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To Our Valued Subscribers:

Here it is the beginning of “March Madness”. Unfortunately, my Northwestern Wildcats will not be in this year’s big dance. So, like my Cubs of yesteryear, “Wait Until Next Year!!” March is also the time that many organizations institute major changes to how they are operating. If you are one of these organizations or your company is planning to introduce new changes, I am passing along a few tips I stole from noted author and change expert Art Petty. Here are a few suggestions:

·     Quintuple the Flow of Information and Get Employees Involved. Make employees in the strategy process ambassadors of “Here’s what’s going on” and “What do you think?” type forums. Give those that will be affected an opportunity to voice opinions.

·     Honor the Legacy and Build Excitement for the Next Chapter. Respecting the history and legacy of the past will go a long way to gaining support for writing the next chapter. It’s common to create an “old versus new” situation here, and it’s deadly to allow that to fester. Never forget where you started. And finally

·     Bring Your Firm’s Values to Life (or create new ones). High-performance teams and high-performance organizations operate with clear, meaningful values. Proper values are used in decisions and responses daily, but it’s up to leadership to make these things work hard for the firm. They’re particularly powerful when guiding groups through periods of change.

If you want to know more about how to make change happen, feel free to contact me or any of my American Recruiters colleagues as we do more than just placement to help your organization grow. One item that has not changed is our Global Foodservice News. Enjoy our latest edition and an early Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!! If you are in the Chicago area drop by and see the River Run Green!!

Craig Wilson

President

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Dairy Free Oatmilk Frozen Desserts

A new dairy-free dessert is debuting in the freezer aisle, opening the door for oat milk to branch beyond beverages. Danone North America’s new So Delicious Dairy Free Oatmilk Frozen Desserts feature a creamy oat milk base blended with ingredients, including fruit, caramel and cookie dough. Certified vegan, Non-GMO Project verified and certified gluten-free, the desserts are available in three varieties: Peanut Butter & Raspberry, made with peanut butter and black raspberries; Oatmeal Cookie, featuring oatmeal cookie dough with brown sugar and cinnamon; and Caramel Apple Crumble, which combines apple, cinnamon and brown sugar with a caramel swirl.

Starbucks is Bringing the Next Big Dairy-Free Milk to Some US Cafes

Oat milk has a texture and taste that more closely resemble cow’s milk than other dairy-free alternatives like soy and almond milk, even when steamed for lattes. Starbucks’ entry into oat milk comes as Americans’ appetites for milk alternatives keeps growing. The oat milk trend doesn’t look like it is dying anytime soon. Coffee giant Starbucks will start offering the dairy-free substitute Tuesday at five locations, another sign that oat milk could be here to stay. Oat milk has a texture and taste that more closely resemble cow’s milk than other nondairy alternatives like soy and almond milk, even when steamed for lattes. The dairy-free milk is made by soaking steel-cut oats in water, blending the mixture and then straining it. Starbucks’ entry into oat milk comes as Americans’ appetites for milk alternatives keeps growing. Some, like quinoa milk, have struggled to take hold, but almond and soy milk remain among the most popular options.

U.S. nondairy milk sales grew 61 percent to an estimated $2.11 billion between 2012 and 2017, according to a Mintel report. Overall dairy milk sales declined by 15 percent to $16.12 billion during the period. The oat milk craze in the U.S. started several years ago when Swedish company Oatly arrived stateside. Enthusiasm briefly faltered last summer when skyrocketing demand led to a shortage of oat milk for the several hundred New York City coffee shops that offered the dairy-free substitute. Oatly is opening its first U.S. production plant this spring to help ramp up supply. Other beverage companies are now jumping on the trend, with Pesico’s Quaker Oats launching its own version in November. Starbucks started offering oat milk in European locations in early 2018, but it’s finally bringing the dairy substitute to the U.S. as the trend grows. However, for now, its U.S. availability will be limited to five Starbucks Reserve locations in three cities: Seattle, San Francisco and New York. The coffee chain has been using the upscale Reserve stores to launch innovative new drinks, like its Nitro Cold Brew, before rolling them out nationwide. They’re also part of a strategy to defend against high-end upstarts, like Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea — which was also the first U.S. coffee shop to offer Oatly. Oat milk fans can also order the vegan substitute at three of Starbucks’ Princi bakeries in Seattle, Chicago and New York. – Source: CNBC

Papa John’s Goes for New Leadership

Papa John’s International founder John Schnatter has agreed to leave the board as part of a settlement agreement with the company, signaling the end to an acrimonious battle for control over the world’s third-largest pizza delivery chain. The company said in a filing that it would co-operate with Schnatter to find a mutually acceptable independent director, who would not be affiliated with hedge fund Starboard Value LP or Schnatter. Schnatter, who owns about 30 percent of the company’s shares, would resign from the board if the independent director is appointed before the 2019 annual stockholder meeting, Papa John’s said. Schnatter has also agreed to dismiss two lawsuits: one against the company in the Delaware Chancery Court without prejudice and another in Jefferson County, Kentucky, related to a sublease agreement with prejudice, the company said. Early last month, Papa John’s snubbed an investment offer from Schnatter and instead accepted an investment of up to $250 million from Starboard value LP in return for a nearly 10 percent stake, while naming the hedge fund’s Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Smith as its chairman. Schnatter had filed several lawsuits against the company in a bid to regain control. He resigned as chairman last summer, following reports he had used a racial slur on a media training conference call. He stepped down as the company’s chief executive in December of 2017, after drawing criticism for comments he made against National Football League leadership. The bad press took a toll on the company, which said last week its North America same-store sales fell 7.3 percent in 2018. Papa John’s, which expects lagging sales in the first half of 2019, blamed the negative publicity for faltering sales and pushed to improve its public image by removing Schnatter’s image from promotional materials and pizza boxes. – Source: Reuters.

The Company has Multiple Efforts Underway Including an ERP Overhaul Called Project Concrete

Shake Shack, best known for its burgers, is revamping its technology infrastructure to give its customers more touch points, improve efficiency enough to offset higher labor costs and scale as it expands locations and into new venues such as food trucks. The company reported a fourth quarter net loss of $548 million on revenue of $124.3 million. For 2018, Shake Shack reported net income of $21.95 million on revenue of $459.3 million, up 28 percent from a year ago. For 2019, Shake Shack projected revenue between $570 million and $576 million with flat same store sales. For 2020, Shake Shack is targeting more than $700 million in revenue. To get to that 2020 revenue goal, Shake Shack is betting on an ERP revamp called Project Concrete, digital marketing and more ways to cater to customers. In the fourth quarter, Shake Shack booked $700,000 in one-time Project Concrete costs. Randall Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack, said on an earnings conference call that the company’s digital transformation efforts are necessary to grow. “I would like to take a moment to stress how important we believe this transformation will be in an effort to ensure infrastructure and support systems are sufficiently robust and scalable to deliver upon our current and future growth opportunities,” he said. “We are investing a lot of capital in order to streamline and automate business processes, all the while taking administrative and time-consuming tasks out of the Shacks to better allow for our teams to focus on delivering the highest quality experiences.” – Source: ZDNet.

Delivery Was Just Launched Across the System

Taco Cabana has recorded nine consecutive month of positive comparable growth for the chain. The initiatives and investments Fiesta Restaurant Group made over the last year appear to be stabilizing the company. Although the last quarter of 2018 was shaky for both Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana, Fiesta is confident in turning around guest traffic and sales during 2019. Fiesta is focused on improving customer experience, streamlining operation costs, and increasing value options, which in turn should help increase transactions and create long-term sustainable growth through both brands, the company said. After three consecutive quarters of restaurant sales growth in 2018, Pollo Tropical finished with a 1.9 percent decline compared to the fourth quarter of 2017. On a February 25 conference call, Fiesta’s president and chief executive officer, Richard Stockinger, noted last year’s final quarter was strong due to the recovery period following Hurricane Irma. Pollo Tropical’s sales continued to decline in the new year. During the first quarter through February 17, its restaurant sales decreased 3.7 percent, Stockinger said. However, Pollo Tropical is slowly turning around and still has time for improvements during Q1. “We experienced an improved trajectory of sales and transactions in February compared to January, and are closing the gap between our results and the Black Box industry results,” Stockinger said. Fiesta’s interim chief financial officer, Cheri Kinder, added that a 6.3 percent drop in comparable restaurant transactions and a 4.4 percent increase in average check also contributed to Pollo’s results last quarter.

On the other hand, Taco Cabana finished 2018 with a 5.1 percent increase in same-store sales compared to a 7.4 percent decrease in the fourth quarter last year. December 2018 also marked the ninth consecutive month of positive comparable growth for the chain. “Taco Cabana’s financial trajectory steadily improved throughout the year as we continue to evolve the guest base through our strategic repositioning away from the quick service segment and deep discount promotions to higher quality menu offerings that represent everyday good value,” Stockinger said. Taco Cabana’s positive run has continued so far into 2019 with a 1.8 percent same-store sales increase during Q1 through February 17. “We entered 2019 from a position of strength, characterized by quality operations, a healthier and more profitable restaurant base, improving guest metrics, and programs in place to improve traffic and build margins,” Stockinger said. Taco Cabana’s positive sales growth and new restaurants contributed to the 3.3 percent lift—or $167.6 million—in Fiesta’s total revenues. In order to cut down on further losses, Fiesta closed a number of locations across both brands. The biggest impact to Pollo Tropical was the closure of all nine locations within the Atlanta market. “Pollo Tropical had struggled in the Atlanta market for some time, but we had also held out hope that results would improve if it had time to experience the enhancements we had made as part of the plan,” Stockinger said. “Unfortunately, Atlanta did not experience the same positive momentum as our other markets, and there was no reasonable path forward for it.” Both brands are expected to open three restaurants in 2019. In total, 14 Pollo Tropical restaurants—nine in Atlanta and five in Florida—closed in 2018. Those stores contributed $15.8 million in restaurant sales while contributing roughly $5.2 million in restaurant level pre-tax operating losses. Nine underperforming Taco Cabana locations in Texas, which generated $9.5 million in restaurant sales, shuttered in 2018. Those locations generated $1.7 million in losses. Both brands are expected to open three restaurants in 2019. In addition to new openings, Fiesta plans on remodeling 10–13 locations for each brand over the next year. The remodels will upgrade equipment to support catering and new menu lines while incorporating fresh technology, like self-service kiosks and portable POS tablets, to help improve efficiency within existing locations. “We’re identifying those restaurants that are the oldest, the ones that need the refreshing in the front of the house,” Stockinger said. “We’ve done a lot of work in the back of the house with the deferred maintenance, so the guests really didn’t see that because we wanted to get started and restart a remodel program where you’re going to start seeing some of that impact on the top line.”

Diving into delivery. In order to keep up with its competition, Fiesta took the plunge and rolled out delivery nationwide with DoorDash. Pollo Tropical delivery through DoorDash is available now at all 139 company-owned locations throughout the system. Taco Cabana delivery through DoorDash will be available at all 162 company-owned locations in the coming weeks. “We can see the momentum building, and we are excited as to the potential positive impact on our business,” Fiesta’s chief operating officer Danny Meisenheimer said on the call. In an effort to expand its off-premises presence, Fiesta relaunched catering programs at both Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana during the last quarter of 2018. “The catering and the opportunities with off-premise consumption are truly just coming online … and we’re seeing some really nice results from those efforts so far,” Meisenheimer said. At Pollo Tropical, a dedicated team oversees the newly rebranded catering program and refined menu. Meisenheimer said the catering platform will continue transform in 2019 “to be even more competitive in the marketplace and to broaden the offering to appeal to different occasions and party sizes.” Taco Cabana finished 2018 with a 5.1 percent increase in same-store sales. Although the new off-premises programs are still in the early stages of roll out, the results so far look promising. Meisenheimer believes off-premises will help boost sales and transactions in a way both brands haven’t seen before. “There’s plenty of room in terms of increasing the unit level, average unit volume, again, we’re going up against our competitors that have had these programs in place for a significant amount of time,” Meisenheimer said. “It includes the catering program, which not only drives the top line but it drives the bottom line. And with delivery, we just started and we literally just started at Taco where we didn’t ever had delivery before and it’s already starting to show positive results from a sales perspective.” Loyalty rolls. The growth of off-premises gives guests more opportunity to interact with both brands in ways they wouldn’t have considered before. Fiesta is hoping to capitalize on this new traffic and increase engagement through its My Pollo and TC loyalty programs and apps. The My Pollo program just recently launched in December 2018. “This app allows guests to find a location, order online, manage their points and redemptions and upload coupons, among other things,” Meisenheimer said. “We believe My Pollo will help increase frequency and build and return—and retain brand affinity.” The TC loyalty program made its debut last September along with updated online ordering and app. During the fourth quarter, 11,000 loyalty members were added each month. Currently at Pollo Tropical, there are 75,000 loyalty app members and half a million members of the email club. About 70,000 members are a part of Taco Cabana loyalty program and 280,000 members are a part of the email club. Fiesta is consistently seeing higher average checks from loyalty members compared to the rest of the system. Using data from the apps and loyalty programs, including a detailed purchasing history for each member, Fiesta is hoping to create targeted and personalized marketing and an individual experience for each guest. Investing in the future.

There is still work to be done at both Fiesta brands, but executives believe it has laid the groundwork for future success. Delivery through DoorDash, the new catering program, and expansion of loyalty programs will help drive customers through the doors of Taco Cabana and Pollo Tropical. “Our foundation is now firmly in place and the team is energized by the strong affinity for our brands and their long-term potential,” Stockinger said. “We are now ready to leverage our accomplishments in 2019 to deliver results as we also plan for the long term,” Meisenheimer added. Fiesta is planning to invest $21.4 million in new restaurants and $8.4 million in technology, including online ordering, loyalty programs, and new hardware upgrades. Additionally, Fiesta expects to invest $3 million on restaurant remodels. “This year, we will continue focusing on delivering a consistent distinctive guest experience, improving traffic trends, realizing margin expansion and building our fundamental sales growth platforms to create long-term value for our shareholders,” Stockinger said. “In addition, later this year, we plan to develop and test the refined Pollo Tropical restaurant concept with broader mass appeal for potential future expansion.” – Source: QSR.

Chipotle Introduces Vegan and Vegetarian Bowls

The fast casual chain expanded its new line of diet-based bowls to include vegan and vegetarian options. “Lifestyle Bowls” launched earlier this year with Whole30 and double protein meals in addition to the keto and paleo bowls. The lifestyle bowls are a way for Chipotle to market itself to a wide variety of customers focused on health, especially as it rebounds from E. coli and norovirus scares from a few years ago. And the vegetarian and vegan options could help raise awareness among an increasingly important customer base. Chipotle first introduced its vegan protein option, Sofritas, in 2014. Demand for Sofritas has continued to grow, the company said. Last year, it cooked 7.5 million pounds of Sofritas. Vegetarian and vegan meals made up roughly 12% of all the meals Chipotle sold in 2018. “We’ve found that many people are increasingly looking for plant-based protein options,” said Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer. The bowls don’t include new vegan or vegetarian ingredients. They’re only available as pre-configured options on Chipotle’s website or mobile app.

Taco Bell recently tried a similar tactic. In January, Taco Bell announced a plan to test out a vegetarian menu board that would highlight the restaurant’s current vegetarian options, including tacos, tostadas burritos and crunchwraps. Putting all of the meat-free items on one menu should make it easier for vegetarians to see their options, Taco Bell explained. For Chipotle, the lifestyle bowls are a way not only to lure vegetarian eaters, but to create positive hype for the brand. During an earnings call in February, CEO Brian Niccol said that the lifestyle bowls “resonated with consumers in a big way.” CFO John Hartung said the bowls “created an awful lot of buzz and interest.”   “The whole idea here is to really emphasize again that Chipotle can be an option for virtually any diet,” said Sharon Zackfia, an analyst who covers restaurants for the research group of asset manager William Blair. By raising awareness of the many different diets Chipotle is compatible with, it is “eliminating the veto factor,” she said. Chipotle has come a long way since it suffered following an E. coli outbreak that 60 Chipotle customers in 14 states ill in late 2015 and early 2016. Now, customers are coming back. In 2018, the company reported a revenue increase of 8.7% compared to the previous year. Sales at restaurants open at least a year jumped 4% in that time frame, and digital sales surged 42.4%. To help drive the rebound, Chipotle unrolled its “for real” marketing campaign, which highlights ingredients and offers transparency into its operations, streamlined its pickup options, expanded its delivery services and made its production lines more efficient, among other things. – Source: CNN Business.

Marco’s Stakes its Claim in the Pizza Wars

With 40 years of history and 900-plus locations, it’s hard to call Marco’s Pizza a challenger brand. But it’s eager to take on the top players in one of the most crowded and growth-driven segments in foodservice. The ultimate goal: become the fourth largest pizza chain in America. As of last year, that spot belonged to Papa John’s and its 3,337 domestic locations. Little Caesars is roughly 1,000 locations ahead in third, while Pizza Hut (7,522) and Domino’s (5,876) sit No. 1 and 2, respectively, by a wide margin. Also in front of Marco’s is Papa Murphy’s with 1,400 or so restaurants.

Marco’s is coming on strong. In 2019, it expects to debut a new restaurant every three or four days. The major milestone up first is 1,000 locations, a mark the chain believes it can hit by summer. And when late 2020 arrives, Marco’s said there will be 1,500 of its restaurants nationwide. This represents an impressively quick march to the frontlines of the pizza wars. When current CEO Jack Butorac came on board as a consultant in 2004, Marco’s had 126 stores across three states and was the 26th largest pizza chain in the U.S. Last year, it opened 95 restaurants and had 911 total as of January 21. It’s jumped 20 spots in the pizza rankings. Marco’s wants to double that yearly growth rate in 2019. Late last year, Marco’s announced the promotion of Ron Stilwell to chief development officer. The 35-year industry veteran, who clocked time at Taco Bell, Kahala Corp., Peter Piper Pizza, and Red Robin, was an area representative and franchisee at Marco’s, and a consultant with the company before that. He built six locations over the past two years and saw the chain’s growth prospects first-hand. Coming from an area representative post also helped Stilwell really calculate the details and projections. Being internal and familiar erased the ramp-up time an outside hire may have required as well. Both were key factors for Marco’s executive team when making the hire, especially as it dials up rapid expansion. The brand wanted an accelerator at the controls, not a roadblock. “I came in with a well-rounded background in working with these franchisees,” he says. “One, I’ve done what they’ve done—it lends a lot of credibility to the job. Two, it also helps me understand what they’re going through and some of the obstacles they may be facing.” Ron Stilwell has more than 35 years of industry experience.

As expansion progresses, Marco’s is looking at a couple of key igniters. Firstly, Stilwell is adjusting the path to get there. Marco’s is looking for multi-unit, multi-brand franchisees to fuel growth. People who might own other concepts but are struggling, or not growing. Or perhaps operators locked out of territories seeking additional runway with a different brand. In the past, Marco’s growth mostly came from a single-vehicle growth model, which was expansion through its area-development community. Marco’s recently instituted a four-pronged model for growth that’s new for 2019. One is still expanding through those area developers. Currently, there are 50 developing in 50 territories around the country. Second is a ramp up of growth efforts through a more traditional franchise model, which Marco’s hasn’t done before. This involves selling franchise territories in areas where it doesn’t have area representatives. Marco’s has a vice president of non-area representative restaurants, Keith Sizemore, whose official title is VP of new territory development. Next is international growth. Marco’s has 17 stores in Puerto Rico, six in the Bahamas, and three in India. Over the coming year, it plans to build 23 new restaurants in Puerto Rico and “several” in the Bahamas. Its sights are set on Mexico, too. Lastly, Marco’s is looking to increase its points of distribution around the country, Stilwell says. To date, there are traditional units and some non-traditional outlets. The latter option is ready for take off, he says. Marco’s has an arena location in Colorado at the Pepsi Center. More are coming. The chain recently opened in a couple of hotels and is working toward setting up agreements with Aramark and Sodexo so it can target campus expansion.

If you just look at the map, Marco’s hasn’t come close to flooding the marketplace. It’s a far cry from, say, Domino’s and its clustered locations that cut down on delivery times. (Although worth noting that Domino’s isn’t anywhere near done growing, either). Booking at the graph below, you can see how Marco’s footprint west of Texas is wide open, especially in California. Even east, there aren’t any stores in New England or New York. “The reality is we’re not saturated yet,” Stilwell says. “So if people are interested in getting with a well-established, 40-year-old brand—not something that’s new and unproven, we’ve got lots of territory available for them to grow in.” Specifically in California, Marco’s is developing the central part of the state and starting to open in Southern California. It’s just now breaking into LA, Stilwell adds. Idaho was a new market last year and is a major target. Georgia. Oklahoma. Louisiana. Texas. Marco’s plans to fill out the Southwest region in the near future. As for what’s helping the brand stand out, beyond potential, Stilwell says Marco’s differs from competitors in what it offers. “We really feel that we’re going to be a pizza chain first and technology second. Because the pizza is why the people are coming to Marco’s,” he says. Marco’s claims it’s the only top 10 pizza chain founded by an Italian immigrant. Italian-born Pasquale Giammarco debuted Marco’s in 1978. It uses a fresh three-cheese blend and makes dough in store, every day. The sauce, also made fresh, hasn’t changed its recipe in four decades. These traits inspired Marco’s “Primo” advertising campaign, which launched in August to celebrate its 40-year anniversary. It followed the introduction of a new brand promise, “Hello Primo,” meant to reinforce the chain’s roots. The simple notion being that Marco’s would take its Italian heritage and put it into its products. There are some technology changes taking hold as well. In 2018, Marco’s rolled out a new POS system that’s now live systemwide. There used to be two platforms. The change allowed Marco’s to create an app that’s launching in the near future. It also invested in a fresh website and mobile experience that betters the ordering process. Another change was a menuboard system that could be downloaded and controlled at corporate. Marco’s now receives instant customer feedback. Additionally, Kiosks are in the works, although Marco’s picks up most of its orders via phone or digital ordering and will continue to invest mainly in those channels. At the end of 2017, 825 of Marco’s 867 restaurants were franchised. That split won’t narrow anytime soon, Stilwell says, although it highlights another unique area of Marco’s business. Unlike many franchisor systems, Marco’s has no issue with its corporate team owning and running franchises. Sizemore, for instance, has two. “We have a completely different philosophy,” Stilwell says. “And what’s nice is that when the executive team and the support staff are franchisees themselves, it means we’re really all focused on the franchise system, which is another big strength to this company.” As Marco’s grows, Stilwell hopes they can value engineer the cost down for new builds. The franchise startup cost ranges from $383,780–$528,330 for a traditional store with limited seating. Expanded can run between $383,780–$762,530. One of the biggest innovations has been a restructure of Marco’s franchise development department that will incorporate ideas for labor savings, new store design, and value engineering. Even with stainless steel and new tariffs, Stilwell says, Marco’s has been able to trim costs already, and hopes to shave $100,000 off building brand-new units. But at the same time, keeping the key elements of the “Milan” design that rolled out in the past two years.

All of these changes, including the development of streamlined systems to help franchisees build multiple stores and take weeks out of the development timeline, will set Marco’s up for its immediate goal—1,000 stores—and keep it barreling toward the big one. “That’s where we’re heading,” Stilwell says. “We’re a stable, 40-year-old brand. And we’re not one of the new brands that have just popped up. But we also have plenty of room to grow.” – Source: QSR Magazine.

At This Domino’s, She Rose to the Top

Nearly three decades later, she is still at the Maple Street store, but with a much more substantial role. Now a single mother of three, Cashman last month purchased the franchise rights to the store she has worked at for most of her life, marking a long climb from $4.25-per-hour employee to owner. “You don’t say at 17, ‘I’m going to work here for the rest of my life,'” she said on a break during one of her 12-hour days. “But now that I’ve been here almost 30 years, I am. This is my life.” Cashman worked at the Danvers Domino’s for 20 years, eventually becoming the manager. After going through a divorce in 2010, she was determined to pursue a dream of owning her own franchise. She took a job with Boston Pie Inc., a Danvers-based company that owns 30 Domino’s in New England. She managed a store in Salem for six months before being promoted to supervisor of five area stores. “It didn’t take long to figure out her talents were far beyond manager,” Boston Pie co-owner Dominic Benvenuti said. “I told her if she ever wanted to become a franchisee to let me know. In February of 2018 she walked into my office and said, ‘I think I’m ready.'” Cashman attended Domino’s franchise management school in Michigan to prepare herself for ownership. When she later ran into the owner of the Danvers store where she had worked for two decades, she asked him if he’d be willing to sell. Cashman said she took out a loan and paid close to $400,000 for the franchise. Domino’s also requires an owner to have at least $50,000 in the bank as working capital, she said. Cashman, whose children are now 20, 17 and 9, saved up by working two jobs at times, including as a hairdresser. “I couldn’t have done it without the support of my mom babysitting,” she said. “When you work for Domino’s, you work nights. I’d get out at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. There wasn’t a lot of sleep. I just saved every penny I could.” Benvenuti said moving up the ladder at Domino’s to own your own franchise is “the embodiment of the American dream.” “I’ve seen a lot of people who gave up on that dream,” he said. “Jeannie just never gave up. I’ve been with Domino’s for 30 years and I’ve not seen a harder-working, more dedicated-to-her-goals person. I’ve never seen anyone more tenaciously go after her goals.”

Since taking over her own store, Cashman has hired new people, ordered new equipment and uniforms, and improved the front lobby. She works seven days a week and still does a lot of the tasks herself, including making pizzas and deliveries. Two of her three children work at the store, and her boyfriend also helps out. A Danvers native, she lives a half-mile down the street. Cashman, 46, said she’d eventually like to own a total of three stores. For now, she’s glad to back where she started. “This feels like home,” she said. – Source: The Salem News.

P.F. Chang’s completes sale to TriArtisan Capital Advisors

Investment firms TriArtisan Capital Advisors LLC and Paulson & Co. Inc. announced that they have completed the acquisition of casual-dining Asian restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. from private equity firm, Centerbridge Partners L.P. for an undisclosed amount, according to a press release.  “We want to thank Centerbridge Partners for their strong support of P.F. Chang’s,” P.F. Chang’s CEO Jim Bell said in a press statement. “We are fortunate to have a partnership with Paulson and TriArtisan which will allow us to implement a collaborative growth strategy. Paulson and TriArtisan bring financial strength and expertise that will allow us to grow our dine-in and off-premises channels both domestically and internationally.” The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based chain was founded in 1993 by chef Philip Chiang and restaurateur Paul Fleming and went private when the company, along with former sister restaurant, the fast-casual Pei Wei Asian Kitchen brand, was first acquired by Centerbridge in 2012 in a $1 billion deal. Centerbridge first began exploring a possible sale of the 220-unit restaurant chain last July when the private equity firm retained Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch and Barclays. At the time, Steve Silver, global co-head of the New York-based Centerbridge cited “recent positive performance” and “multiple unsolicited indications of interest” as motivating factors. In August, Michael Osanloo, CEO and president of P.F. Chang’s since 2015, left the company to join Portillo’s Hot Dogs LLC as its new chief executive. The company’s sale to TriArtisan Capital Advisors was announced in January in a notice sent to investors. Centerbridge will reportedly retain ownership of Pei Wei Asian Kitchen, which split from P.F. Chang’s in 2017. At the time, Bloomberg estimated that the value of the impending deal was about $700 million. “We intend to provide the management team with the resources to rapidly scale the business of providing high quality, contemporary Asian cuisine at a compelling value to our customers worldwide in both the off-premises and dine-in channels,” Rohit Manocha, a TriArtisan founding partner said in a statement. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro reported an estimated $912.9 million in U.S. systemwide sales at the end of fiscal year 2017, up from $906.2 million the previous year, according to the most recent NRN Top 200 report. Paulson & Co. and TriArtisan Capital Advisors did not immediately respond to request for comment. – Source: NRN.

General Mills has a Plan to Regenerate 1 Million Acres of Farmland

In 2014, the United Nations issued a warning to farmers: If they don’t change their agricultural practices, most of the soil they rely on to sustain their livelihoods will disappear within 60 years. Industrial-scale agricultural practices lean on polluting machinery and chemicals, which contaminate farmland. Insistence on monoculture–growing a single crop on the same patch of land–saps the soil of nutrients that more diverse crops deliver. And aggressive tilling breaks down soil structure and makes it harder for healthy land to regenerate. As the global population continues to grow, healthy farmland is critical. But in order to meet demands for food without damaging the environment, the whole industry needs to take a different approach. That could look something like regenerative agriculture: a method of farming that’s slowly gaining popularity as a way for farmers to replenish their land and maintain their businesses. General Mills, one of the largest food companies in the U.S., has been vocal about its support for regenerative agriculture for several years, and is now committing to bringing the practice to 1 million acres of farmland by 2030. “In sustainability work, it’s often challenging to find anything that lifts more than one or two boats at a time,” says Jerry Lynch, General Mills’s chief sustainability officer. “This lifts so many boats: water quality, soil health, reduced carbon footprint, increased biodiversity, and farmer profitability and economic resilience.” General Mills will work with the farmers it sources from to ensure that they’re growing crops via regenerative methods, Lynch says.

These methods include growing cover crops after the harvest instead of allowing the soil to sit unprotected. Cover crops help trap carbon in the ground and encourage nutrient development in the soil, but they’re used on less than 2% of cropland in the U.S. today. Adding livestock is also important, as manure delivers nutrients to the soil. And another factor, Lynch says, is encouraging farmers to grow a wider range of crops, as opposed to the one or two that many focus on, which increases the nutrient diversity in soil. Regenerative agriculture also calls for reduced dependence on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Several brands under the General Mills umbrella are already working directly with farmers that use regenerative practices. Annie’s, for instance, introduced two limited-edition products last year–a version of boxed mac and cheese, and bunny-shaped cookies–made from wheat and oats grown regeneratively on farms in Montana. And EPIC Provisions, a smaller brand that uses natural, high-quality meats and produce, sources from livestock producers who raise animals on regenerative farms. Last year, EPIC’s Sweet & Spicy Sriracha Beef Bites became the first packaged product to earn the Ecological Outcome Verification seal: a designation confirming a products’ environmental benefits created by the Savory Institute, which advocates for regenerative farming. Through its commitment to establishing regenerative practices on 1 million acres, General Mills aims to get more farmers working along these lines, and more of their brands sourcing from them.General Mills is making a $650,000 grant to the nonprofit Kiss the Ground, which will carry out training programs in agricultural communities like the Northern Plains, where farmers can learn to integrate regenerative practices and measure outcomes like soil health and biodiversity. (Last year, General Mills rolled out a Regenerative Agriculture Self-Assessment tool that farmers can use to analyze their practices and ecological outcomes.) In a country where around 40% of the land mass, or around 915 million acres, is classified as farmland, the 1 million that General Mills wants to see converted to regenerative land may not seem significant. But to Lynch, it’s all about setting the example and proving that regenerative practices can yield both strong crops and good financial returns for farmers, who may find that the increased diversity and health of their products is good for business. “Even more so, we hope lots of people join us: We welcome everyone to come on board because the more ubiquitous this is in agriculture, the better our food system is,” Lynch says. – Source: Fast Company.

Gies Takes the Marketing Reins at Church’s Chicken

Brian Gies has joined Church’s Chicken as executive vice-president and global chief marketing officer. In this role, Mr. Gies will be responsible for leading the restaurant chain’s marketing efforts and implementing the brand’s recently launched new global brand positioning. Mr. Gies brings more than two decades of food service industry to Church’s, including three and a half years as c.m.o. for TGI Fridays. Before that, he spent 17 years at Burger King Corp. in a range of marketing roles, most recently as vice-president of U.S. marketing. Mr. Gies began his career at KPMG as a senior associate, leading financial assurance engagements in a variety of industries including hospitality and retailing. “Brian is joining the team at a very exciting time,” said Joe Christina, chief executive officer of Church’s Chicken. “He has proven successful in building winning teams, delivering results and working with franchisees to grow their business. His first-hand knowledge and excellent track record fits right in with the culture we are building and will play an intricate part of achieving our vision to be the global franchisor of choice. The executive team and I are excited and fortunate to welcome Brian to the Church’s Chicken family.” Mr. Gies is the second recent addition to Church’s marketing team after the company announced its intent to transition from a traditional marketing-only brand to one that uses a broad scope of marketing channels. In December 2018, Alan Magee joined Church’s as its new vice-president of digital marketing and technology. – Source: Food Business News.

Four Goals Guide the Strategy

The Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 25 outlined the agency’s strategy for ensuring that imported foods are safe for consumption.

Four goals guide the strategy:

  • Food offered for import meets U.S. food safety requirements.
  • F.D.A. border surveillance prevents entry of unsafe foods.
  • Rapid and effective response to unsafe imported food.
  • Effective and efficient food import program.

“Overall, our modern strategy is designed to leverage our different authorities and tools to provide a multi-layered, data-driven, smarter approach to imported food safety,” said Scott Gottlieb, M.D., commissioner of the F.D.A., and Frank Yiannis, deputy commissioner. “We recognize that the F.D.A. plays an important oversight role in securing consumer safety. We’re fully committed to keeping our food safety mission robust and highly effective in this increasingly complex and global food landscape.”

Steps the F.D.A. is taking to prevent food safety problems in foreign supply chains include onsite inspections of foreign food facilities. “These valuable inspections are resource-intensive, so our strategy will involve a more modern focus on tools for risk-informed prioritization of firms for inspection,” the F.D.A. said. “Our decisions will be informed by an increasing amount of data and information from other oversight activities and partners.” The F.D.A. recently started inspection under its Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (F.S.V.P.) rule, which requires importers to verify their suppliers are meeting U.S. food safety standards. Key requirements obligate U.S.-based importers to conduct hazard analyses, evaluations of the risk of the food and foreign suppliers and safety verification activities based on identified hazards. Also, the Accredited Third-Party Certification program provides a framework for audits of foreign food facilities to verify compliance with U.S. food safety standards. Importers can use the program to establish eligibility in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (V.Q.I.P.), which offers an expedited review and entry of food products. As part of the agency’s goal of detecting and refusing unsafe food products, the F.D.A. developed an automated import screening tool called Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting (PREDICT). “As part of our new strategy, the F.D.A. intends to optimize this tool by incorporating new sources of data from foreign supplier verification programs, voluntary importer incentive programs, accredited third-party auditors, foreign regulatory authorities and domestic supply chain activities,” the F.D.A. said. “This will allow us to form a more complete picture of the risk of imported food in a new era of smarter food safety.” The F.D.A. intends to use data from multiple sources to develop surveillance sampling regimes that target the highest-risk products for sampling. “We’ll also continue our work with state and other partners to determine how we can improve testing methodologies and tools used to determine admissibility of food offered for import,” the F.D.A. said. Finally, the F.D.A. will be developing an improved global inventory of food facilities and farms. Such an inventory is expected to optimize the agency’s allocation of resources dedicated to imported food safety oversight to high-risk areas. – Source: Food Business News.

Scott Gottlieb, M.D., Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration

Scott Gottlieb, M.D., commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, on March 5 notified Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services, that he will resign from the agency he has led since May 2017.  Dr. Gottlieb said he wanted to spend more time with his family. Since taking the helm at the F.D.A., he has commuted each week to Washington from his Westport, Conn., home. Dr. Gottlieb will remain at his post for about a month. The White House said it did not seek Dr. Gottlieb’s resignation, and regretted his decision. President Donald Trump tweeted, “Scott Gottlieb, who has done an absolutely terrific job as Commissioner of the F.D.A., plans to leave government service sometime next month. Scott has helped us to lower drug prices, get a record number of generic drugs approved and onto the market, and so many other things. He and his talents will be greatly missed.” Mr. Azar said of Dr. Gottlieb, “He has been an exemplary leader, aggressive advocate for American patients, and passionate promoter of innovation… The public health of our country is better off for the work Scott and the entire F.D.A. team have done over the last two years.” As commissioner of the F.D.A., Dr. Gottlieb has overseen the agency that has the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of drugs, medical devices and most foods sold or distributed in the United States. He was widely known for efforts to regulate the tobacco and e-cigarette industries and sought to tighten controls on youth access to such products. On the food front, Dr. Gottlieb has furthered the implementation of food safety objectives of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Just in the last few weeks, he announced the issuance of a guidance to industry on how to comply with its responsibility to warn the public as needed during a food recall, and more recently published a document reviewing the F.D.A.’s strategy for ensuring the safety of imported food. On the day of his resignation, the F.D.A. issued its latest installment of its intentional adulteration of food draft guidance.

Geoff Freeman, president and chief executive officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, commented, “Under the leadership of Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the Food and Drug Administration was a strong and effective champion of public health. His candor, transparency and willingness to work together was a welcomed approach in the regulatory environment.” – Source: Food Business News.

Voltaggio Bros’ STRFSH Acquired for Expansion

Michael and Bryan Voltaggio, brothers who are both chefs and restaurateurs, on Monday announced a new partnership to grow their fast-casual STRFSH concept with K2 Restaurants. John Kolaski, CEO and owner of Los Angeles-based K2 Restaurants, said the group has taken a majority stake in the fast-casual seafood concept, which was launched in 2017 by the Voltaggios along with United Talent Agency. The restaurant is in The Gallery Food Hall in Santa Monica, at the heart of the high-volume Third Street Promenade, just blocks from the beach. The goal is to open at least three new locations of STRFSH this year, with units planned for North San Diego County and possibly Nashville, Kansas City, Mo., and later spots on the East Coast, Kolaski said. Terms were not disclosed. But the acquisition of STRFSH is part of a larger push by K2 into the fast-casual space. “We want to grow and scale more concepts within this fast-casual world” in food halls, but K2 will also focus on vertical growth with standalone and free-standing restaurants, he said. Kolaski’s group, for example, also operates Azulé Taqueria, which opened in October next door to STRFSH in The Gallery Food Hall.

A few weeks ago, K2 also took a majority stake in Paperboy Pizza, founded in the same food hall by restaurateur Jeremy Fall, who also operates the concepts Easy’s and Nighthawk Breakfast Bar in Los Angeles. And coming soon to Santa Monica are two more K2-developed concepts: Supertoro, a Japanese build-your-own-bento-box concept with a menu around crispy rice and sushi rolls that deliver well; as well as Adelaide Coffee Bar, an Australian-style coffee concept that will focus on “the perfect latte, an incredible cappuccino and just the right ratio in a flat white,” Kolaski said. There is more to come for K2, but Kolaski was not ready to offer details. We do see incredible opportunity in the food hall space,” he said. In particular, K2 sees an opportunity to offer delivery that could aggregate dishes from multiple outlets within one food hall, he added. “We see that as the future to how food halls survive. We want to see vendors working together and not competing against one another,” he said. Last year, K2 helped launch the Pirolo’s Panino sandwich concept in Los Angeles, created by Miami chef Michael Pirolo, who is also developing a full-service restaurant in LA to be called Massima. But Pirolo’s did not stick as a K2 brand, Kolaski said. Kolaski also said the group has another multiconcept location in the works in Hollywood, in the space that former housed Red O. Again, details have yet to be finalized. In terms of STRFSH, K2 has worked with the Voltaggio brothers to expand the current menu, adding dishes like Santa Monica Hot Fish, a Nashville-hot variation of beer-battered Alaskan cod; and the Filet O’ STRFSH, a “nostalgic” beer-battered cod topped with cheddar cheese and tartar sauce. The seafood outlet will also expand its beer-and-wine offerings, and continue to add new dishes like a lobster roll, warm crab dip and a soft-shell crab sandwich. Kolaski said the Voltaggios will remain deeply involved in the concept and menu as the brand grows. The partnership will also serve as a model for K2’s planned expansion across the country. “The key for us is to have [the Voltaggios’] continued involvement, along with UTA, who worked with Michael and Bryan in creating the brand,” said Kolaski, the former president of the multiconcept operator Disruptive Restaurant Group. “Similar to what we’ve done with STRFSH, we want to partner with best-in-class chefs.” – Source: NRN.

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