To Our Valued Subscribers:

Here it is the beginning of November; are the Holidays far behind? They are celebrating their World Series Championship in Boston, and as of today, MY Northwestern Wildcats are in first place in the Western Division of the Big Ten. Things are going well. I hope they are as well for you and your team. As we get ready for the end of the year push, I would like to share with you a few thoughts from an article authored by Dan Rockwell known as the Leadership Freak. The article addresses how We, as leaders, need to ask the correct questions to keep our teams on track. Here is but one example: To really have meaningful dialogue with employees, begin all questions with “What, How or Who”. Yes or No questions call for short responses. A “What” question invites conversation. e.g. What do you think we should do about…Another great tip is to avoid starting discussions with “Wouldn’t you or Shouldn’t you.” And, finally, never start with a “Why” question. Why questions are mostly seen as an accusation. Give this a try and let me know how it works out. I have seen some real improvement in my dialogues with employees by just consciously using these tips. For more information about how to improve your effectiveness in communicating with your staff and customers, feel free to contact me or my American Recruiter colleagues. We are not just a placement firm, but a true partner in helping our clients be the best. Enjoy the latest edition of American Recruiters Global Foodservice News. I must see a man about a Turkey!!

Craig Wilson



Daphne’s Buys Noon Mediterranean out of Bankruptcy

Daphne’s Inc. has acquired Noon Mediterranean out of bankruptcy in a deal expected to be announced later this week. Within 60 to 90 days, Daphne’s parent Elite Restaurant Group of Los Angeles plans to rebrand New York-based Noon, which has 12 units, under the Daphne’s banner. The 12 units in Texas, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts will become hybrid stores, serving Noon’s build-your-own bowls along with signature dishes from Daphne’s menu. “It’s a big move for our brand,” Nakhleh told NRN in an exclusive interview. The deal included more than $731,000 in cash and up to $100,000 in post-bankruptcy costs, in addition to 2-percent equity in Daphne’s Inc. going to creditors, along with rent for assumed locations, according to sale offer listed in the bankruptcy filing. The purchase comes two months after Noon Mediterranean filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protetion. The chain was founded in Austin, Texas, in 2011 as VertsKebap, a döner kebap concept. In 2015, it won $20 million in private funding that fueled a national expansion plan and a name change to Verts Mediterranean Grill, with a broader menu. The deal will grow Daphne’s to 36 units — 22 existing Daphne’s, 12 converted locations, plus two new units scheduled to open in the next 60 days. After the close of the deal, Daphne’s will have no debt, and will generate annual revenue of $27 million, according to Noon’s bankruptcy filing. Nakhleh said the Noon stores will maintain their assembly-line format, as opposed to Daphne’s traditional counter service. He said consumers will be able to build-their-own gyros using this format. “We’re going to see how the hybrid will look,” he said. “It might be the new prototype for Daphne’s.” Nakhleh said 150 employees in stores and at Noon’s headquarters will remain on the payroll. The only exception: The fate of current CEO Stefan Boyd, who stepped into the role Aug. 1 after former Noon CEO Michael Heyne and co-founder Dominik Stein left the company. “We haven’t made a determination yet,” Nakhleh said of Boyd. Boyd said in an email: “We are excited to join the Elite Restaurant Group family. I’m looking forward to working with Mike and his team to ensure a smooth transition as we move toward a successful exit from Ch 11.” When Nakhleh purchased Daphne’s earlier this year, he said he planned to position the 22-unit fast-casual chain for major growth.  He stripped “California Greek” from its name, revamped its look and menu and introduced Daphne’s-branded gyro kits at 90 Costco locations on the West Coast. He said growth through acquisitions is not over. He said he is looking to buy another Mediterranean brand soon. Elite began its buying spree two years ago with the purchase of the bacon-centric burger brand Slater’s 50/50 in Southern California. Last month, the company entered into a deal to purchase the 17-unit Patxi’s Pizza from private-equity firm KarpReilly LLC. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. — Source: NRN.

Pegasus Owners Buy New Parthenon, Santorini Restaurants

The Papas family, which owns and operates numerous restaurants and businesses in Detroit’s Greektown, has purchased the recently shuttered New Parthenon Restaurant and will renovate, according to a statement from the family. The family, which owns Pegasus Taverna and the Atheneum Suite Hotel, confirms that they will remodel the longtime Greek restaurant that that closed earlier this week. They have also purchased Santorini Estiatorio, located at 501 Monroe St., which shuttered last month and is undergoing major renovations, including a roof. This new development knocks the iea that both restaurants were going to be shuttered for good. The Papas family has a four-decade-long history in Greektown, saying in a statement, “Our family chose to continue to invest in Greektown, which also coincides with an upcoming district-wide redevelopment master plan to be unveiled by the end of 2018.” The statement also said the family plans to continue their investment in the neighborhood, with future developments to come.  – Source: Detroit Free Press.

Labor and Employment Guidelines for New Restaurants

Opening a new restaurant means navigating a maze of creative, logistical, and legal challenges that would make American film producer M. Night Shyamalan blush. From tricky wage and hour laws to devilishly short immigration forms, there are employment law hurdles lurking around every turn. With a little forethought, new restaurants can avoid being stuck in a legal nightmare.

Taking Care of Business and Working Overtime Paying overtime, employing minors, and paying tipped employees—wage and hour concerns are among restaurants’ most enduring and frequent legal terrors. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) generally requires restaurants to (1) pay a minimum hourly wage of $7.25; (2) pay overtime wages of one and one-half times an employee’s regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 during a work week; and (3) keep records with accurate information about each employee’s hours worked and wages earned. A few of a restaurant’s employees, such as a general manager, executive chef and some assistant managers, may be exempt from these requirements, but the vast majority of restaurant employees are entitled to earn the minimum wage and overtime payments for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. This is the case regardless of whether employees are tipped and paid on an hourly basis, which is the most common scenario, or paid on a day-rate or weekly basis, which is more common for kitchen staff.

The most commonly misunderstood FLSA provisions relate to paying tipped employees. While restaurants can pay a direct cash wage lower than $7.25/hour (but no less than $2.13/hour) and count a limited amount of its employees’ tips (no more than $5.12/hour) toward the difference, the crucial take-away is tipped employees must always receive – through direct wage and/or tips—at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. In order to use this system of payment, known as a “tip credit,” the restaurant must provide prior notice to its tipped employees. That said, state and local wage hour laws vary wildly. Many impose greater obligations on employers than the FLSA. For instance, California does not allow a lower cash wage for tipped employees; instead, restaurants must pay tipped employees at least the state minimum wage of $11 per hour. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep up to date with the laws in your restaurant’s state and city. There are more restaurant wage and hour horror stories than Goosebumps novels. This summer, a Mexican restaurant in the Midwest agreed to pay 23 employees more than $200,000 in back wages after a long-running investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found a host of FLSA violations, including paying flat daily or weekly salaries to kitchen staff regardless of the number of hours worked, failing to maintain accurate and legally required records of the number of hours employees worked, and requiring minors under 16 to work past 9 p.m. and longer than 3 hours on school nights—a violation of the FLSA’s child labor provisions. Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania sandwich chain restaurant agreed to pay $2.1 million to settle claims that it failed to satisfy the notice requirements of the tip credit provisions of the FLSA and Pennsylvania minimum wage laws. In addition to the $2.1 million settlement, the court required the sandwich chain to pay the tipped employees’ attorneys’ fees, which amounted to more than $600,000.

In order to avoid issues like this, there are several steps you can take to mitigate your risks. First, you should work with your employment law attorney to determine from the beginning which positions at your restaurant are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage requirements.  An ounce of prevention at the outset will save your restaurant pounds of attorneys’ fees and potential fines later. Next, consider implementing electronic timekeeping. Also, the simplest method of calculating regular and overtime pay for non-exempt employees is a standard hourly wage that meets or exceeds the minimum wage. If you decide to use a daily or weekly rate for kitchen staff, those employees must still diligently record their time worked so that you or, ideally, your payment processing company, can ensure they are paid the applicable minimum wage and properly calculate overtime. Finally, if your restaurant takes a tip credit, you must inform the tipped workers in advance – preferably in writing and signed by the tipped employee. Verifying Legal Work Status

Under federal law, restaurants must fill out an I-9 form for every employee at the outset of their employment. The I-9 form is meant to ensure all new hires are legally entitled to hold a job in the U.S.  This seemingly simple two-page form is actually more complicated than The Shining. But it is just a little error on a simple form – no big deal, right? Wrong. Mistakes on I-9s can subject restaurants to steep fines and penalties even if the restaurant never hired someone unauthorized to work in the country. For instance, fines for a single error on a single I-9 range from $216 to $2,156. One real-world example of this is when a California restaurant unexpectedly received a notice of inspection from the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requiring the restaurant to turn over its I-9 forms within days. The restaurant complied, and turned over 60 employee I-9 forms to ICE. However, ICE discovered that 32—more than half—contained errors. ICE also found that the restaurant entirely failed to prepare and/or present I-9s for four employees.  After nearly three years of litigation, the Department of Justice issued a final order finding the restaurant liable for 36 violations of federal immigration laws. The restaurant was ordered to pay more than $18,350 in civil penalties—likely a drop in the bucket compared to the expense of litigating the case for three years.

So you do not end up like the California restaurant above, designate and provide training for a trustworthy and responsible person to fill out new employees’ I-9 forms for the restaurant. Also, keep all original completed I-9 forms and copies of documents presented by employees stored separately from other employee files in a secure location. Original I-9 forms must be retained for three years after an employee’s hire date, or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later. You might also consider signing up for E-Verify, an online system that allows employers to instantly validate an employee’s legal work status. Though restaurants are not generally required to use E-Verify, it is required in some states. Using E-Verify may help address common I-9 errors, but restaurants should discuss the pros and cons with an immigration attorney before signing up. Finally, conduct annual I-9 audits to ensure your restaurant has properly completed I-9 forms. Dealing with employment law issues when opening and running a restaurant can be scary. To avoid these and other employment law nightmares, talk to your employment attorney as you develop your plan for opening your restaurant. – Source: Fsrmagazine.

3 Brands Discuss the Bumps Along the Road to Sustainability

Recycled furnishings, solar-powered utilities and waste reduction measures all count as ways QSRs are practicing more sustainable operations. But as keen as customers are for brands that adhere to such earth-friendly practices, the folks at the helm of these restaurants say there’s nothing easy or cheap about incorporating sustainability into everyday operations. In fact, at a recent panel discussion at last week’s Fast Casual Executive Summit in Seattle, three brand leaders were quick to share that operating sustainably is rife with impediments along the way to doing right by ol’ “Ma Earth.” In the session, moderated by Essity North America National Account Manager Tracey Fullington, the following panelists discussed some of those challenges along their sustainability journey, as well as the rewards they ultimately do it all for:
Asian Box CEO Mike Speck.

CoreLife Eatery President and CCO Scott Davis (Also former Panera Bread CCO)

Flatbread Grill co-founder and CMO Gonca Esendemir.

“When we first started, sustainability really wasn’t a buzzword, so we had to learn how to be sustainable and … it cost a lot more back then to be sustainable than it does now.” – Gonca Esendemir, Flatbread Grill.

To start, Fullington surveyed the brands about their sustainability practices at the current moment. In their answers, it quickly became evident that all three have been using either furnishings, foods or other sustainable practices for a while, including some who’ve done so since Day One.

Yeah, for us it’s been part of our mission since the beginning in that one of the pillars of where we come from is really good, clean sourcing and food you want to eat. … So, we’re doing things a lot more locally and with a footprint that is a lot closer to the store.

Flatbread: We started using sustainable furniture at our second store.

Asian Box: Our employees … and customers … (they ask) how do you make them proud? That’s one of the key questions we ask. So, we are made-to-order street food … and we’ve got to create the aura about also the practicality of it and that really comes at a cost. Question: On that subject, how does. Your brand use green practices without added costs? Flatbread: When we first started, sustainability really wasn’t a buzzword, so we had to learn how to be sustainable and … it cost a lot more back then to be sustainable than it does now, you know. … We had to decide whether to go full-on organic where everything is sustainable or whether we wanted to be where we are now where we’re sustainable, but not on all touchpoints. You have to decide that for your brand. So, it’s things like, we use a smaller footprint (for their stores) and we switched with our second store from silverware to melamine (utensils).

Asian Box: All good things come at a cost. So as far as sustainable development, we have a project right now to redefine our (store) prototype. The purpose of this is to make the cost, the cost, and not have overruns like what usually happens. So, in this case, we’re spending more money upfront to get a really good prototype made.

Q: What about allotting money for sustainability initiatives at your brands?

CoreLife: I’ve found that when you look (at sustainability for the brand) piece by piece, you really end up not taking any action because you’re just stifled by it. So, part of it is, ‘How do you look at the whole of what …what you’re trying to do and … then somewhere between sustainable and really workable you strike a balance where your brand meets it. … So, we have a range we want to be in for a series of things related to sustainability, for instance.

Flatbread: It goes back to who you are as a brand (in how you allot sustainable initiative cash). Like, we’re looking at ways to keep our footprint low. If we do smaller stores, then it really becomes more like a take-out and delivery situation for us.

And we’re doing self-ordering kiosks now and I think the next thing will be focused on the little things, like the straws. … But, also for the future, we’re trying to look ahead and see what next big sustainability issue is going to be — if you can predict that, then you can preplan.

“The same customers who complain about us not using compostable (packaging), also complain about their (compostable) packaging falling apart before they get home. So, we’re thinking about all these pieces.” – Mike Speck, Asian Box.

Q: How do you get your franchisees to invest in sustainability practices and products?

Asian Box: It’s not always obvious. … Like, with (their brand’s) compostable boxes, when they were stacked, we found they don’t come apart again, so … you have to come up with creative ways to pre-stack boxes to get around that … and that’s a cost, too. … But then the same customers who complain about us not using compostable (packaging), also complain about their (compostable) packaging falling apart before they get home. So, we’re thinking about all these pieces. Like we had a disposable bag (being used), but we figured out how to use a smaller bag to offset the food packaging (impact). But that is not always obvious to franchisees.

CoreLife: We’re very upfront about that from the moment we start talking to them about franchising. You can’t take it apart –you’ve really got to hold that together in that this all fits with what you’re trying to do. Flatbread:You don’t want people to reinvent your brand. Like, I’ve been doing this 12 year and I on the frontline and dealt with customers and I’ve made the food. I was there I was “in” the brand. So yes, if (franchisees) come up with something you never thought of, then, yes, I’m open to it. But you really don’t want (franchisees) to reinvent your brand — they have to be able to accept all parts of it. Franchisees have to understand who you are and what your values are.

Q: On social media and elsewhere also there has been a lot of buzz about customers who want compostable packaging but are not willing to deal with the trade-offs present in some compostable products. How do you deal with that? Asian Box: For me, one thing that I’ve found so important for us is to educate our hourly workers (around sustainability practices). It’s really ironic how (some customers) with a cause can take things out on an 18-year-old cashier … and that’s has been an obstacle for us.

CoreLife: A lot of (the response to social media negativity about packaging) is not even us responding, but it’s really our customers who really self-moderate (the social media conversation). But still, for us it always comes down to, ‘Is it workable?’ It (the sustainable practice) has to work. … Also, when I was at Panera, one thing we found helpful was staffing your locations and surveying customers to find out what people thought about us. … We would have one person at every location to act as a conduit … who channeled information in and fed it back to us.

Q: How do you sustain your brand through this issue.

CoreLife: For us, it’s about the people who want to eat healthily and giving them a choice.
Asian Box: Ours is (about being) gluten-free, fresh, made-to-order Vietnamese street food. You have to make it simple … because for me it’s something like “connecting” and we’ve got to take it to that simple of a level to make it flow through to the customer. Flatbread: For us, we started as a family … and my parents were in poverty in Turkey … and we grew up very poor. … So, this is our values to grow this brand to sustain that we didn’t follow trends, we have stayed true to our core: The food we love, the food we grew up on. The people who work for us, they’re working for a family. … Some people come in and think we’re a big corporation but then they meet my sisters and I and see you’re not dealing with corporate values, we’re dealing with family values. That’s how we run the business and I think that is what’s going to sustain us. – Source: QSRWeb.

F.D.A. Removes Seven Flavoring Substances from Food Additives List

The Food and Drug Administration had amended its food additive regulations to no longer allow for the use of seven synthetic flavoring substances and flavor enhancers (adjuvants), the agency said Oct. 5. The regulatory action came in response to two petitions. Companies will need to have identified suitable replacement ingredients and have reformulated their food products two years after the rule is published in the Federal Register. One petition pertained to six of the substances that were shown to cause cancer at high doses in laboratory animals.

The substances are synthetically-derived benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether (methyl eugenol), myrcene, pulegone and pyridine. The F.D.A. said the Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that the F.D.A. cannot find as safe, or cannot approve, the use of any food additive that has been found to induce cancer in humans or animals at any dose. “Although we are amending our food additive regulations for these synthetic flavoring substances in accordance with the Delaney Clause, the F.D.A.’s rigorous scientific analysis has determined that they do not pose a risk to public health under the conditions of their intended use,” the F.D.A. said. “The synthetic flavoring substances that are the subject of this petition are typically used in foods available in the U.S. marketplace in very small amounts, and their use results in very low levels of exposures and low risk.” The F.D.A. also no longer will allow the use of benzophenone as a plasticizer in rubber articles intended for repeated use in contact with food.

The petition was submitted by the Breast Cancer Fund, the Center for Environmental Health, the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumers Union, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Working Group, Improving Kids’ Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, WE ACT for Environmental Justice and James Huff. After receiving a separate petition from the Styrene Information and Research Center, the F.D.A. amended its food additive regulations to no longer allow for the use of styrene as a synthetic flavoring substance and adjuvant because the industry no longer uses it. Electronic or written objections and requests for a hearing on the final rule must be sent to the F.D.A. by 30 days after the rule’s publication in the Federal Register, which was scheduled for Oct. 9. Electronic comments may be sent through the web site. Written comments may be sent to Dockets Management Staff (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville MD 20852. – Source: Food Business News.

Automatic Tracking Using Barcodes

Automating lot tracking using bar codes and RFID-type scanners allows a single point collection of the data that can then be electronically transferred upstream, said Jason Stricker, director of sales and marketing, Shick Esteve. Lot tracking often starts in the receiving area by scanning information from bar codes into a bakery’s system, which initiates those lot numbers to track the amount dispensed into each batch. Kevin Pecha, sales manager, AZO, pointed out that a panoply of information on flour, water, pre-mixes, liquid additions, mixing parameters and even temperatures creates essential front-end controls. “This batch record can be saved, transferred to a supervisory system such as an ERP system or printed for future use,” Mr. Pecha said. He also pointed out that the past data will assist in future forecasting to procure more accurate production schedules.

Shick Esteve’s Automated Ingredient Management (AIM) software integrates with new and existing automated ingredient handling systems. “AIM provides recipe and batch management, production scheduling, lot tracking, traceability and process data acquisition,” Mr. Stricker said. “AIM is able to integrate with various front-end management software seamlessly. We can push data upstream to eliminate data entry requirement or allow their system to extract the data required for reporting. All data can be warehoused onsite or in the cloud, allowing for extensive and complete recordkeeping.” Bühler developed the WinCos system that includes recipe management, lot number traceability, contamination control, product interlocking and trend visualization, just to name a few. “The WinCos automation system has been developed to deliver the functionality needed in a modern food business,” said John Hunter, sales account manager, bakery and ingredient handling, Bühler Inc. Zeppelin System USA offers its Production Resource Information System Management Applications (PRISMA) suite. “The PRISMA system can integrate the manual scaling process with the automated bulk handling and batching system, prompt operators for required ingredients, monitor the accuracy of manual as well as automated scaling actions against preset tolerances, and record the results instantly,” noted Joseph Cross, process manager. Barcode labelers and scanners track ingredients from incoming shipments through intermediate scaling to final point-of-use control. “PRISMA can also provide one-up/one-down supply chain traceability for smaller companies without large ERP/MES systems by allowing users to set up suppliers and customers to integrate with lot tracking,” Mr. Cross explained. “This functionality provides preconfigured reports showing what lots from which suppliers went into every batch produced for each customer order over any selected timeframe.”

Traceability is a critical component in achieving compliance with regional and international government regulations as well as with countless audits and Global Food Safety Initiatives, observed James Toole, ingredient handling product manager at Gemini/KB Systems. “Bakeries are becoming more astute with respect to increasingly stringent regulations governing lot tracking and food safety,” he said. Gemini/KB Systems’ automated ingredient storage and handling systems provide devices such as load cells on bulk ingredient bins, loss-in-weight feeders for minor ingredients and mass flow meters for liquid ingredient handling. Mr. Toole said these systems interface with a bakery’s ERP management software to manage inventory levels, provide lot costing and track ingredients from receipt through finished product. “Our customers rely on lot tracking for product recalls and product warnings as well as for better inventory management purposes,” he said. Mr. Hunter noted mass flow discharge systems from bins and silos allow bakeries to carry out lot number tracking for bulk ingredients and those that have been dispensed to intermediate silos. Bühler designs its systems to ensure accurate ingredient handling and physical separation of allergens or organic materials. “Integrating bar code lot number capture systems with the pneumatic transfer line for bulk intake, or bag tipping points, will enable a bakery to prevent a system start-up if an operator tries to send the wrong ingredient to a destination bin,” he said. Mr. Hunter added that product interlocking also prevents a transfer line from starting if the wrong ingredient is about to be put into an intake line. To ensure accuracy, Mr. Toole recommended periodic calibration of all the measuring devices by trained in-house personnel. “Calibrating these devices will confirm the weight of ingredients are exact and as precise as possible,” he said. “This can help with calculating costs and find any discrepancies between amounts delivered versus quantities used.” Mr. Toole added that calibration frequencies range from monthly or quarterly to weekly or even daily, depending on the needs of the operation.

From an ingredient handling perspective, controlling water usage and temperature — especially with temperamental doughs — safeguards critical process consistency from the get-go, said Darren Adams, vice-president of engineering, The Fred D. Pfening Co. Often bakeries need to use ice or mechanical chilling to ensure proper dough temperature. “It’s really a science to determine what the right temperature of ingredients should be,” Mr. Adams said. “Sometimes, the easiest way to achieve that end dough temperature is to chill the mixing jacket itself. The dough is making contact with that very cold surface. More often, bakers just want to add as cold of water possible until they reach that dough temperature they need.” Pfening’s Enviro-Blender incorporates up to three temperatures of water such as cold, city tap and hot water to reach a formula’s optimum level. “When the water is not cold enough, we’ll make a brine solution, assuming the dough accepts salt, and we can then provide really cold water,” Mr. Adams explained. The water-saving blender serves up to three mixers, gives a flow rate of up to 300 lbs a minute and offers 10 batch and temperature set-points with touchscreen controls. It also can be integrated into older equipment and in newer software management systems. Mr. Adams added that Pfening’s metering system, with flow rates up to 400 lbs a minute, also handles oils, corn syrup and a variety of other liquid ingredients. – Source: Dan Malovany.

Starbucks Corp. Opens its First Deaf-Friendly Sign Language Store

Starbucks Corp. on Oct. 23 announced it has opened its first deaf-friendly sign language store in the United States in Washington, D.C. The new store format will be a distinctive retail experience that promotes accessibility and offers employment and career advancement opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people. Twenty to 25 deaf and hard of hearing people and hearing partners will work at the store, with a requirement that all be proficient in American Sign Language (A.S.L). This will help to attract and develop other talent with A.S.L. capabilities while raising awareness and understanding of the deaf experience in the workforce.

Among the features of the new store are A.S.L. aprons embroidered by a deaf supplier, and hearing partners who sign will have an “I Sign” pin. There will be an open environment for communication and low glare reflective surfaces. The store will offer communication options for ordering and receiving beverages at the hand-off counter. The store also will feature exclusive artwork and a custom mug designed by a deaf artist. “This is a historic moment in Starbucks ongoing journey to connect with the deaf and hard of hearing community, hire and engage deaf and hard of hearing partners, and continue to find ways to be more inclusive, accessible and welcoming to all,” said Rossann Williams, executive vice-president of U.S. Retail at Starbucks. Not only does the store provide a welcoming experience for customers, but it is also a place to provide jobs and career potential for deaf and hard of hearing people who may have been pushed aside. “This store hopefully also shows what’s possible, opportunity-wise,” said Matthew Gilsbach, the store’s manager. “As a deaf person, you can have a job and you can have money and you can have life skills. And you can engage with people in the signing and non-signing community. I’m excited to start this journey and to see what the deaf and hearing communities can do together.” Source: Food Business News.

“Chain Reaction IV: Burger Edition”

The scores were published in a report called “Chain Reaction IV: Burger Edition,” which was produced by the Center for Food Safety, Consumer Reports, Food Animal Concerns Trust, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Friends of the Earth, and Natural Resources Defense Council. The report says 22 chains received “F” grades “for lacking any announced policy to source beef raised without the routine use of antibiotics.” Wendy’s received a “D-” because 15 percent of its beef is sourced from producers that cut the use of tylosin, an antibiotic, by one-fifth, it says. Only two chains – Shake Shack and BurgerFi – received an “A” rating. “Both companies currently serve only beef raised without antibiotics,” the report says. The report notes that while Fuddruckers, Steak ‘n Shake and Farmer Boys – which received “F grades” – have no antibiotics policies, they offer a burger option made of beef raised without antibiotics.

Overuse of antibiotics in livestock can cause resistant bacteria to spread, putting humans at risk of developing life-threatening infections. The report says many meat producers give animals antibiotics to encourage quicker growth or stave off disease, calling it a routine practice. “When antibiotics stop working, diseases become harder to treat, life-saving surgeries riskier to perform, and a scrape on the knee can even turn deadly,” Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives in the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, said in a news release Wednesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.” The World Health Organization (WHO) calls it “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” “Each year in the U.S., at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and at least 23,000 people die,” the CDC says.

The WHO says antibiotic resistance is a natural occurrence accelerated by the misuse of antibiotics in both animals and humans. In a statement, McDonald’s spokesperson Lauren Altmin said “preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics for future generations is highly important” to the company. “In 2016, McDonald’s fully implemented its pledge to no longer serve chicken treated with antibiotics important to human medicine in its US restaurants, which led to the 2018 implementation of an antibiotic use policy for broiler chicken in markets around the globe. McDonald’s is currently finalizing a global antibiotics policy for beef, to begin roll out before the end of 2018,” Altmin said. In-N-Out Burger said it “remains committed to beef that is raised without the use of antibiotics important to human medicine. We’ve had many discussions with our suppliers to explore ways to accomplish this goal.” The report urges burger chains and lawmakers to take action. “While restaurants and major meat producers have critical roles to play in stopping the overuse of antibiotics, the government must also act to achieve the kind of lasting, industry-wide change needed to fully protect public health,” the report says. “Policymakers should only allow beef producers to use medically important antibiotics under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian, and to treat animals diagnosed with an illness or to control a verified disease outbreak,” it says. – Source: CBS Interactive.

Salmonella Outbreaks Spark Public Health Concerns in Canada

Public health officials in Canada have recorded hundreds of laboratory confirmed cases of Salmonella infections linked to raw chicken, including frozen raw breaded chicken products despite efforts at educating the public on safe handling practices. There have been 419 laboratory confirmed cases of Salmonella illnesses investigated as part of foodborne illness outbreaks across Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Eighty-six individuals were hospitalized. Three people have died, however the agency noted that Salmonella was not the cause of death for two of those individuals, and it was not determined whether Salmonella contributed to the cause of death for the third person. In response to these outbreaks, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (C.F.I.A.) and other federal food safety agencies are collaborating with the Canadian poultry industry to implement measures aimed at reducing Salmonella at the manufacturing and processing levels of production.

In March, the C.F.I.A. announced new measures that identify Salmonella as a hazard and call for processors to implement modifications that reduce Salmonella to below a detectable amount in products such as chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, chicken strips, popcorn chicken and chicken burgers that are packaged for retail sale. The C.F.I.A. granted the industry a 12-month implementation period to begin immediately. But the persistent problem of illnesses associated with raw chicken products prompted Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health to issue a public statement stressing the importance of proper handling of raw poultry products, including frozen raw breaded chicken. “We are very pleased that the government of Canada is working with the food manufacturing industry and food retailers to reduce Salmonella in frozen raw breaded chicken products produced on or after April 1, 2019, to below detectable amounts, thereby reducing the risk of illness for everyone who handles or consumes these types of products,” Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health said. “However, until April 1, 2019, and likely for up to a year after this date, frozen raw breaded chicken products containing Salmonella will continue to be in the marketplace and in freezers across the country. “This is why, collectively, we are stressing the importance of handling and preparing frozen raw breaded chicken products with caution.” Frozen raw breaded chicken products should be cooked thoroughly according to the package instructions to an internal temperature of at least 74°C (165°F) using a digital food thermometer to ensure the food is at the proper temperature.  Also, handwashing is important before and after handling raw chicken products, and surfaces, dishes and utensils used to prepare and serve them should be washed and sanitized. “Following this advice when handling, cooking or eating these products will help reduce you and your family’s chance of becoming infected with Salmonella,” Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health said. “As Canada’s Chief Medical Officers of Health, we encourage all consumers to be attentive to food safety. We will continue to monitor illnesses and keep you informed of any risks associated with your food.” – Source: Food Business News.

Americans Quitting their Jobs at Fastest Pace in 17 years

Help-wanted signs in North Dakota. The numbers: The number of job openings in the U.S. rose slightly to a record 7.14 million in August, reflecting strong growth in the economy and the best labor market in decades. Job openings topped 7 million in July for the first time ever, revised figures show, and they increased again in August.

President Trump was quick to tout the record level of job openings, though he actually cited a lower number: Incredible number just out, 7,036,000 job openings. Astonishing – it’s all working! Stock Market up big on tremendous potential of USA. Also, Strong Profits. We are Number One in World, by far!

The jobs still waiting to be filled, meanwhile, easily exceeded the number of people officially classified as unemployed. The government previously said 6.23 million people were unemployed in August. Job openings topped the number of unemployed for the first time in March based on government records going back to 2000. The gap has now widened to a record 900,000. What happened: Job openings increased in government, construction, financial services, health care and professional services, the Labor Department said. Job openings declined slightly in retail, manufacturing and the restaurant business, though they were still at high levels overall. Some 5.78 million people were hired last month. About 5.71 million people lost or left their jobs, including 3.6 million who quit.

The share of people who left jobs on their own, known as the quits rate, was unchanged at a 17-year high of 2.7% among private-sector employees. That’s up sharply from 1.5% at the end of the Great Recession in 2009. The quits rate tends to rise when the economy is strong and workers feel more comfortable leaving one job for another. Job switchers often end up receiving higher pay since companies have to sweeten the pot to entice them. The number of job openings in July was revised up to 7.07 million from 6.94 million. Big picture: The U.S. is on track to create at least 2 million new jobs for the eighth year in a row, a hiring boom that’s knocked the nation’s unemployment rate down to a 48-year low of 3.7%. The surge in hiring has shrunk the pool of available labor so much that a growing number of companies say they cannot find enough skilled workers. In many cases they would have to offer better pay and benefits to attract new workers or to retain experienced ones. That’s led to rising incomes. Against that backdrop, the economy is likely to expand steadily through the next year despite ongoing trade tensions with China and rising interest rates in the U.S. What they are saying? The high number of workers who are “voluntarily quitting their jobs suggests that they are finding substantially better opportunities elsewhere in the economy,” said Julia Pollak, a labor-market economist at the online employment site ZipRecruiter.

Vegan Fast – Casual Burger Chain VeganBurg to Open Throughout California

San Francisco-based vegan fast-casual chain VeganBurg has announced that it plans to open at least 300 stores in response to high consumer demand. According to the chain, its expansion plan will focus on franchising throughout California. “Southern California has been on the radar since conception, with an established vegan and cosmopolitan culture and their hunger for emerging sustainable brands,” said VeganBurg DEO Alex Tan. “We anticipate this to be a booming market for us. We have already received a warm welcome from our San Francisco outlet customers and anticipate further expansion throughout the state. People have been waiting for so long for us to roll out franchising. The wait is finally over!” “In addition, with the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announcement on global warming, now is the best time to turn over a new leaf, dodge the beef, and switch to a plant-based burger,” he continued, referencing the event that took place earlier this month. According to the findings presented at the IPCC, global warming has reached the point where experts are urging world leaders to make “unprecedented changes” to all aspects of society in order to prevent environmental disaster. “California has a $2.6 trillion economy, and represents 14% of the United States’ total economy,” said franchise director Stevan Gardner. “In 2017, Forbes listed California as one of the ‘Best States for Business’ which is in part due to the state’s positive economic forecast for the next five years, indicating job growth and increased economic prospects. The Golden State has long been known for its health-oriented population making VeganBurg’s future even more bright within the California market.”Launched in 2010, VeganBurg has one location in San Francisco and four in Singapore, with plans to expand to Indonesia and South East Asia due to the growing interest in sustainable plant-based dining. The chain has seen strong sales since opening, with revenue growing by 40 percent within the first two years of operation, according to the restaurant. VeganBurg isn’t the only vegan burger joint to announce frenchising opportunities. Over the summer, Australian vegan fast-food chain Lord of the Fries, which has six locations in Australia and New Zealand, revealed its plans to open at least 100 franchised stores throughout India starting next year. The news was closely followed by the annoucement of its UK expansion. In June, Globally Local, which opened the “world’s first” 24-hour vegan drive-thru in Ontario, announced that it plans to franchise throughout the province and eventually, the U.S. For more information on VeganBurg’s expansion, visit the official website. – Source: LiveKindly.

Chick-fil-A has Displaced Starbucks as Teens’ Favored Chain

A new survey of teenage consumers has good news for Chick-fil-A and limited-service restaurants and bad news for Starbucks and casual dining. Chick-fil-A has officially displaced Starbucks as teens’ preferred restaurant across income groups, according to the latest Taking Stock With Teens survey by Piper Jaffray. The Atlanta-based chicken chain was preferred by both upper-income teens and average-income teens for the first time. It’s just the latest in a long string of strong consumer survey results for Chick-fil-A, consistently one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the country, including 14.2% total sales growth last year, according to Technomic data.

The company’s meteoric rise is echoed in the teen survey: In 2010 it wasn’t among the top five chains among either average- or upper-income teens, but has steadily moved up the rankings ever since. “They’re just pushing everybody out,” said Piper analyst Nicole Miller Regan. Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee giant, had been the top restaurant brand among average-income teens for every survey since 2011, when the chain displaced McDonald’s among that group. While it remains more popular among teens than any other publicly traded company, its support among young people has steadily eroded in recent years. The weakening comes as Starbucks’ transaction growth in the U. S. has largely stalled. “Either [teens] gravitate a little away from caffeine or dairy in the drink, or there’s a lot of competition when it comes to tea-based drinks,” Miller Regan said. Piper’s semiannual survey interviewed 8,600 teens at an average age of 16, 36% of whom are employed part time. Three-quarters of the teens surveyed have an average household income of $56,000, while 2,400 teens have an average household income of $102,000. The survey found that food remains the top spending priority for teens, representing 24% of their spending, compared with 21% for clothing. Food surpassed clothing in 2014 as teens’ top spending priority, and the gap has widened ever since. “They’re spending more on food than on clothes,” Miller Regan said, noting that young people increasingly prefer “experiences over things.” That gets amplified as consumers age, she said.

One other notable result is that teens over the years have increasingly preferred limited-service restaurants over full-service concepts. According to the survey, 68% of teens said they prefer limited-service concepts to full-service concepts. But in the spring of 2009 that was reversed, with 57% of teens preferring restaurants with waitstaff. But, Miller Regan noted, that flips once consumers get into their 20s. Two-thirds of millennials, for instance, prefer full-service restaurants, and an even bigger proportion of older, nonmillennial consumers prefer waitstaff. Three of the top five chains cited by millennials, for instance, have waitstaff: Olive Garden, Texas Roadhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings. None of the top five chains among teenagers are full-service restaurants. After Chick-fil-A and Starbucks, the top five chains for average income teens include McDonald’s, Chipotle and Taco Bell. As consumers age, she said, they increasingly prefer full-service, which Miller Regan said is more evidence that consumers are increasingly demanding experiences. “As consumers age, [their preference for] experience over things gets amplified,” she said. “Sitting down, socialization become much more important.” Miller Regan said that Chipotle’s numbers were particularly positive, noting that the chain wasn’t mentioned among the top five chains for average-income teens in either of the previous two surveys. That’s important for the Newport Beach, Calif.-based fast-casual chain, which has consistently performed well among wealthier teens but has stronger sales potential if it can win with those of average income. That’s due to simple mathematics: There are a lot more consumers in average-income households. “For Chipotle, that’s the largest opportunity,” Miller Regan said. “They’re not going to get a loyal user to come more than three times a week, so they have to get the average income market where the mass consumer is.” – Source: Restaurant Business.

The Essential Guide to Restaurant Marketing

Twenty years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine a marketing medium that could surpass television in terms of influence and reach; today, it’s impossible to imagine a marketing strategy that doesn’t include, or even center on, the myriad digital platforms that have become essential to everyday life. While television may still have the largest audience, restaurateurs who want to successfully market their ventures must now grapple with an ever-expanding array of media options. The key, whether you’re an iconic international chain or a family-run independent eatery, is adaptability. “In today’s rapidly changing media landscape, visibility and relevance are more important than ever,” says Brad Haley, chief marketing officer for IHOP Restaurants. “Advertisers can no longer put out flat-footed content and hope it will work through sheer tonnage. Work has to be something consumers want to engage with rather than something they’re forced to watch, like the old push model.”

Old meets new. Founded in 1958, IHOP is decidedly a member of the old guard of American chain restaurants. But its legacy status hasn’t prevented it from changing with the times; though you’ll still see plenty of fluffy pancake stacks on TV, it was digital media that launched its latest successful campaign, called “IHOb,” to highlight the restaurant’s burgers. The IHOb strategy, Haley says, was to use social media in order to get people guessing what the “b” might stand for. “It gamified the marketing program and got a lot of people engaged in the process.” And while it began as a digital campaign, IHOb quickly garnered interest from traditional offline platforms; there were reports of radio stations doing call-in contests, office pools, and a steady stream of coverage both in print and on television. IHOP’s clever digital strategy garnered it more than 25,000 earned media pieces, as well as more than 41 billion impressions, demonstrating the power of combining new and old media.

What many brands are now finding is that though television is still the most effective method of reaching the average customer, with the Nielsen ratings company estimating that 96.5 percent of American households own a TV, that reach is slowly eroding in the face of streaming services and social channels. The direction is clear, says Haley: While there’s a place for the old channels, new media is the future. Genuine connection Carrie Sloan, director of marketing for Chicago’s Land and Sea Department group, which has nine properties in the city, has seen a shift away from not only traditional methods of advertising, but also toward a different type of communication: “Dealing with the vast number of restaurants in Chicago, we’ve adapted to communicate more directly with guests rather than relying on press coverage—journalists can only cover so much news.” Instead, their group puts effort into crafting newsletters that go out to their guest base, increasing the feeling of a genuine connection between the restaurant and customer. People still want to turn to trusted sources for information and recommendations, says Sloan, but digital media has made it easier than ever for people to actually be their own expert and to share their experiences with followers. “It puts the experience into the consumer’s hands,” she says. Authentic voices ring true. Even once brands have settled on a strategy, there’s still the issue of what to say. The increasing number of platforms has led to a glut of content, much of which disappears with little-to-no impact; as consumers are bombarded with more and more communications from brands, they have become increasingly selective about what they will watch, click on, or read. “It might sound cliché, but actually being authentic carries a huge weight today,” Sloan says. Consumers notice when a brand does something that’s out of sync with how it typically operates or doesn’t carry a consistent voice through from one platform to the next. The key, according to IHOP’s Haley, is to successfully adapt your voice and tone to the specific demands of each channel. “They all have different ways for people to interact. Some may be more straightforward and informative, others more video-centric. Content is king, but tone has to be adapted for the personalities of various social channels.” For a successful media strategy now, it’s vital to understand the purpose of each channel and the appropriate type of content for each; what works on Instagram is not necessarily going to be successful on TV. That’s what makes a brand’s voice so essential: It provides a throughline that connects each channel, making you instantly recognizable to customers, whether they’re browsing Twitter or watching TV. As Sloan puts it, “Beautiful photography and dishes on Instagram are great, but having a voice your followers can engage with is key.” She also cautions against playing too rigidly by the social media “rules,” like posting a certain number of times in a day. Content is important, she says, but it’s not worth degrading your brand with posts for their own sake if they aren’t authentic to your restaurant’s point of view. Smart insights, smart risks Knowing what content can break through the noise can be a struggle, says Haley, but that doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks on questionable campaigns is a good idea. Rather, take informed risks based on smart insights. For IHOP, this means working with advertising agencies whose job it is to come up with the kind of bold, headline-grabbing ideas that transcend the clutter. And to bring those ideas to life, it sometimes also requires Haley to champion the agency’s more disruptive concepts and protect them from becoming too watered down. “We want an agency that’s brave enough to do their best work, and then we need to be brave enough to put it forward,” he says.

The other, equally important half of this strategy is data science and analytics. IHOP relies on data analysis for its media planning, using insights gleaned from everything from customers’ social media behavior to in-store response to new menu items. Whereas a few years ago, data science was viewed as a luxury, it has become a necessity. “We’re in a highly competitive industry, so maintaining the status quo is not viable when we’re in a battle for shares. As audience reach potential diminishes, it becomes imperative to become more surgical in reaching the most relevant audience with the most relevant message at the most relevant time.” Hotel Ingenuity. Marketing a restaurant is complicated enough, but when that restaurant is located in a hotel, a bit of extra ingenuity is required. Rebecca Mervis, area director of marketing for Precinct Kitchen + Bar and Bank & Bourbon, located in Loews Boston and Philadelphia hotels, respectively, shares some of her tips. Know Your Audience The hotel and restaurant often have different target guests, with the restaurant attracting both business travelers and tourists, as well as a younger, hipper local crowd. In order to sustain interest, you have to be able to appeal to both visitors and repeat guests.

Keep Things Fresh: “Restaurant marketing is different than hotel marketing in that time has a different effect on each – after several years, great hotels create a reputation and establish credibility; after several years, great restaurants lose relevance,” says Mervis. She combats this by creating programming including pop-up menus themed around current pop culture events, and seasonal menus that constantly invite guests to try new things. Mix It Up: Mervis loves social media for its flexibility, which allows her restaurants to respond to things like the weather by posting Instagram shots of comfort food on a rainy day, along with an appropriately appealing caption. And for specific events, like those pop-up menus, “digital marketing on relevant platforms can do really well. Combine that with editorial coverage, paid digital ads, and/or sponsored content to reinforce your message and keep upcoming events on the radar.”

Instagram Rules

Because of its natural affinity for beautiful food and well-decorated spaces, Instagram is the social media platform of choice for many restaurants. Shelby Allison, co-owner and Instagram manager of Chicago’s Lost Lake tiki bar, has amassed nearly 25,000 followers through a combination of colorful cocktails and fun portraits. We asked her how she does it.

What’s the most important factor to consider in creating a successful Instagram feed? Authenticity—your followers can tell if you’re just pumping PR photos into their feed. I’ve found that our followers engage with Instagram posts that are shot on my phone, with some whimsical tropical props found around the bar. How does Instagram fit into an overall marketing plan? Instagram rules our marketing plan. We work with a publicist for traditional media placements, but Instagram has led to lots of opportunities for Lost Lake—as well as created a direct channel of communication with our guests. What is unique about Instagram content versus other social media platforms? With Instagram, I feel less likely to be lost in the shuffle, unlike on Facebook. I’m happy with our level of engagement, and I like that we can do composed iPhone shots for our main feed, as well as fun, more casual stories. What should you avoid in your Instagram marketing? Avoid creating a feed comprising only super polished PR photos. Show your spot’s personality and have a little fun while creating photos that your guests will be delighted by and engage with enthusiastically.

Toni Bianco, new COO of Cicis

Toni Bianco has joined Cicis pizza buffet restaurant as its new chief operating officer. In this role, he will lead day-to-day operations and oversee all training for Cicis’ more than 430 corporate-owned and franchised restaurants. Mr. Bianco was most recently president and c.o.o. of Fatburger North America, a role he assumed in February. Before that, he was c.o.o. and senior vice-president of international business and IT at Long John Silver’s, L.L.C. Previously, Mr. Bianco spent 13 years at Papa John’s International, where he held various leadership positions, including vice-president of Asia, senior director of global R.&D. and director of operations for Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Earlier in his career, Mr. Bianco was director of operations at Aramark, managing director at De Heuvel Wine and Olive Estate and the owner and chef of Prima Foods catering. “Toni brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to Cicis and will provide the leadership and vision necessary to meet our operational goals,” said William M. Mitchell, chief executive officer of Cicis. “He will be an integral part of Cicis’ future as we continue to transform our business through innovative systems and efficiencies that drive sustainable growth.” Mr. Bianco succeeds Jini Foust, who stepped down from the position in April. Ms. Foust was with Cicis since Jan. 2017. – Source: Food Business News.

Iwona Alter will Join the Burger Brand in December

The Habit Restaurants Inc. has named former Jack in the Box CMO Iwona Alter its chief brand officer, the company said. The marketing executive, who has 13 years of restaurant industry experience, starts Dec. 10. “Iwona is a proven leader and marketing innovator and we are pleased to welcome her to The Habit team,” CEO Russ Bendel said in a statement. “We believe that her extensive restaurant and leadership knowledge, combined with her expertise in marketing, brand management and advertising will be a great asset to the company as we continue to focus on key initiatives surrounding quality, convenience and innovation.” Alter fills a new role created at the Irvine, Calif.-based company. The company said chief brand officer is a broader role that incorporates duties of the chief marketing officer, a position that was previously held by Matt Hood. Hood left in March and is now the CEO of On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina. In September, Alter exited San Diego-based Jack in the Box. The company didn’t officially announce her exit at the time. But news of her departure came about earlier this month as Jack in the Box National Franchisee Association called for the removal of CEO Leonard Comma. The group, whose franchisees account for a majority of Jack in the Box restaurants, also outlined the need for a “dedicated Chief Marketing Officer with a clear strategic vision and plan of execution for the company.” In a quarterly regulatory filing posted in May, Jack in the Box said the company “no longer needs her services.” Alter had been with Jack in the Box since 2005; she was CMO during her last two years. Previously she held various marketing roles at Elmer’s Products, Shiseido Company Ltd., Johnson & Johnson and J. Walter Thompson. – Source: NRN

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