said. “When you’re a lower-average-check business like we are, I don’t think that magnifies out the same as if we were mid-scale dining or fine-end dining,” he said. “I think there are broader macroeconomic issues of consumer confidence.” McDonald’s has been refranchising restaurants, or selling them to independent owners, to try to reduce its risk and trim overhead costs. There are plans to sell about 4,000 locations by the end of 2018. McDonald’s has more than 36,000 locations globally. Profit last quarter was $1.62 a share, excluding some items. Analysts estimated $1.48, on average. Last week, McDonald’s said its turnaround plan added about $130 million in pretax expenses, amounting to a charge of 12 cents a share, to its third-quarter results. Since becoming CEO last year, Easterbrook also has shaken up corporate management, cut jobs and announced that the company’s headquarters is moving to downtown Chicago by the spring of 2018. Hoping to draw more health-conscious and younger consumers, the chain also has focused on improving its fare. It switched to real butter on its Egg McMuffins instead of margarine, removed high-fructose corn syrup from its buns and is getting rid of some antibiotics from its chicken. The chain also pulled artificial preservatives from its popular chicken McNuggets, a move that pushed up sales up nearly 10 percent last quarter, according to Easterbrook. Still, the move may not be enough to appease Americans who are increasingly flocking to fast-casual chains such as Panera Bread Co. “Customers today are more informed and demand greater choice and variety when they dine out,” Easterbrook said in Friday’s statement. “That’s why we’re evolving the McDonald’s experience to provide more high-quality, affordable food and beverage options and convenient solutions for customers on the go.” – Source: Bloomberg News.

Pasadena’s Dog Haus is Set to Become a National Chain with Nearly 500 Locations

As fast-casual restaurants conquer the nation, it’s no longer hard to find better burgers, artisanal burritos or upscale pizza. But not the humble hot dog, which has yet to escape the ballpark. Dog Haus hopes to change that. The Pasadena company signed a deal that will help bring its gourmet bratwursts to nearly 500 restaurants across the country in the coming years. Dog Haus currently has 21 locations in five states. Under the new agreement with American Development Partners, it will expand by more than 300 new franchises in 12 states over seven years. Separate from that deal, the company has sold an additional 160 franchises that have not yet opened. The first Dog Haus was opened in 2010 by restaurateurs Quasim Riaz, Hagop Giragossian and Andre Vener. The three friends already had roots in the Pasadena dining scene — Vener used to own jazz club and restaurant Redwhite+Bluezz, while Riaz and Giragossian still co-own Kings Row Gastropub. Dog Haus has built its brand around its specialty hot dogs (although it serves other food such as burgers, fries and shakes). Its offerings include the Sooo Cali dog, with wild arugula and basil aioli, and the Free Bird, a turkey sausage with avocado and ranch. The chain is also known for its cheeky sense of humor, including its tagline, “the absolute wurst,” and a promotional item called the “Naughty Dog” for the recently released animated film “Sausage Party.” Giragossian said the partners never imagined when they started that Dog Haus could expand this far, this fast. He declined to disclose exactly how much they are making on the deal, though they could clear over $10 million on the franchising fees alone, since a single location costs $35,000. “We are pretty giddy,” he said. “We always thought Dog Haus had a chance to grow. But this isn’t what we dreamed of.” Caleb McMillen, chief operating officer of American Development Partners, said his company, along with a private equity firm, will sink over $500 million in this deal. ADP develops real estate on behalf of investors, buying land and building properties. In this deal, it will also cover franchising fees — reducing the overhead for franchisees. Eight franchisees have already signed up to operate the new eateries, paying rent to the investors. Additional locations and franchisees could be brought on later. McMillen said the private equity firm, which he won’t disclose, was attracted to the sales and underlying model of Dog Haus. Fast-casual restaurants, he said, are also less costly to build compared to full-service eateries. “You only want real estate that somebody is paying rent on if the business occupying that space is successful,” McMillen said. On average, one location pulls in sales of $1.3 million a year; the Dog Haus Biergarten concept, which offers the same food as a normal Dog Haus, but with additional beers on tap and in bottles, pulls in even higher sales, Giragossian said. All of the franchises developed under the ADP deal will be Dog Haus Biergartens. Dog Haus has no debt and no loans. Vener said its prior financial independence will help keep the company from veering off course as it expands. “We have been managing without borrowing from anybody,” he said. “A lot of times when you borrow money to start something, it keeps spiraling in the wrong direction.” The hot dog chain is one of a pack of chains that have exploded in recent years as diners opt for eateries touting higher-quality ingredients in a more refined setting than fast-food joints. Another Pasadena fast-casual chain, Blaze Pizza, is slated to hit 500 locations by 2020. Dog Haus will be fighting for the same diners that other fast-casual eateries are trying to woo, said Lauren Hallow, concepts analyst at Technomic. But unlike numerous burger and pizza joints, she said, Dog Haus has a more unique menu.  “They really don’t have that much competition in terms of national hot dog players,” Hallow said. Still, an aggressive expansion plan — with hundreds of new locations in new states over multiple years — is always challenging. “Anything can happen in seven years,” she said. “Something can happen with the economy. Something can happen with real estate. Maybe people will decide they don’t like hot dogs.” But the franchisees who have signed up say they are optimistic about the future of the wiener. Shawn Eby, a long-time fast-food executive, said he’s been looking for years to open restaurants that will appeal to millennials. He first encountered Dog Haus in February while visiting his daughter in Long Beach, and recognized its potential. Eby said he’s planning to open 100 spots in five years in Wyoming, Colorado, Kentucky and Louisiana. “It was everything I had been looking for all in one package,” Eby said.  – Source; The Los Angeles Times.

Starbucks Names China CEO, Sees 5,000 Stores There by 2021

Starbucks Corp. named its first chief executive officer for China and said it plans to more than double its store count in that country to 5,000 by 2021. The world’s biggest coffee chain promoted Belinda Wong to the title of CEO of Starbucks China. Wong, who had been president of that operation, will continue to report to John Culver, group president of Starbucks Global Retail. Among other things, Wong will oversee the opening of Starbucks’ first international Roastery and Reserve Tasting Room in Shanghai in 2017. Starbucks opened the first of its sprawling roasteries in Seattle in 2014 to showcase super-premium coffee beans and brewing methods. It was a move by the company to assert itself as a player in an upscale niche being defined by newer cafe chains such as Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia. Starbucks has operated in China for 17 years. The world’s fastest-growing major economy has been a key development market for the coffee chain, which now has more than 2,300 cafes in 100-plus cities there. Starbucks also promoted Leo Tsoi to the role of chief operating officer for Starbucks China. He was most recently vice president of store development and design for the division. – Source: Reuters.

Vegan Chain Veggie Grill Raises $22 Million for Massive Expansion

It’s probably time people learned the name Veggie Grill, a fast­-casual chain that’s going gangbusters in Southern California and also happens to be entirely vegan. It announced that investors who are liking what they’re seeing have sunk another $22 million into the company so it can finally expand in earnest beyond the West Coast. The chain received $20 million in 2013, money it used to double the number of stores it was running to 28. The investment should be enough to double the chain’s size again by 2019, it predicts, and the spots it’s eyeing for expansion are primarily urban areas all over the country. The plan is to widen Veggie Grill’s footprint in California, but also to “move out of the West Coast region,” CEO Steve Heeley tells Nation’s Restaurant News. “We’re still evaluating markets, but we’re looking at the Midwest and the East Coast.” The chain’s seasonally rotating menu offers a mix of burgers, salads packed with superfoods, Asian-­inspired bowls, and even a few main ­and ­two sides ­style entrées, all made without any meat, dairy products, eggs, cholesterol, or transfat. Some people may never know it, though: Dishes include several with fried “chickin’” plus veggie versions of everything from crab to beef. NRN says there are also plans to occupy airports and university food courts. The chain seems emboldened by its own market research, which it says shows “a large number of what we call ‘veggie positive’ people” out there who still like meat, but “want to move vegetables to the center of the plate.” Veggie Grill will add even more bragging rights soon, too, as it’s about to become the first chain to serve Beyond Meat’s plant ­based patty, a close competitor of the Impossible Food “bleeding” burger beloved by David Chang and other chefs right now. – Sources: New York Magazine/NRN.

Del Taco Sells Record-­Breaking 11 Million Tacos, adds ‘Platos’ Entrees to Menu

Lake Forest­ based Del Taco continues to add more “fast casual” style upgrades to its menu. On Thursday, the Mexican fast­food chain debuted “Platos,” plated entree dishes ranging in price from $6.49 to $7.49. The four new plated dishes, a first of its kind for the fast food chain, comes with a side of lime rice, pinto beans and chips. Black beans can be substituded at no extra charge. The four “platos” options include: two new “wet” burritos (chicken verde or carne asada topped with green or red sauce); two beer ­battered fish tacos; and two street tacos. The entrees are permanent menu additions. All entrees are available a la carte. The new menu items come as Del Taco pushes a fresh food strategy. Remodeled stores emphasize slow cooked beans, and freshly chopped ingredients. At a contemporary prototype store in Irvine, tubs of pico de gallo and other fresh produce are displayed in a cooler with glass doors behind the cash register. In recent years, restaurants have added turkey tacos, fresh avocado and made-­to-­order salads, as well a line of Epic burritos stuffed with the same premium ingredients similarly found at Chipotle. “We’re trying to elevate the experience of the brand. We want to raise our game,” John Cappasola, Del Taco’s chief brand officer, told the Register in an interview earlier this year. Still, fast, inexpensive food is at the core of the brand. The company’s The Del Taco, a larger version of the standard beef taco has been a huge success. The chain has sold 11 million since debuting the item in late June. It is the best­selling product in the brand’s history. The previous No. 1 product launch was the Grilled Chicken Rollers, introduced on the value menu in early 2016, Del Taco said. – Source: The Orange County Register.

Chipotle’s 1st Tasty Made Burger Store to Open in Ohio

Chipotle’s first burger store to open in Ohio as the company continues working to expand its offerings and win back customers after a series of food safety scares. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. says the new Tasty Made restaurant is scheduled to open in Lancaster, 30 miles southeast of Columbus. The Denver-based company says the Tasty Made restaurant will serve only burgers, fries, milkshakes and sodas. Chipotle says the grilled-to-order burgers will be made from fresh beef from animals raised without antibiotics or added hormones. The chain is known for burritos. It says Tasty Made prices will be similar to those of fast-food competitors. Chipotle has been trying to recover from an E. coli outbreak and norovirus cases that sent sales plunging starting last fall. – Source:

Diversified Restaurant Holdings Names Phyllis Knight CFO

Diversified Restaurant Holdings Inc., or DRH, has named Phyllis Knight chief financial officer and treasurer as part of a planned succession. DRH is the largest Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee, and operates the Bagger Dave’s Burger Tavern brand. Knight replaces David Burke as CFO. Burke has assumed the role of president and CEO at Southfield, Mich.-based DRH, which earlier this year announced a plan to spin off Bagger Dave’s in order to focus on Buffalo Wild Wings. The spin-off is expected to be completed later this year. As part of the transition, former DRH chief executive Michael Ansley has taken the role of executive chairman of the board. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead this company, and am equally excited about its future,” Ansley said in a statement. “We have begun the next phase of our strategy and believe David and Phyllis are the right choices to execute our plans and deliver shareholder value.” Knight is new to the restaurant industry, and has 30 years of experience in the manufacturing, home building and mortgage services industries. She served most recently as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Polar Corp., a tank trailer manufacturing, parts and service organization. Prior experience includes executive positions at Champion Enterprises Inc. and Champion Enterprises Holdings LLC. DRH operates 64 Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants and 19 Bagger Dave’s units.—Source: NRN.

Two Executives to Leave McDonald’s

Two longtime executives with McDonald’s Corp. are retiring by year’s end, the company said. Karen King, executive vice-president and chief field officer, oversees McDonald’s four U.S. zones, which include 14,000 restaurants that generate 40% of the quick-service chain’s sales. She also is responsible for franchising and franchising relations. Ms. King was appointed to her current role in 2015 after serving as McDonald’s chief people officer. Erik Hess, senior vice-president, Customer Experience, is responsible for research and consumer insights, menu and brand strategy. He joined the company in 1991. “While Karen and Erik will be greatly missed, their retirements provide an opportunity to change our organizational structure to further enhance our connectivity with our owner-operators and our customers,” the company said. “U.S. zone presidents Debbie Roberts and Charlie Strong, and Kristy Cunningham, U.S. senior vice-president, Strategy and Insights, and Lance Richards, U.S. vice-president, Menu Strategy, will report directly to Chris Kempczinski, who is transitioning to the role of McDonald’s USA president on Jan. 1, 2017.” Additionally, Charlie Robeson will take on expanded responsibilities as chief restaurant officer of the United States. In this expanded role, Mr. Robeson will oversee a variety of functions, including operations of company-owned restaurants, franchising, development and restaurant modernization. Ms. King and Mr. Hess join a list of top executives to retire from the company this year. Also retiring at the end of the year is Mike Andres, president of McDonald’s USA and a 30-year veteran of the company, along with Pat Harris, vice-president and global chief diversity officer and a 40-year veteran of McDonald’s. In September, chief administration officer Pete Bensen retired after 20 years with McDonald’s. – Source:

Atlanta’s Flying Biscuit Café Will Soon Bring All Day Breakfast to DFW

If you think that Dallas’ breakfast scene is a little lacking, perhaps the arrival of an Atlanta-based spot that focuses almost entirely on the most important meal of the day will sway your opinion. Announced via release, Flying Biscuit Café will soon make its debut in Dallas. The Atlanta-based chain will open outposts in or near Addison, NorthPark Center, and Lower Greenville in the coming months, though no addresses for those locations have been announced just yet. The comfort food focused spot is perhaps most well-known for its Southern breakfast favorites. Obviously biscuits are on offer, topped with eggs and gravy. You’ll also find other morning staples like omelets, French toast, and pancakes. Outside of the breakfast offerings, which are available all day, the restaurant also offers a full menu of lunch and dinner options. The Flying Biscuit Café made its debut in Atlanta in 1993, where it’s become a popular spot for breakfast and brunch. The restaurant has since expanded to 14 locations across the Southeast, including outposts in North Carolina and Florida. You’ll have to wait a while to try The Flying Biscuit Café — the first Dallas location isn’t expected to open until 2017. – Source: Eater.

Fatz Cafe Parent Names Jim Mazany CEO

Fatz Cafe parent Cafe Enterprises Inc. has named Jim Mazany, former president of Joe’s Crab
Shack, its next president and CEO, the casual-dining operator said. Mazany is a 30-year industry veteran who has also held senior leadership roles at TGI Fridays and Applebee’s. He takes over at the Taylors, S.C.-based chain for Chris Thomas, who stepped down to “pursue other opportunities.” “We are excited to have Jim lead the Fatz Cafe brand,” said Scott Warren, board director of Cafe Enterprises. “Jim is a proven restaurant executive whose leadership style will be a great fit for our culture. While 2016 has been a difficult year for those of us in the casual-dining industry, Jim has extensive experience in leading brands to success in challenging times.” Mazany joined Joe’s Crab Shack in 2007 as senior vice president of operations. He then served as chief operating officer, and ultimately president. Fatz Cafe said that under his watch, the brand saw unit volume grow from $2.2 million per year to $3.2 million per year. Fatz Cafe was founded in a converted peach shed in 1988. The chain has restaurants across the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. Fatz Cafe has 45 locations, and Cafe Enterprises owns one Tavern 24 unit. “I am honored and excited to be given the opportunity to lead the Cafe Enterprises team, and to grow and develop the Fatz Cafe brand,” Mazany said in a statement. “Fatz has deep roots in Southern hospitality and Southern-inspired cuisine, and a dedicated group of team members who have made the brand what it is today.” – Source: NRN.

Shaq Buys Atlanta Krispy Kreme Store, Starts Partnership with Doughnut Chain

Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal announced on Monday that he is the proud new owner of a Krispy Kreme store. O’Neal tweeted, “Ur favorite doughnut just got even HOTTER, baby – I’ve joined the @krispykreme family! #krispykreme #shaq #shaqalicious. O’Neal bought an historic Krispy Kreme shop on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta as he signed a partnership with the doughnut chain. He will also serve as a spokesperson for the brand. “Krispy Kreme prides itself on spreading joy and supporting local communities, and that’s a cause that I am thrilled to be a part of,” O’Neal said in a statement. “Our goal is to help people find their happy place, and what better way than with a box of delicious Krispy Kreme doughnuts.” O’Neal revealed in an interview last year that he once turned down Howard Schultz’s offer to partner with Starbucks, saying, “I looked at the great Howard Schultz’s face and said, ‘Black people don’t drink coffee, sir. I don’t think it’s gonna work.’ And you should have seen the look on his face.” – Source: CBS News.

Fiesta Restaurant Group Looks to Make up Profit by Shuttering 10 Pollo Tropical Units

Fiesta Restaurant Group plans to shed roughly $4.8 million in pre-tax operating losses logged so far this year from 10 Pollo Tropical restaurants. Addison-based Fiesta announced it will shutter eight Pollo Tropical locations in Texas; one in Nashville; and another in the Atlanta area. Up to three in Texas could be converted to Fiesta’s other brand, Taco Cabana, but the company did not specify which locations could be rebranded. A timeline for when the restaurants will be shut down was also not disclosed. Almost all of the employees affected by the closures will be offered jobs at nearby restaurants, Fiesta said. The decision comes after the company said in September it would suspend additional development of Pollo Tropical restaurants in Texas. In the same announcement, Fiesta said it scuttled plans to separate Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana into separate public companies. It also named Danny Meisenheimer, formerly Pollo Tropical’s vice president and chief operating officer, as Fiesta’s interim CEO. Meisenheimer succeeds Tim Taft, who helped form Fiesta when it was spun off from Carrols Restaurant Group in 2012. Fiesta is working with search firm Heidrick & Struggles to find a permanent replacement. “After a period of aggressively growing Pollo Tropical in Texas we have hit the pause button to focus on building brand affinity, frequency and awareness, while continuing balanced system development over time,” Meisenheimer said. “We believe closing or rebranding these underperforming stores provides the opportunity to further strengthen our operational and financial performance across the remaining restaurants in Texas and across our Pollo Tropical brand as a whole.” With the closures, Fiesta will incur impairment charges between $18 million and $21 million during third quarter 2016, as well as related lease and other charges between $2 million and $4 million during the fourth quarter. In addition to announcing the impact of the closures, Fiesta released preliminary third quarter comparable sales results. The company said it saw same-store sales decline 1 percent across Pollo Tropical restaurants and 4.1 percent across all Taco Cabana units. “As always, we are focused on delivering the best products and experience to our guests,” Meisenheimer added. “Although the industry backdrop remains soft and comparable sales at Pollo Tropical continue to be negatively impacted by sales cannibalization, traffic trends improved at the end of the third quarter at both brands driven, in part, by compelling product and value promotions.” Fiesta will release its full third quarter results on Nov. 7 after market close. Last week, The New York Post reported that Fiesta was looking for a buyer, adding that the Addison company was “quietly alerting potential suitors that it intends to put itself up for sale.” Houston-based activist investor JCP Investment Partnership may be leading Fiesta to consider a sale. The company, which announced last month it had taken a 6.2 percent stake in Fiesta, said in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it believes Fiesta has “significant operational and strategic opportunities” to increase shareholder value. A lack of profits may be part of a push toward a deal. In its second quarter earnings, reported Aug. 3, Fiesta said it had revenue of $181.53 million, up from $171.9 million during the same quarter the previous year. But income fell from $11.25 million in 2015 to $8.92 million in the most recently reported quarter. Earnings per share also dipped from 42 cents to 33 cents. Shares of Fiesta closed at $27.05. Over the past 12 months, the stock is trading down more than 29 percent. – Source: Dallas Business Journal.

Hard Rock CEO Leaving Stage in Early 2017

Hard Rock Cafe International’s president and CEO is stepping down in early 2017. Hamish Dodds will leave the hotel-and-restaurant company to “pursue new opportunities” after leading it for 13 years. Dodds helped bring the company from British ownership into the hands of the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 2007. Hard Rock has 168 cafes, 23 hotels and 11 casinos across the world. It’s known for its rock-and-roll themed spaces and historic memorabilia. Hard Rock is headquartered in Orlando and has 40,000 employees worldwide. The company did not indicate where Dodds is headed after he leaves Hard Rock. He has led the company since 2004. During Dodds’ tenure, the chain grew by 68 locations and expanded into new markets such as China. It has also expanded into the casino market. “It has been an absolute privilege working for Hard Rock over the last 13 years and leading the growth of this amazing brand, while helping to reinforce Hard Rock’s unique character, and its commitment to service and philanthropy,” Dodds said in a statement. Dodds will assist the company to find a new leader and stay involved with the Hard Rock heals Foundation. “We are grateful to Hamish for his leadership and vision,” Seminole HR Holdings chairman Jim Allen said in a statement. “His global perspective was instrumental in the company’s growth,” Allen continued. “His loyalty and passion are greatly appreciated, and we wish him well in the next stage of his career.” – Source: The Orlando Sentinel.

Mexican Brand Cantina Laredo Makes its Global Move

For the past three decades, Consolidated Restaurant Operations (CRO) has worked to expand Cantina Laredo, its Texas-based, modern Mexican brand, across the world. CRO currently operates 39 of the upscale restaurants, but significant expansion plans for the brand lie on the horizon. This year, Cantina Laredo leadership shifted its focus from company-owned stores to franchising, an opportunity CEO John Harkey says is compelling to restaurant owners and operators. “It’s an exciting time for the brand,” Harkey says. “We are pivoting into franchising and believe there are opportunities in the U.S. and all across the world.” There are currently 38 total locations globally. Twenty-six are company-operated and 12 franchised, Harkey reports. Most recently, the brand signed agreements to open three locations in Qatar’s capital city of Doha. The group Al Amthal Hospitality, an affiliate of Real Estate Services Group that specializes in hospitality development across Qatar, is Cantina Laredo’s newest franchisee. Plans exist for three Cantina Laredos in Doha, with the first location scheduled to open later this year. Al Amthal Hospitality will open this unit in a multi-use urban environment where there will be restaurants, office spaces, and residential units. The genesis of Cantina Laredo in Qatar follows other successful Middle Eastern locations in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. There are still active units in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Riyadh, and elsewhere in Saudi Arabia. “The contemporary flavors of Mexico for which Cantina Laredo is known will be a welcomed addition to the restaurant environment in Qatar,” Al Amthal Hospitality CEO Ali Taimour says. Harkey agrees with Taimour’s assessment. “Mexican food resonates very well with the Middle Eastern diners,” he notes. The restaurant’s fare includes proteins and wraps that parallel traditional Middle Eastern dining palates. The transition to the region felt natural and logical. “We’re very active in the region,” Harkey says. “The brand has been accepted very well.” Evidence supports his observation: Just before the Qatar locations were announced, CRO signed for 10 new locations in Istanbul, Turkey. Construction for a new restaurant is also underway in Cairo, Egypt. Cantina Laredo leadership has plans to add more franchisees in the future. Harkey says ideal candidates would already have significant restaurant expertise. “We’re really making a concerted effort to push franchising,” Harkey says. The company recently hired a full-time director of franchising and signed seven new franchised locations just in the past few months. Cantina Laredo leadership is currently engaged in conversations in Asia, India, China, Korea, and Taiwan. Harkey intends to open 200 new Cantina Laredo locations within the next five years. CRO attributes the brand’s success to open-mindedness. When asked how he finds leads for new restaurant locations, Harkey says the answer is much simpler than one might think. “Well, we answer our telephone when the telephone rings.” The Qatar partnership evolved out of one such phone call. Taimour’s Al Amthal Hospitality impressed Harkey and his team with its professionalism, existing resources, and well-established hospitality and restaurant industry expertise. CRO hopes Al Amthal Hospitality will experience success with its Cantina Laredo ventures and will feel encouraged to build even more locations in the region beyond the initial three restaurants in Doha. Founded in 1984 in Addison, Texas, Cantina Laredo provides guests with an upscale-dining atmosphere to experience a blend of authentic and modern Mexican cuisines. In addition to Cantina Laredo, CRO restaurant brands include Black Oak Grill, Cool River Café, El Chico, Silver Fox, Good Eats, Lucky’s, and III Forks. – Source:

5 Employers that Lead the Way in Hiring People with Disabilities

You don’t have to be a hospitality giant to attract a diverse workforce. A brew pub chain, a pie shop and two cafes and Sodexho recently were honored for their efforts to employ people with disabilities. The Ruderman Family Foundation recently recognized 18 Best in Business companies that lead the way in hiring and supporting people with disabilities. Among them: Indianapolis-based Scotty’s Brewhouse, Power Cafe in Boston, Coco Cafe in British Columbia and Centerville Pie Company. Scotty’s, which aims increase its percentage of employees with disabilities to 10 percent next year, created a short video to get the word out about its efforts. “I want people to understand that we hire everybody,” says founder and CEO Scott Wise. “These are all people who are capable and willing and want to work. Why wouldn’t we give them an opportunity?” The National Restaurant Association.

Lemonade Names New President, CEO

Former Universal Studios executive Larry Kurzweil has been named president and CEO of the Lemonade Restaurant Group, the company said this week. Effective Dec. 1, the move comes as co-founders Alan Jackson assumes the role of chairman and chief culinary officer, and Ian Olsen becomes chief development officer. Kurzweil served most recently as president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios Hollywood from 1999 to 2016, overseeing the theme park and studio tour. Before that, he held marketing and management positions at Darden Restaurants, Nestle Foods and General Mills, the company said. Jackson, in a statement, said the changes would allow the Los Angeles-based chain’s founders to focus on the aspects they’re most passionate about: food, culture and guest experience. “We are thrilled to have Larry join Lemonade as president and CEO and believe it is the next step in growing Lemonade as a national brand,” said Jackson. “We selected Larry for his innate ability to shepherd strong brands to the next level of success and believe that his seasoned experience as a key executive leading best-in-category consumer-retail brands is an incredible and unique asset that will be instrumental in Lemonade’s continued growth.” Founded in 2008, the fast-casual Lemonade chain includes 25 restaurants in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. – Source: NRN.

Starbucks to Take Roastery Concept to Tokyo

Starbucks Coffee Co. has selected Tokyo’s upscale Nakameguro District as the site for a new Starbucks Reserve Roastery. The Roastery, which will be the company’s fourth globally, is expected to open in 2018. Starbucks opened its first Roastery in Seattle in 2014 and since then has unveiled plans to open locations in Shanghai, China, in 2017 and New York in 2018. “As it was when we opened Japan as our first market outside of North America in 1996, the country continues to be an important and dynamic coffee community for Starbucks,” said Howard Schultz, chairman and chief executive officer of Starbucks. “We are proud to bring our customers a distinct, immersive and innovative retail experience that celebrates the craft of coffee in an unprecedented way. We are honored to be collaborating with Kengo Kuma in creating an experience that will bring our Japanese customers closer to our coffee and partners (employees) than ever before.” Kengo Kuma is an architect and founder of Kuma Lab at the University of Tokyo. Mr. Kuma is recognized around the world for his “cutting-edge designs and innovative theories on architecture and society,” Starbucks said. It will be Starbucks second design collaboration with Mr. Kuma. He previously designed the company’s store in Fukuoka, Japan.“I look forward to building on my longstanding relationship with Starbucks to create a place that reflects the culture and people of this exquisite neighborhood to become one of the most iconic destinations in the city of Tokyo,” Mr. Kuma said. Starbucks said the 13,000-square-foot store will provide an “all-sensory environment.” The Roastery will include artisan food and bread baked on site by Princi. – Source:

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill Names First CMO

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill has named Steven Goldstein as its first chief marketing officer, the company said. An industry veteran with 35 years of experience, Goldstein has spent the past nine years with San Francisco-based restaurant consulting group The Culinary Edge, where he headed business development and client management. He is the brother of Sharky’s chief operating officer David Goldstein. “Steven’s commitment to execution and brand strategy is a welcome addition to a growing Sharky’s brand,” said Steven Paperno, Sharky’s founder and CEO. “David Goldstein, COO, and I believe that Steven will help establish and grow Sharky’s as a brand that offers current and future guests ways to eat deliciously, providing quality nutrition and satisfaction in equal measure, or in the ratio each person seeks at each meal occasion. Above all, Steven is committed to our vision to offer guests the opportunity to ‘Feel Good About Eating’ realized in our distinctive menu and premium fast-casual dining experience.” In his role as CMO, Goldstein will oversee brand and menu evolution as the 25-unit chain expands beyond California, with plans to open restaurants in Oregon, Arizona and Nevada. Westlake Village, Calif.-based Sharky’s recently opened its first unit outside the Golden State, in Tualatin, Ore., and more locations are scheduled to open in the Portland, Ore., area, in addition to restaurants also planned in Southern California. In 2017, another three units are scheduled to open in Las Vegas. Last year, Sharky’s unveiled a new prototype that supports menu upgrades and emphasizes sustainability. – Source: NRN.

Startup Oath Craft Pizza Brings CEO on Board

Oath Craft Pizza, which received $4.5 million inventure funding last month, has named Patrik Hellstrand president and CEO. Hellstrand, the first CEO of Oath Craft Pizza, adds a seasoned executive to a chain with big growth aspirations. “It’s been an incredible year for Oath,” chief operating officer Rick Wolf said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have Patrik join the team. His arrival will surely support these initiatives and bring infinite value to the brand.” Hellstrand most recently was corporate group vice president at the fitness company Equinox. He has also held positions in the hotel and consulting industries. “I was attracted to Oath by the passion I experienced meeting the team and visiting the stores as a guest,” Hellstrand said in a statement. “I am excited for us to build an honest and respected people-centric brand together.” Breakaway, a Boston-based investment firm, recently led a $4.5 million funding round in Oath Craft Pizza. The startup chain has raised $9 million in two funding rounds. Oath Craft Pizza opened its first location last year and is working to expand to new markets like New York and Washington, D.C. The expansion requires more leadership, company executives said. “We have exceeded our expectations under Rick Wolf’s leadership,” executive chairman John Burns said in a statement. “As we prepare for rapid expansion into multiple metro areas including New York, it was imperative to invest in top-caliber, industry expertise.” – Source: Restaurant Hospitality.

Groupon Aims to Donate More than a Half Million Meals to Local Communities

Groupon launched #BuyDealsGiveMeals, a food-focused campaign that encourages people to experience one its tens of thousands of local restaurant deals and give back to their community. Starting today and running through Oct. 28, Groupon will donate one meal to Feeding America for every restaurant offer purchased, with the goal of reaching more than 500,000 meals donated.  “Whether it’s paella or pizza, our customers have the unique opportunity to experience the best restaurants in their area and help fight hunger with every purchase,” said Dan Roarty, senior vice president of restaurants, Groupon. “And with the holidays just around the corner, this is a great way to help feed the 1 in 8 Americans who struggle with food insecurity.”  “We’re excited to once again team up with Groupon to continue our fight to end hunger in America,” said Nancy Curby, interim senior vice president of development, Feeding America. “The act of sharing a meal with friends and family can now have a big impact on the lives of families facing hunger.” – Source: Groupon.

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