To Our Valued Subscribers:

Here we are just a few weeks into the New Year /Decade and the Celebration is continuing. My colleagues and I at American Recruiters are celebrating our 20th year anniversary of helping Foodservice, HVAC, Food Processing, and other niche customers continue to prosper in the all segments of their respective markets.

Our success is a result of your continuing support in working with us in determining your specific need and then searching and securing the right person to exceed your need. THANK YOU!!

Another reason for American Recruiters sustained success is our ability to provide not just human capital, but also assistance in long term and short term planning, trend management, product knowledge and exit strategies. If you have never thought about how American Recruiters can assist in any of these areas we are just a phone call or e-mail away. It costs you NOTHING to investigate the possibilities. Certainly, at the core is our ability to find you the next high-talent-hire. For twenty years of excellence, I can truthfully say, we’re only as good as our last placement, and there have been many. Give us a try and we’ll prove ourselves every time!

Please enjoy the latest edition of American Recruiters Global Foodservice News. Always on target with the relevant industry focused information you and your team can use. Again, THANKS for helping American Recruiters celebrate 20 Exceptional Years of helping our clients grow and prosper.

Craig Wilson



KCL Welcomes Luca Salomoni to Serve EAME and APAC Regions

KCL, the industry leader in foodservice design technologies is expanding its footprint outside of the Americas thanks to a new relationship with Luca Salomoni, the founder and developer of MasterChef software, which is currently known as Specifi. “KCL software tools have always served an international audience, but Luca will enable us to play a more active role in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East,” explained Kevin Kochman, president of KCL. “With more than two decades of experience in the foodservice design software business, Luca’s understanding of industry challenges and his relationships will help KCL build its presence abroad. His focus on results-driven relationships is very much in line with our approach.” Luca has solid experience creating CAD and BIM applications, foodservice quote applications, and played a role in developing the IFSE BIM Standard Classification. He also brings a deep understanding of what it takes to serve a worldwide market with more than 20 years working within the foodservice community with manufacturers and designers, including Horeca and bakery, as well. “I am excited to represent KCL,” said Luca. “They have such a positive worldwide reputation. Given my background, I know I can expand their reach and build on their reputation for excellent service and innovative products, like KCL NapkinSketch–there’s nothing like it in the EAME and APAC regions. Together, we will make this new decade the best one yet for KCL and the foodservice industry.” In addition to their popular BIM/CAD Designer, KCL innovations include sales and support tools, like KCL Mobile, the free app, and KCL NapkinSketch, the tool that lets users create quality designs without running a CAD or Revit program. – Source: KCL.

Taco Bell Offers $100,000 Salaries and Paid Sick Time

Wanted: Restaurant manager. Competitive salary: $100,000. The six-figure sum is not being offered at a haute cuisine location with culinary accolades, but rather at fast-food chain Taco Bell. In the increasingly tight U.S. labor market, the company is betting a higher salary will help it attract workers and keep them on the team. The Yum Brands Inc.-owned chain announced that it will test the higher salary in select restaurants in the Midwest and Northeast. It will also try a new role for employees who want leadership experience but don’t want to be in the management position. Current salaries for general managers at company-owned Taco Bell restaurants are between $50,000 and $80,000, according to the company. Workers at company-owned Taco Bell restaurants nationwide will be offered at least 24 hours of paid sick time per year, the company also announced. According to a spokesperson, Taco Bell previously offered paid sick time only to managers and is now extending that offer to all employees at company-owned restaurants who have had their jobs for at least 90 days. It’s another example of how stubbornly low unemployment is changing the face of fast food, which for decades has been seen as the quintessential low-wage job. Restaurants including Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants Inc. and Shake Shack Inc. have recently reported that labor inflation is hurting margins. In November, the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, matching the lowest since 1969, while average hourly earnings climbed and exceeded projections. Taco Bell on Thursday also announced plans to make all of its customer packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025. Amid the growth of plant-based meat imitations, the chain also said it wants to continue providing vegetarian menu items for customers. – Source: Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg.

The Women’s Hospitality Initiative Kicks off with a Film Screening, Panel Discussion, and of course Food

A new Las Vegas-based organization plans to bring together female restaurant industry mentors with newcomers to help them navigate the hospitality world. Elizabeth Blau of Blau + Associates and restaurants such as Honey Salt and Buddy V’s Ristorante and Mary Choi Kelly of MCK Leadership Talent Group co-founded the Women’s Hospitality Initiative that kicks off its efforts with a screening of the documentary A Fine Line followed by nibbles and networking with some of the powerful women chefs of Las Vegas. “I feel like we have to do something,” Blau says. “The city is ready for this. This is a time for men and women to work together. There is no one to blame here. We need to solve a problem.” The nonprofit organization cites statistics that show that while more than 50 percent of graduating culinary students are women, women represent fewer than 7 percent of executive chefs or restaurant owners. The organization hopes to educate and train women starting in high school and then college, all the way to those already in the business to build a pipeline of future potential women chefs. “Our goal is to achieve gender equity here in Las Vegas and we have already seen our community galvanizing around these efforts in an extraordinary way,” Blau says.

The February 18 kickoff event brings the first Las Vegas screening of A Fine Line, director Joanna James’ documentary that looks at the gender gap in the culinary industry, at the Judy Bayley Theatre on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus starting at 5 p.m. “Considering the influence Las Vegas has on the hospitality industry, it’s my hope that this screening will spark a local movement amplifying permanent change needed industry wide. This screening event has the potential to truly create a level playing field for all women to tap into their full potential,” James says in a press statement. James interviews top chefs including Dominique Crenn, Cat Cora, Elena Arzak, Mashama Bailey, Lidia Bastianich, and April Bloomfield in the film. Afterward, an interactive panel of women from the restaurant field takes the stage, followed by a culinary celebration at UNLV’s Hospitality Hall with food and drink from Lorena Garcia of Chica, Gina Marinelli of La Strega, Jennifer Murphy of Caesars Palace, and Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill. Tickets start at $30 for UNLV students, $60 for general admission, and $100 for VIP attendees. So far, founding sponsors for the Women’s Hospitality Initiative include Wynn Las Vegas, the Venetian, Southern Wine & Glazers, Sysco, the Elaine Wynn Family Foundation, Solus Sustainable Hydration, Steelite, and State Restaurant Equipment. Founding members include Philippa Fryman from the Venetian and Palazzo, Jolene Mannina at Secret Burger, Amy Rossetti at Rossetti Public Relations, Arlene Wszalek at Allied Global Marketing, and Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger at Border Grill. The board includes co-founder of Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts Elaine Wynn, CEO and co-founder of Paragon Gaming Diana Bennett, former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones Blackhurst, Moonridge Group philanthropic advisor Julie Murray, president of Wynn Las Vegas Marilyn Spiegel, executive director of the Elaine P. Wynn & Family Foundation Punam Mathur, dean of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV Stowe Shoemaker, former UNLV president Don Snyder, general partner and CEO of the newly formed JC Hospitality that recently acquired the Hard Rock Hotel Richard Bosworth, 50 Eggs founder John Kunkel, and Michael Severino of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Blau promises more events and educational opportunities will be announced following the kickoff. – Source: Eater Las Vegas.

What’s “too fast” when it Comes to Opening More Restaurants?

The restaurant industry is full of cautionary tales of buzzy new brands exploding on the scene only to become unwieldy as they grow too quickly. Opening too few new stores is no better. What’s the key to a healthy store-opening rate? In its Fast Casual insider podcast series, the National Restaurant Association asked senior execs from successful brands to share their business strategies and lessons learned as they’ve grown their companies.

Nick Vojnovich, president, Little Greek Fresh Grill

Before taking the helm at Palm Harbor, Fla.-based Little Greek, Vojnovich spent 12 years overseeing the growth of Beef ‘O’Brady’s from a 30-unit franchise to a 270-unit chain. Little Greek has nearly doubled in size since 2015. One thing I’ve learned is to watch your growth, especially in the early stages. Every single store counts. You can’t afford to make a mistake at that point because it could ruin you. You could go out of business. If store No. 6 doesn’t work, it’s not a deal killer, but if store No. 2 doesn’t work, that will take you down.

Don Fox, CEO, Firehouse of America LLC

Fox, a restaurant industry veteran with 45 years of experience in the QSR and fast-casual segments, spent 23 with Burger King before joining Firehouse Subs in 2003 — first as director of franchise compliance, then COO, and ultimately, CEO of the Jacksonville, Fla., company. “We’re keeping a careful eye on how we define our franchisee trade areas. We expanded the protected trade radius for our franchised restaurants from a one-mile protective radius to two miles. Franchisees didn’t ask for that, but we did it proactively because we thought it was fair to do. It is such a competitive environment. The approach is quite unconventional, something most franchisors wouldn’t do.”

Paul Damico, CEO, Naf Naf Grill

Prior to joining fast-growing, fast-casual Naf Naf Grill, Chicago, in 2017, Damico headed Moe’s Southwest Grill, part of Focus Brand’s restaurant portfolio, overseeing expansion from 220 to 700 units.We’ve got to continue innovating around our culinary identity to drive awareness of what the brand is and where we think we can take it. We’ve stabilized our company’s store operation; it’s going to be all about franchising going forward. We are going to get this brand into hundreds of locations in the next couple of years. But to do that, we’ve got to make sure we can scale our team to support those franchisees wherever they may be. It’s a pure growth play for us. Listen to the 10-episode series for more answers on business growth, smart operations and critical labor issues including recruitment and retention. Fast Casual Insider is available on our website, Spotify, Google Podcasts and AppLe Podcasts. Source: National Restaurant Association.

White Castle Coming to San Antonio on Valentine’s Day

The temporary castle in San Antonio will serve the Midwestern chain’s famous sliders along with sides and dessert. White Castle, a popular Midwestern burger chain, is coming to San Antonio with a Valentine’s Day-themed pop-up restaurant. The temporary castle in San Antonio will serve the Columbus, Ohio, chain’s famous sliders along with sides and dessert Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the parking lot of the H-E-B location at 12125 Alamo Ranch Parkway. All reservations have already booked up within 24 hours after the chain sent invitations to White Castle fans in Texas. “We knew we had a lot of fans in San Antonio, but the response was even better than we expected,” said JamieRichardson, vice president for White Castle, in a news release. White Castle will open a pop-up restaurant in the parking lot of the H-E-B location at 12125 Alamo Ranch Parkway for Valentine’s Day. White Castle owns and operates more than 375 restaurants, primarily in the Midwest. While it has no locations in Texas, it does sell its sliders in grocery stores such as H-E-B. From Jan. 22 to Feb. 18, H-E-B will offer in-store coupons on its White Castle retail products. — Source: San Antonio Business Journal.

A Quick Lesson in Sanitation Planning

It’s that time when most controllers and leadership teams scramble to collect data and negotiate a spending budget for next year. This is also the opportunity for sanitation and quality professionals to plan for available hours and a budget, both capital and expense. This should include the creation of a 52-week work plan to capture the cleaning activities needed during key line and plant downtime periods, including periodic equipment cleaning (PEC) and periodic infrastructure cleaning (PIC). Holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day are the perfect times to make the plant shine. Another activity, especially in the summer months, is the need to fog with an insecticide like Pyrethrum if needed to reduce insect populations. The frequency is consistent with the target insect’s life cycle to interrupt it. During my first position as a plant sanitation manager, it was my responsibility to plan facility fumigations using methyl bromide gas. This required a two- to three-day shutdown of the entire production facility. One particular year I was too late to get the fumigation on the calendar. As a result, insects got a free pass. There were more sightings of insects and their trails in the facility, and complaints ticked up. After that experience, I realized the importance of timely planning. It’s nice when projects run smoothly, which typically only happens with good planning. With this lesson under my belt, I went into the next year with the knowledge and tools to be successful.

In addition to cleaning activities, we planned three fumigations for the year and were able to stick with the schedule for better results. Now with methyl bromide out of favor, the groundwork is the same, but instead of fumigation we rely on effective hygienic design, effective cleaning and occasional fogging treatments. These all take more time, manpower and downtime to get the work done. Dry facilities are challenged with periodic cleaning activities during the peak season. K.P.I. results for PIC and PEC are lower during peak production because when lines operate, infrastructure and equipment cleaning, in most cases, is difficult at best. Is there a better way to prepare for this? Yes! One way is assessing the master sanitation schedule (M.S.S.) ensure all tasks are identified with accurate frequencies. Also, evaluate non-critical cleaning tasks that can help move tasks to slower non-peak production months. This helps balance workflow with the time available for cleaning. Managing sanitation planning is an important component of creating a sanitary environment while minimizing downtime when the production lines are needed to meet customer demands. Get a manageable annual budget and have time scheduled to keep the facilities sanitary for production. With proper planning, performance will be optimized, the facility and equipment will remain clean, and operations will be steady and smooth. — Source: Food Service Monitor.

Sanitation Strategies: Keep it Simple

During a Christmas past, one of my daughters received a knitting kit with several rolls of yarn and needles accompanied with knitting directions. This daughter was actually quite intrigued by the thought of making herself an attractive scarf for the approaching cold, windy months in Chicago. Shortly after opening, she began reading the directions but looked irritated and puzzled by them. A few weeks later, I was working with a customer who had ordered a new production line. The customer specified labeling certain products without the “may contain” statement if they didn’t contain allergens but were made in a facility that worked with allergenic ingredients in other products. This required the baker to perform an allergen clean following each line changeover. The first question for me was where to start? How about giving good directions for cleaning with clear guidance and communicating them during training sessions using effective techniques? I thought of my daughter, her knitting directions, her puzzled look and the frustration poor directions caused. Cleaning any production line is a difficult chore, but cleaning it to an allergen-free level is a difficult chore times five. This is especially true for a bakery line that has a large footprint and hard-to-clean processes and equipment such as mixers, lane dividers, bucket elevators, ovens, conveyors and packaging conveyors. Additionally, there is environmental cleaning that needs to occur to ensure the prevention of cross contamination.

Unlabeled nut ingredients make up about 95% of allergic reactions with consumers and are the most life-threatening, so perfection in cleaning is critical. The first step with this sanitation challenge is to define the sweet spot — the combination of cleaning methods and tools to ensure a scientifically valid, effective and efficient cleaning process. In this case, it would require wet cleaning, dry cleaning and most likely a modification of both on some equipment. Assembled into a fully descriptive document, this is called a Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure (SSOP). An SSOP is an accurate, clear and detailed standard process for the effective cleaning of each unit of food processing equipment (e.g. mixers and scales) and infrastructure (e.g. walls and floor drains). An effective SSOP is created using systematic, repeatable cleaning principles. It must be validated initially for effectiveness, and then the results are verified with each use to prove the SSOP was followed. The SSOP must be well-documented as the legal record of cleaning. A well-written binder of SSOPs is the foundation for every effective and efficient sustainable sanitation program. It helps with planning a cleaning event and predicts the time needed to clean, the number of people required, and tools, utilities and total downtime involved for sanitation, maintenance, pre-op and so forth.

A plan and procedure are needed to train employees effectively. If a plant needs to be clean, it starts with SSOPs so the cleaning process can be both effective and efficient. The goal of the cleaning is to transition a plant from a soiled state to a clean state and thus enable production to start. As we do this, experience tells us there are no varied levels of clean. When asked if the plant is clean, we should never say, “Well, almost, except for …” This is unacceptable. Clean is clean, and there is no in-between. If your company and plant are going to win every day for food safety, the facility needs to be clean — period. Well-defined SSOPs and employees who understand and execute them perfectly pave the way for food safety. When creating an effective and efficient SSOP, it’s important to keep a few key points in mind. Determine your end goal. What are you trying to accomplish? In this situation, it is to remove product residue, any flavor residues and all allergenic proteins to a non-detectable level as measured by an allergen test kit specific for the allergens of concern. Determine the most effective and efficient method for cleaning. The optimal way to begin is from scratch, using best industry practices. Observe practices and behaviors during cleaning. Look at methods used on an existing line during cleaning of a similar process and product to understand practices. This will give you an understanding of how it is currently done and the level of effectiveness and efficiency. Engage sanitation employees in the process because they know everyday challenges. Find out what works well to solve current problems. Talk to the maintenance and personnel safety departments. What are their concerns with the methods used, watch-outs and hazards related to this task? Have there been any recordable personnel safety accidents? Ensure all company and regulatory requirements are met. At times, facilities are good at incorporating plant and corporate policies into programs; however, regulatory requirements can get overlooked. Things like using approved sanitation or maintenance chemicals of the correct pH or monitoring the BOD of wastewater discharges can help avoid issues later on. Once you have completed preparations, you are ready to work on writing the SSOP. When writing the SSOP, know your audience. Visual aids can help shorten it and speed learning. A picture is worth 1,000 words. Re-read the SSOP as you write it to ensure it is understandable, and see if you could follow it. Explain scientific details simply so non-scientists can understand them. Keep it in accord with your audience’s capability. If poorly explained, it won’t be understood, and if not understood, it will not be used. The last tip is something we should practice routinely: Don’t assume you can leave out a small and obvious step or instruction. If it needs to happen, include the obvious. If not, although obvious, some may not know enough to include it, while others may follow the SSOP to the “T” and not include the obvious.

In the end, you should have an SSOP for every cleaning task in your binder along with an index. While this may seem daunting, I would encourage you to set a goal for completion and take it one step at a time. Your sanitation department may have diligent workers, but without the proper SSOPs and training, they may be working hard but cleaning ineffectively. It is like the old days when driving to a new location. You could take a map and call ahead for directions and, more often than not, still get lost. GPS units changed that, and well-thought-out SSOPs can avoid procedural errors. On the day after Christmas, my daughter was still pleased with her knitting gift but not with her knitting progress. As an accomplished learner, she figured out a solution through a YouTube video, which provided short but good directions. In a short lesson, she was on her way to perfect stitches for her scarf. It’s all about good directions and clear guidance communicated effectively, whether learning to knit or cleaning a bakery. In both cases, good direction and guidance saves time and frustration and makes for good attire and safe food. – Source: Food Business News.

Domino’s Breaks Ground on New Supply Chain Center

The facility will produce fresh pizza dough for more than 300 Domino’s stores located throughout the region. It will feature automated technology, including ingredient batching, mixing and portioning, weight adjustment, tray stacking and spiral coolers, which will produce 20,000 trays of dough balls per day. Set to open in late 2020, the facility will create 85 new jobs. “The continued growth of Domino’s in the U.S. has created a demand for additional supply chain capacity,” said Stu Levy, executive vice-president of Domino’s supply chain services. “This center in Katy will manufacture our fresh pizza dough and also serve as a warehouse and distribution center for our stores in South Texas and the parts of Louisiana.  We look forward to opening this center, bringing even more jobs to the local community and ensuring our stores can continue to provide a great customer experience.” – Source: Food Business News.

McDonald’s U.K. Launches First Fully Vegan Meal

Customers will be able to order the chain’s first fully vegan meal by pairing Veggie Dippers with vegan accredited french fries and any soft drink or sauce. The Veggie Dippers also will be available as a fully vegan Happy Meal. “In the last 12 months we’ve seen an 80% uplift in customers ordering vegetarian options at McDonald’s, so it is time for the brand famous for the dippable McNugget to launch a dippable option for our vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian customers,” said Thomas O’Neill, head of food marketing at McDonald’s U.K. and Ireland. “The Veggie Dippers are a delicious addition to our menu and we’re looking forward to seeing what customers make of our first vegan Extra Value Meal and Happy Meal in the new year.” Earlier this year, McDonald’s launched a 12-week test of a plant-based burger in Canada. The burger, called the P.L.T. (Plant, Lettuce, Tomato), is made with a Beyond Meat burger patty and is available in 28 restaurants in southwestern Ontario. – Source: Food Business News.

How Smoothie King Adjusts to an Evolving Customer

Smoothie King doesn’t need a big menu to keep growing. This week’s episode of the Restaurant Business podcast “A Deeper Dive” features Wan Kim, the 1,000-unit smoothie chain’s CEO. Kim discusses the chain’s strong growth—it has more than doubled in size since he took over in 2012—as well as its responses to technology and innovation. Kim talks about Smoothie King’s deliberate approach to technology. He also reveals his views on third-party delivery. And he talks about innovation, and how the company considers it, as well as the key to the chain’s growth. Kim also reveals a thing or two about mergers and acquisitions, giving us a somewhat surprising tidbit about his effort in one such deal. – Source: Smoothie King.

T.G.I. Fridays, is planning to revamp its bar business as the company prepares to be publicly traded again for the first time in decades

“For us, this year, we’re finishing up a pilot of tests that are showing very encouraging results to relaunch the T.G.I. Fridays bar,” CEO Ray Blanchette said at the ICR Conference in Orlando, Florida. About 30% of Fridays’ $2.1 billion in systemwide sales come from its bar. But like many in the casual dining industry, the chain has seen fewer customers frequent its restaurants and buy its food and drinks. Instead, many consumers are opting to order food delivery or dine at fast-casual chains that offer more convenient options. In the 12 months through November, company-owned Fridays locations in the U.S. saw same-store sales shrink 6.7%, while domestic franchised locations’ same-store sales declined 8.1%. In November, the chain announced a merger with Allegro Merger, a special purpose acquisition company with ties to investment firm Crescendo Partners. Special purpose acquisition companies have no assets but use the proceeds from an IPO, combined with bank financing, to buy and take privately held companies public. Besides bringing the chain back to its roots, revamping its bar business also means sales with higher profit margins. Among the planned changes is an effort to better meet customer requests. As an example, Blanchette cited a company policy that did not allow serving a beer and a shot at the same time, even though the combo is popular with the happy hour customers. T.G.I. Fridays has also partnered with actor Ryan Reynolds’ gin company, Aviation Gin. But Blanchette said the changes will go further than just reshaping its drink menu. The company is also looking to improve its restaurants’ music and lighting and use seating that encourages customers to socialize with each other. As the chain plots a turnaround, Fridays has rehired senior alumni. Blanchette, who spent the first 18 years of his career at Fridays, has experience leading comebacks at Au Bon Pain and Ruby Tuesday. After 12 years away, he returned to T.G.I. Fridays in late 2018. “When I returned, the thing that was most striking to me was that we were sort of out of the bar business,” he said. – Source: CNBC.

CPG Companies Capitalize on Brand Recognition with Collaborations

The presence of co-branded food product offerings exploded in 2019 across a wide variety of categories. These items from legacy food brands allow companies to enter new food and beverage categories without the need to establish an entirely new brand or product. The 2019 National Association of Convenience Stores Show previewed upcoming consumer packaged goods releases, several of which included new collaboration products from food companies. Notable launches last year included a Coca-Cola flavor of Tic Tacs, Snack Pack Fanta Gels, in three of the soda’s flavors, Starburst-flavored Yoplait yogurt and a huge selection of brand mashup cereals: Post debuted a Twinkies cereal in collaboration with Hostess, General Mills, launched branded cereals with several candies including Hershey Kisses and Jolly Rancher and Peeps partnered with Kellog to release its cereal version.

Brand recognition: Win-win for all: “In developing a cereal version of the iconic Twinkies, our top priority was focused on delivering the great Twinkies flavor in each bite,” Josh Jans, brand manager of cereal partnerships at Post Consumer Brands, said to Food Business News. The goal of this cereal — and of all brand collaboration food products — is to deliver the taste that consumers are already familiar with, but in the form of a different familiar product. That brand recognition of both taste and product is exactly what appeals to food companies when creating mashup offerings. That brand recognition can also translate into customer loyalty; Consumers who already enjoy Twinkies or Post cereal will likely be more inclined to purchase these collaborations, regardless of the brand’s entrance into a new category.

Beyond the grocery aisle: Food brand mashups aren’t only hitting the grocery aisle — it’s flowing into foodservice as well. Kellogg’s Cheez-It brand partnered with restaurant chain Pizza Hut to create the Stuffed Cheez-It Pizza, a calzone-like menu item featuring a crust made with sharp cheddar Cheez-Its. Chief Brand Officer at Pizza Hut Narianne Radley Cited the item as a great grab-and-go option, especially since restaurants have been seeking ways to increase sales of snacks. The Cheez-It and Pizza Hut hybrid isn’t the only co-branded fast-casual menu item of note: the original viral instance of this product type was Taco Bell’s Doritos: Locos Taco. When the taco was introduced in 2012, the chain reportedly sold over a billion units. “The idea sounds really simple, but it has to deliver on two fronts: the classic Taco Bell taste and the distinctive Doritos experience,” Taco Bell Product Developer Steven Gomez told Business Insider, emphasizing the mashup menu item’s familiarity being incorporated into another product. Consumers want to recognize the flavor and crunch of the Doritos but still have a function Taco Bell taco. CPG brands even branched into co-branded products outside of food categories in 2019. Ice cream producer Halo Top collaborated with ColourPop Cosmetics this summer to create a makeup collection. AriZona Iced Tea partnered with athletic brand Adidas to create branded sneakers while Cheetos and retailer Forever 21 released a line of snack-inspired clothing. “Flaming Hot Cheetos fans are so fanatical, and over the past couple of years, we have seen their love for this food illustrated all over pop culture, and in particular, via social media,” Forever 21’s Vice President of Merchandising Linda Chang said in a statement. The non-food product debuts serve a different purpose from the CPG items you find at a grocery or restaurant; rather than permanently entering a new category — many of the co-branded products are limited-edition — these makeup or clothing offerings often serve a marketing function as well as a new source of revenue. Brand mashups proved plentiful l in 2019 with CPG companies — as well as restaurants and other non-food brands — harnessing the brand recognition of one another to enter new categories with a built-in customer base. – Source: Smart Brief.

Jack and the Box Promotes a Trio of New Executives

Jack in the Box on announced the promotion of a trio of executives to C-level positions. Adrienne Ingoldt, currently vice president of marketing communications, has been named chief brand and experience officer. Ingoldt has led the marketing communications team and has been with the San Diego-based chain for the past four years. Jennifer Kennedy was named chief product and innovation officer. The 10-year company veteran had previously led the product marketing team, overseeing product development, product marketing and innovation. Sarah Super, currently the company’s general counsel, was named chief risk officer. Super has been with Jack in the Box for the past six years leading the company’s legal team. “We recognized Adrienne, Jen and Sarah’s substantial contributions over the past few years, and their positive impact on the business as a whole,” CEO Lenny Comma said in a statement. “These executives have brought great value to our company and in their new roles will continue to serve the needs of all our stakeholders.” The trio of promotions comes amid uncertainty at the top of Jack in the Box. Comma last year announced plans to step down as CEO. And the company has made a number of changes to its executive team amid cost cuts at the franchisor. The changes included the departure of its chief legal officer and chief of staff. – Source: Restaurant Business.

Fiesta Restaurant Group is Closing 19 Taco Cabana Units

Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc. is closing 19 Taco Cabana restaurants immediately, the company said. Dallas-based Fiesta, which also owns the fast-casual Pollo Tropical brand, said all the closures were of stores that had posted significant losses. As of Sept. 29, Fiesta had 173 Taco Cabana units, with 165 company-owned and eight franchised. The closures represent more than 10% of the brand’s base. Richard Stockinger, Fiesta’s president and CEO, said the company in the fourth quarter began implement a margin-improvement plan that it expected to increase restaurant level earnings before insurance, taxes, depreciation and amortization by 200 to 300 basis points in 2020 over 2019. “The margin-improvement plan includes efficiency initiatives in operations across food and operating expense categories and the closure of 19 underperforming restaurants in Texas,” Stockinger said in a statement. “These closures eliminate all stores with significant losses, which we expect will result in a highly viable portfolio of restaurants.” Nearly all employees impacted by the closures will be offered positions at other Taco Cabana locations, the company said. “We continue to make progress on sales-building initiatives across both Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana in off-premise sales, including catering, online and delivery,” Stockinger said. “In addition, as our new senior management team enters their first full year together, we are optimistic about improving comparable restaurant sales at both brands in 2020.” The 19 Taco Cabana restaurants to be closed contributed about $24.5 million in restaurant sales and an estimated $4.2 million in restaurant level pre-tax operating losses, including $2 million in depreciation expense, for the 12 months ended Dec. 29, the company said. Related to the 19 closures, Fiesta expects impairment charges of about $7 million to $8 million and estimated lease right-of-use asset impairment charges of about $1 million to $3 million in the fourth quarter 2019. Other costs will include equipment removal and removal of signage. As of Sept. 29, Fiesta owned and operated 141 Pollo Tropical restaurants and 165 Taco Cabana units. All of the Pollo Tropical restaurants were in Florida and all of the Taco Cabana restaurants were in Texas. At Sept. 29, 2019, Fiesta franchised 31 Pollo Tropical restaurants and eight Taco Cabana units. Correction Jan. 13, 2020: This story has been edited to correct one brand reference to Taco Cabana. – Source: NRN.

Pizza Chain Once Owned by McDonald’s Plans Return to Metro Orlando

Columbus, Ohio-based Donatos Pizza signed a franchise agreement with Jacksonville-based Quick Family & Associates Holding Co. Inc. to develop five restaurants in metro Orlando, bringing roughly 150 jobs to the market. No leases have been signed, but the group has identified possible markets as Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Oviedo and Winter Park, said a news release. The franchise group expects to sign its first lease sometime in this year’s first quarter with an opening set for summer/fall, a company spokesman told Orlando Business Journal. Family-owned Donatos — which had a short stint of being owned by McDonald’s Corp. being sold back to its founders in 2003 — had seven Central Florida locations before pulling out of the Orlando market in 2008, as OBJ previously reported. The chain now has 161 locations in 10 states and is known for its thin-crust pizzas in four sizes with smoked provolone and edge-to-edge toppings. The chain’s best-known pizza is a large topped with 100 pieces of pepperoni. It offers more than 10 signature pizzas or customizable pies with a choice of 26 toppings, as well as gluten-free pizzas, salads, oven-baked subs or chicken wings. Meanwhile, the deal with Quick Family & Associates was one of three franchise agreements for the development of a total of 13 Sunshine State restaurants, including three in Jacksonville and five in Manatee and Sarasota counties. The restaurants average about 2,200 square feet with 20-25 seats. Along with a $30,000 franchise fee, the initial investment to own and operate a Donatos restaurant ranges from $360,360 to $697,400. The brand continues to draw franchise interest due, in part, to its brand refresh and new restaurant design, said Jeff Baldwin, the chain’s vice president of development and franchising. The average annual sales volume per store nationwide exceeds $1 million. “This surge in franchise development is a reflection of the brand’s aggressive growth strategy and is fueled by the ongoing success Donatos has experienced over the past several years. … With these three groups, we have the opportunity to bring Donatos to previously untouched markets in Florida.” New restaurants bring more employment opportunities to the region, including hospitality jobs, as well as temporary construction jobs for new buildings or interior buildout. They also help landlords lease up shopping centers and provide an amenity for existing residents and workers in the area, helping make developing areas more desirable. Plus, Orlando ranked No. 17 in the nation among the best cities to start a restaurant by Bid-On-Equipment based on factors including annual restaurant sales per capita (metro Orlando reported $4,056), restaurants per capita (324 in Orlando), number of restaurant industry workers per capita (6,969 locally) and the metro area’s median income ($64,174). – Source: Orlando’s Business Journal.

Paris Baguette USA Promotes Darren Tipton to CEO of Bakery-Café Chain

Paris Baguette USA Inc. has promoted Darren Tipton to CEO of American operations, replacing former CEO Jack Moran, who has been promoted to global CEO, effective Jan. 1, the bakery-café concept said. In his new position, Tipton, below, who was previously chief operating officer, is responsible for operations as well as overseeing franchise sales and development, real estate, café design and construction, and more.  Moran is now responsible for global business development. He has been with Paris Baguette since July of 2018, and has been in the restaurant industry for more than 25 years, with previous positions including CEO of Le Pain Quotidien and director of operations at Au Bon Pain Tipton joined Paris Baguette in October of 2018 as vice president of operations. Previously he was vice president of operations at Le Pain Quotidien. “It is a privilege to succeed Jack Moran as U.S. CEO and I am thrilled to be working alongside him during such an exciting growth period for Paris Baguette,” Tipton said in a statement.  “With the new year upon us, we are eager to continue Paris Baguette’s growing momentum and remain dynamic in enhancing our brand values while becoming one of the county’s most reputable and renowned bakery café businesses.” “It is an absolute honor to be promoted to Global CEO of Paris Baguette and to contribute to the company’s accelerated growth, expansion, and strategy across the globe,” Moran, left, said in a statement. “As we head into 2020, I look forward to another transformative year and continuing our ultimate mission of becoming the largest and most renowned bakery café business in the world.” There are more than 3,500 Paris Baguette locations worldwide, around 80 of which are in the United States. The chain was founded in South Korea and is owned by Paris Croissant, a division of SPC Group based in Seoul, South Korea. – Source: NRN.

McDonald’s Creates Digital Customer Engagement Team as Part of its Tech Push

McDonald’s is creating a team focused on digital customer engagement as the restaurant industry continues to look to technology as a key way to boost sales. The new team is part of the fast-food giant’s strategy to use technology to reach customers and drive sales growth. McDonald’s has been installing digital self-order kiosks in its restaurants, expanding food delivery and making tech-focused investments as part of that push. Last year, McDonald’s formed McD Tech Labs, a Silicon Valley-based group that includes tech experts like engineers and data scientists. McDonald’s digital customer engagement team’s responsibilities will include digital ordering, personalization, payments, loyalty and delivery, according to messages obtained by CNBC. The team will meet with a new advisory council comprised of top executives every quarter to review its progress. “Digital is transforming global retail, and it will transform McDonald’s,” CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a message obtained by CNBC. “At the same time, I’ve heard your feedback that we still have more work to do to fulfill our digital potential.”

Across the restaurant industry, digital orders have grown by 23% over the last four years to reach $26.8 billion in sales, according to The NPD Group. Lucy Brady, formerly senior vice president of corporate strategy and business development, will lead the new team in the newly created role of chief digital customer engagement officer. Before joining McDonald’s in 2016, Brady worked at the Boston Consulting Group for 19 years. McDonald’s marketing technology and global delivery teams will be joining the digital customer engagement team and reporting to Brady. In her prior role, Brady helped expand McDonald’s food delivery to a business worth more than $4 billion in three years. Her team also led last year’s acquisition of Dynamic Yield, which uses artificial intelligence to personalize the drive-thru experience. At the end of its third quarter, the technology was deployed across 9,500 U.S. drive-thrus, and on target for a full national rollout by the end of the year. Kempczinski said that the Dynamic Yield investment is “tangibly driving check growth.” McDonald’s is not the only restaurant chain focusing on digital growth. Chipotle Mexican Grill, for example, announced in December that it testing restaurant designs that can better accommodate its exploding digital sales. In its third quarter, digital sales accounted for nearly a fifth of Chipotle’s total revenue. McDonald’s stock, which has a market value of more than $158 billion, is up 14% in the last year. Shares of Chipotle, which is valued at $23.8 billion, have risen 70% in the same time period. – Source: CNBC.

Sysco CEO Tom Bené to Step Down; will be Replaced by Former CVS exec Kevin Hourican

Food distribution company Sysco Corp. announced that CEO Tom Bené will be stepping down after two years years as president and CEO. Bené will be replaced by former executive vice president of CVS Health/president of CVS Pharmacy Kevin Hourican starting February 1. The board has also elected independent director Ed Shirley as executive chair to replace Bené, and Brad Halverson has been elected as the new lead independent director. Despite “steady improvements” Sysco cited the need to “accelerate performance, fully capitalize on scale advantages and drive meaningful operating improvements” in response to the end of Bené’s short tenure as CEO, stating that the company hoped to tap into Hourican’s expertise in “sales, supply chain, logistics, operations and digital technologies.” “I have been honored to lead Sysco over the last few years and I am incredibly proud of all that our team has accomplished. Sysco’s leading market position in the foodservice industry, our unique capabilities and talented associates have positioned us well for the future,” Bené said in a statement. As executive vice president of CVS Health and president of CVS Pharmacy, Hourican oversaw CVS’ retail business, and was in charge of merchandising, marketing, supply chain, and pharmacy operations and product innovation. Prior to his roles at CVS, Hourican was a senior vice president at Macy’s and a regional director of stores at Sears. “I am thrilled to join the Sysco team. Sysco has an exceptional business model and significant headroom for profitable growth,” Hourican said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Ed, the board and the talented global team to continue the company’s success and identify new opportunities to enhance our market leadership and long-term growth prospects.” – Source: SYSCO

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