March 1, 2017


The Owner of Burger King is Buying Popeyes for $1.8 Billion

Restaurant Brands International Inc. and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. announced that the companies have reached an agreement for RBI to acquire Popeyes for $79.00 per share in cash, or $1.8 billion. The acquisition of Popeyes will add a successful, highly regarded brand with strong customer loyalty to RBI, one of the largest global quick service restaurant companies with two of the world’s most iconic QSR brands — Burger King and Tim Hortons. Founded in New Orleans in 1972, Popeyes has 45 years of history and culinary tradition and is the franchisor and operator of Popeyes restaurants. Today Popeyes is one of the world’s largest quick service restaurant chicken concepts with over 2,600 restaurants in the U.S. and 25 other countries around the world and its global footprint will complement RBI’s existing portfolio of over 20,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries and U.S. territories. Following the closing of the transaction, Popeyes will continue to be managed independently in the U.S., while benefitting from the global scale and resources of RBI. Building on the momentum of recent years, RBI plans to continue developing the brand at an increasing pace in the U.S. and international markets in the years to come. Daniel Schwartz, chief executive officer of RBI, said, “Popeyes is a powerful brand with a rich Louisiana heritage that resonates with guests around the world. With this transaction, RBI is adding a brand that has a distinctive position within a compelling segment and strong U.S. and international prospects for growth. As Popeyes becomes part of the RBI family we believe we can deliver growth and opportunities for all of our stakeholders including our valued employees and franchisees. We look forward to taking an already very strong brand and accelerating its pace of growth and opening new restaurants in the U.S. and around the world.” Cheryl Bachelder, chief executive officer of Popeyes, said, “I am proud of the superior results the Popeyes team has delivered in recent years; they have served all stakeholders well. As Popeyes enters its 45th year, its success reflects the amazing brand entrusted to us by founder Al Copeland Sr. and the unique high trust partnership that we enjoy with our franchise owners. RBI has observed our success and seen the opportunity for exceptional future unit growth in the U.S. and around the world. The result is a transaction that delivers immediate and certain value to the Popeyes shareholders.” Structure and terms: Under the terms of the transaction, Popeyes shareholders will receive $79.00 in cash per share at closing. This represents a premium of 27% based on Popeyes’ 30-trading day Volume Weighted Average Price as of February 10, the last trading day before media speculation on the potential sale of Popeyes. RBI will finance the transaction with cash on hand and a financing commitment from J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of certain regulatory approvals and receipt of a majority of Popeyes shares on a fully diluted basis in a tender offer to Popeyes’ shareholders. Following the successful completion of the tender offer, RBI will acquire all remaining shares not tendered in the tender offer through a second-step merger at the same price. The transaction is expected to close by early April 2017. – Source: Business Insider.

Bloomin’ Brands Closes 43 Restaurants

Bloomin’ Brands Inc. said that it has closed 43 underperforming restaurants amid persistently weak same-store sales at most of the company’s casual dining brands. Same-store sales at its flagship Outback Steakhouse chain fell 4.8 percent, and declined 2.3 percent at Carrabba’s Italian Grill in the quarter ended Dec. 25. Same-store sales fell 1.9 percent at Bonefish Grill, but increased slightly, 0.2 percent, at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. Bloomin’ Brands has more than 1,500 locations system wide. “Although 2016 was a challenging year for both Bloomin’ Brands and the industry, we made real progress on our strategy to reallocate spending away from discounting toward investments to strengthen brand health, “Liz Smith, CEO of Bloomin’ Brands, said in a statement. “We are pleased with how our brands are performing so far in 2017, particularly at Outback where we believe our investments are beginning to gain traction.” It’s uncertain what brands are affected by the closures, but a few local reports of closures at Carrabba’s and Bonefish started coming out late on Thursday as the company started closing restaurants. Bloomin’ Brands recorded a net loss of $4.3 million, or 4 cents per share, down from a profit of $17.7 million in the same period a year ago, or 15 cents. Revenues at the company fell 4 percent to $1 billion from $1.05 billion. Casual dining chains have been struggling recently amid a weak restaurant environment, as consumers shift spending to quick-service and fast casual restaurants or opt to stay home altogether. That has led to more closures — Ruby Tuesday and Ignite Restaurant Group Inc., among others, have closed restaurants, as has the fast-casual chain Noodles and Co. – Source: NRN.

MVP Services Group to Merge with Clevenger Associates. Merger will Expand our Capabilities and Expertise

We are excited to announce our merger with Clevenger Associates, a west coast based consultancy that will bring greater value and expertise to our existing client base. The merger will take place on March 1, 2017. We have started efforts to fully align our companies and that process will continue for the next 60-90 days. This will not affect projects that are currently in production at MVP and we will continue to meet project deadlines. If you have any questions regarding our merger please don’t hesitate to call us. There will be no change in our office locations and phone numbers. We will be running parallel email addresses for a period of time and we will begin using Clevenger Associates email addresses as we move forward. There will be no changes in staffing, at our office, and Ed and Eric will continue to be managing all projects. Clevenger Associates was founded in 1973 by Anthony Clevenger and has a proven track record and outstanding reputation in the foodservice consulting industry. Click the link below to learn more about Clevenger Associates. We feel strongly that our 19+ years of consulting operations experience combined with the 44 years of Clevenger history will result in excellent outcomes for our clients. – Source: MVP Services Group.

Cracker Barrel to Open First California Restaurant-Store in Victorville

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a popular restaurant-gift store combo with a Southern country theme, will open its first California location in Victorville, city officials here announced. The restaurant is planned along the city’s 15 Freeway-facing restaurant row on Amargosa Road, just south of the Bear Valley Road exit. The new 9,550-square-foot building, which has yet to be built, is being developed by Vantage One Real Estate, according to the city. Construction is expected to start later this year, with an opening eyes for some time later in 2017, Victorville City Manager Doug Robertson said. Its location is just south of the new BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse and a six-tenant, fast-casual restaurant building expected to be built sometime in the next year as well, Robertson said. Representatives for Lebanon, Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel could not be immediately reached for comment, and it was unclear whether Cracker Barrel had operated in California in the past, with Robertson saying some believe there might have been West Coast properties here decades ago. The company was founded in 1969. The restaurant joins about a dozen other restaurants parallel to the 25 Freeway, south of the Bear Valley Road off- and on-ramps. Robertson said the new Cracker Barrel will help the city market restaurant row to the public, in addition to providing an economic boost for the city. “Cracker Barrel is expected to generate between $50,000 and $70,000 a year in sales to Victorville, and the economic impact of 200 employees, spending money in and around town, will help benefit us as well,” Robertson said. “Cracker Barrel will be a wonderful addition to our city’s restaurant row, and we are thrilled this major retailer will be building its first California location in Victorville,” Mayor Gloria Garcia said in a statement. “This speaks to the strength of our city’s retail market, and we will continue to attract quality dining and retail choices for our community.” Robertson said Cracker Barrel chose Victorville because of the high-visibility of restaurant row to travelers along the 15 Freeway, in addition to the large population of the High Desert, which frequents the retail and restaurants in the city. About 450,000 people reside in the High Desert region, Robertson said. “The restaurant market has taken a liking to the Victor Valley,” Robertson said. “It’s a combination of our population and our location on the 15. An average of 98,000 vehicles go past that location on a single day. Real estate expert Brad Umansky, president of the Rancho Cucamonga-based commercial real estate firm Progressive Real Estate Partners, said Cracker Barrel’s arrival to the High Desert makes sense. “I think we’ve seen a trend towards certain restaurants coming into the High Deser, because the region is most similar to the Midwest and so it’s a chance for a restaurant operation to come into California, but at least be in a place that addresses a similar type of demographic and customer,” Umansky said. “I think it’s about a focus on the family,” Umansky added. “They value similar forms of entertainment rather than a big night out. They value going out to a big family-oriented restaurant as something that’s enjoyable.” Cracker Barrel has 641 restaurants and old country stores located in 43 states, according to a recent press release on the company website about a location opening in North Las Vegas from October. “Cracker Barrel serves authentic, high-quality, home-style meals prepared from scratch like homemade chicken n’ dumplings and each Cracker Barrel location is uniquely decorated with real American artifacts, memorabilia and signage curated by a team of experts,” according to the release. – Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Ontario, CA.
From Couture to Cuisine: Ralph Lauren Opens a London Restaurant

Fashion people are not necessarily known for their love of food, but Ralph Lauren is on a quest to change all that. In time for London Fashion Week, the American fashion designer has unveiled a new restaurant, in a corner of the Polo Ralph Lauren flagship store on Regent Street in the British capital. The restaurant follows his Polo Bar in New York, the RL restaurant in Chicago and Ralph’s in Paris. Those who have struggled to get past the velvet rope of the Polo Bar on 55th Street in New York might have better luck on this side of the Atlantic: Ralph’s Coffee & Bar has a no-reservation policy. The 36-seat restaurant is geared toward a casual cafe-style experience, serving all-day breakfast dishes, light meals and cocktails aimed at a well-heeled if nondescript clientele of fashion industry insiders wrapped in furs, local hedge funders in cashmere V-neck sweaters and weary shoppers (as opposed to the celebrity crowd). This is probably by design, given the 8 p.m. closing time. On a recent Friday night, the place heaved with diners and drinkers. For such a tiny space, the service and turnover were brisk, with a small army of slick, waistcoat-clad waiters at work. Several tables enjoyed oysters with Champagne as dusk fell — a scene somewhat at odds with the quotidian chaos of Regent Street. Regulars say that the restaurant, which opened last month, is quieter during the day. And it seems to have become a watering hole of choice (during the weekday at least) for staffers from the magazine publisher Condé Nast, which has its headquarters in nearby Hanover Square. Apparently, when it comes to restaurants if not clothing, the fashion industry prefers a familiar look. Ralph’s Coffee & Bar shares plenty of hallmarks, both in terms of menu and décor, with its bigger, more bedazzling big brother in New York. Laden with equestrian paintings and trophies, the London restaurant has hunter-green walls, mahogany paneling and bar stools in studded leather. The kitchen offers all-American haute comfort staples at haute cuisine prices: Cobb salads and club sandwiches, shucked oysters and cheesecake. The cocktail list — old fashioned, air mails and margaritas — is all about the classics. People are eating it up. – Source: The New York Times.

Norfolk-Based Franchisee Nuys 30 Wendy’s Restaurants

Brothers buy 30 Wendy’s restaurants in Hampton Roads as the chain focuses on franchising. A new Norfolk-based franchisee has bought 30 Wendy’s restaurants across Hampton Roads and plans to expand. Delight Restaurant Group, started by brothers Richard and Andrew Krumholz, bought the stores in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Franklin. The company said the stores have generated $50 million in annual revenue and employ more than 1,000 workers who will remain with Delight. Wendy’s has been renovating existing stores and shrinking the number it owns and operates at a corporate level since 2012, selling 537 stores last year, including the stores sold to the brothers in December. “They were selling other markets around the country and this is the one we really wanted,” said Richard Krumholz, describing the region’s economy as strong and solid. Krumholz said he and his brother had always wanted to build a business together and the two were fans of the Wendy’s brand. He said they both graduated from Harvard University and worked for Goldman Sachs. Most recently, Krumholz was a principal with investment firm Baupost Group and his brother Andrew was a vice president with The Carlyle Group. He said he and his brother plan to expand their Wendy’s footprint within the region and eventually elsewhere in Virginia and surrounding states. – Source: The Virginian-Pilot

Applebee’s Sales Decline Pushes out Julia Stewart

The restaurant recession has cost the industry one of its most celebrated Executives. Julia Stewart, who resigned as chairman and CEO of DineEquity Inc., made a major mark on the restaurant industry during her remarkably long, 16-year tenure. Stewart was one of the earliest, most vocal proponents of the franchise-heavy, “asset-light” operating model that dominates the restaurant industry today. She was twice named a Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain award recipient, and in 2015 she was named NRN’s Operator of the Year. But Stewart was ultimately undone by persistent, worsening struggles at Applebee’s, the casual-dining chain she engineered to acquire in 2007, when she was CEO of IHOP.  Applebee’s same-store sales dropped more than 5 percent in 2016, including a 7.2-percent decline in the fourth quarter. Rather than fixing the problem, Applebee’s repeated efforts at a turnaround seemingly made things worse — particularly its wood-fired grill rebranding last year, which Stewart oversaw. “When you lose confidence in the CEO, it’s hard to come back from that,” said Howard Penney, an analyst with Hedgeye Risk Management. Stewart, who worked as an IHOP waitress as a teenager, was in marketing when a chance meeting with Carl’s Jr. founder Carl Karcher brought her to the restaurant industry. She ended up at Applebee’s, and was an executive there during the late 1990s. In 2001, Stewart jumped to IHOP, and became its first female CEO in 2002. On her watch, the family-dining chain started selling off restaurants to franchisees in a move known as refranchising. The plan worked. Between 2003 and 2005, IHOP’s net income increased 19 percent, even though revenue over the same period declined 14 percent, because the company didn’t operate as many locations. Two years later, Stewart oversaw the acquisition of Applebee’s in a $2.1 billion deal, with the same goal of refranchising. The recession interrupted the effort, but the company completed the refranchising by 2014. Investors flocked to DineEquity’s stock, which increased from about $20 per share in 2012 to more than $110 per share by February 2015. Other chains have worked to mimic the strategy, sometimes pushed by activist investors who cite DineEquity’s success through franchising as a model. But mounting sales and traffic problems at Applebee’s have taken their toll on the stock, which has lost 45 percent of its value since peaking at $110 per share. That includes a 10-percent decline on Friday. Same-store sales turned south in the third quarter of 2015, and they have steadily worsened ever since. By the third quarter, same-store sales had fallen 5.2 percent, or 5.7 percent on a two-year, stacked basis.Then they cratered in the fourth quarter, falling 7.2 percent. On a two-year basis, the chain’s same-store sales were down 9.7 percent. Stewart’s tenure at DineEquity has been more than twice as long as the average tenure of the CEO of a public company, which is 7.4 years, according to a 2014 study by the research firm Equilar. Stewart also served as Applebee’s interim president. Mike Archer, who had overseen the brand since 2008, left in 2014. Steven Layt, his replacement, left in 2015, after DineEquity consolidated its operations in California. Operators have grown increasingly stressed about Applebee’s performance, and privately questioned the company’s direction. Last May, Applebee’s revealed a major brand transformation, using hand-cut steaks and wood-fired grills in a bid to differentiate itself in a difficult casual-dining market. Operators spent millions of dollars to install grills in their restaurants that use oak wood to give the chain’s offerings a smoky flavor. But the effort failed. Same-store sales in the quarter fell 4.2 percent and have worsened ever since. Applebee’s spent an estimated $75 million on the effort, most of it by franchisees who bought new grills and trained workers on how to cut the steaks and use the equipment. “That just sewed her fate,” Penney said.  Throughout this decline, IHOP had remained steady. But it, too, saw same-store sales fall in the fourth quarter, by 2 percent. DineEquity now faces a major challenge in trying to fix its problems. “The challenges remain large, and likely won’t be fixed easily or quickly, particularly at Applebee’s,” Instinet analyst Mark Kalinowski wrote in a note on Friday. Brian Vaccaro, analyst at Raymond James, downgraded DineEquity’s stock on the news, noting that Stewart’s departure “creates incremental uncertainty regarding the path and timing of a potential turnaround at Applebee’s.” In his own presentation on DineEquity back in December, Penney speculated that cost demands like wood-fired grills and the company’s weak same-store sales have squeezed Applebee’s operators. As such, the company might need to invest in the business, but DineEquity pays out most of its earnings to shareholders in the form of dividends, and might not have the financial wherewithal to make those investments. “They’ve got a real problem on their hands. – Source: NRN.

Starbucks Puts Ice Cream on Menu at 100-Plus Stores

Starbucks, seeing the success of its ice cream menu offerings at the Seattle Roastery, will start serving ice cream at more than 100 store locations. But, sorry, none of the new locations will be in Seattle for now. Starting Wednesday, the “Roastery Affogato menu” — based on the Italian espresso-poured-over-ice cream dessert and tested first at the Seattle Roastery — will begin rolling out in Starbucks stores that include Reserve bars. Reserve bars use Starbucks’ high-end, small-lot Reserve coffee beans; there are currently 18 stores with Reserve bars nationwide, including in Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. Also starting Wednesday, an “inspired by the Roastery” affogato menu will launch at 100 traditional Starbucks stores in Orange County. Because those traditional stores don’t use Starbucks’ premium Reserve coffee beans, the ice cream desserts there will incorporate its regular Espresso Roast and Nariño 70 cold brew. These ice cream menu test runs are an example of how Starbucks’ Seattle roastery is serving as a innovation pipeline for the company. The affogato menu launched at the Seattle Roastery in June last year and has been among the top five bestsellers there since, according to a company spokesperson. That menu, which uses ice cream from Bainbridge Island-based Mora Iced Creamery, includes affogato, cold brew float and cold brew malted shake. The menu items launching all will use ice cream from Mora Iced Creamery. Starbucks plans to see how well customers respond to the menu before deciding whether to expand it elsewhere. The ice cream test run was reported earlier by Business Insider. – Source: The Seattle Times.

Apprenticeship Program Open for Business

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the U. S. Department of Labor officially kicked off our first-ever joint apprenticeship program. It’s all part of an ongoing effort to develop the next generation of restaurant and hospitality employees into successful managers and executives. This $1.8 million contract with the DOL will be used to place more than 400 people into apprenticeships and develop career pathways for them. Participating brands in the program include TGI Friday’s, White Castle, Golden Corral, Firehouse Subs, Hilton Hotels, Embassy Suites and Waldorf Astoria. Today’s launch was held at our Washington, D.C. headquarters. NRAEF Executive Vice President Rob Gifford said the apprenticeship program is going to be a big win for the restaurant and hotel industries. The DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship has already awarded more than $20.4 million to support apprenticeship programs in the health care, energy, construction and transportation fields. The foodservice and hospitality industries are the latest to join that list. AHLA Educational Foundation President and COO Joori Jeon said the apprenticeship program will provide important opportunities for the next generation of hospitality leadership. She said it would be recognized as the new standard of excellence for employers looking to hire the best talent. Labor department research indicates that 91 percent of apprentices remain employed after completing programs and that annual starting salaries range above $50,000. – Source: The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

Boston’s Signs Multi-Unit Deal in Mexico

Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, the casual dining concept that combines a family-friendly restaurant and sports bar under one roof, announced the signing of a franchise deal that will bring eight Boston’s restaurants to areas across Mexico by 2020. The new locations will join the 13 existing Boston’s in Mexico, and will be owned by seasoned hospitality group Desarrollos Juventud, which brings more than 10 years of experience in hospitality, restaurants and franchising to Boston’s. The group is targeting areas of Torreón, Saltillo, Tijuana, Mexicali, Hermosillo, León, San Luis Potosi and Aguascalientes for restaurant development. The new Mexico locations will offer its guests the same contemporary, sit-down family dining atmosphere with a separate sports bar as the brand does in the U.S., allowing for family and friend gatherings of all sizes. While Boston’s specializes in gourmet pizza and pasta, its menu features nearly 90 items including salads, sandwiches and a variety of sports bar favorites such as burgers, wings and ribs giving guests an offering of traditional American cuisine. “Boston’s is a restaurant for friends and families alike, whether you are looking for a relaxing night out or a new spot to watch the game,” says a representative with Desarrollos Juventud. “The quality and diversity of the food menu goes unmatched, and we look forward to debuting the concept in new areas across Mexico. We are confident it will be a hit for many years to come.” The Desarrollos Juventud deal is part of larger growth plans Boston’s has in Mexico to bring a total of 30 new locations to the country in the coming years. Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar’s U.S. operations are based in Dallas. In addition to its Mexico locations, the company currently has 28 locations operating in 22 states. The company’s sister brand, Boston Pizza, has more than 400 locations throughout Canada and is considered the No. 1 casual dining brand in the country. – Source: FSR Magazine.

Jack in the Box Franchisee Named NRA Convention Chair

The National Restaurant Association announced it has selected Atour Eyvazian, owner of 107 Jack in the Box restaurants in the Houston and San Antonio, Texas area, to serve as its convention chair for the National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show 2017 (NRA Show). In this capacity, Eyvazian will advise the Association to ensure that the trade show—the most comprehensive event for restaurants, foodservice, and hospitality in the U.S. and abroad—represents the current industry landscape in a robust and dynamic way. The NRA Show 2017 will take place May 20—23 at Chicago’s McCormick Place and BAR 17 will take place May 21—22 in the adjacent Lakeside Ballroom at McCormick Place. “Atour Eyvazian’s perspective on the hospitality industry as an immigrant and successful restaurateur aligns with our programming goal to feature powerful messages on current day topics,” says Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “Eyvazian’s 25-year journey from his arrival to the United States, unable to read or speak in English, to now owning 107 Jack in the Box restaurants is a real life story about the achievement of the American dream and will serve as inspiration and provide insight for our attendees.” After escaping war-torn Iran and 40 days in a Turkish prison, Eyvazian fled to the United States in 1984. Just two weeks after his arrival to Los Angeles, he secured his first job as a maintenance worker at Jack in the Box, where he quickly taught himself English. He applied his strong work ethic to the position and within two years became a Jack in the Box restaurant manager. As Eyvazian continued to rise in the ranks at Jack in the Box, he used the company’s tuition-reimbursement program to attend night classes and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1998 and an MBA in 2001. In 2005, Eyvazian became a franchisee of 10 Jack in the Box restaurants in Sacramento. Two years later he was invited to attend the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress, and was also named the regional franchisee of the year. As an individual from a diverse background who overcame hardship and adversity to become a successful restaurateur, Eyvazian received the first-ever American Dream Award in 2007. He was named National franchisee of the year in 2008. He was elected to Houston’s National Restaurant Association board of directors in 2009 and was elected to serve in National Franchise Advisory Council (NFAC) for Jack in the Box in 2010. Eyvazian was elected Chairman of the Board for H.E.A.R.T. (a locally-based non-profit organization that assists adults in learning disabilities) from 2014-2015. Eyvazian attributes his achievement of the American dream to the opportunity afforded him by the restaurant industry and Jack in the Box in particular. His goal is to continue the tradition by providing the same opportunity to his employees by finding their strengths and honing them to fulfill their American dreams. The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show is the largest annual gathering of restaurant, foodservice, and lodging professionals in the world. NRA Show 2017 will be held May 20-23 at McCormick Place in Chicago, and BAR 17, held in conjunction with NRA Show, will take place May 2—22. The events attract 67,000-plus attendees and visitors from all 50 states and 100-plus countries, and showcase the latest products, services, innovative ideas, up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues, and growth opportunities.  – Source: QSRmagazine.

Marco’s Pizza Promotes Operations VP to COO

Marco’s Pizza has promoted executive vice president of operations Tony Libardi to the role of chief operations officer, the company said. Libardi joined the company in 2014 and has led corporate and franchise operations, along with learning and development. In his new role as COO, Libardi will also lead marketing and employee engagement. “As we continue to experience rapid growth, constantly improving and perfecting our guest experience for our customers is of chief importance for our brand,” he said in a statement. “We’ve been working on these new operational practices and fine-tuning them for years. Our employees and partners will appreciate the simplified and more accessible flow that our new system brings.” Before joining Marco’s, Libardi spent 10 years with Burger King as vice president of U.S. company operations, leading a portfolio of about 750 restaurants with annual sales of about $900 million. Bryon Stephens, Marco’s president, said Libardi’s experience and background with the U.S. Marine Corps will drive results. “The new systems that Tony and his team will enact allow our stores to seamlessly deliver on our brand promise for every employee and customer,” Stephens said in a statement. Based in Toledo, Ohio, Marco’s has close to 800 locations in 30 states and four countries. The chain expects to add 150 new units in 2017, averaging at least one opening every days. – Source: Marco’s Pizza.

The Real Reason Why McDonald’s Coke Tastes So Good. Only Real Addicts can Taste the Difference.

McDonald’s slays the fast food game. But if you’re an addict like me, you know that the one thing McDonald’s has really mastered is their Coca-Cola. There’s something magical about a large, cold Coke from McDonald’s. And I think I speak for all Coca-Cola lovers when I say that no other fast food restaurant can recreate the refreshing taste of a McDonald’s Coke. I wondered what about this specific Coke made it taste so damn good, and I found some answers. Here is why McDonald’s Coke tastes better than literally anywhere else. Cheers. Storage: Unlike most fast food restaurants that have Coca-Cola delivered in plastic bags, McDonald’s Coke is delivered in stainless steel containers that help preserve the ingredients and keep the Coke tasting fresher. Water Filtration: The McDonald’s website says that “in order to ensure our drinks are always meeting a gold standard, we have proper filtration methods in place.” The fast-food chain actually filters their water more than most competitors and invests a lot of money into maintaining their filtration system. Fresh water = fresh Coke. Temperature: McDonald’s takes the temperature of their soda very seriously. There is an insulated tube that runs from the refrigerator unit in the back, all the way to the soda fountain near the drive-thru window. The water runs through this tube constantly in order to maintain a temperature just above freezing. The cold temperature is essential for achieving peak C02 levels. This not only ensures the crisp, bubbly taste of your Coke, but also means that the carbonation will last longer than other restaurants. The Syrup: Just like the temperature of the water, McDonald’s pre-chills its syrups before it enters the fountain dispensers. The Straw: Have you ever noticed that the McDonald’s straw is wider than other fast-food chains and restaurants? According to the McDonald’s website, this is “so all that Coke taste can hit all your taste buds.” So there it is. The “secret” formula. Although there is no real magic behind it, McDonald’s Coca-Cola will always be every Coke-lover’s fantasy. McDonald’s Coke: 1. Everywhere else’s Coke: 0. – Spoon
Wendy’s to Install Ordering Kiosks in 1,000 Stores this Year

Last year, the kiosks were coming. It didn’t take them long to get here. Wendy’s plans to install self-ordering kiosks in 1,000 of its stores — about 16 percent of its locations — by the end of the year. The Dublin-based burger giant started offering kiosks last year, and demand for the technology has been high from both customers and franchise owners. “There is a huge amount of pull from (franchisees) in order to get them,” David Trimm, Wendy’s chief information officer, said last week during the company’s investors’ day. “With the demand we are seeing … we can absolutely see our way to having 1,000 or more restaurants live with kiosks by the end of the year.” Trimm said the kiosks accomplish two purposes: They give younger customers an ordering experience that they prefer, and they reduce labor costs. A typical store would get three kiosks for about $15,000. Trimm estimated the payback on those machines would be less than two years, thanks to labor savings and increased sales. Customers still could order at the counter. Kiosks are where the industry is headed, but Wendy’s is ahead of the curve, said Darren Tristano, vice president with Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm. “They are looking to improve their automation and their labor costs, and this is a good way to do it,” he said. “They are also trying to enhance the customer experience. Younger customers prefer to use a kiosk.” Franchisees won’t be required to install them. Demand for the technology is high, and higher-volume stores will get priority, said Heidi Schauer, Wendy’s spokeswoman. Among the 1,000 kiosks will be close to 100 at company-owned stores. There already are kiosks in some central Ohio locations where Wendy’s has tested the technology. Kiosks might not immediately replace workers, but instead shift labor to other areas, Tristano said. Kiosks might also mitigate the rise of wages, something Wendy’s noted as well. “Last year was tough — 5 percent wage inflation,” said Bob Wright, Wendy’s chief operating officer, during his presentation to investors and analysts last week. He added that the company expects wages to rise 4 percent in 2017. “But the real question is what are we doing about it?” Wright noted that over the past two years, Wendy’s has figured out how to eliminate 31 hours of labor per week from its restaurants and is now working to use technology, such as kiosks, to increase efficiency. Kiosks could ease lines and boost kitchen output during peak lunch and dinner times, Tristano said. The other benefit is higher order accuracy. And as Bob Welcher, president of Restaurant Consultants Inc., said of kiosks last year: “They always are courteous. They always show up for work on time.” Kiosks are just the first step in changes that customers will see in restaurants. Trimm and Tristano said that mobile ordering and payment, via smartphones, eventually will overtake kiosks and cash registers. One reason: they provide data. Wendy’s wants to know more about its customers to better tailor offers and understand trends. But until then, kiosks are the hot thing. “This move puts them at the forefront of the kiosk and tech movement,” Tristano said. One of the reasons Wendy’s is a step ahead of most of its fast-food brethren is because the technology is being developed in-house. Its new 90 Degrees lab on North High Street in the University District is staffed with developers and other technology-focused employees. The lab sports a full mock-up of a restaurant front end where developers can test and tweak ideas on the fly. “So we know that the things we build work,” Trimm said. – Source: The Columbus Dispatch.

Fiesta Names Richard Stockinger CEO

Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc., parent to the Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana chains, has named Richard Stockinger as president and CEO, the company said after releasing fourth-quarter earnings. Stockinger, who served as president and CEO of Miami-based Benihana Inc. from 2009 to 2014, succeeds Tim Taft, who resigned last August. Before joining Benihana, Stockinger worked for more than two decades at The Patina Restaurant Group LLC and its predecessor, Restaurant Associates Inc. Most recently, Stockinger has been a consultant with Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., a private-equity firm, and Not Your Average Joe’s, a private restaurant company, for which he served on the board. In October, Fiesta closed 10 Pollo Tropical locations in a review of the chain’s portfolio. For the fourth quarter ended Jan. 1, Fiesta reported net income of $2.4 million, down from $8.8 million in the same quarter last year. Revenue declined 4.6. Same-store sales at Pollo Tropical declined 4 percent in the fourth quarter, and fell 3.5 percent at Taco Cabana.  In addition to Stockinger’s appointment, Fiesta said it had appointed Paul Twohig as a non-executive member of the board. Twohig joined Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc. in 2009, and serves as president of its U.S. and Canada division. Prior to joining Dunkin’ Brands, Twohig served as a senior vice president for Starbucks Corp.’s Eastern Division. Fiesta’s board also named Stacey Rauch as non-executive chairman. She had served as a director since 2012. Rauch is a director emeritus of McKinsey & Co. and its retail and consumer goods practice. In a statement, Rauch said Stockinger “is a respected, results-driven industry veteran who understands the value of our Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana brands, and has the skills and experience necessary to be a strong and effective leader in advancing our strategic initiatives at this critical juncture.” The company also promoted Danny Meisenheimer, who had served as Fiesta’s interim CEO, to chief operating officer. Previously, Meisenheimer served as chief brand officer of Pollo Tropical, in 2012. The company said in a statement that it would focus on Pollo Tropical development in Florida markets and Taco Cabana in Texas markets. In 2017, the company expects to open 12 new company-owned Pollo Tropical restaurants in Florida and 10 new Taco Cabana restaurants in Texas. “While our expansion into Texas for Pollo Tropical has been challenging, we continue to believe in the long-term attractiveness of the business model and its potential beyond its traditional markets,” Rauch said. As of Jan. 1, Fiesta had 177 company-owned Pollo Tropical restaurants and 166 company-owned Taco Cabana restaurants. The company also franchised 35 Pollo Tropical units and seven Taco Cabana locations. – Source: NRN.

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