Edward Don & Company Has Acquired Atlanta-Based Atlanta Fixture and Sales Company Inc.

Edward Don & Company, a nationwide distributor of foodservice equipment and supplies, announced today the acquisition of certain assets of Atlanta Fixture and Sales Company, Inc., located in Atlanta, Georgia.

Since 1927, Atlanta Fixture has been a leading foodservice equipment and supplies distributor in the Atlanta market and throughout the Southeast Region. Atlanta Fixture will operate as a division of Edward Don & Company and will remain under the leadership team of Ron Bruck, Bill Watson, Marty Levenstiem and Jess Logan. “We look forward to adding the resources of the Atlanta Fixture team in the Southeast Region,” said Steve Don, CEO of Edward Don & Company.

“Atlanta Fixture has an outstanding reputation with a strength in Design and Contract, which compliments DON’s strengths in distribution of everything but the food.” “We are excited to join forces with the DON family,” said Ron Bruck, President of Atlanta Fixture. “Our Customers can expect the same great service they have received from Atlanta Fixture in the Southeast, as well as take advantage of DON’s national footprint. We will continue to operate the 60,000 square foot Atlanta Fixture Showroom located at 3185 Northeast Expressway, Atlanta, Georgia, as well as a full service distribution center serving Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and the Florida Pan Handle.” This deal represents Edward Don & Company’s first acquisition since its investment from Vestar Capital Partners in March of 2017.  Source: Edward Don & Company.

Sodexo Acquires Centerplate

Stamford, Connecticut-based private equity firm Olympus Partners announced that Sodexo has signed an agreement to acquire Centerplate, a portfolio company of Olympus Growth Fund V, L.P.

Centerplate is a global leader in live event hospitality, “Making It Better To Be There®” for more than 116 million guests each year at prominent entertainment, sports and convention venues across North America, Europe and the United Kingdom. Centerplate has provided event hospitality services to 36 official U.S. Presidential Inaugural Balls, 14 Super Bowls and 22 World Series. Founded in 1988, Olympus Partners is a private equity firm focused on providing equity capital for middle market management buyouts and for companies needing capital for expansion. Olympus is an active, long-term investor across a broad range of industries, including business services, restaurants, consumer products, healthcare services, financial services, and packaging.  Olympus manages in excess of $5.5 billion on behalf of corporate pension funds, endowment funds and state-sponsored retirement programs. The Olympus team included Dave Cardenas, David Haddad, Chase Ormond, and Ozan Cubukcu. Olympus was represented by Benjamin Clinger and Matthew Goulding from Kirkland & Ellis LLP. – Source: Olympus Partners.

Yum Stock Surges on Pizza Hut Performance

Yum! Brands Inc.’s stock rose more than 6 percent on improving results at Pizza Hut and the company’s better-than-expected earnings performance. The Louisville, Ky.-based company, which also owns KFC and Taco Bell, said Pizza Hut’s U.S. same-store sales were flat in the third quarter ended Sept. 30.  That was below the performance of rivals Papa John’s International Inc. and Domino’s Pizza Inc., but it was better than the chain’s performance in recent quarters. Same-store sales in the second quarter declined 1 percent, and fell 3 percent in the first quarter. Executives on an earnings call expressed confidence that sales could continue to grow in the coming months as the chain’s investments in quality, speed and technology take hold.

Earlier this year, Yum said it planned to invest $130 million in Pizza Hut as part of a “Transformation Agreement” with franchisees to bolster the chain’s sales. The agreement was modeled after a similar deal with KFC operators in the U.S. that is widely credited with bolstering same-store sales. “We’re raising our performance,” Yum CEO Greg Creed said during the earnings call. “They will help keep us competitive in the marketplace.” The changes include more national marketing and a new delivery pouch the company promised will result in pizza 15 degrees hotter, with a crispier crust, when delivered. Pizza Hut is hiring 14,000 delivery drivers and making other operational changes to improve efficiency.

In August, the company unveiled a new loyalty program and is “encouraged by initial trends,” Creed said. Still, the investments the company is making in Pizza Hut are expected to take time, and the chain’s U.S. unit count declined 2 percent in the quarter, executives said during the call. “Do not expect the Transformation Agreement to yield results overnight,” Creed said. “But we do expect improvement over time.” One thing not affecting Pizza Hut’s sales, at least according to executives: Weak NFL television ratings. A day after John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s International Inc., blamed poor ratings and the controversy over player protests for his chain’s performance, Yum executives said they saw no such issue at Pizza Hut. “We also love live sport,” Creed said. “We’re not seeing any impact from any of that on our businesses.” Here are more key points from the earnings call: Earnings growth. Investors were encouraged by Yum’s earnings growth in the quarter, with global sales improvement at all three of Yum’s concepts. Earnings per share excluding special items increased 22 percent, to 68 cents per share, a number that bested investor expectations, according to figures from the website Earnings Whispers. Yum revenue was $1.4 billion, a decline from $1.5 billion reported a year ago. The decline was due to refranchising company locations. Yum said franchisees now operate 95 percent of its 44,000 global locations. Same-store sales at KFC worldwide increased 4 percent. Pizza Hut’s global same-store sales rose 1 percent, and Taco Bell’s same-store sales increased 3 percent in the quarter. KFC delivery.

Yum has big plans for chicken delivery around the world. Creed said the company plans to double global delivery sales to $2 billion by 2020. Executives recently visited China, where delivery is very popular, and were able to get chicken delivered on a train. The order was made via mobile phone and the delivery arrived at the next stop, Creed said. “I think [Colonel Sanders] knew we were going to do delivery, and so that’s why he made the bucket 60 years ago,” Creed said, referring to the bucket as a good delivery vehicle. Still, Yum said delivery will be a huge part of KFC’s growth in the future. The chain operates 21,000 locations around the world, and the company said it can grow system sales 7 percent a year. Delivery represents “a lot of new occasions,” Creed said. Those occasions come with higher average checks than traditional visits. “Both drives system sales,” Creed said. Taco Bell international. Another area of growth for the company is Taco Bell, which operates 6,738 locations, the vast majority in the U.S. But the chain opened 15 international units in the third quarter, and executives said markets outside the U.S. will help the chain grow for years. Yum is targeting India, Brazil, China and Canada for Taco Bell’s growth. – Source: Yum! Brands Inc.

Unilever to Acquire Tazo from Starbucks

Unilever P.L.C. has entered a definitive agreement to acquire the Tazo tea brand from Starbucks Corp. for $384 million. The transaction includes all assets of the Tazo brand, including its signature recipes, intellectual property and inventory. Starbucks purchased Tazo in 1999 for $8.1 million.

“Tazo represents another strategic addition that strengthens our tea portfolio toward high growth segments,” said Kevin Havelock, president of refreshment for Unilever. “Its artfully crafted specialty teas perfectly complement our global tea business, which includes Lipton, Pure Leaf, PG Tips, T2 and our recent addition, Pukka.” Unilever acquired Pukka Herbs Ltd., an organic herbal tea business based in the United Kingdom, earlier this year for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition is expected to strengthen Unilever’s foothold in the $2.1 billion herbal, fruit and green tea market, and addresses a gap in its tea business, Mr. Havelock said in September. Founded in 1994, Tazo offers packaged teas, K-Cup pods and bottled ready-to-drink teas in grocery, mass and convenience channels, and had sales of $112.5 million over the past year. “With its strong appeal to millennials, Tazo is a perfect strategic fit for our U.S. portfolio,” said Kees Kruythoff, president of Unilever North America. “Tazo’s solid position in the fast-growing specialty tea segment, coupled with Unilever’s tea expertise, presents a fantastic growth opportunity.” Once the transaction is complete, Starbucks will drive a single tea brand strategy and focus with its Teavana brand, Starbucks said. “Over the past five years, we have established Teavana as our primary global brand focused on the premium tea segment,” said Kevin Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks. “With our growth strategy for premium tea exclusively focused on Teavana, we are pleased to transition our Tazo business to Unilever. We continue to see significant growth in our tea business through our Teavana brand, and this transition supports our strategy to elevate the premium tea experience for our customers.” The transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2017. – Source: Food Business News.

Panera is Acquiring Rival Au Bon Pain

Panera Bread announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Au Bon Pain Holding Co. Inc. With the deal, Panera will acquire more than 300 Au Bon Pain locations around the world. Au Bon Pain is a Boston-based chain that targets people on the go, with most restaurants located in hubs such as malls, hospitals, and transportation centers. The two brands have strikingly similar menus selling sandwiches, salads, soups, and coffee with an emphasis on nutrition that many fast-food competitors do not have. However, Au Bon Pain has locations in areas where Panera is working to expand. “This acquisition offers the strategic opportunity for us to grow in several new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations, among others,” Panera’s founder and longtime CEO, Ron Shaich, said in a statement.

With Panera’s acquisition, the fast-casual chain’s parent company, JAB Holdings, adds another brand to its portfolio. JAB, which also owns Caribou Coffee, Keurig, and Krispy Kreme, paid roughly $7.5 billion to buy Panera earlier this year. The Au Bon Pain transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The two brands have a long history. Panera has its roots in Au Bon Pain, Inc. — a bakery-café created in the ’80s when Shaich combined his cookie shop with the small bakery chain Au Bon Pain. In 1999, the company formerly known as Au Bon Pain, Inc. sold all of its Au Bon Pain units and renamed itself Panera LLC. “With the acquisition we are announcing today, we are bringing Au Bon Pain and Panera together again,” Shaich said. – Source: Business Insider.

Buffalo Wild Wings Gets Takeover Offer from Roark, Report Says

The owner of Arby’s, Hardee’s and Jimmy John’s has offered to buy Buffalo Wild Wings and take it private, five months after an activist investor won strategic control of the company, the Wall Street Journal reported late.

Roark Capital of Atlanta offered about $150 a share, or $2.3 billion, for Buffalo Wild Wings, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the offer. That’s a 28 percent premium to Monday’s closing price of $117.25 for Buffalo Wild Wings shares. The shares soared to $150 in after-hours trading. But the offer is below the price of Buffalo Wild Wings shares before the activist investor, Mick McGuire of San Francisco-based Marcato Capital, won a proxy battle at the company’s annual meeting in early June. And it is well below the $300 price McGuire told investors he could lead the company to over the next few years. The offer was sent to Buffalo Wild Wings in recent weeks, the Journal said. Neither firm has disclosed it publicly, but the Journal said both have hired investment bankers to advise them on a transaction.

Representatives of Buffalo Wild Wings did not respond to requests for comment on the report and there was no immediate word from McGuire. A spokeswoman for Roark declined to comment. Buffalo Wild Wings shares last traded above $150 on May 26, about a week before the annual meeting. When McGuire won the proxy fight and seats on the company’s board, Buffalo Wild Wings Chief Executive Sally Smith announced she would retire from the company by the end of the year. Smith, who has been chief executive since 1996 and built the company into a 1,200-unit chain, has continued to lead the company as its board searched for a successor. She said last month that she expects the board to make a statement to investors about its progress before the end of the year. During the proxy battle, McGuire said he aimed to lift Buffalo Wild Wings shares to more than $300 a share in coming years by divesting a portion of the company’s real estate holdings and making other changes. However, he has said little about Buffalo Wild Wings since then and the company’s shares tumbled to as low as $98.40 in September. McGuire started acquiring shares in Buffalo Wild Wings in summer 2016, when its shares largely traded above $150 and reached as high as $168. His investment firm eventually built up a 6 percent stake. Roark owns Focus Brands, the parent of Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s and Schlotzsky’s. It also owns the fast-growing Naf Naf chain. It bought Arby’s in 2011; CKE Holdings, the parent of the Carl’s and Hardee’s hamburger chains, in 2013; and Jimmy John’s last year. It has a minority stake in Wisconsin-based Culver’s. – Source: St. Paul/Minneapolis Star Tribune.

From the Farm to the Fridge

For many consumers, the term “clean label” extends beyond the ingredient statement. This is one of the dairy industry’s greatest strengths; its farm-to-fridge approach to sourcing, manufacturing and distributing dairy foods. “There is no standardized definition of the term clean or clean label, and we have observed the food industry use the terms in various ways,” said Michael Neuwirth, senior director — external communication, DanoneWave, White Plains, N.Y. “In some cases, it may be employed to mean no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. Others may use it to show they have ingredients that people recognize and can readily pronounce. Still, others may use it to demonstrate a short, simple ingredient list.

Generally speaking, dairy foods such as milk and yogurt are perceived as wholesome, which we believe is in part due to their nutrient density and association with beloved cows.” Dairy foods marketers recognize that there’s a core group of consumers who are loyal to the category. But there’s a growing segment on the fence who is torn between dairy foods and the many plant-based alternatives in the market. That is why communicating the farm-to-fridge process has become an important element to the clean label movement in the dairy case. This is a point of differentiation, because almond beverage manufacturers cannot do the same. That is one of the powers of dairy, the ability to keep food simple and close to what Mother Nature intended. “That’s why being part of a dairy cooperative like Arla is so special, as at Arla’s core are principles such as sustainability, environmental responsibility and transparency,” said Don Stohrer, head of U.S. operations for Arla Foods Inc., Basking Ridge, N.J. “A lot of what you’re starting to see promoted today is how Arla has always conducted its business. We strive to keep our ingredients simple and to give individuals great-tasting dairy without anything unnecessary.”

Clean label is also about building trust. In terms of ingredients, it’s about explaining the purpose of the ingredient, which may help explain why replacing something considered artificial with a more natural alternative raises the price or decreases shelf life. Some consumers may embrace these changes. Others may find the original, less expensive, less perishable product better suits their needs. “Consumers today have less trust in companies, especially large ones,” said Lynn Dornblaser, director — innovation and insight, Mintel, Chicago. “As a result, they want more information about what is in the foods they buy. They want to know where they come from and why they have ingredients in them that they (the consumers) don’t understand.” This growing consumer demand for transparency is being addressed both by regulation and with the rise of voluntary claims marketers make on packages and in marketing materials. Each industry and segment are at a different stage of transparency, said Kristi Weaver, partner, McKinsey & Company, Chicago, who was a featured speaker at the TransparencyIQ conference held Oct. 18 in Rosemont, Ill. While artificial growth hormone-free liquid milk has become standard in retail, the market for cheese has yet to tip, with less than 30% of conventional U.S. cheese sporting the claim. “Consumers today expect transparency from retailers and manufacturers,” Ms. Weaver said. “This impacts their purchase decisions.”

In the overall food industry, information about product ingredients ranks highest, followed by manufacturing process and sourcing practices. Many marketers invest in clean label claims to remain competitive. Others do so to secure a competitive advantage based on consumer demand and their willingness to pay. “When it comes to dairy, as little ‘messing with’ as possible is desired,” Ms. Dornblaser said. “Clean label dairy foods should not have artificial growth hormones. The milk should come from cows raised responsibly, an image the consumer has of an open farm-like setting, with cows eating well and treated well.” – Source: Food Business News.

Rapid-test Technology Helps Protect Processors’ Products

As the world moves faster and faster, thanks to the instantaneous transmission of information, increasing use of social media and skyrocketing consumer demand for healthier and safer food, meat and poultry processors find themselves under the gun to conform to ever-increasing demands.

The processing companies have these top priorities in mind – producing safer food, creating products that address consumer demand and protecting their brands. A major means to accomplish these goals – especially food safety and ensuring the growth and protection of their brands – is to take advantage of the advancing science that’s resulted in new trends in rapid-testing technology, including advances and applications that will achieve these goals. “Rapid testing for food safety features new methods of testing for pathogens in samples that turn around the results much faster than the traditional methods that have been used – even though some of these longtime technologies are still being used,” says William Hogan, chairman, president and CEO of FoodChek Systems Inc., Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “There are many reasons processors are moving to increased use of rapid-testing technology, but the main ones are the great emphasis on food safety, the tremendous competition in the marketplace for companies to move their products as quickly as possible, and preserving and growing their brands,” he says. His company is a developer and provider of proprietary rapid and accurate food safety tests for detecting pathogens and allergens throughout human and pet food production chains.

Hogan says there are three issues rapid testing technology helps address for meat and poultry processors and manufacturers: 1. Traceability; 2) What’s in the product?; 3) Are there any pathogens or allergens? “For example, enrichment media makes the sample enrichment timeline 30 to 70 percent faster to achieve results, and can be used by any processor for food safety pathogen testing no matter what testing system they use,” he says. The other advantage to enrichment media, Hogan says, is that it can detect multiple pathogens, while a culture method – a longtime technology with much slower results than rapid technology — can only identify one pathogen at a time. “We’re moving from culture methods to real-time DNA testing,” Hogan says. “This is a rapid pathogen detection method involving the detection of molecules of DNA or RNA from a sample source. We can detect what pathogens might be present in food based on targeted DNA sequences in real time. That gives fast, reliable results in under two hours.” – Source: Meat & Poultry/Food Safety Monitor

Famous Dave’s Names New CEO

Famous Dave’s of America Inc. has named Jeffery Crivello as CEO to succeed Mike Lister, the company said as it reported narrowing its loss in the third quarter. Crivello’s appointment was announced along with a $1.5 private placement of 418,169 shares of Famous Dave’s common stock at $3.50 per share with PW Partners LLC. Crivello has served as PW Partners Capital Management LLC chief financial officer since January 2015 and on the board of Famous Dave’s since August. “Over the last year, I have been intently focused on improving restaurant operations while closing underperforming restaurants that do not meet our financial standards,” Lister said in a statement. He had served as CEO since October 2016.

Since Oct. 2 of last year, the casual-dining brand closed 22 restaurants. The company ended the third-quarter on Oct. 1 with 154 total restaurants, 129 of those franchised and 25 company-owned. Lister said the closures allowed “for the refranchising of our company-owned restaurants to franchisees” and the change in leadership made “strategic sense.” Crivello said Lister’s work was “evident in the improving restaurant sales trends as well as the successful refranchising of eight company-owned restaurants and closures of 13 underperforming company-owned restaurants since the beginning of the year.” For the third quarter, Famous Dave’s narrowed its loss to $1.8 million, or 26 cents a share, from $2.5 million, or 35 cents a share, in the prior-year period. Revenues fell 13.7 percent, to $21.9 million from $25.4 million in the same quarter last year. Systemwide same-store were down 1.5 percent, including a decline of 2.1 percent at franchised units and increase of 0.9 percent at company restaurants. Crivello said he would address the development and evolution of the Famous Dave’s concept. “Additionally, although the team has made substantial progress with their general and administrative optimization plan,” Crivello said, “I believe that we can strategically reduce G&A expenses to approximately an $8 million run-rate within the next 90 days, while continuing to improve upon the franchisor services that we provide.” The company named Geovannie Concepcion, who had served as chief development and franchise officer, as chief operating officer. Source: NRN.

Panera’s CEO is Stepping Down

Shaich wants more time to debate Wall Street’s obsession with short-term growth. Short term-ism stops innovation and “makes us less competitive as an economy,” Shaich told Business Insider. Panera’s founder and CEO is stepping down but he isn’t shutting up. On Wednesday, Ron Shaich told Business Insider that he is stepping down as CEO at the end of the year in part to address a problem he thinks is crippling the US economy. “It allows me to really push this debate that I want to have, about how short-termism has infused our capital markets and our whole national discussion,” Shaich said. “I speak as one of the most successful CEOs of the last 26 years,” he continued. “I’ve been a CEO longer than Cal Ripken played baseball. And yet, I can tell you — short-termism has pervaded capital markets.” Shaich has long been outspoken on issues from nutrition to Wall Street’s follies. However, with JAB Holdings acquiring Panera in July for roughly $7.5 billion, the Panera founder is now in the perfect position to discuss the dangers of the modern stock market’s hunger for short-term results. “It stops innovation,” Shaich said. “It stops the very things that drive economic growth. And it makes us less competitive as an economy.” At Panera, Shaich has long emphasized the long game. Things like swapping soda for beverages with lower-profit margins don’t help the chain in the short term, but Shaich has always maintained that they are crucial in the long term. “It’s not complicated, it’s just hard to do and hard to stick with it. And hard to do really well,” Shaich said of focusing on the long term. “If you want to do it really well, it requires empathy. Empathy is climbing into somebody’s mind — it’s not just seeing what you feel.” Panera also announced plans to acquire sandwich chain Au Bon Pain, something that Shaich calls a “completely separate issue.” Panera has its roots in Au Bon Pain, Inc. — a bakery-café created in the ’80s when Shaich combined his cookie shop with the small bakery chain Au Bon Pain. – Source: Business Insider.

Bobby Flay Announces Franchise Plans for ‘Burger Palace’ Concept

Mesa Grill, Gato, Bar Americain. These are some of the restaurants Bobby Flay has opened in his decades-long culinary career and, as he describes them, “they’re all high-end,” with per-person check averages hovering around $60. But it’s Flay’s love for a greasier, cheesier—and cheaper—menu item that inspired the concept he’s grown to 17 restaurants and counting. “I’m really just a burger guy, that’s what I want to eat,” says Flay, speaking this morning at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in Las Vegas. Cheeseburgers are what he craves after a long night in the kitchen and are at the core of Bobby’s Burger Palace, the restaurant he launched in 2008 and which is poised for rapid expansion following Flay’s announcement today that he’s going to start franchising and licensing the fast-casual concept. That first licensing deal is already done, an agreement with Concessions International to open a Bobby’s Burger Palace location on Concourse B in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2018. “We’re going full steam into the licensing and franchising business,” says Flay, adding he expects the Atlanta airport location to do “$7, $8, $9 million annually” and serve as a prototype of what’s to come. The creation of Bobby’s Burger Palace “comes from a place of passion,” says Flay, not because he saw a particular hole in the marketplace. Passion is a key ingredient for the high school dropout-turned-celebrity-chef, who notes while he has a great marketing platform in the Food Network, he’s happiest when he gets to put on an apron and work in the kitchen. He’s “1,000 percent hands-on” with Bobby’s Burger Palace, and later tells me it’s that intimate level of involvement that gives his concept an advantage in the competitive better burger market. “Research and development begins with me,” says Flay of creating and evolving the Burger Palace menu, which is known for its “crunchified” option to have any burger served with crunchy potato chips on top. “I know the product is going to stand up to any scrutiny. My name gets people to pay attention but the product, to me, speaks for itself. “Ultimately we’re going to win the war because we’re better.” Flay stresses that part of the reason he’s been so successful is because he’s built a strong team, including longtime business partner Laurence Kretchmer, and he intends to do the same as he brings in franchise partners. “We’re looking for the top tier restaurant groups to do deals,” he says. “We have so much opportunity in front of us.” Source: Franchise Times.

Trio of Restaurant Industry Vets Joins Fazoli’s

The Fazoli’s executive team is gaining three restaurant industry veterans who will help “expand the brand and improve the overall customer experience,” the company said. Jeff Sturgis is joining Fazoli’s as chief development officer. In his new role, he will be responsible for driving the brand’s franchise development efforts and leading strategic planning efforts and execution of all restaurant development, real estate and franchise sales activities. Mr. Sturgis joins Fazoli’s from McAlister’s Deli, where he led franchise development efforts as chief development officer.

Previously, he was regional vice-president of franchise sales for Focus Brands, operator of McAlister’s Deli, Carvel, Cinnabon, Schlotzky’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Auntie Anne’s and Seattle’s Best Coffee. Rodney Lee has been named chief financial officer for Fazoli’s. Mr. Lee joined the company in September 2008 as c.f.o. and treasurer but left in June 2016 to become CFO at The Krystal Co. He rejoins Fazoli’s a year and a half later, reprising his original role. Before originally joining Fazoli’s, Mr. Lee was CFO and chief operating officer of 2JR Pizza Enterprises, a Pizza Hut franchisee. Jodie Conrad has been promoted to vice-president of marketing for Fazoli’s. Previously, she was senior brand director for the company. In her new role, Ms. Conrad will be responsible for all marketing functions and product development. Before joining Fazoli’s, she was director of brand marketing for The Wendy’s Co., director of new product testing for Donatos Pizza and customer marketing manager for the Coca-Cola Co. “The Fazoli’s brand prides itself on recruiting and fostering the talents of some of the most dedicated and gifted executives in the industry,” said Carl Howard, president and chief executive officer of Fazoli’s. “In review of what we have been able to accomplish in the past year, we are enthusiastically looking forward to seeing what these exceptional industry veterans are able to bring to the table moving forward. We are in the midst of capitalizing on some incredible growth initiatives leading into 2018, and I can’t think of better leaders to be at the helm during this exciting time.” – Source:

David Chang Is NBC’s Food and Culture Expert for the 2018 Winter Olympics

Momofuku emperor David Chang will be joining the NBC Sports crew as a special correspondent during the 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea this February. According to a press release, the chef/restaurateur will offer an “insider’s look at Korean food, culture, and traditions,“ and he will also participate in “multiple features and discussions.” Chang has never appeared as an NBC correspondent before, but he has logged countless hours of screen time on various talk and cooking shows, as well as on Season 1 of Mind of a Chef. Close followers of the Changster’s Instagram account may have noticed that the chef was eating his way through South Korea last winter, and documenting his favorite finds with the @nbcolympics handle and the #pyeongchang2018 hashtag. Arguably no other chef has done more to teach America about Korean food than David Chang. Since the earliest days of the Momofuku group, Chang has folded elements of Korean cuisine into his dishes — sometimes by replicating things he loved to eat as a child, and other times by marrying flavors and techniques to foods from different parts of the world. He’s written extensively about the Korean pantry in the Momofuku book and in various issues of Luck Peach. And for the last year or so, Chang has been sharing photos and intel about his favorite Korean dishes on Instagram using the hashtag #uglydelicious. “One of the great things about eating in Korea is that you can find delicious food everywhere, from street food to three-Michelin-star dining,” Chang says in an announcement about his new collaboration with NBC. “It’s an amalgamation of influences from all over the world. It truly doesn’t get more multicultural than this.” The opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics will air on NBC on February 9, 2018. – Source: Eater

New Ways for Restaurants to Streamline Operations

Innovations in robotics and automation offer new ways for restaurants to streamline operations, attract top talent and delight diners, presenters said at The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Innovation Summit last month.

Robotics is playing a growing role in settings that range from hospitals to warehouses, and there are a variety of new technologies that are a perfect fit for the foodservice space, said Dorothy Cudia, vice president of engineering at Chowbotics. “As you look at what’s coming up, what’s the new leading edge technology, we’re moving from front of the house to back of the house in terms of automation. Specifically talking about automation of food preparation — and that would include not only prep [and] assembly, but heating, cooling, whatever is being done to that product in the back of the house — that whole area is ripe for automation,” she said.

Co-bots give humans a helping hand. One of the most useful areas to apply robotics in the kitchen is simple, repetitive tasks involved in food preparation. Engineers have already developed several robots designed to work in tandem with humans in a foodservice environment. These ‘co-bots’ include Chobotics’ salad-making robot, Sally, and Flippy, the burger-flipping robot from Miso Robotics. These robots are designed to be safe, nimble and easy to program, and can easily be integrated into kitchens to take over tasks that human staffers may find dull, Cudia said. Operation and upkeep create new jobs. The rise of robots in the restaurant world has led to questions about what this new technology means for the future of restaurant jobs. Cudia said automation and robotics won’t make human workers obsolete, but rather create new jobs that have them working alongside robots. Chowbotics is currently working on expanding its service network, since “there’s folks that know how to fix robots that don’t know a lot about food equipment and there’s folks that know a lot about food equipment who don’t know a lot about robotics,” Cudia said. Investing in robotics can also be an “enabler to attracting and retaining the very best labor,” she said, explaining that technology is second-nature to today’s millennial workers and the workforce of the future. “When they come to work in your kitchen, if they’re working with some outdated technology that’s going to add to their frustration. So think about not only attracting the right kind of employees, but also retaining them.” Robots can work with existing eateries, or inspire new ones.

When it comes to using robots in a restaurant environment, Cudia said there are two ways to go about it: introducing a robot into an environment designed for people, or starting from scratch and building a new concept around the robots. To introduce a robot into a kitchen staffed by humans, training staffers to safely interact with the robot is key. Even if the robot itself has safety features such as automatic shut-off, employees need to be mindful of moving parts that may be sharp or hot, and know how to re-set the system in case of failure. With Roostersbot, founder Michael Atkinson is taking the second approach. Atkinson and the team behind the fully automated chicken sandwich concept designed the brand with a franchise structure that could generate 40% profit margins and return franchisees’ investment in a year. The concept is still in the works, but could launch as soon as next year with self-contained kiosks cooking and serving fried chicken sandwiches in airports, malls, food halls or other high-traffic areas. Customers will order via the kiosk, an app or using their voice, said Atkinson, who is also founder and chief executive officer of Orderscape, which provides voice ordering capabilities to restaurants. – Source: Smart Brief.

How to Build a Management Talent Pipeline

Have you ever been to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas? It is the only public diamond mine in the world and offers a one-of-a-kind adventure—the opportunity to hunt for real diamonds and to keep any you find. The park gives you brief training, provides you with equipment, and lets you loose to hunt for diamonds. What the experience teaches you is that finding a diamond requires effort, training, and a little luck. This is exactly what it is like to mine for managers in your restaurant. Making a Point. Finding your next manager-in-training (MIT) or assistant manager (AM) is like searching for diamonds. It requires a diamond mine—Your restaurant is your diamond mine.


If you have done a great job in selecting line employees and an even better job training them, you’ll have a few diamonds worth searching for. It requires cultivating the soil—One of the ways the Crater of Diamonds State Park helps its visitors find diamonds on their visit is to bulldoze the earth routinely to bring the stones to the top of the soil. In your restaurant, bringing the diamonds to the surface where they can be easily recognized requires that the current management team creates positive work environment for employees to flourish and grow. It requires that management is constantly training employees to do more. It requires you to always be looking—Some of the diamonds found at the park are found right on the pathway to where people hunt for diamonds. That means that hundreds, if not thousands, of people walk over a diamond every day because they don’t think to start looking until they get to the mine itself. What does this mean for you? With a little luck and your eyes open every step, you can find the proverbial diamond in the rough. You need to always be looking for your next MIT or AM, even if your management team is complete. You never know when one of them will move on or when you have the opportunity to open a new location and need to double your management team overnight.

Mining the Wrong Way. When I was the operations manager for an independent multi-unit brew pub and café early in my career, part of my job was to hire new managers. Although I made my fair share of mistakes hiring from the outside, I did try to cultivate talent from within. But a mistake I routinely made hiring from within was offering no management training. This happened a lot. As soon as our insider accepted the new position, we handed them the keys, asked them to follow another manager for a few shifts, and then let them go to survive or die on their own. There was no formal training whatsoever, and since there wasn’t any formal training when they first joined the restaurant, there was no hope. We would do this again and again, and we would continue to lose great MITs and AMs. Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result. By this definition, we were nuts. It’s no wonder we lost these great managers. We weren’t offering any guidance, direction or goals. We weren’t offering any training. And a major reason people leave their jobs is because they don’t know what’s expected of them. Without a structured training system, these expectations are overlooked and valuable diamonds are lost. We spend a lot of time and money training our line employees to give our guests the best experience possible, yet we throw new managers into the fire with almost no support and training and expect them to succeed. To change that cycle and to allow your diamonds to shine, create a training program specific to management. It should include all your operational systems in an operations manual and then a training program that walks each manager through a step-by-step process to learn the skills necessary to be successful. You have to test them on what they learn so that you know they are proficient at each skill set and system necessary to do their job correctly.

Your restaurant’s success is dependent upon it. Adding this step to your process, especially when developing someone from within, will virtually guarantee you a strong management team from top to bottom. Promoting from Within the Right Way. To successfully find your diamond in the rough, follow the steps outlined above when it comes to searching for your gem. Create your diamond mine through great selection and training of all your line employees. Cultivate the soil by constantly training and creating a positive work environment for your employees to work in. Always be looking for your next management candidate. Require managers go through and pass a structured management training program. Build a successful management team from within with great training from start to management. – Source: Smart Brief/FSR.

The​ ​Ultimate​ ​Guide​ ​to​ ​Restaurant​ ​Scheduling

It’s late—too late to still be stuck at work. There you are, tucked away in your office flipping through text messages, bar napkins, and sticky notes to sort out who is available when. You spend hours piecing together a schedule for the upcoming week, then tack your finished product up on the staff room wall. Because you’ve taken the pen-and-paper route, your staff have no choice but to come by the restaurant to find out when they’re working next. One mistake or one no-show can cost you more than your restaurant’s reputation…it can cost your bottom line, too. Did you know that nearly 90% of restaurant managers schedule this way?

To help free up time, keep labor costs down, and create a happier, healthier workplace, 7shifts has published a free eBook that contains everything restaurant owners and managers need to know about successful restaurant scheduling. Introducing… The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Scheduling. Packed with strategies, checklists, how-to guides, and more, The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Scheduling tackles the recurring challenge of employee scheduling and helps restaurateurs transform scheduling into the most effective, efficient—and dare we say easy?—part of their to-do list. When labor costs account for approximately one third of operating costs, becoming an informed, strategic scheduler can have a significant impact on the restaurant industry’s notoriously thin margins. 7shifts, creators of one of the fastest-growing restaurant scheduling platforms in North America, is 100% focused on helping restaurants save time and money. With their restaurant scheduling software in use by over 150,000+ restaurant pros worldwide, they drew upon their experience in the industry and learnings from customers and partners to compile the eBook. – Source:

New Technology Enhances Guest Experience and Drive Sales

Restaurants are facing increasing financial strain as states and municipalities pass more legislation around wage and labor practices, healthcare costs grow, and the hospitality labor pool shrinks. At the same time, customers are also becoming more demanding. Not only do they want better service, but diners are also not always willing to pay more to offset the expense of increasing the number of employees on staff. This means that restaurants can’t make payroll cuts alone to make up the difference in the budget. “Everyone is trying to find ways to increase efficiency instead of passing labor costs on to guests,” says Jim Martyn, director of development at The Canadian Brewhouse, a 30-unit Canadian restaurant chain. “But when you blindly cut shifts, you are hurting people.” Relying on payroll cuts alone leads to long guest wait times for tables and food, as well as mistakes when staff is overwhelmed, which can disappoint guests who might not return. Additionally, cuts to employee paychecks—and ultimately tips—can lead to turnover and lower-quality service.

One effective strategy for balancing all these competing demands is to use technology that simultaneously allows restaurants to reduce staffing needs while making guest service more efficient. To solve these problems, Martyn’s team at the Canadian Brewhouse invested in Kallpod, a device that enhances brand experience by allowing guests to communicate with servers. With a push of a button, diners can send messages to servers, who wear KallWatch devices that receive alerts. This allows servers to check on tables as frequently or infrequently as guests would like and lets them spend time where they are needed most. “Everyone goes out to a restaurant for a different reason, whether they want to be helped by a server or not bothered,” Martyn says. “This technology allows a server to be paged if guests need to leave and get to a movie or if they ordered the wrong side dish. But if guests don’t want to be bothered every five minutes when they are catching up with friends, it lets servers know to leave them alone.” Natasha Dart, training manager at the Canadian Brewhouse, says this puts power in the hands of servers. “Kallpod makes it easier for servers to manage time. Because they know exactly when they should go back to a table, they can better assist guests.” By reducing unnecessary visits and prioritizing customers who need assistance, servers are able to cover more tables, allowing restaurants to staff fewer employees without sacrificing guest experience.

Additionally, by increasing both the number of tables per section, as well as the level of service provided, servers receive more gratuity. Though the idea of increasing the number of tables per section may seem daunting, Kallpod also keeps servers from becoming overworked. If they are busy with another table when an alert comes in, other servers can also receive alerts and assist with their teammates’ tables so that guests don’t have to wait for a check or a refill. “We organize our tables into sections, but we also loop sections together with pairs of servers who are working adjacently to each other,” Dart says. “This keeps guests from having to wait, and it also ensures servers still have time to talk with their guests.” Additionally, Kallpod technology aids managers. Not only do they have peace of mind that tables are being assisted when needed, but leaders can also communicate with servers and even help with table alerts when needed. Though some might think the costs of this type of technology are prohibitive, it makes it easier for customers to communicate with servers, which encourages repeat visits. Additionally, by improving customer experience, guests are more likely to order another round of drinks or desserts. Martyn says that one extra round of beer sold each day pays for the units in his restaurant. “99 percent of guests have absolutely loved the product, and those that don’t simply don’t use it, so it doesn’t take away from the restaurant experience,” Martyn says. While rising costs make it easy to cut labor to reduce expenses, many restaurants are seeing success from programs that enhance service efficiency to drive sales. This is especially true as brands try to lure younger consumers. “Millennials are the quick-service generation, even when they go to full-service restaurants,” Dart says. “They have grown up getting what they want when they want it, and restaurants are adapting to this strategy. It’s new for us, but once people understand how big a difference this technology makes and how it increases revenue, Kallpod becomes a necessity instead of an option.” – Source: FSR Magazine.

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