Exhibitors Optimistic for Business in 2018

Chicago-AHR Expo exhibitors are predicting 2018 to be a good year for business, according to the 2018 AHR Expo Exhibitor Economic Outlook Survey. Of the 81 exhibitors who responded to the survey, 61.7% think 2018 will be a “good” year for business prospects, while 27.2% responded they think it will be an “excellent” business year. The 2018 results are a slight uptick compared to the 2017 survey. In 2017, 53.7% of the 136 exhibitors who responded thought 2017 was going to be a “good” year for business while 23.4% predicted an “excellent” business year. Fewer people-only one respondent-predicted 2018 to be a “poor” business year, compared to three people who did so in the 2017 survey. Another difference between the 2017 and 2018 surveys is where exhibitors expect to see the best business prospects.  In 2017, exhibitors predicted maintenance and replacement had the best prospects, but in 2018, new construction was forecast to be the best prospect. The increase in expecting 2018 to be a positive business year could be tied to how well the exhibitors fared in 2017. According to the survey, more than half of the responding exhibitors, 59 of 80, said they expect their sales to increase at least by 5% during 2018. Thirteen exhibitors reported they expect their sales to increase by less than 5%, while eight predicted their sales will stay the same.

2018 AHR Expo Takes Over McCormick Place

“This year is going to set some new ones,” said Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Company, which manages the AHR Expo. The 2018 AHR Expo is predicted to be biggest Show yet. This year’s Show is expected to surpass the size of the 2017 AHR Expo is Las Vegas-the current holder-by about 6%, Stevens said. Filling more than 530,000 net ft² (49,238 net m²), this year’s exhibits will take up more than 12 acres, he said. In total, the 2018 AHR Expo, will fill 24 acres of Chicago’s McCormick Place, which is known as the largest convention center in the United States. As one record falls, so does another one. More exhibitors are expected to showcase their newest, notable products at this year’s show than in years past, Stevens said. He said about 2,150 exhibitors – from smaller companies to industry giants – have registered to attend the show, which is about 150 more companies than the 2017 show. Another might fall in Chicago: the attendance. Nearly 70,000 visitors and exhibition staff attended the 2017 AHR Expo in Las Vegas, which broke the previous record set at the 2014 show in New York. Stevens said he has to wait and see if this show will break the attendance record.

Fastest Expansion in 13 Years

American manufacturing expanded last month at the fastest pace in 13 years, powered by robust order growth and healthy production, figures from the Institute for Supply Management showed last week. Highlights of ISM manufacturing (September). Factory index climbed to 60.8 (est. 58.1), the highest since May 2004, from 58.8; readings above 50 indicate expansion;  Measure of new orders increased to 64.6, the strongest since February, from 60.3; Employment gauge rose to 60.3, the best reading in more than six years, from 59.9; Index of prices paid advanced to 71.5, the highest since May 2011, from 62. Key takeaways: The strength of the advances in the ISM’s gauges partly reflects impacts from hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Harvey forced the shutdowns of Houston-area refineries and chemical plants. Many retail establishments, including car dealerships, were flooded in the storms and merchandise was destroyed. Timothy Fiore, the ISM survey committee chairman, said on a conference call that the most direct impact from the storms was in the supplier deliveries index, indicating slower deliveries; that gauge factors into the overall index. Seventeen of 18 industries reported growth in September; only furniture makers showed contraction, according to ISM. While increased factory bookings and production may also reflect a bounce-back from the storm, the nation’s producers had already been on firmer footing because of improving global demand and an increase in U.S. capital spending. The ISM also reported a pickup in its measure of exports as producers benefit from a U.S. dollar that’s weakened this year, making American-made goods more attractive to overseas purchasers. Orders will probably remain strong in coming months as a gauge of customer inventories held close to a six-year low. What’s more, the ISM’s order backlogs index crept up to the highest level since April 2011, helping explain why more factories are stepping up hiring. Other Details: ISM production measure rose to three-month high of 62.2 in September from 61; Measure of export orders climbed to 57 from 55.5; Gauge of order backlogs rose to 58 from 57.5; Index of supplier deliveries increased to 64.4, the highest reading since July 2004, from 57.1; figure shows longer lead times as producers have trouble meeting demand. – Source: Bloomberg.

Brinker Launches No-Cost Education Program for Chili’s and Maggiano’s Employees

Brinker International, parent company of Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy, launched an educational program for employees Monday called “Best You EDU.” The program, developed in partnership with Pearson, provides opportunities for Brinker employees, ranging from hourly to management, the company said. The program is free and available for any employee who works at least 24 hours per week with a minimum tenure of 90 days. “We firmly believe that education is the single best benefit we can provide to our team members. The confidence that education provides is what encourages our Team Members to achieve the next step in their career,” says Rick Badgley, Brinker’s chief people officer, in a statement. “Best You EDU is personal to me and the larger Brinker leadership team as many of us started our careers as a cook, dishwasher or host at a restaurant. Through education, we gained the confidence necessary to further pursue our careers.”

The Best You EDU program is presented in three components: Foundational, GED, and associate degrees. Here’s how it breaks down: No cost Foundational Program: Provides language, skills development, and bilingual coaching in a mobile-first environment. No cost GED Program: Provides online GED prep curriculum, bilingual advisory support, and unlimited test-pass GED credential guarantees. No cost associate degree: Provides an online pathway to an associate degree in business or general studies through a regionally accredited college, including all courses, text and study materials, advising, and coaching support. “Pearson is proud to partner with Brinker to develop a custom education program,” added Kevin Capitani, president of Pearson North America, in a statement. “Only 2–3 percent of workers are in a position to use employer-tuition programs because of upfront costs, difficulty fitting education into their busy lives, or a lack of foundational skills. Brinker is one of the few companies addressing this range of barriers to a better job and to a better life.” Brinker is also offering a coach specific to each education pathway to interested employees. These coaches will “provide help with everything from gaining Internet access and encouraging participation and persistence to navigating work and school simultaneously and defining a career path,” Brinker said. For those looking to earn associate degrees, Brinker said the coaches would assist with college applications, course selections, and academic struggles while in school. Brinker believes the program will reap company-wide benefits as well. More engaged and happier employees will lead to better service and an enhanced dining experience. “When you feel supported and understood by your employer, you are more likely to go above and beyond,” Badgley said in a statement. “We would much rather search and promote within our existing talent pool to find our next managers and general managers. Through great training and exceptional growth opportunities, we are using Best You EDU as a launching pad to expand our benefits offerings and this is just the beginning of what’s to come.” Chili’s is coming off a first quarter where traffic fell nearly 8 percent and same-store sales declined 3.4 percent. But there were some signs of optimism related to the chain’s new streamlined menu, which is 40 percent smaller than it used to be. “We have seen our traffic trends turn and we’re going to use that momentum to continue to focus on building traffic at Chili’s,” Brinker CEO Wyman Roberts said in a conference call, adding that tickets taking longer than 15 minutes have dropped by 40 percent since the new menu launch. At Maggiano’s, same-store sales fell by 2.6 percent and traffic fell by 2.8 percent, compared to declines of 0.6 percent and 1.6 percent a year ago, respectively. – Source: Brinker International.

Cara Operations Acquires The Keg Steakhouse Chain for $161.4M

Cara Operations Ltd. has agreed to buy 106-unit Keg Restaurants Ltd. in a deal worth about CA$200 million ($161.4 million), the companies said. Vaughn, Ontario-based Cara, which has 1,259 restaurants, mostly in Canada, said it agreed to pay CA$105 million ($85.2 million) in cash and 3.8 million Cara voting shares for the Vancouver-based casual-dining steakhouse chain. The Keg has 96 restaurants in Canada and 10 units in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington. The Keg restaurants generate about CA$612.1 million ($496.5 million) in annual systemwide sales, the companies said. The Keg’s same-store sales growth in the first nine months of 2017 was 4.8 percent. Cara also said it would change its name to reflect the Keg acquisition when the deal closes in the spring. David Aisenstat, who has been president and CEO of The Keg Steakhouse & Bar parent for the past 20 years, will stay with the company after the sale, Cara said. Aisenstat will also assume oversight of its higher-end casual brands, including The Bier Markt, The Landing and Milestones restaurants. “This will enable Cara to introduce into these brands the key success factors experienced by The Keg,” the company said in a release. “Cara’s size combined with The Keg will also provide synergistic opportunities in marketing, real estate and overall costs that will help further grow the Keg and Cara brands.” Aisenstat will join Cara’s board of directors. Bill Gregson will remain as president and CEO of Cara and as chairman of Cara’s board. The boards of both companies have already approved the merger. The deal also calls for Cara to pay an additional CA$30 million ($24.3 million) if The Keg restaurants achieve “certain financial milestones within the first three fiscal years” of the deal closing. With the addition of 106 The Keg restaurants, Cara brings its total unit count to 1,365 restaurants. Cara has 55 locations outside Canada, and 82 percent of its restaurants are franchised. Cara franchises or operates 16 brands, including Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s, St‐Hubert, Montana’s, Kelsey’s, East Side Mario’s, New York Fries, Burger’s Priest, Prime Pubs, Original Joe’s, State & Main, Elephant & Castle and Pickle Barrel. – Source: NRN.

McKenna to Lead Walmart International

Judith McKenna has been named president and chief executive officer of Walmart International at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., effective Feb. 1. She succeeds David Cheesewright in leading the company’s second-largest operating segment. Mr. Cheesewright has served in the role since 2014 and recently announced his intent to retire from a full-time position. Ms. McKenna is executive vice-president and chief operating officer for Walmart U.S.

McKenna began her career with Walmart in 1996 at Asda, the company’s operation in the United Kingdom, where she was chief operating officer and chief financial officer. She also has worked as executive vice-president of strategy and international development for Walmart International, leading international strategy, real estate, mergers and acquisitions, integration, global format development and purchase leverage. She joined the Walmart U.S. division in 2014, serving as chief development officer, leading the strategy, development and growth of Walmart’s small-format business and the integration of digital commerce into physical stores. Several months later she advanced to her current role, assuming responsibility for the company’s U.S. store operations, including more than 4,500 retail locations. Walmart International operates more than 6,200 retail units outside the United Sates with 55 banners in 27 countries. “I’ve had the pleasure to work with Judith for many years and have seen first-hand her ability to lead strategic change, build relationships with our associates and strengthen our business,” said Doug McMillon, president and c.e.o. of Walmart. “It has been inspiring to see her personal growth and the results she’s driven over the years. Her integrity, high expectations and passion for the business and our associates will ensure our continued success in International.” Mr. Cheesewright will remain with the company full time through March and then serve the company on a limited basis, assisting with special projects for a longer period of time. “During his 19 years with the company, David has served in a number of key leadership roles in our company,” Mr. McMillon said. “He has built a reputation as an insightful strategic thinker with a track record of delivering consistent, profitable growth. He has been instrumental in strengthening our business across the globe. He’s a passionate advocate for our people, culture and purpose around the world.” – Source: FoodBusinessNews.

Schultz is a Starbucks and MOD Pizza Vet

Portland, Ore.-based Voodoo Doughnut named Chris Schultz as CEO. He is expected to focus on growing the quirky brand. Schultz was most recently the SVP of operations at MOD Pizza, a fast-casual chain that has recently seen rapid growth. Schultz also spent 13 years at Starbucks Coffee Company as an operational advisor to the senior executive team. “Voodoo has all the magic needed to create something really big, and Chris has the experience we need as we realize our dream of a culture-driven business,” Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson, co-founder of Voodoo Doughnut, said in a news release. “His commitment to the customer and dedication to building a strong culture will pave the way as we try and put more Magic in the Hole,” he said, referencing the company’s tagline. Voodoo Doughnut currently has six locations in four states.

The brand has a cult following thanks to its unusual doughnuts — like ones topped with bacon and Fruit Loops — its eccentric design style and its strong sense of community and culture. In the release, the company said that Schultz would work to strengthen that culture and help the company stay connected to the communities they operate in. “Voodoo has all the ingredients to go from ‘the little company that could’ to the next big thing,” Schultz said in the news release. “We will be retaining all that’s wonderful to make sure the Voodoo that’s done so well isn’t lost as we introduce ourselves to new customers, communities and employees.” Voodoo Doughnut’s previous CEO, Robin “Lobster” Ludwig lost his battle with brain cancer in 2015, the company said. – Source: Restaurant Hospitality.

California Pizza Kitchen Taps Former Ruby Tuesday Leader as CEO

California Pizza Kitchen named Jim Hyatt its new chief executive officer, effective immediately. Hyatt most recently held the same role at Ruby Tuesday, where he was part of the nearly 600-unit casual dining brand’s transition to a privately held company under NRD Capital. The former CEO of Church’s Chicken and Così Inc. joined Ruby Tuesday in April but was replaced in December once the $146 million deal with NRD was finalized. Hyatt is taking over for G.J. Hart at California Pizza Kitchen, who recently retired. “This is an incredibly exciting time in CPK’s history,” Hyatt said in a statement. “The brand and team are strong, and the business is poised to achieve growth in its global footprint and in high-potential areas, including its off-premise business. My family and I have been loyal CPK guests for years, and when asked to lead the company in its next chapter of success, I knew it was an opportunity I could not miss. I look forward to working with the leadership team as we continue to deliver the exceptional food and hospitality that are the hallmarks of CPK.”

Hyatt’s 40 years of industry experience includes a 32-year career at Burger King, where he was the global chief operating officer of the fast-food giant and led 13,000 restaurants generating $20 billion of system-wide sales in 65 countries. He was also a multi-unit franchisee for 10 years. “Jim is a world-class restaurant executive and team leader with a long track record of success in the industry and a passion for operational excellence. G.J. led the revitalization of CPK’s brand and culture, and we are confident that Jim is the ideal person to take the reins as CPK embarks on its next stage of growth,” Josh Olshansky, a managing director at Golden Gate Capital, CPK’s majority shareholder, said in a statement. “We are deeply grateful to G.J. for his leadership and contributions, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.” California Pizza Kitchen, based in Los Angeles, has about 300 units in 13 countries. The company is in the process of introducing its “Next Chapter” featuring reimagined menus, open kitchens, and renovations in all restaurants across the country. “It has been an amazing journey at CPK over the past six years,” Hart added in a statement. “Together, we have reinvigorated a timeless brand centered on California Creativity, a passion for excellence, and a people-first philosophy. I could not be prouder of all that CPK has accomplished, and I am confident that, in Jim, we have identified a leader with the drive, skills, and track record to build on that legacy, who also aligns with the values that CPK’s brand represents.” – Source: fsrmagazine.

Subway Promotes Steinwand to Director of Global Ops

In her new role, Ms. Steinwand will be responsible for all aspects of Subway’s global operations, including restaurant and field operations, as well as transforming the customer experience in the restaurant. Additionally, Ms. Steinwand will continue to lead the Learning and Development team. Most recently, she was director of franchisee services, and she also was regional director for Australia and New Zealand for eight years. She began her career at Subway as a field consultant in Alberta in 1993. “We are proud of the momentum we have seen in transforming the restaurant experience, and operational initiatives like the Fresh Forward design have been critical to that effort,” said Suzanne Greco, president and chief executive officer. “We are excited to promote Tracy as our global operations director to continue to build on that success and to deliver new strategies that will redefine the restaurant environment across the globe.” – Source: Food Business News.

JAB Holding Co. to Acquire Dr Pepper Snapple Group

JAB Holding Co. through its Keurig Green Mountain business unit has entered into an agreement to acquire the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Plano, Texas. Once the transaction is completed, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and Keurig Green Mountain will merge to form Keurig Dr Pepper. The new business will have annual revenues of approximately $11 billion. Under the terms of the merger agreement, Dr Pepper Snapple shareholders will receive a special cash dividend of $103.75 per share and will retain their shares in Dr Pepper Snapple. Upon closing of the transaction, Keurig shareholders will hold 87% and Dr Pepper Snapple shareholders will hold 13% of the combined company. JAB Holding Co. will make an investment of $9 billion as part of the financing of the transaction. The combined companies will feature such brands as Dr Pepper, 7UP, Snapple, A&W, Mott’s and Sunkist with leading coffee brand Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and the Keurig single-serve coffee system, as well as more than 75 owned, licensed and partner brands in the Keurig system. “We are very excited about the prospect of KDP becoming a challenger in the beverage industry,” said Bart Becht, partner and chairman of JAB Holding Co. and chairman of Keurig Green Mountain. “Management’s proven operational and integration track record along with their commitment to innovation and potential future brand consolidation opportunities, while maintaining an investment grade rating, positions the company well for long-term success and material shareholder value creation.” JAB Holding sees the merger of the two companies creating a complementary portfolio with access to high-growth segments of the beverage industry. JAB management anticipates the merger will generate approximately $600 million in synergies by 2021. “This transaction will deliver significant and immediate value to our shareholders, along with the opportunity to participate in the long-term upside potential of our combined company and attract new brands and beverage categories to our platform in a fast-changing industry landscape,” said Larry Young, president and chief executive officer of Dr Pepper Snapple. “We are excited to combine with Keurig to build on the rich heritage and expertise of both companies and provide the highest-quality hot and cold beverages to satisfy every consumer throughout the day.”

Bob Gamgort, the C.E.O. of Keurig Green Mountain, sees the combined scale of the two companies giving Keurig Dr Pepper significant distribution capability to reach consumers. “Our view of the industry through the lens of consumer needs, versus traditional manufacturer-defined segments, unlocks the opportunity to combine hot and cold beverages and create a platform to increase exposure to high-growth formats,” he said. “We are fortunate to have talented leadership teams within both companies, and I look forward to working together with the Dr Pepper Snapple team to make this combination a success for all of our stakeholders.” Mr. Gamgort will serve as the c.e.o. of Keurig Dr Pepper. Ozan Dokmecioglu, current chief financial officer of Keurig, will serve as its c.f.o. Larry Young will transition to a role on Keurig Dr Pepper’s board of directors. The two companies will continue to operate out of their current locations in Burlington, Mass., and Plano. – Source: Food Business News

Nestle Japan Unveils Ruby Chocolate KitKat

Nestle Japan is all set to commercialize the first ever natural pink ruby-flavored chocolate by introducing the new KitKat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby bars in Japan and South Korea. The ruby chocolate used in the new KitKat product, dubbed Sublime Ruby, was developed by Swiss cocoa producer Barry Callebaut as a new variety to be added to bitter, milk, and white chocolates. Barry Callebaut unveiled the Ruby chocolate in September 2017 after developing it for more than 10 years. Ruby chocolate is prepared from ruby cocoa bean and Nestle said its taste will be both sweet and sour while having a fruity flavor that reminds of berries. The natural pink color in Sublime Ruby is claimed to have been achieved without the use of any additives, stated Nestle. Barry Callebaut CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique said: “I am very pleased that our innovative breakthrough Ruby chocolate has come to life so quickly through our partnership with Nestle and the pioneering KITKAT Brand in Japan. “Nestle was very quick in spotting the trend and in introducing a Ruby chocolate version of KITKAT, which will entice consumers across Asia and beyond.” The new limited edition Ruby KitKat bars will be distributed exclusively at KitKat specialty store KITKAT Chocolatory and also online from 19 January. It will also be available at around 80 seasonal pop-up stores across Japan that will be run in preparation for Valentine’s Day. The ruby KitKat launch from Nestle comes just days after the company had entered into a deal to sell its US confectionery business to Ferrero for $2.8bn. The sale which includes more than 20 brands, excludes the KitKat brand though. – Source: Food Business Review.

New Flavor of Dippin’ Dots

US-based Dippin’ Dots, a flash frozen beaded ice cream and frozen treats company, has launched a new Frozeti Confetti flavor. Fresh off a year of momentum where the brand announced $300 million in gross annual retail sales and introduced Dippin’ Dots Cryogenics to expand its technology to other industries, Dippin’ Dots is inviting everyone to “taste the fun” with the launch of its festive birthday flavor, Frozeti Confetti. Fondly named after Dippin’ Dots mascot, Frozeti the Yeti, Frozeti Confetti features a fun blast of lemon and blue raspberry ices with confetti popping candy. Dippin’ Dots CEO Scott Fischer said: “We couldn’t think of a better way to kick off our 30th anniversary celebration than to introduce a new Frozeti Confetti flavor for our fans. The bold combination of Dippin’ Dots and popping candy will appeal to people trying our iconic ice cream for the first time, as well as those who nostalgically reminisce on enjoying our treats over the years. “We are excited to keep the party going for our fans all year long.” Dippin’ Dots will continue to celebrate its 30th anniversary throughout the year with sweepstakes, special giveaways, promotions and other surprises throughout the country. — Source: Company Press Release/fbr.

Reba McEntire to be KFC’s Next Colonel

KFC has tapped its first woman to play the rotating role of Colonel Harland Sanders. Country singer Reba McEntire will fill the role to promote the fried chicken chain’s latest flavor, Smoky Mountian BBQ. Ads featuring McEntire will premiere on Jan. 28, one day before the chicken flavor becomes available nationwide. “We are absolutely thrilled — I’m personally thrilled, I have to say — that Reba McEntire will be our next colonel,”

Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer for KFC U.S., told NRN. “Reba is a brand fan,” she added. “She grew up eating KFC and she demonstrated to us and said to us that she was really excited to play this role.” Women have played an increasing role in pop culture recently. A 2016 reboot of the comedy classic Ghostbusters featured women in the title roles, and the comic book-based hit of last summer was Wonder Woman. Additionally, in this season of the British science fiction series Dr. Who, the Doctor is played by a woman. But Zahumensky said the selection of McEntire was a natural extension of the role of the colonel, who since 2015 has been played by many actors, including Darrel Hammond, Norm Macdonald, George Hamilton, Vincent Kartheiser, Billy Zane, Rob Lowe, Ray Liotta and, most recently, the largely unknown actor Christopher Boyer (he was ostensibly picked to save money so KFC could pass the savings on to customers with its $5 Fill Up and discounted $3.99 pot pie). “We’ve maintained for quite some time that really anyone who embodies the spirit of the Colonel qualifies to play this iconic role,” Zahumensky said. “This really is about finding the perfect fit for KFC and the Colonel and our Smoky Mountain BBQ.” McEntire is a Grammy Award winning and popular entertainer, and Zahumensky said she expected the new flavor to be the chain’s “most broadly appealing flavor.” The introduction of the latest flavor comes a year after the launch of Georgia Gold, coated in a tangy mustard sauce. That was preceded a year earlier by the spicy Nashville Hot chicken. All three flavors are currently on the menu at KFCs across the country. Zahumensky said the chain recently completed tests in Norfolk, Va., and New York state of a new flavor, Hot Honey. “Consumers seemed to really enjoy that flavor,” she said. Based in Louisville, Ky., KFC is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., and has more than 20,500 locations in 125 countries and territories, including more than 4,100 units in the United States. – Source: NRN.

This Brand Almost Doubled Its Revenue by Improving Front- and Back-of-House Communication

The kitchen is the backbone of any restaurant, and when it’s chaotic, so is the entire dining experience. Customers at Captain’s Quarters in Prospect, Kentucky, outside of Louisville, are treated in an idyllic waterfront dining experience thanks to the restaurant’s position on the bank of the Ohio River. However, 13 years ago, the restaurant’s high-capacity kitchen was anything but calm, especially during the summer. One of the region’s hot tourist spots, the 400-450 seat indoor-outdoor restaurant is regularly full during warmer months, and it operated on a ticket system that did little to improve communication within the kitchen or between the front-of-house and back-of-house. “All the orders for a table would come in at one time, so our kitchen staff would shout across to other stations that they shouldn’t start making dishes for five minutes while the steak started,” says Andrew Masterson, owner of Captain’s Quarters. “The screaming between stations in the kitchen made it a war zone instead of a smoothly operating kitchen.” With so much back-of-house chaos and noise, however, dishes were regularly started too early. Cooks would make fish sandwiches quickly, but they sat in the window dying while well-done filet mignons were still cooking. When the brand added tables, the window became too crowded for all the partially completed orders.

Because the Captain’s Quarters kitchen has no room to expand, Masterson knew that his team had to become more efficient, so he turned to a kitchen display system (KDS) to move away from problematic paper tickets. Connect Smart Kitchen (CSK), a kitchen display system created by QSR Automations, allowed the brand to use delayed routing to stagger when orders would arrive at different cooking stations to optimize a table’s order. “Now cooks won’t even see the order for a sandwich until the filet mignon has been cooking for 5 or 10 minutes,” Masterson says. “An entire table’s order comes to the window at the same time instead of sitting, so food is fresher when it gets to the customer and there isn’t clutter in the window.” Even on the busiest nights orders now flow smoothly at Captain’s Quarters, and with less food dying in the window, waste is reduced. Masterson says that the shouting in the kitchen between stations has almost entirely stopped, and the expeditor isn’t calling for items to be rushed. Another benefit of the KDS system is that the front- and back-of-house teams are more connected. Captain’s Quarters posted several screens throughout the restaurants that servers can check to see where orders are in the queue or whether they are cooking and to reduce trips back-of-house.  “Sometimes servers and cooks don’t always get along, and giving servers information about their order keeps them out of the kitchen, though they can still see the expo for concerns,” Masterson says. This lets the kitchen focus on the food and minimizes confusion in an already crowded kitchen. Because the system also integrates with the hostess stand, employees are able to give better estimates on wait times, further improving the guest experience. The connection between front- and back-of-house allows the entire team to function seamlessly, creating a better guest experience. Not only have ticket times improved, but so has the restaurant’s reputation. “We were religiously running 18- to 19-minute ticket times, and now, if we have one over 9 or 10 minutes it’s a freak occurrence,” Masterson says. “That’s made a drastic change that equates to happier customers, and servers are also happier with increased table turns. Our sales have been up every year since we put in the system. The payoff for installing it has been massive.”

Though some full-service restaurants have been reluctant to install a KDS system, Masterson says that it has been critical to his brand’s success and has increased employee satisfaction. “I think table-service restaurants have felt it might be less personal or more institutional to have a KDS back-of-house, but it’s the opposite,” he says. “It simplifies processes for cooks so that they aren’t spending time reading tickets and hoping they don’t lose them. With larger restaurants it’s harder and harder to get good, qualified cooks. When you can give them technology that is reliable and easy to understand and read it makes their job easier, and they are more likely to work for me instead of someone else.” Managers are also able to access restaurant data and get a snapshot of the business both at the restaurant and from home. This helps leadership assess performance, improve processes, and even offer incentives for the staff when goals are met, such as dessert for the kitchen team if their ticket times remain low. Now, Masterson says Captain’s Quarters can handle busy nights with 1,200 covers or more and often go without a single complaint or item sent back. In fact, he views the system as so critical to the restaurant, that as he’s been searching for a new POS system, he’s stipulated that the system they choose must integrate with CSK. To those considering installing a KDS, Masterson says it’s time to take the leap. “If you don’t already have a system like this, it’s well worth the investment,” he says. “We’re a $5.5 million per year business and 90 percent of that is done in a four-month period. We were able to grow the business and almost doubled our revenue in a four­ to five year stretch. A lot of that had to do with our ability to produce better food faster, and really, most of the signs point to CSK.” – Source: fsrmagazine.

Food Safety Technologies are Going to Add Pressures to Food and Beverage Manufacturers

The rapid pace of advancements in food safety technologies are going to add to the pressures food and beverage manufacturers are currently under, said Mike Robach, vice-president of food safety, quality and regulatory affairs for Cargill, Minneapolis. Mr. Robach spoke Jan. 22 during an education session at the Dairy Forum, which is hosted by the International Dairy Foods Association and taking place this week in Palm Desert. While such emerging technologies as whole genome sequencing, blockchain and data analytics may present challenges, they also may create opportunities, he said. “At Cargill we operate 1,500 food production plants in over 70 countries,” Mr. Robach said. “Our supply chain is really a network. And on top of it we have the increased complexity of governments and regulatory oversight, transparency and consumer trust.” It is within that framework that Cargill is working with the emerging new technologies. Because of the specificity of whole genome sequencing, for example, regulators can link outbreaks to specific products more rapidly. “Disease detection is becoming much more sophisticated,” Mr. Robach said. “I can tell you from personal experience that two illnesses can be considered a cluster and trigger a recall. “New pathogens are emerging, and those never associated with certain commodities are now being linked. What about E. coli and dairy? It won’t grow in a freezer, but it will survive. What about wheat flour? Who would have thought?”

The opportunity for Cargill is how the company is using whole genome sequencing to its benefit. “It (whole genome sequencing) allows us to trace the ecology of microorganisms from the farm through processing,” he said. “We do carcass mapping in our meat plants; we are doing mapping of our flour operations. It is extremely valuable information to have to understand your critical control points.” The challenge is regulators think it is a great technology as well. Mr. Robach said what needs to be understood is identification of a pathogen in a plant does not imply a link to a food safety incidence. “They still have to have the epidemiology,” he said. “They have to have the link between the patient and the food. “What we are finding with whole genome sequencing is some of these unique organisms aren’t really unique. Now, when they (regulators) have gotten a look at the longer sequences they are finding organisms they thought were different are actually the same.” Blockchain and big data. The supply chain technology blockchain is one way food and beverage companies may enhance transparency and gain the trust of more consumers. The technology is fantastic,” Mr. Robach said. “We’ve had great success with it. Right now the big challenge is how do you get all of the players in a supply chain engaged in blockchain? You’ve got to incentivize the whole of your supply chain to get involved. For us that means we have to figure out how to incentivize a cocoa farmer in Ghana to participate.” Cargill has successfully used blockchain in its turkey operations. Mr. Robach readily admitted that the reason Cargill chose turkey is because it was an easy process. Using the technology with such traditional commodities as corn, wheat and soy, for example, will be much more difficult. “We have wheat from two or three harvests waiting in bins for blending,” he said. “These are things that are going to be very challenging.” Data analytics, which Mr. Robach also called “big data” is another tool manufacturers may use to ensure and enhance food safety. “From my perspective, we do a good job of collecting data; we don’t do a very good job of analyzing it and identifying trends,” he said. “To me this will get us ahead of the curve. It will let us be proactive instead of reactive.” – Source: Food Safety Monitor.

Foodborne Disease Outbreaks were Reported in the United States

In 2015, 902 foodborne disease outbreaks were reported in the United States. This resulted in 15,202 illnesses, 950 hospitalizations, 15 deaths and 20 food recalls, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (C.D.C.) and Prevention. Seeded vegetables were the No. 1 food category associated with outbreak illnesses, followed by pork, which was responsible for 924 illnesses from 19 outbreaks. Chicken had more outbreaks (22), while it was a comparatively quiet year for beef-related outbreaks. “The C.D.C. attributes three primary modes of failure for all foodborne disease outbreaks,” said Roger Maehler, senior director of seasoning research and development for Newly Weds Foods. “The first is contamination, from post-cook cross contamination or the failure of decontamination. Then there’s proliferation, which is almost exclusively from non-compliant cold or hot holding. And lastly there’s survival, which is almost exclusively from non-compliant cooking processes.” Many processors focus on decontamination of the carcass, as it makes sense to start with the cleanest possible raw materials. Cleaning is often achieved by using inexpensive chemical process aids that are not declared on ingredient statements. Decontamination is also important in order to meet federal guidelines and performance standards. “While this approach is a good start, processors’ preventative measures cannot stop here,” Mr. Maehler said. “Decontaminating process aids are incapable of delivering completely safe ready-to-eat (R.-T.-E.) products. By definition and regulatory requirement, these process aids cannot have any downstream functionality with regard to limiting growth or ensuring destruction when cooked.”

Addressing the hazards. Almost all (about 95%) foodborne disease outbreaks where meat and poultry are identified as the potential vehicle, are the result of undercooking, pathogen proliferation or cross contamination, according to C.D.C. data. Decontamination is paramount, but not enough. A comprehensive food safety plan for meat and poultry products must address all hazards before, during and after the products leave the manufacturing facility. “If you want to attack the other 95% of causative factors, you need pathogen proliferation control when notoriously unreliable refrigeration fails,” Mr. Maehler said. “You also need something to assist end-users to achieve a validated kill step outside of the tight constraints of a HACCP-controlled cook factory and something to reduce the potential for cross contamination in a home kitchen and food service.” Lactates, propionic acid and acetic acid are all organic acids that are effective at controlling pathogen growth. Propionic acid is recognized as being the most effective of these acids; while vinegar, a natural source of acetic acid, is where a great deal of innovation has been taking place. This is because vinegar is an ingredient consumers understand and don’t view as a chemical preservative; thus, it is viewed as a clean label ingredient. Newly Weds Foods offers proprietary combinations of vinegar and spice extractives. The ingredients inhibit pathogen proliferation throughout product processing and distribution, reduce potential for cross-contamination and enhance E. coli and Salmonella susceptibility to heat. The ingredients are sourced from nature, with organic and non-G.M.O. options available. The easy-to-use liquid is applied directly to ground products and to whole muscle meats by marination. It does not impact food flavor or overall product quality. “For raw beef and poultry applications, we suggest a usage level of 1%,” Mr. Maehler said. “This amount has demonstrated complete pathogen inhibition for up to a full month even when stored at 45° F, where exponential pathogen growth in controls is seen in less than two weeks. The extracts have also been shown to increase pathogen reduction by more than 90% at temperatures in the high 120s (degrees F) to low 130s (degrees F), where meat and poultry begins to look cooked but has not achieved the U.S.D.A.-recommended kill level.”

World Technology Ingredients, Inc. (W.T.I.) offers a range of functional ingredients for pathogen control, including liquids and powders, low-sodium or sodium-free options, clean label, natural, organic and non-G.M.O. ingredients. All products inhibit the growth of Listeria monocytogenes, as well as other pathogens and spoilage organisms, thereby increasing food safety and extending shelf life. “Our ingredients can be added directly into a food product or used as a topical treatment,” said Klaus Kreuzner, director of sales at W.T.I. “Our products are designed to inhibit Listeriagrowth in ready-to-eat items. We have conducted studies with our vinegars and achieved 70 to 90 days without Listeriagrowth at 0.5% to 0.7% usage rates.” Keeping labels clean. Corbion offers numerous products to control Listeria in R.-T.-E. meat and poultry products. The ingredient systems use combinations of lactate and acetate, or their clean label counterparts, ferments and vinegars. “Our clean label ferments are made from sugars that are naturally fermented using specific food cultures to produce a range of different actives, such as organic acids, small peptides, residual sugars and other fermentation products,” said Tom Rourke, Ph.D., director of business development at Corbion. “These ferments provide additional functionality such as yield enhancement, texture improvement and savory flavor in addition to combating pathogens and extending shelf life.” Corbion recently introduced organic vinegar products that utilize unique clean label buffers and provide meat and poultry processors with non-G.M.O. and organic labeling options. There’s also a new line of natural powder products labeled as cultured sugar and vinegar. “They are low in sodium and provide pathogen and shelf life protection as well as a specific product used for mold inhibition,” Mr. Rourke said. The company now has a clean label antimicrobial that rivals potassium sorbate for mold inhibition, even in applications most vulnerable to mold, such as high-moisture meat snacks. The ingredient also provides pathogen protection. “Being able to tackle the mold spoilage challenge without alienating consumers looking for a clean ingredient label just hasn’t been possible before now,” Mr. Rourke said. “We believe this product can really impact sales for our customers.”

Kemin Food Technologies offers a liquid, propionic acid-based antimicrobial designed to protect R.-T.-E. meat and poultry products from Listeria. It has been proven to extend product shelf life more consistently in comparison to traditional lactate-based products. Kemin was the first to commercialize such a product within the protein industry and was vital to getting propionic acid approved for use by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.). “Since it is applied at a lower application rate, it contributes less sodium and lower cost-in-use than lactates and diacetates,” said Courtney Schwartz, senior marketing communications manager for Kemin. “We also offer a label-friendly vinegar-based product for food safety designed to protect meat and poultry products from foodborne pathogens and extend product shelf life by delaying the growth of spoilage bacteria.” Kemin’s buffered vinegar solutions have no negative effect on meat quality, including parameters such as water-holding capacity, protein denaturation, color or flavor. This line is available in both liquid, dry and no-sodium forms, making it easy to add to brines, marinades, spice blends or direct application to meat. It is also available in a certified organic form. “We have validated a 5-log reduction in Salmonella with our proprietary spice and herb extractives,” said Poulson Joseph, principal scientist at Kalsec. “The extracts provide multiple functionalities, including flavoring and antioxidant attributes. This offers an extra layer of comfort to meat processors to keep the total microbial load under control and minimize any potential contamination.” For fresh ground meats and fresh poultry, Kalsec offers a unique combination of vinegar and rosemary. Inclusion may improve quality, thus extending shelf life, while also assisting with safety. “Benefits include color and oxidative stability as well as a 2- to 3-log reduction in spoilage (psychrothropic as well as total plate counts) microbes,” Mr. Joseph said. “This ingredient combination has very low or no flavor impact and does not compromise texture.”

The U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.) issued on Oct. 5, 2017, an updated directive detailing the ingredients that may be used in the production of meat and poultry products. The new directive states that a natural source of nitrite can be used in combination with a natural source of ascorbate in “naturally cured” meats as an antimicrobial intervention. Typically, the two are not available as a blend because of potential interaction. They are added separately, with or without other food safety ingredients. “In this regard, Kalsec offers unique combinations of acerola (cherry powder), a natural source of ascorbate, and rosemary extract,” Mr. Joseph said. “This ingredient system offers multiple functionalities, including cure acceleration, antioxidants and food protection, when used with a natural source of nitrite.” Wenda Ingredients offers all-natural, clean label pathogen protection ingredients made from fruit and spice extracts. The product line includes a true “uncured” ingredient solution free of celery powder and chemical nitrites. “By eliminating concentrated nitrites for the purpose of pathogen protection, we are delivering on the promise of truthfulness and transparency for consumers that are buying uncured labeled meats,” said Chad Boeckman, director of marketing and national accounts for Wenda. “Our products are different in that we are using several hurdles for pathogen control, including polyphenol and flavonoid antioxidants as well as common pathogen protection ingredients for the carrier of these natural solutions, such as dried vinegar.” The typical usage level is 0.6% to 1%. They are non-G.M.O. and non-hygroscopic, making them ideal for seasoning blends used in marinades or dry rubs; however, direct application on all meat and poultry products is also an option. Arjuna Natural Extracts Ltd., with a new U.S. sales office in Dallas, is introducing a line of natural preservatives based on proprietary formulations of essential oils and oleoresins. The company’s ingredient scientists combine herbal extracts used in traditional medicine with methods of fermentation for bacteriocins, in concert with advanced technologies, such as microencapsulation and emulsification. “Research has shown that combining select natural antimicrobials can have a synergistic effect, making them more effective than single components,” said Benny Antony, joint managing director for Arjuna. “Our new all-natural ingredient systems provide effective antimicrobial activity and shelf life extension without affecting flavor or mouthfeel.” Biprotection cultures. Chr. Hansen offers bioprotection cultures for pathogen control in meat and poultry. Bioprotection is a natural way to inhibit spoilage and protect against harmful contamination in food. It refers to the use of safe bacteria, mainly lactic acid bacteria, selected from the natural microflora of food. “Bioprotection cultures undergo a rigorous screening process,” said Véronique Zuliani, senior business development manager of meat and R.-T.-E. food cultures at Chr. Hansen. “This includes ensuring there is no antibiotic resistance, and no production of toxin or biogenic amine, among other strict selection criteria. The cultures are specifically selected to protect meat and poultry by inhibiting unwanted contaminants, preventing food spoilage and providing an opportunity for manufacturers to extend shelf life.” Bacteria have long been used to protect food, from salami to cheese. The good bacteria reduce the acidity of the food, which inhibits bad bacteria from growing. In the meat and poultry industry, bioprotection cultures were first used with traditional starter cultures in fermented sausages. Today, they are used to add an extra layer of safety and microbial quality to other products, including bacon, cooked ham, cooked poultry strips and fresh sausages. “Added in a large amount at the beginning of the process, the inoculated lactic acid bacteria will naturally dominate the endogenous microflora of the food due to microbial competition, which is what we call the Jameson effect,” Ms. Zuliani said. “The lactic acid bacteria also produce metabolites with antibacterial properties and cell-to-cell signaling, so-called quorum sensing, occurs. Thus, they inhibit the growth and most of the metabolic activities from the uncontrolled spontaneous flora. The bioprotection cultures do not negatively impact sensory properties of the meat products. In fact, we have found that some protective cultures can even give a cleaner taste or keep a fresh taste longer.” These bioprotection cultures are allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as organic or made with organic ingredients, in accordance with the National Organic Program. “Consumers are pushing for healthier options in meat,” Ms. Zuliani said. “They’re looking for less processed, lower sodium and chemical-free options with a longer shelf life.” They also expect their food to be safe. Meat and poultry processors have a toolbox of ingredients to assist with preventing foodborne disease outbreaks. – Source: Food Business News.

Growing Demand for Ready-to-Eat Foods

With the ever-growing demand for ready-to-eat (R.-T.-E.) foods, some processors are faced with the decision of converting their raw, par-baked or ready-to-cook (R.-T.-C.) process to R.-T.-E. This could be a daunting choice, and knowing where to start is the first major challenge. A good first step is conducting a product risk assessment to determine if the existing microbial kill or reduction step will adequately eliminate the pathogen of concern. AIB International has published a number of calculators that can help. Once the process is validated, the risks for post-process contamination need to be examined. Various tools are available to help. Looking at the separation of raw and R.-T.-E. from building and equipment perspectives is a good starting point, especially if the current process requires a new or modified kill step. From here, the equipment located downstream from the oven needs to be assessed for potential microbial contamination. Disassembling for deep or detailed clean is likely required to eliminate microbes from harborage points such as overlapping surfaces or sandwiches. Inspection will verify if harborage points contain liquid that may also be contaminated. Other potential sources of contamination that did not present a high risk for the raw products — but will for the new R.-T.-E. products — must be considered. Using checklists from the Grocery Manufacturers Association or other sources will help assess the equipment and infrastructure. During this phase of the transformation process, the team should swab to confirm that potential niches were cleaned and spoilage and harmful pathogens were eliminated. In most cases, the number of environmental samples taken and the sampling frequency will need to be increased in the new R.-T.-E. area. The facility may already have an environmental monitoring program for pathogens, but it will need to be reassessed to verify the effectiveness of the new barriers and controls. The question is, can the raw production area be separated from the new R.-T.-E. side of the plant? In many bakeries and snack plants with linear processing lines, the natural separation provided by the oven or the fryer will provide the demarcation needed to separate the raw and R.-T.-E. sides. Depending on the product risk, it may not be necessary to have the two areas physically separated by walls. The key point will be to look at the product’s traffic pattern in implementing a separation between the raw and R.-T.-E. areas. Employee practices are the next consideration. Shoe and boot sanitizers or sanitizing stations may be needed when moving between the raw and the R.-T.-E. sides. Transport equipment, forklifts and carts will also need to be evaluated. Having dedicated vehicles for each area is certainly the best option, but if this is not possible, then a cleaning and verification program can be implemented. Taking time to explain the reasons for the new practices is certainly a significant part of the project. Presenting those changes in a classroom might be the first step, but observing their practices and coaching them on the floor is equally, if not more, important. Transforming a raw process to R.-T.-E. might not take place overnight, but there are many aspects to consider. The formation of a strong plan that includes options for the different aspects of the transformation will be essential for success. – Source: Food Business News.

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