To Our Valued Subscribers:

Well here it is the middle of January and a few things have been settled. Clemson beat the ‘pros” from Alabama and all the number one seeds in the NFL will be playing for a chance to go to the Superbowl! (My Northwestern Wildcats were one of the few Big Ten Teams that actually Won their Bowl game.) Parts of the Government are still shut down and the winter blues are setting in. This is a great time to look at how, you as a leader can set a climate to become a great manager and have your team perform at its highest. In a recent article in SmartBrief on Leadership author Kim Scott gave some great advice. Here are a few of her suggestions to become a Partnership Manager as opposed to an Absentee or Micromanager which no-one wants to perform for:

·     Become Hands On, Ears On and Mouth Shut!

·     Lead Collaborative Goal-Setting Efforts!

·     Listen to Problems, Predict Problems and Brainstorm Solutions! And finally

·     Removes Obstacles so your team can perform at its maximum!!

These may sound easy and is some cases it is; however, as we start the New Year, give some thought about how you can implement a few of these concepts to make your team the best as the year progresses. You and your team will be poised to be your Superbowl Champions. You will also be a champion if you take a few moments to read the latest edition of American Recruiters Global Foodservice News. Loaded with up to the minute foodservice updates it is a great tool for you and your team. Enjoy the buildup to the Superbowl and take a moment to remember what Dr. Martin Luther King stood for this Monday. I hope the rest of 2019 is your best ever.

Craig Wilson


U.S.D.A. Announces G.M.O. Labeling Standard

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Dec. 20 announced the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which requires food manufacturers, importers and certain retailers to label foods containing genetically modified or bioengineered ingredients. “The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard increases the transparency of our nation’s food system, establishing guidelines for regulated entities on when and how to disclose bioengineered ingredients,” Mr. Perdue said. “This ensures clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food. The standard also avoids a patchwork state-by-state system that could be confusing to consumers.” The standard defines bioengineered foods as those containing detectable genetic material that has been modified through lab techniques and may not be created through conventional breeding or found in nature. Implementation of the standard begins Jan. 1, 2020, or Jan. 1, 2021, for small food manufacturers. The mandatory compliance date is Jan. 1, 2022. Regulated entities may voluntarily comply with the standard until Dec. 31, 2021.

The Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a list of bioengineered foods to identify crops or foods that are available in a bioengineered form and for which regulated entities must maintain records to inform whether a food product must include labeling of bioengineered ingredients. Regulated entities may use text, a symbol, an electronic or digital link or a text message to disclose bioengineering. Additionally, a phone number and web address are available for small food manufacturers or for small packages. Certain products made from the 13 bioengineered crops and foods on the U.S.D.A.’s list do not require labeling. The list of bioengineered foods are alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, potato, salmon (AquAdvantage), soybean, squash, sugarbeet and certain varieties of apple, eggplant, papaya and pineapple. “For refined foods that are derived from bioengineered crops, no disclosure is required if the food does not contain detectable modified genetic material,” according to the advance Federal Registernotice. As such, refined beet sugar, soybean oil and corn sweeteners, all mostly from bioengineered seed, would not need to be labeled as a bioengineered ingredient under the new rule. Adequate testing must have been performed to prove that there was no detectable material, though. Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the American Bakers Association, said the requirements will provide “clear and concise messaging that consumers seek and will streamline changes efficiently with cost savings for our industry.” “The baking industry has supported a federal standard for bioengineered food disclosure, which is necessary for interstate commerce,” Mr. MacKie said. Lynn Chrisp, president of the National Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Nebraska, said the association is pleased with the issuance of the rules, noting that farmers need a “consistent, transparent system to provide consumers with information without stigmatizing important, safe technology.” “N.C.G.A. came together with stakeholders from across the value chain to support enactment of the Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act because it prevented a state-by-state patchwork of labeling laws that would have cost U.S. consumers, farmers and manufacturers billions of dollars,” Mr. Chrisp said. “We are hopeful that this rule will be a major step in achieving our important, shared goals.” Davie Stephens, president of the American Soybean Association and a soy grower from Kentucky, also noted his group’s support for the rule. “Soybean farmers are pleased that U.S.D.A. took the time to do this rule the right way,” he said. “We believe that it allows transparency for consumers while following the intent of Congress that only food that contains modified genetic material be required to be labeled bioengineered under the law, with food companies having the option of providing additional information if they choose.”

The National Grain and Feed Association said it was pleased the U.S.D.A. adopted many of its recommendations. The N.G.F.A. said it was especially pleased with the final rule’s 5% disclosure threshold, which it said appropriately balances disclosure, market dynamics and international trade. “The bioengineered food labeling standard is about providing more access to information to consumers; it most emphatically is not a food safety standard,” the N.G.F.A. noted. Not all groups were pleased with the new rule, though. Both the Environmental Working Group and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy took shots at the legislation. “It is obvious that this rule is intended to hide, not disclose, information about genetically modified foods,” said Sharon Treat, senior attorney for the I.A.T.P. “Many manufacturers will be able to evade even the minimal requirements of the rule, and it will sow confusion and burden consumers with the responsibility of researching food ingredients themselves. Instead of clear on-package labeling, consumers will have to call or text manufacturers to find out what’s in their food — something they can do already. The rule adds nothing good to existing voluntary certification programs and continues to preempt effective G.M.O. labeling programs adopted by states, including Vermont.” Scott Faber, senior vice-president of government affairs with the E.W.G., accused the Trump administration of putting the interests of pesticide and biotechnology companies ahead of the interests of ordinary Americans. “The final G.M.O. disclosure rule fails to meet the clear intent of Congress to create a mandatory disclosure standard that includes all genetically engineered foods and uses terms that consumers understand,” Mr. Faber said. “A fair standard should address the needs of consumers who don’t have expensive phones or who live in rural places with poor cell service but the rule put forward today simply fails to do that. “At a time when consumers are asking more and more questions about the use of genetic engineering, today’s rule will further undermine the technology by sowing greater confusion among Americans who simply want the right to know if their food is genetically modified — the same right held by consumers in 64 other countries. “Despite today’s disappointing, and likely unlawful, decision, we are pleased that companies that trust consumers — including Campbell’s, Mars, Danone, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola and Unilever — will voluntarily disclose all G.M.O.s in all their foods, not just in those required by the final rule.” The implementation of the standard follows a rulemaking process that began in July 2016. More than 14,000 comments were received and considered during the rulemaking process. Previously, more than 112,000 comments were received in response to 30 questions regarding the establishment of the standard. – Source: Food Business News.

Three Ways Inspection Technology is Evolving

From flying cars to sustainable energy sources, visions of tomorrow’s most life-enhancing technologies invariably revolve around more efficient ways to operate. Although some of these solutions lie in a more distant reality, manufacturing’s pioneers have shaped cutting-edge forms of product inspection technology that help processors make significant gains in food safety while enhancing efficiency. Recent strides also have manufacturers focusing on cost in alignment with capability — and niche automation markets, such as machine vision, are expected to grow even more. According to the 2018 State of the Industry U.S. Packaging Machinery Report produced by PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, the inspecting, detecting and checkweighing machinery category is projected to expand from $438 million in 2017, experiencing an 8.6% annual growth. Today’s food manufacturers must inspect every item on their processing line. Older protocols may have only required checking for proper label adherence, providing a yes or no answer. Now, detection solutions deliver more than a just single piece of a complex puzzle. Vision systems provide more comprehensive and precise observations such as checking that the right label is on at the right level and assuring that the bottle is not broken or chipped and is filled to the right level. Investment in new inspection equipment that can detect multiple types of anomalies with greater precision and speed invites opportunities for cost savings.

Firstly, processors stand to reduce the waste that accumulates from defective product. Secondly, they are minimizing the downtime that stems from stoppages and fixes required in the event of a malfunction or missed inconsistent output, maximizing return on investment. Last, but not least, the company avoids a potential recall and a devastating hit to its brand reputation. Smart design isn’t simply limited to the mechanics of today’s vision inspection equipment. The Human-Machine Interface (HMI) also has improved to offer more intuitive operator capability. This technology does not require extensive training of a skilled worker, which translates in shorter training and higher productivity. For example, operators with limited training can operate machines and transition to different formulations or packaging formats. Menu options make it easy for operators to select programs, which enable swift changeovers. The value of HMIs is not limited to what you see; it’s also found in the consistency and expediency of data collection and analysis. In many cases it’s the ability to integrate data from legacy equipment on the same line. Today’s solutions help processors store and display key performance indicators that are essential to making strides in food safety and meeting regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies. From its origins in detecting foreign materials in products, such as glass, metal and plastic, x-ray technology has come a long way. The inspection equipment has become more sensitive and is able to deliver more breadth of information, from examining the shape and edges of a food product to telling you its density and volume. X-ray technology no longer just detects a foreign piece of material; it provides detailed information about the product.

In addition, manufacturers have increased the sensitivity of the detectors. In the past, the power necessary to operate the equipment required cooling during its operation. Now that the power is pointedly less, there is no need for cooling, and health risks also have been reduced significantly while also consuming less energy during usage. Due to the sensitivity of the detectors, there’s an abundance of new information to garner that can help companies build protocols for efficiency into their operations. From vision inspection to x-ray technology, exhibitors at ProFood Tech, being held March 26-28 in Chicago, will showcase a vast range of automated solutions for food inspection. ProFood Tech provides a venue for an expected 7,000 industry professionals across a wide range of food and beverage industries to see the newest processing equipment from 450 different suppliers. Source: Food Business News/Jorge Izquierdo.

Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group Considers Sale

Del Frisco Restaurant Group Inc. said its board of directors was considering strategic alternatives, including the sale of all or part of the company. “The Del Frisco’s Board, in consultation with its financial and legal advisors, will review and consider a full range of options focused on maximizing shareholder value, including a possible sale of the company or any of its dining concepts,” it said in a statement that also said the board had formed a “transaction committee to assist in its evaluation of strategic alternatives.” Both board chair Ian Carter and CEO Norman Abdallah expressed support for the company’s current operational strategy. “The board continues to support the company’s existing strategic priorities and believes that Del Frisco’s exceptional collection of dining concepts will serve as the foundation for continued growth,” Carter said. The move by the Irving, Texas-based chain’s board comes amid pressure from activist investor Engaged Capital LLC, which owns 9.9 percent of Del Frisco’s shares and has urged management to sell all or part of the company, citing “short- and long-term underperformance, checkered operational execution and high financial leverage.” Earlier this month, Del Frisco’s adopted a “poison pill” shareholders rights plan that would be triggered if any party acquired 10 percent or more of the company’s common stock. The plan would entitle all shareholders, except for the “triggering” party, to buy shares at a 50 percent discount. Del Frisco’s operates 73 restaurants in 16 states and Washington, D.C., including Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse and Del Frisco’s Grille as well as Barcelona Wine Bar and Bartaco. It purchased the last two chains in June, and then sold its own 14-unit Sullivan’s Steakhouse chain in September. In its most recent quarter, ended Sept. 25, Del Frisco’s net loss, with special charges, widened to $67.1 million, or a loss of $2.43 a share, from $1.8 million, or 8 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Revenues increased 73.7 percent to $105.3 million from $60.6 million in the prior-year quarter. The company’s total same-store sales decreased 1.9 percent in the period. By brand, same-store sales in the quarter were down 2.4 percent at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle, down 7 percent at Bartaco, down 0.4 percent at Del Frisco’s Grille and up 2.5 percent at Barcelona. – Source: NRN.

7 Big Restaurant Questions Heading Into 2019

I have questions. The restaurant industry is in a constant state of evolution, driven by fickle consumers and a highly competitive environment. But that change came pretty quickly in 2018 and shows no sign of abating. That leaves us curious about a lot of different things heading into the new year—many of which could have a significant impact on the country’s restaurants. Here are some big questions we’re asking. Will there be any publicly traded chains left? We can’t quite recall a year so active for restaurant merger and acquisitions — particularly for go-private deals. Buffalo Wild Wings, Bravo Brio Restaurant Group, Fogo de Chao, Zoes Kitchen, Sonic Corp., and Bojangles’ all either went private or are about to. Four other chains are looking for buyers: Papa Murphy’s Pizza, Papa John’s, Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group and Jack in the Box. Any chain short of McDonald’s and Starbucks could be sold next year, and it doesn’t even have to be on the market. Will JAB finally buy Dunkin’? The European investment firm JAB Holding Co. has been buying up anything having even remotely to do with coffee since it emerged as a buyer in 2012 with its acquisition of Peet’s Coffee. People have speculated ever since that it could take private Dunkin’ Brands to solidify its competitive position. My guess is no, that if it was going to happen it would have happened by now. And restaurant analyst Mark Kalinowski has indicated he hears JAB could be targeting a different market—pizza. But JAB certainly has the ability to swallow Dunkin’, and until the firm stops buying people will keep asking. What will happen with Papa John’s?

The biggest story of 2018 was the Papa John’s mess—you know, John Schnatter blaming NFL player protests for weak sales, then using a racial slur during a conference call intended to help improve his image, then the chain firing him as a spokesman, then the chain being put up for sale. At one point, buyers seemed to be lining up for the chain. Then they backed off. Then Schnatter got back in the picture. Who will buy Papa John’s? Will anybody buy the chain or will the company have to fix things out in public? Will the McDonald’s strategy start paying off? Arguably no restaurant chain in the U.S. is doing more right now to change its stores and its image than the biggest one. But so far all of those efforts—delivery, new value strategies, new chicken products, fresh beef, kiosks at restaurants, curbside service—have yet to pay off in the form of more traffic. Franchisees have staged an unprecedented uprising. Pressure is on management to start showing results—and, if they don’t, more changes at the company could come later in 2019. Will sales finally start growing? The chain restaurant industry has struggled with broad-based traffic challenges for three years now and there’s no real end to the slump in sight. Consumers are changing, shifting their restaurant allegiances, eating more takeout and dining at smaller concepts and independents more often. What’s more, the economy is clearly past peak and the risk of recession grows all the time. All of this means we’re probably in for another year of weakness. Or maybe not. Will delivery finally move the sales needle? The single biggest industry trend in the past two years has been delivery—or, perhaps it’s been takeout, with delivery a major part of it. So far, it seems, that service has been to the benefit of smaller concepts at the expense of major chains. We have seen little evidence that chains adding delivery do much to generate sales and traffic growth, even if we believe it’s important for them to do so given urban consumers’ clear demand for the service.

At some point, however, we wonder if chains will begin de-emphasizing the service if it doesn’t translate into sales growth. Will the franchise revolt spread? Papa John’s might have been the biggest story of 2018, but I believe the most significant story was the growth in frencheese revolts —Subway, Tim Hortons, Papa John’s, McDonald’s and Jack in the Box all experienced them. Others could follow. More than a few franchisees, for instance, are paying attention to the issue at McDonald’s. If sales continue to be a challenge, labor costs continue to rise and franchisors continue to push demands on operators to make expensive changes, other systems could see similar uprisings. Source: Restaurant Business on-line.

Luckin Coffee is Challenging Starbucks

After barely a year in business, Luckin Coffee is challenging Starbucks in one of the US coffee giant’s top markets. About 2,000 Luckin outlets have sprung up across China over the last year. That includes a store in Beijing’s Forbidden City, the historic cultural site from which Starbucks was famously evicted more than a decade ago. Luckin plans to have 4,500 outlets by the end of 2019, which would take it ahead of Starbucks to become China’s biggest coffee chain. It’s luring customers with cheap prices and savvy use of technology, which is forcing Starbucks to up its game. The rapid of ascent of Luckin to challenge the US chain shows how Chinese upstarts are increasingly rivaling Western brands in one of the world’s top consumer markets. While both serve coffee, the similarities largely end there. Unlike Starbucks’ trademark coffee shops, most of Luckin’s outlets are tiny booths in out of the way spots that take orders online for both delivery and pickup. More important, Luckin has placed technology at the heart of its business from the start. Its outlets don’t accept cash, instead customers can only pay through the Luckin app, which offers loyalty bonuses. “It’s very convenient and time-saving,” said Hans Wang, a 33-year-old researcher in the eastern city of Hangzhou. He places his order using the app and then picks it up in a store. Customers demand these kinds of services in an increasingly connected China. But until recently, Starbucks didn’t offer them. “Starbucks had a weak point,” said Jeffrey Towson, a professor at Peking University and China business expert. “The fact they didn’t have delivery is ridiculous. And their app sucked.”

Growing rivalry. China is Starbucks’ second biggest market after the United States. With around 3,000 stores across across the country, it’s still bigger than Luckin. Starbucks plans to more than double that nember by the end of 2022. But in June, the company reported a sudden slowdown in growth in China. One of the things it blamed was increasing competition, which analysts interpreted as a reference to Luckin. Starbucks wants to open 2,100 new stores next year. There is a growing sense of rivalry between Luckin and Starbucks. In May, Luckin sued the Seattle-based company, claiming it had unfairly monopolized the market. In response, Starbucks told Chinese state media: “We welcome orderly competition, mutual promotion, continuous innovation, continuous improvement of quality and service, and creating real value for Chinese consumers.” Starbucks is now fighting back. In August, it teamed up with Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, to launch home delivery services. A month later, Luckin announced its own tie-up with another major Chinese internet company, Tencent. Yuwan Hu, an analyst at Daxue Consulting in Shanghai, said that competition from Luckin is also prompting Starbucks to go more upmarket by focusing more on its Reserve brand in China. The outlets offer consumers more premium coffee options in a larger, more luxurious retail space. Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery in Shanghai, which opened in late 2017, is the company’s biggest store in the world. Luckin is focused on competing on price, according to Hu. The company promotes discounts on Tencent’s popular social network, WeChat, and its coffee is generally cheaper than Starbucks’. Suyu Meng, 25, who works at a tech startup in Beijing, said she’s torn between the two brands. She is drawn to Luckin’s cheaper prices, but also likes the more high-end experience at Starbucks, where she can meet up with friends. Coffee’s answer to Xiaomi. Towson described Luckin as the coffee industry equivalent of Xiaomi, the upstart Chinese smartphone maker that became one of the country’s top brands by selling cheaper alternatives to Apple’s iPhone. To succeed, Luckin doesn’t necessarily have to overtake Starbucks as China’s top coffee brand. Analysts say the market is big enough for both of them. For the time being, Luckin is losing money as it seeks to grow, a common situation for young startups. “We haven’t set a timetable for profit,” spokesman Du Yang told CNN. In December, the company raised $200 million in new funding from investors, giving it a valuation of more than $2 billion, according to Du. The long-term challenge for both Luckin and Starbucks is converting more of China’s traditionally tea-drinking population to coffee. People in China consume just five cups of coffee a year on average. Americans guzzle about 400. “The question for them now is, ‘How much do Chinese like coffee?,'” Towson said. Source: CNN Business/Serenitie Wang.

Building a Chinese-Food Empire

Andrew Cherng started working in the United States at 18, while he pursued an undergraduate degree in mathematics at Baker University, in Kansas. Starting in 1967, he began spending his summers in New York City, working in a restaurant where his father had connections. It was his first real job. The work was fast-paced, his English wasn’t perfect, and New Yorkers were ruthless, he says. After Cherng had been working in the restaurant for six summers, his cousin, who also lived in New York, decided to open a restaurant in Washington, D.C. The new business needed a manager, and Cherng seemed an obvious choice. In 1972, his cousin moved the restaurant to Hollywood, and Cherng followed. Several months later, Cherng’s parents moved to the United States. In 1973, Cherng and his father found a place to start their own restaurant: Pasadena, California. After six months of remodeling, Panda Inn, which would inspire Panda Express, was created. Cherng ran the dining room while his father ran the back. Cherng’s father died in 1981, before he could see the restaurant chain take off. Panda Express now has 2,000 restaurants globally and more than 35,000 workers. I recently spoke with Cherng about his first jobs in the United States, how they differed from his father’s experience working in restaurants in China, and how he created Panda Express’s company culture.

Lola Fadulu: What was your first job? Andrew Cherng: I grew up in Asia. Just before coming to the United States, we actually moved to Japan from China. I was a high-school student for the most part. My father got me a job in the kitchen in a restaurant somewhere in Chinatown in Yokohama, Japan. Then I came here, to the U.S. One of my first jobs was working in a school cafeteria as a dish washer. We had this industrial bacterial dish-washing machine. So there would be people working, and the plates, the silverware, would go onto this moving assembly-line-like thing. They’d go through a very hot wash. I had the job of picking up the hot plates at the end of it. And it was really, really hot. By the end of it, my hands got pretty tough. Fadulu: How was working in a school cafeteria for you? Cherng: It was okay. I mean, you know, it was a job. You’d have to be pretty quick because if the plate does not get picked up, the line stops. When I was in college, I also worked in the library. I did some filing and organized some shelves in the library and stuff like that. One of the more relevant jobs that I’ve done is that from the first summer, which is 1967. I actually went to New York and, for the first time, learned how to work in a restaurant. That was really an eye-opener, because that’s when I found out how difficult it is to adjust to working in a restaurant. Working as a waiter—that wasn’t easy. I remember I took a job in Clifton somewhere. The restaurant was pretty big, and there were a couple people working, a couple waiters working. One minute, the restaurant was pretty slow, and within 15, 20 minutes, my section was totally full, and that’s probably 10 tables. I was like, “Are you kidding me? I don’t know how to do this.” And I don’t even know how I got through it. I worked in New York all through my college years, including graduate school. Just about every vacation, I would either fly up, or I would drive up from the Midwest—from Kansas when I was in college, and Missouri when I was in graduate school. So I worked five or six summers, plus Thanksgiving, Christmas holidays, New Year’s, and those times. Fadulu: Why New York, specifically? Cherng: My father knew some friends working in New York, and that’s where I knew some people who could help me. He got me in touch with the people who helped me, so that’s where I went. My father was a chef. My dad actually started to work in restaurants at a very young age, in China. My dad grew up in the countryside, and he never went to school. Fadulu: How did working in restaurants in New York inform how you went about creating Panda Express? Cherng: We always think about getting our people to adopt to this idea of I can do more than just working, I can learn to take responsibilities, I can thrive, and I can also help other people to do the same. We like people who work hard and didn’t think they could be a manager; when we suggest it to them, we have to push them a little bit. We like that because taking responsibility is something they can learn. Restaurant people, by nature, don’t mind working hard, because it is a seven-day week. You work harder on holidays—that’s expected. If you’re looking for an easy job, you wouldn’t work in the restaurant. We need to figure out how they should grow personally. One of our values is continuous learning, whether you go back and get a degree or whatever learning they think will help them advance themselves. Source: Lola Fadulu/The

Inside the Revitalization of Denny’s, an American Icon

It seems ages ago, but it was really only eight years back when Denny’s became “America’s Diner.” The gist of the new campaign wasn’t to pivot or reposition one of the country’s largest sit-down chains. Rather, Denny’s wanted to make sure it promoted and stressed what it stood for already: A brand firmly rooted in family dining, but built around the following mantra: “We Love Feeding People.” This came from a newspaper article written way back that quoted Denny’s founder Harold Butler explaining why he started the brand. But one of the pitfalls of casual dining—especially family dining—is that, all too often, it rests on its laurels. These brands were so ingrained in American culture that they tossed aside the marketing roadmap. You could find your way to Denny’s, or IHOP, Waffle House, Huddle House, and so forth, without every tapping Yelp or picking up a local guide. Yet what happens when you become too rooted in purpose and history? You become wallpaper for a generation that isn’t even sure that decorating style ever existed. As iconic and legacy-driven as Denny’s is, though, you could argue it’s also one of the most active shifters in the restaurant game. And they’re not alone. IHOP (look no further than IHOb), Huddle House, and others have adapted in an effort to reach younger consumers and inspire loyalty that doesn’t require memories as kindling. In many instances, this goes beyond marketing and social (Denny’s is pretty … eccentric digitally). It comes down to the assets, models, and growth strategies involved.

For this article, we’re going to focus on Denny’s, which released preliminary fourth quarter and fiscal year 2018 results on Monday. The brand saw its same-store sales lift 1.4 percent domestically in Q4, including 2.1 percent at company-run restaurants and 1.2 percent at franchised. For the year, comps upped 0.8 percent (1.8 percent at corporate and 0.6 percent at franchised). On a two-year stack, Denny’s domestic systemwide same-store sales increased 1.9 percent. Denny’s has achieved eight consecutive years of systemwide same-store sales growth. Total system sales have grown by about $500 million since 2011 (from $2.4 to $2.9 in billions) and adjusted EBITDA upped 26 percent over the last six years ($81.7 to $103.3 in millions). While that’s all good news, naturally, what’s the breakdown? And how does it project moving forward? Denny’s opened 30 restaurants this past year, including nine international units. But it closed 56 to reach a total of 1,709 locations. Denny’s also completed 203 remodels during fiscal 2018. And as part of its new refranchising strategy, unveiled in Q3, Denny’s sold eight company restaurants—the first transaction since the announcement. Perhaps more interesting for Denny’s, however, is how the restaurant is shifting. It managed to move the system from a 60 percent to 90 percent franchised model earlier in its history. That’s about to ramp up once again. Denny’s family-friendly food hasn’t changed: The refranchising strategy is going to define Denny’s performance and shareholder return in the coming months. Impressively, the chain has opened nearly 350 new restaurants since 2014, or 20 percent of its overall system. That includes 60 international locations since 2011 in five new countries. Denny’s said in November that it wanted to refranchise to the level where it would get to 95 or 97 percent franchised owned from today’s 90 percent. And do so over the next 18 months. That would equate to 90–125 company-operated restaurants sold. As of June 27, there were 190 corporate stores and 1,540 franchised or licensed locations. So shift the scale by eight franchised stores. Why is Denny’s doing this? There are always arguments to both sides of the chain model. But in this specific case, Denny’s said, “transitioning to a lower risk business model” would have accretive impacts on adjusted earnings per share and adjusted free cash flow, and also allow development-focused franchisees the chance to expand without starting from the ground-up. New operators are also able to come into the fold this way. It’s a growth stimulator, in other terms. CFO Mark Wolfinger said the transition to a more asset-light business model could reduce annual capital cash expenditures associated with maintenance and remodel costs by between $7 million and $10 million. Denny’s could also generate pretax refranchising proceeds (in excess of $100 million in this case) and earn about $30 million from selling between 25 and 30 percent of the 95 properties currently owned. With that, Denny’s could purchase higher-quality properties in the future, it said. Denny’s said it expects to upgrade the quality of its real estate through a series of “like-kind” exchanges. Cash proceeds from the sale or property are not captured in cash capital expenditures while purchases of property are included. A like-kind exchange, also known as a 1031 exchange, is a transaction or series of transactions that allows for the disposable of an asset and the acquisition of another replacement asset without generating a current tax liability from the sale of the first asset. This can get pretty technical but essentially Denny’s can garner better real estate by selling lower-volume stores and redeploying those proceeds in favor of better spots. It’s an optimization path. Denny’s said the restaurants being sold are producing average-unit volumes between $1.9 million to $2.1 million. The one’s Denny’s plans to keep: $2.7 million to $2.9 million. As a company, AUVs were $1.8 million in 2011. They were $2.3 million in 2017. On the franchised side that number went from $1.4 million to $1.6 million in the same span. Also, franchise operating margins expanded by 670 basis points to 71.7 percent ($99.5 million) from 65 percent ($82.6 million). In savings from refranchising, Denny’s said $10 million to $12 million will be broken down as follows: 25 percent to franchise support cost sharing; 50 percent to corporate support; and 25 percent to field support. Denny’s has been here before. Much of the current team led the past transition to a 90 percent franchised operation. In Denny’s current system, 35 franchisees have more than 10 restaurants, each collectively comprising over 60 percent of the franchise system. – Source:

The chain becomes Beyond Meat’s largest U.S. restaurant partner

The fast-food industry’s experimentation with plant-based proteins hit a major milestone with Carl’s Jr. launching a burger made with a Beyond Meat quarter-pound patty. The Nashville, Tenn.-based chain, a subsidiary of CKE Restaurants, said it is now the largest national burger chain to serve a Beyond Meat product. The limited-time burger, dubbed Beyond Famous Star, will be available through Jan. 31 at roughly 1,100 Carl’s. Jr. restaurants. “We’re thrilled to be Beyond Meat’s largest U.S. restaurant partner to date,” Owen Klein, CKE’s Vice President of Global Culinary Innovation, told Nation’s Restaurant News. Klein, in an interview conducted via email, said the quarter-pound patty is fresh, not frozen. The burger will have the same build (beyond the patty) as the Famous Star, but with a much different price. The Beyond version will sell for $6.29. The price for a regular Famous Star varies depending on the franchisee and location, Carl’s Jr. said. At select Southern California locations surveyed by NRN, the Famous Star price ranged from $3.69 to $5.48. The signature burger, founder Carl Karcher’s favorite, was chosen to showcase the alt-protein because it’s the brand’s “most iconic burger,” Klein said. “Truly a food innovation star, the new Beyond Famous Star burger looks, cooks and tastes like our iconic flame kissed beef,” the company said. This is not Carl’s Jr.’s first vegetarian option. Customers can swap a beef patty for a fried zucchini patty, Klein said. While Beyond Meat is reserved for the Famous Star, customers can substitute the plant-based product on any burger for a $2 per patty upcharge. Klein said the chain made the Beyond Meat leap to meet changing consumer preferences, which include a desire to limit or avoid animal proteins. The number of restaurants serving plant-based proteins from suppliers such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger has stepped up in recent years. Consumer demand is driving the trend, which has expanded this year beyond healthful-oriented restaurant brands. In mid-September, White Castle expanded its test of Impossible Sliders to all 377 restaurants in 13 states. The $1.99 slider is made from a plant-based patty created by Beyond Meat rival, Impossible Foods. In December, Del Taco expanded a test of Beyond Tacos (left), made with Beyond Meat, to 21 restaurants in Southern California. The expansion came after the Lake Forest, Calif.-based chain saw a positive response from a smaller test at two Del Taco locations in Century City and Santa Monica, Calif. That trial started at the end of September. The $2.49 taco is made with seasoned, plant-based meat that resembles ground beef. It can also be substituted for proteins on other menu items including burritos, nachos and fries, Del Taco said. Source: NRN.

Make This Your New Year’s Resolution: Continue to Evolve as a CEO

Around this time of year people find themselves reflecting on where they are personally and professionally. Some take action by making New Year’s resolutions. CEOs in particular have an insatiable appetite for evolution and self-improvement. So this holiday season, when you are sitting by the fire drinking your eggnog, take a few moments to read this article, and think about how you approach leadership and how you can continue to become an even greater leader and CEO. Those of us who are lucky have worked for CEOs who had already developed a sense of who they are; a self-awareness. These CEOs have learned from their successes and mistakes along the way, gained wisdom and are able to work productively with their people. However, it is likely that more people reading this article grew up professionally around CEOs who were not mature CEOs when they first took the job. They probably had to go through a slow process that was painful to themselves and those around them. After several years at Accenture, I thought I was ready to be CEO of Accenture Operations. I watched people running the business and thought “I’ve got this. It can’t be that hard.” But once I got the title, I realized I had no idea what was involved. You can watch it, and criticize it, but until you sit in that seat you don’t really know what it takes to do this job. I’d like to tell you I was a great CEO from day one, but my first year was a flame-out and my initial reaction was not very mature. I remember thinking to myself “I’m done.” I actually went so far as to speak to a coach about packing up, getting out of the business rat-race and dedicating 100% of my time to our family’s foundation so I could “help others” because isn’t that what life is all about? I’ll never forget his response, “If your drive is helping others, how many people can you impact through your family foundation?” I was proud of our family foundation work—without flinching I replied “500.” “And you are prepared to leave Accenture where you get to inspire and impact the lives of 25,000 people who work for you every day so that you can impact the lives of 500 people through your foundation?” He helped me to re-frame my situation; to see that I could set the tone at the top and impact the lives of my team in a positive way each and every day.  So if I really wanted to help others, what a great opportunity I had at Accenture! That watershed moment completely changed my outlook. The next day I went to work thinking of my job as this incredible opportunity.  I stopped thinking “I’ve got 25,000 people working for me” because I had realized the most important truth for any CEO: “I work for 25,000 people.” With that realization I began to fully understand the responsibility of my position to help, support and grow the professional development and personal well-being of what ultimately grew to 110,000 people. Once you recognize that your real focus as CEO is to inspire and support your people by removing road blocks and empowering them, you are on your way to becoming a great leader. Now you need to figure out tactically how to achieve this. Adopting the following rules will help you develop a management style that will give your people the support they need so that everyone can succeed. Alignment Rule: Be crystal clear on “the goal” and accept nothing less than getting there. If your people don’t understand the goal, you are all spinning your wheels, and all of the other leadership suggestions in this article will be for naught. 7X Rule: Change doesn’t happen overnight.  No matter how big or small the change, you have to be patient and keep telling your story over and over again. I’ve found 7 to be the magic number. You’ll know that it worked when you hear your people telling your story in their own words. 24 Hour Rule: Sleep on all big decisions. Never respond to anything that is really important, positively or negatively, until you have slept on it. Everything looks different in the morning.  Emotional, knee-jerk responses may hurt morale and create more work for you as the CEO. Source: Chief Executive.

Hotel Foodservice Trends to Follow in 2019 

Food and beverage is an increasingly important part of the puzzle for hotels in the US. In fact, a trends report from Avendra found the US lodging industry sees $200 billion dollars in annual revenue, with food and beverage making up 25% of those dollars. More importantly, those expenditures are increasing by 2% to 3% each year. Today’s hotels and their foodservice counterparts are finding unique ways to keep up with ever-changing trends in an effort to keep their foodservice revenue growing. Curbing food waste, employing cutting-edge technology and creating one-of-a-kind experiences are among the recent trends helping them do just that. Technology is the name of the game: Technology is transforming the way food and beverage purveyors do business, and hotel foodservice is increasingly benefitting from these advances both in the front and back of the house. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, for example, is using the power of messaging to get closer to its customers. Four Seasons Chat allows visitors to order room service or poolside drinks, and also ask for restaurant recommendations or reservations. Four Seasons recently expanded the service through a partnership with popular messaging service WhatsApp.

Similarly, Kallpod  is being integrated at hotels across the country as a solution to facilitate better communication between guests and staff. The button-style communication device has been integrated at both Hilton and Marriott properties, and the company says it allows front of house staff to help with other hotel tasks instead of hovering around guests. “As various technological advancements attempt to remove human interaction completely, we know that the future of technology is more about the customer being in control of the experience, rather than being the only party present,” said Kallpod CEO Gabriel Weisz in a press release. “With Kallpod, we’re able to strengthen the interaction in hospitality settings while also providing efficiencies to improve our customers’ bottom lines.” Turning on the experience: From high-end chefs to themed restaurants and over-the-top dining venues, hotels are creating unique food experiences for their customers in order to set themselves apart from the competition. A bevy of hotels are adding new and exciting chefs to their restaurant repertoire, especially those considered quirky and interesting. “There’s been a trend away from the white tablecloth celebrity chef,” said Richard Moulds, director of Foodservice Consulting at JLL. “Less well-known but highly capable chefs who have worked below bigger names are now offering hotel operators the chance to revamp their dining – and perhaps at a comparatively lower cost.” Taking dining venues to new heights is also trending, with hotels such as the Hotel Wailea in Maui encouraging guests to pick their own spot on the property to enjoy a chef-driven meal. Likewise, Minor Hotels’ Anantara chain began its “Dining by Design” program to give diners a say in their meals. In Oman, guests can enjoy a meal at a canyon’s edge, while those at the company’s property in Bangkok can dine on a restored rice barge. Putting aside the waste: While curbing food waste is a pressing issue in many industries, it’s a particularly important one in the hotel foodservice realm. In fact, a report by executive coalition Champions 12.3 found that hotels that implemented a food waste reduction program saved $7 in operating costs for each $1 spent on the program.

The report, which analyzed pre-consumer waste data from 42 hotels, also found that 95% of those hotel sites recouped their investment within two years. Marriott International, which is committed to reducing food waste by 50% by 2025, is working to employ best practices, source reduction, technology, donation and landfill diversion as a means to combat food waste at its more than 6,500 properties worldwide. “It was clear that the opportunity was there for us to really move the needle on this issue, and that culinary teams around the world could make an enormous impact,” said Marriott International’s Denise Naguib of the goal. Hilton has also been involved in a pilot program to combat food waste, which saw several of its hotels donating thousands of pounds of leftover prepared food and diverting inedible food waste from the landfill. The company is rolling out these best practices to its 250 managed hotels throughout the Americas. – Source: Restaurant SmartBrief.

Subway Names Roger Mader Interim CMO

Subway has named Roger Mader, a private sector marketing consultant, as the company’s acting chief marketing officer. Mader, who began this month, is replacing Joe Tripodi who retired in December. Mader is co-founder and managing partner of strategic marketing agency Ampersand, based in Long Island, New York.   The Milford, Conn.-based sandwich chain said Mader will work as the acting CMO while the company searches for a global CMO. Subway previously worked with Ampersand and Mader in 2014 and 2015. The agency was tapped to support the sub chain’s strategic planning and transformation efforts at the time, Subway said. With Tripodi’s departure, Subway has two major executive positions in limbo. Trevor Haynes has acted as interim CEO of Subway since the June retirement of Suzanne Greco. The company said it continues to search for a new CEO. – Source: NRN.

TriArtisan Capital, Paulson to Buy Casual-Dining Chain From Centerbridge

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. has agreed to a purchase by investment firms TriArtisan Capital Partners Inc. and Paulson & Co. Inc., according a notice sent to investors and reported by Bloomberg News. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based casual-dining chain has been owned by New York-based private-equity firm Centerbridge Partners L.P. since 2012, when it took P.F. Chang’s and its sibling fast-casual Pei Wei Asian Kitchen brand private in a deal estimated at $1.1 billion.Centerbridge will reportedly retain ownership of 200-unit Pei Wei, which split off from P.F. Chang’s in 2017 and moved its headquarters to Irving, Texas.Centerbridge and the board of P.F. Chang’s parent Wok Parent LLC had been exploring a possible sale since July, when they retained Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch and Barclays to oversee the process. Bloomberg reported earlier in the week that the value of the deal was about $700 million, and at least one source familiar with the deal told Nation’s Restaurant News that financing was in place. According to Bloomberg, the investor notice said more than $675 million of P.F. Chang’s total debt would be taken out at par. “P.F. Chang’s liabilities include about $375 million of secured debt including $5 million of capital leases, a $317 million first-lien term loan, $25 million of revolver borrowings and $28 million of secured notes provided by the sponsor,” the report said. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro booked an estimated $912.9 million in U.S. systemwide sales in the fiscal year ended December 2017, up from $906.2 million in the preceding year, according to the most recent NRN Top 200 report. Pei Wei Asian Kitchen had an estimated $339.9 million in U.S. systemwide sales in 2017, down from $357.2 million in the preceding year, according to NRN Top 200 estimates. The P.F. Chang’s China Bistro was founded in 1993 by chef Philip Chiang and Paul Fleming. — Source: NRN.

Panera Adds Pair of Industry Vets to Leadership Team

Panera Bread, a subsidiary of JAB Holding Co., is adding two industry veterans to its senior management team. Karen Kelley has joined the company as senior vice-president and chief restaurant operations officer, and Anita Vanderveer has been named chief people officer. Ms. Kelley was most recently president of Tatte Bakery & Café and before that was president and chief operating officer for Sweetgreen. Prior to joining Sweetgreen, Ms. Kelley was president and c.o.o. of Drybar, senior vice-president of domestic and international operations at Pinkberry Ventures, Inc. and senior vice-president of operations at Jamba Juice. Earlier in her career, she was vice-president of operations at Boston Market and spent 12 years at Taco Bell. Ms. Vanderveer joins Panera from Sonic Corp., where she was the senior vice-president of people for the company’s national headquarters since April 2011. Ms. Vanderveer began her career with Yum! Brands, Inc. as national director of brand training and franchise, a role she held for 25 years. “I am thrilled to welcome Karen and Anita to team Panera,” said Blaine E. Hurst, president and chief operating officer of Panera. “Their experience and leadership in the restaurant industry is truly unparalleled. I’m looking forward to working alongside them to strengthen and grow both the guest experience and the associate experience.” – Source: Food Business News.

Kona Grill co-CEO Steve Schussler Resigns

Steve Schussler has resigned as co-CEO at Kona Grill Inc., the grill and sushi bar concept, and co-CEO Marcus Jundt has taken over full leadership responsibilities as CEO, the company said. Schussler and Jundt, both board members at the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based casual-dining brand, took over as co-CEOs in early November. Schussler also is leaving the board, the company said in an announcement. Schussler will focus on his Golden Valley, Minn.-based Schussler Creative Inc., which has developed such restaurant concepts as Rainforest Café, T-Rex Cafe, Yak & Yeti and The Boathouse. Jundt, who earlier served as the company’s CEO from February 2006 to May 2009, said in a statement Thursday that Schussler’s creativity and expertise in customer service had been an asset to Kona Grill. “We are sad to see him leave,” Jundt said, “but understand the commitments that he has to his existing restaurants.” Schussler added, “I have enjoyed my years of service as a director of Kona Grill and enjoyed working with Marcus Jundt as co-CEO in helping revitalize the Kona Grill brand.” Jundt and Schussler succeeded Jim Kuhn who had been in the CEO role for just a little more than three months. Their co-CEO announcement came as the company released third-quarter earnings. For that period, ended Sept. 30, Kona Grill’s loss widened to $5.1 million, or 39 cents a share, from $3.3 million, or 33 cents a share, in the same quarter a year ago. Revenues fell 15.7 percent, to $37.4 million, from $44.4 million in the prior-year quarter. Same-store sales fell 14.1 percent in the quarter. Kona Grill said this month it had received a notice from the Nasdaq Stock Market that it hasn’t complied with market rules, falling below the listing standard of $15 million minimum market value, and could face being delisted. Kona Grill ranked No. 195 in U.S. systemwide sales among the chains in NRNs’ most recent Top 200, booking $176.3 million for the fiscal year ended in December 2017. 200 Kona Grill has 42 locations in 22 states and Puerto Rico, and it has one franchised location each in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Vaughan, Canada. – Source: NRN.

JAB Senior Partner Set to Retire; Company Names New CFO

JAB Holding Co., the German parent of Panera Bread and Pret A Manger, announced Monday several executive changes as well as the formation of a new subsidiary, Pret Panera Holding Company. Senior partner Bart Becht, left, an integral player in JAB’s recent coffee sector buying spree, will retire and step down as chairman this year. JAB did not provide a date for his retirement. JAB said the company’s other senior partners, Peter Harf and CEO Olivier Goudet, would “continue to lead JAB and oversee its investment strategy.” “Bart has been a valued member of the JAB team for many decades,” Harf said in a statement. “I will miss our day-to-day interactions on a personal level but wish him all the best during his well-deserved retirement.” Becht leaves the company after overseeing several key acquisitions in the coffee house and bakery-cafe sectors over the last few years including the 2017 purchase of Panera and Boston-based Au Bon Pain Holding Co. “It has been a tremendous privilege and pleasure to work with JAB and the many people within its portfolio companies and I wish them continued success,” Becht said in a statement. Also on Monday, JAB named Fabien Simon as a new partner and CFO.  Simon previously worked for four years at JAB’s Jacobs Douwe Egberts or JDE. Prior to working at JDE, he spent 14 years at Mars. JAB said Ricardo Rittes will join the company as a partner. He will lead expansion into emerging international markets and work out of JAB’s new office in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He previously spent 14 years at Anheuser Busch Inbev.   Jacek Szarzynski was named lead operating partner for JAB’s newly created Pret Panera Holding Company. He will be responsible for the overall long-term success of the platform, the company said. Szarzynski worked 24 years at Mars.  JAB representatives did not return a request to elaborate on the function of Pret Panera Holding Company. JAB’s portfolio also includes Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee Company, Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc. and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. – Source: NRN.

Chemours Acquires ICOR International

The Chemours Company (Chemours) announced the acquisition of ICOR International, a privately-owned supplier of branded, ozone safe refrigerants and related products for HVACR applications in North America. “ICOR has developed an excellent reputation with contractors and equipment owners, has strong brands and an extensive distributor network, all of which will be a valuable addition to Chemours and enhances our ability to meet our customer needs in North America,” said Diego Boeri, vice president of Chemours fluorochemicals business. “Chemours is establishing itself as a new kind of chemistry company and we are excited to join them on this journey,” said Gordon McKinney, vice president of sales and COO of ICOR International. “This acquisition clearly indicates the strategic long-term value that Chemours sees in our strong brands and customer-centric approach to the market.” – Source: HVACR business.

Ingersoll Rand, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation to Establish Joint Venture

Ingersoll-Rand plc and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation are pleased to announce they have entered into an agreement to establish a 50 percent-50 percent joint venture (JV) pending global antitrust review. The new joint venture will include marketing, sales and distribution of ductless and VRF heating and air conditioning systems through Ingersoll Rand’s Trane and American Standard commercial and residential channels, and existing Mitsubishi Electric-distributors and representatives in the United States and select countries in Latin America. The systems sold by the joint venture will be highly efficient, variable-speed mini-split, multi-split, and VRF air conditioners and heat pumps for homes, light commercial and commercial applications. The joint venture will distribute products with the Trane or American Standard brand and the Mitsubishi Electric corporate logo to Ingersoll Rand channels. The joint venture will also continue to serve Mitsubishi Electric US distributors and representatives with Mitsubishi Electric branded product. “We are pleased to enter into a new joint venture with Mitsubishi Electric US,” said David Regnery, executive vice president of Ingersoll Rand. “Together, our robust offering and ability to serve customers in the multi-billion dollar and growing ductless segment will be superior. The unique value of the joint venture is the pairing of premium systems, extensive distribution, deep technical, product and applications expertise, and allows us to leverage Ingersoll Rand’s vast service capability.” The joint venture will be a leading provider of ductless and VRF systems in the United States and select countries in Latin America. “Mitsubishi Electric is enthusiastic about establishing a strong and successful partnership with Ingersoll Rand,” said Keijiro Hora, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc. “The strength of our brands, combined with our product expertise, industry knowledge and channel coverage will result in a superior offering for customers.” It will bring together Ingersoll Rand’s leadership in heating and air conditioning and its extensive Trane and American Standard residential and commercial distribution network with Mitsubishi Electric’s innovative and technologically advanced mini-split, multi-split, and VRF products, recognized brand and channel expertise. Pending favorable global antitrust reviews and customary closing conditions, the new joint venture is expected to be operational in the first half of 2018. A chief executive officer will be named from Mitsubishi Electric, a chief financial officer will be named from Ingersoll Rand, and the business will operate from headquarters in Suwanee, Georgia. Ingersoll Randand Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, will have equal ownership. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed and are not material. – Source: HVACR business.

Fujitsu, Ventacity Offer Joint Commercial HVAC Solution

Fujitsu General America has partnered with Portland, OR-based Ventacity Systems to provide a more efficient heating, cooling, ventilation and controls solution for commercial buildings.  The joint solution combines Ventacity’s energy-efficient ventilation and the company’s newly-introduced Ventacity HVAC2 Smarter Building Platform whole-building controls technology with Fujitsu’s full line of Airstage VRF heating and cooling systems.  The two systems, working together seamlessly, enhance comfort, provide better zoning and create a healthier indoor environment. The plug-and-play integration between the Airstage system and Ventacity’s cloud-enabled, heat recovery ventilator (HRV) effectively lowers the variable refrigerant flow (VRF) capacity needed in order to keep buildings at setpoint temperatures while ventilating per ASHRAE 62.1.  The addition of Ventacity’s HVAC2 platform adds a cloud-based system that helps cost-effectively monitor and manage HVAC systems in a single building or across entire building portfolios, capturing vital building analytics that can optimize the system’s performance. The packaged solution will be attractive to design-build contractors and engineers who focus on small- to medium-sized commercial buildings while searching for efficient, sustainable, low carbon emission solutions. “Our partnership with Fujitsu will take the HVAC industry into the 21st century, and, for the first time, enable HVAC contractors to apply modern cloud based technology and simple automated processes to provide commercial buildings with a healthier, more efficient, and more smartly managed environment,” said Sal D’Auria, founder and CEO, Ventacity Systems. – Source: HVACR business.vvv

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