Game & Go is operated by Zippin and lets guests grab food and beverages within the Dave & Buster’s full-service restaurant without needing to check out . . . .
Dave & Buster’s Opens Coca-Cola Market with Automated Checkout
Dave & Buster’s Entertainment Inc. announced that the company is testing checkout-free convenience store technology at its Hollywood, Fla. Location. The Game & Go micro-market has opened in partnership with Zippin, which is providing the checkout-free technology, and Coca-Cola, which is providing the beverages.
“Innovation is critical in the entertainment business and our new Game & Go MicroMarket is truly state of the art,” Brandon Coleman III, senior vice president and CMO of Dave & Buster’s said in a statement. “Our F&B team partnered closely with Coca-Cola to bring this exciting new technology to life and I think the guest is really going to enjoy the new food and drinks, as well as frictionless payment.”
Zippin is part of a growing trend of technologies that cut down on labor needs in the industry. The technology works much like a walk-through vending machine, where customers can put their credit cards through EMV technology. Then the sensors assign identification to the customer’s head and hands and can identify when a customer picks up a Coca-Cola bottle and bag of chips, or when they put it back down. The customer is only charged when they walk out of the store similar to Starbucks’ recently opened Amazon Go cashier-free Pickup store in New York City, where customers can pick out food and beverages and similar just walk out because the technology is tied to either their credit card or Amazon account.
The Game & Go store is located in the Midway section of the Dave & Buster’s near all of the games and offers pre-packaged snacks, beverages, some over-the-counter pain medication, and even canned beer and wine (though they will have to show ID to an employee to be able to purchase the latter).
“It’s designed for guests that are coming in to play and don’t really want to sit and eat and spend the time at a table to eat,” Tim Murphy, director of operations at Dave & Buster’s told Nation’s Restaurant News. “They want to grab a Coke and a snack and go back to playing. The experience inside the c-store is really fast, like 60 seconds.”
Since recovering from the COVID-19-related shutdowns, Dave & Buster’s has leaned into digital technology offerings like the brand’s mobile app which launched in 2021 and allows customers to pay, earn points, and activate games with their phone. Eventually, the convenience store’s automated checkout technology will be accessible via the Dave & Buster’s app
“We’re always on the cutting edge of technology,” Murphy said. “I think anything that can enhance the guest experience and make it faster and quicker and offering some new products, that’s what makes it important for Dave & Buster’s.”
If all goes well during this six-month test of the checkout-free convenience store, Dave & Buster’s will be expanding the Game & Go micro-market to other locations. – Source: NRN.
A category surging in usage needs new tools and best practices as well . . . .
7 Ways to Improve Your Customers’ Takeout Experience
Restaurant takeout has been around for decades, but it has recently surged in popularity thanks to food delivery apps like DoorDash and the sudden outbreak of COVID-19. More people are ordering meals to go, and restaurants must provide a better takeout experience to maximize their profits and maintain a solid reputation. Here are seven ways to improve the customer takeout experience.
- Ensure Order Accuracy
Order accuracy is crucial for all aspects of any restaurant, but it’s especially important for takeout because they only have one chance to get the order right. They can’t correct a mistake unless the customer notices a problem with the food before leaving. People will likely never order from a restaurant again if the staff gets it wrong.
Advanced point-of-sale software and effective staff training are the two most straightforward ways to minimize mistakes. Restaurants should get their employees into the habit of double-checking orders before they leave the restaurant. Make sure the main course, sides, condiments, and utensils are present.
Order mistakes aren’t always the staff’s fault. A customer might forget to make a specific request or have a sudden change of heart after seeing the meal in person. Adding food photographs to menus and social media accounts will allow people to see what they’re getting and order items more to their liking.
- Offer Online Ordering
Online ordering is a must-have for restaurants. Nearly 80 percent of customers order takeout or delivery online at least once a week, overtaking dine-in as the most popular method for eating out. However, since every eatery has an online ordering system, restaurants need to go the extra mile to make their service stand out.
A great way to impress customers is to offer modification options for restaurant takeout orders, such as no condiments or extra toppings, so they can get exactly what they want. Special dish modifications might take more time in the kitchen, but meeting the patron’s needs is a higher priority.
Restaurants might also offer a loyalty program to encourage customers to make bigger online orders. Surveys have shown that people spend more on off-premises orders, so providing extra perks and rewards for takeout could lead to a major revenue increase.
- Use a QR Code Menu
Many restaurants have started using QR code menus to allow customers to make contactless orders, enhancing convenience and safety to create an overall better takeout experience. They also automate certain staff responsibilities, as fewer employees must hand out and collect traditional menus. Of course, the staff should still be around to answer questions, but the QR code menu makes their jobs much easier.
The in-person QR menus should be visible immediately upon entering the restaurant. The staff should put them on doors, windows, tables, flyers and anywhere else their customers will see them. They can start browsing the menu items and make orders without delay, speeding up the turnaround time for each patron.
The online QR menus should be front and center on the restaurant’s website, social media accounts, and app. They promote app downloads, help build brand awareness, and allows managers to collect and study customer data.
- Switch to Better Packaging
Cheap cardboard or styrofoam takeout containers are holding back many restaurants’ takeout experiences. If they want customers to have a better takeout experience, they need a better container with more customer-friendly qualities. First of all, it should be microwavable and dense enough to contain the food’s heat. Many containers have clear reheating instructions so customers do it right and can’t blame the restaurant for any mishaps.
More importantly, the packaging must be safely disposable to meet green customer priorities that have emerged in younger generations. All eating establishments should switch to sustainable containers made from recycled plastic or biodegradable materials to minimize waste and show customers they share their aspirations for a more eco-friendly future.
- Meet Customers at Their Cars
Most restaurant takeout services require customers to enter the building and pick up their food, but employees can cut this step from the equation by meeting them at their vehicles. They can create a check-in tool on their app and online ordering platforms so they can notify the staff upon arrival. They can wait in their cars while a waiter carries out the food straight to them.
This idea could lead to a much better takeout experience if the waiting staff takes sufficient safety precautions and manages the parking lot correctly. Employees should wear bright colors and reserve a handful of spaces for takeout orders with clear signage so dine-in customers don’t take them.
- Build a Separate Takeout Entrance
A separate entrance for takeout orders could be worth the investment as digital ordering services continue to become more profitable. Employees won’t have to use the main doors and disrupt the flow of dine-in traffic, and takeout customers who want to grab their food inside can skip the wait lines.
The extra entrance can become a unique part of a restaurant’s brand identity if successful. People will come to know the restaurant as a place with takeout-only sections, putting its service into the spotlight and attracting new customers.
- Remember Customer Service Basics
The takeout experience might be quicker and less personal than dining in, but that doesn’t mean restaurants get to slack on customer service. Every interaction with them requires a high level of care and courtesy, no matter how short it might be.
If anything, customer service for takeout needs to be more thoughtful. The staff only has a few minutes to make a strong impression, so one misstep could sour the entire experience. With dine-in customers, employees have a larger window of opportunity to make up for their service mistakes and reel people back in. Takeout doesn’t give them that opportunity.
Even if a takeout customer is antisocial and wants to leave as soon as possible, restaurants should still treat them as they would a dine-in regular. Greet them with a smile, stay positive and thank them for their business. They might not reciprocate the enthusiasm, but they will remember the pleasant workers and take their service into account next time they choose where to eat.
Create a Better Takeout Experience
Takeout services are more relevant than ever, so it’s critical that restaurants keep up with the times and provides a well-rounded experience. Apply these seven tips to get the most out of each transaction. Provide advanced tools to the staff and customers, handle the food carefully and practice considerate service above all else. – Source: FSR.
The interim CEO outlined five “bold moves” that will outline the brand’s reinvention, though he provided few details, saying they will come in the next few weeks . . . .
Howard Schultz Gives Some Hints About Starbucks’ Future
Starbucks’ Interim CEO Howard Schultz on Monday hinted at potentially significant changes as part of a strategy to “reinvent” the coffee giant, declaring that “this is the next chapter of Starbucks” while listing several “bold ideas” that will guide the chain’s future going forward.
But he was scant on the details, simply promising that they will be revealed in the next several weeks.
“Today, we find ourselves in a position where we must modernize and transform the Starbucks experience in our stores and recreate an environment that is relevant, welcoming, and safe, and where we uplift one another with dignity, respect, and kindness,” Schultz said in a letter on Monday. “We need to reinvent Starbucks for the future.”
Schultz was announced as the replacement for Kevin Johnson in March and took over the next month. He is coming at a time that the company itself appears to be doing fine—during the company’s most recent earnings call he said that Starbucks had plenty of “demand” from customers, but that it couldn’t serve them well because of changes in how consumers order.
In the process, he promised to make changes in operations during what is expected to be a limited run in his third go-round as CEO. Starbucks expects to name a permanent replacement by the fall, who will take over the position by early next year. Schultz will then go back to the company’s board.
In his letter, Schultz said that teams “are already hard at work to build this next Starbucks.” The “reinvention,” he said, would feature “five bold moves:”
“Re-envision how we bring our mission to life.”
“Renew the well-being of retail partners by radically improving their experience.”
“Reimagine our store experience for greater connection, ease, and a planet-positive impact.”
“Reconnect with our customers by delivering memorable and personalized moments.”
“Redesign partnership by creating new ways to thrive together.”
The “bold moves” suggest the company plans to make major changes in the employee experience. That is coming at a time when a growing number of the chain’s restaurants are approving votes to unionize.
Schultz listed four “principles for a new partnership” that are focused on improving working conditions. That includes focusing more on “safety, welcoming and kindness” in stores, more advancement opportunities for workers, working to make a difference in local communities, and “shared power, shared accountability, shared success.”
“We aim to be a wholly new kind of company in our industry, setting a new standard,” Schultz wrote.
Some of the other ideas hint at potentially major changes inside the company’s stores while ensuring customers have the personalization they’ve been increasingly demanding from Starbucks lately.
Exactly what the company is planning remains to be seen. But Schultz said that the specific programs will be unveiled “in the weeks ahead.”
“The additional work required will take shape over time and continue to be created together, across our stores, our roasting plants, and the Starbucks support center,” Schultz wrote. – Source: Restaurant Business.
First Lone Star State restaurant, scheduled for Q4, will cover 7,900 square feet and feature two patios . . . .
Portillo’s Beef Bus Whets Appetites Ahead of Texas Opening
Portillo’s Inc. will be entering the Texas market in the fourth quarter, but as it breaks ground on its first unit in the state it is building brand awareness and whetting the appetites of future customers with its Beef Bus.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based Portillo’s, which has 71 units and went public last year, uses the Beef Bus, which has its own @BeefBusOfficial Twitter and Instagram handles, to introduce the Chicago-based menu to locals.
Derrick Pratt, Portillo’s chief operating officer, said, “We’ve learned that over time the best way to introduce Portillo’s to fans again — and to people who will soon be fans — is to get our food in their mouths.
The Beef Bus, which was introduced in the Chicago area in 2019, made it to New York for sampling when the company made its initial public offering and has been to the Florida and Arizona markets.
“This week we’re heading all over the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex,” Pratt said, with various stops scheduled from June 11 through June 23.
The Beef Bus offers a limited selection from Portillo’s menu, including the Chicago-style hot dog, the Italian Beef Sandwich, and Polish sausages.
He noted that Texas is the largest market for shipping Portillo’s products from its website. “Texans love Portillo’s,” he added.
The Beef Bus’ debut in the market Monday was in the Grandscape development in The Colony, Texas, about 15 miles north of downtown Dallas, where it plans to open its first store in the state. Portillo’s is under construction about a half block from the Beef Bus site.
The new restaurant will incorporate elements of the surrounding community as part of its décor, including a vintage Toyota vehicle a nod to the nearby North American headquarters of automaker Toyota.
The 7,900-square-foot restaurant will seat more than 180 indoors and provide exterior seating for more than 80 additional guests on two air-
Portillo’s has restaurants in nine states. – Source: NRN.
One location is serving as a blueprint for the chain’s new direction, adding global flavors, new equipment, and an updated prototype . . . .
Quiznos Upgrades its Menu and Store Design to Keep up with the Competitive Sandwich Market
It must be a prime season for sub chains to upgrade their menus, as tiny Quiznos just joined giant Subway in a rollout of new items.
Earlier this month, the newest of Quiznos 255 U.S. locations, a unit in Hobbs, N.M., launched an expanded menu with globally inspired flavors. The restaurant also updated its equipment, adding flat top grills and deep fryers to prep the new items, as well as a patio and drive-thru.
Among the new sandwiches is the Asian Steak Dipper, made with grilled steak, pickled vegetables, fresh cilantro, basil, and pho dipping sauce—a nod to Vietnamese cuisine. The Steakhouse Philly features the same grilled steak, this time paired with cheddar cheese, provolone, grilled mushrooms, and onions, much like Philadelphia’s iconic cheesesteak.
The Carne Supreme is an overstuffed Italian sub sandwich filled with meatballs, pepperoni, salami, capicola (also introduced by Subway), ham, provolone, and marinara.
Unlike the 21,000-unit behemoth in the sector, Quiznos is getting into breakfast. Steak and Eggs, made with fried eggs, grilled steak, white American cheese, grilled onions and peppers, and cherry peppers, is billed as an “all-day breakfast” option.
While most of the new items are meat-centric, Quiznos jumped on the plant-based meat bandwagon and is now grilling Beyond Italian sausage, pairing it with provolone, grilled peppers and onions, and marinara in a vegetarian sub. Two new salads also joined the menu—the Cobb, made with grilled chicken and avocado ranch dressing, and Steak Frites, a toss of steak, fries, bacon, tomatoes, and egg.
Top-selling subs Chicken Carbonara, Mesquite Chicken, and original Italian are still on the menu, but the ingredients have been upgraded.
“We are always looking for ways to improve the dining experience for our guests and are delighted to roll out these latest updates that take that experience to the next level,” Quiznos franchisee Dominik Mendoza, owner of CF Lifestyle Investments, said in a statement. “Initial feedback on the new items underscores peoples’ appetite for creative twists on familiar classics.”
Denver-based Quiznos built its reputation on being the first to grill its sandwiches 40 years ago but has since lost its way as brands like Jersey Mike’s, Firehouse Subs, and Jimmy John’s gained market share.
The sandwich chain boasted close to 5,000 locations in 2006, but currently operates only 200 in the U.S. and about 300 internationally. Quizno’s unit count declined 94% in 15 years, and the chain fell to No. 335 in Technomic’s 2022 Top 500 Chain Restaurant Chains report.
“We’re bringing in great new flavors and formats for our guests with the launch of these delicious new subs and vegetarian options, as well as the upgraded fan favorites,” Mark Lohmann, president of Quiznos’ owner REGO Restaurant Group, said in a statement. “We continue to seek out more exciting flavors to add to our restaurants and provide a unique, new experience.” – Source: Restaurant Business.
1,000+ Items Listed on Leading Foodservice Design Platform . . . .
Power Soak Completes Unified Brands Family on KCL
Orlando, FL – KCL, the industry leader in foodservice design technologies, announces that Unified Brands has expanded its line on KCL to include Power Soak ware-washing systems. Power Soak joins Avtec, CapKold, Groen, and Randell to complete the Unified Brands family. The expanded library of CAD blocks, Revit families, and spec sheets is live on all KCL platforms- desktop, web, and the free app, KCL Mobile.
Unified Brands now lists more than 1,000 items from their extensive portfolio of premium-branded product lines. Offering everything from cook-chill production to meal delivery and continuous motion ware washers, Unified Brands serves the needs of commercial foodservice operators in restaurants, hotels, hospitals, colleges and universities, prisons, and schools.
Founded in 1907, Unified Brands products are proudly made in the USA. With current headquarters in Vicksburg, Mississippi, they also have a manufacturing plant in Michigan.
”With Power Soak on board, we make it easy to spec the full Unified Brands line,” said KCL president and co-founder, Kevin Kochman. ”It’s a testament to the value of KCL when a manufacturer includes their full family of products.”
After early successes, the subscription is sold out in nearly all locations . . . .
Rib & Chop House’s Loyalty Membership Turns Guests into Brand Evangelists
Success in the restaurant world, as with any industry, requires a depth of knowledge across a breadth of spheres and specialties. I’ve always envisioned the complexities of the restaurant business model as a three-dimensional Venn diagram encompassing the economics of food, real estate, and hospitality, with overlapping affinities of cooking, culture, and consumer. A jumbo-sized assortment of moving parts.
Having worked in the hospitality space for 25-plus years, I’m wary of the proverbial “quick fix.” Incremental changes that can yield big results are out there, and they almost always originate from a customer’s insight or attitude. It’s that insight that is powering the positive results we’ve enjoyed with our recently launched “Royalty Program,” which is our elevated version of the traditional loyalty program.
To set the table here:
Like many restaurants in the summer of 2021, Rib & Chop house experienced a post-COVID dine-in boom. To say folks were merely ready to go out would be an understatement. It was a need: to be waited on, to sit with other customers, even to be taken to a table was a big deal.
It’s one thing to look at all the data points that tell this story, but quite another to watch customers file into our restaurants with a mixture of joy, and even relief, on their faces. The data wouldn’t tell you how crucial the atmosphere of dining at a real restaurant—you know, with real forks and real steak knives—was for people.
It was around this time that we started hearing, anecdotally from our employees, about how guests would come up to the host or hostess and try to hand them some money in order to get a table or get bumped up the waitlist. And it wasn’t just an outlying occurrence here and there. It became semi-regular.
Our guests were demonstrating a clear need and it didn’t take an MBA to recognize the opportunity that was presenting itself to us. The question was how to respond to it in a way that remained true to our brand promise of “Rocky Mountain Hospitality.” Rib & Chop House prides itself on its inclusivity, being a place where everyone is welcome. Rolling out a program that would provide preferential treatment among guests was a risk. At best, we were making educated guesses at what the best path forward would be.
It’s also important to note that we already had a rewards program, Rib & Chop House’s Member Rewards, which allows customers to earn 5 percent back on all purchases and $10 back for every $200 spent. It didn’t make sense to amend or extend how that program operated in order to service these guests. What we guessed at the time, and came to confirm once the program got going, was that the guest looking to skip the line would fit an already existing segmentation within our customer profile: the high-end user.
This called for something entirely new, and long story short, after a few brainstorms with the marketing team, we landed on the idea of a loyalty program the value of which would far exceed its cost. Recognizing that it needed to signal an elevated steakhouse experience, we called it the Royalty Card. But we also found the term “loyalty program” to be diluted. If everyone in the world can access it, there’s nothing to it; it’s simply a marketing tool where you accrue points to redeem for a discount or free item.
We wanted to really keep ours special and stand out in a sea of loyalty and sameness. That’s why we have to cap the number sold. Not every marketing/loyalty vehicle is meant to have unlimited growth. When you have something wonderful, take it for what it is, don’t try to expand to the point it becomes diluted. If it lost exclusivity, it would lose the soul. Capping the number of memberships also maintained the inclusive spirit of the restaurant.
We carefully considered the benefits. For $50 a month, members would receive:
$600 in gift cards annually—which is the cost of the card itself
A complimentary set of branded steak knives
10 percent off every check, including alcohol
We tested at two locations and experienced early success—with the only major kink being how the restaurant-level team messaged the priority seating to non-Royalty customers.
We are “sold out” of royalty memberships at nearly all locations. Note that Royalty member reservations do not affect the wait times of non-members, because each store sets aside tables specifically for those users. To determine how many tables are necessary every night, we use a predictive model based on seating capacity, whether it is a weekend or weekday, what may be happening in town, and how many memberships have been sold. For example, if a store has 150 memberships and it’s Friday night, it may hold five or six tables. The system assumes some Royalty members are still making reservations as well.
The customer learnings have borne out the hunches we had made early on:
A typical check for a Royalty member is 14 percent higher than a non-royalty member. They get a 10 percent discount so the total check is higher, even with the discount.
The typical Royalty member is not a discount seeker; they’re experience seekers. They’re not looking to save 10 percent but looking to take that 10 percent to upgrade their glass of wine or order a dessert.
Tips are higher for servers, too.
The average guests may visit 1–3 times per month. Royalty members are visiting five times per month. Granted, because we’re in smaller cities, we’re often the best game in town. If we were in a major DMA it would be more challenging to get those visit numbers.
Less than 1 percent have canceled their membership. It’s universally loved. So how do we grow the Royalty Program if it’s sold out? Each time we build a new restaurant (we’re looking to build 3 in the next 18 months), it provides incremental revenue.
Perhaps most interesting of all is that the most loyal Royalty members have reservations. What the Royalty card enables is capturing is an incremental visit. EG, it’s 5 p.m. on a Thursday, the family has no plans for dinner. They decide to go to Rib & Chop House because they know the experience will be good, and there will be no wait. That’s key. It’s not about boiling the ocean with a loyalty program, it’s about making your existing top-tier guests brand evangelists.
Like many aspects of a restaurant, the Royalty Card is a work in progress. We’re considering more member-only events, like wine tastings, and even using them as a focus group, giving these guests the first taste of a new menu item. A special R&C cookbook as a gift is also in the works.
Of course, there are no formulas for success in the restaurant world. The Royalty Card program as we’ve developed it may suit a particularly Midwestern sensibility. What’s undeniable though is that insight is a key foundational element. If you’re looking for ways to grow your brand, listening to your guests is a good place to start. – Source: FSR.
Condado Tacos Opens Three Restaurants in Three Straight Weeks
Condado Tacos has opened three new restaurants in three consecutive weeks to reach 35 company-owned and operated locations in total, encompassing 13 markets and seven states. With four more new restaurant openings this year, all in the fourth quarter, and an estimated 12–15 to open in 2023, Condado Tacos continues to grow at a record pace.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our restaurant teams in opening three new restaurants in consecutive weeks and making it all appear so seamless,” says Chris Artinian, president, and CEO of Condado Tacos. “Condado has always encouraged our people to Come As You Are and to be yourself. It’s exciting to see this culture we’ve built now becoming the backbone of our company, especially with so much growth ahead of us.”
What sets Condado Tacos apart is its clean, craveable, GMO-free tacos, dips and margaritas, and specialty tequilas. In addition, original mural art is found in each Condado location, all hand painted by local artists with a specific theme that conveys the story of the area/region. BYO Tacos start at $3.95 with guest favorite suggested tacos being the Blue Dream and Lucy’s Fire, and there is a wide selection of seasonal and crafted margaritas as well as over 100 tequila options to choose from. – Source: FSR.
McDonald’s Corp. has announced two key changes within its international markets leadership structure . . . .
McDonald’s Makes Changes to International Leadership
Jill McDonald will be returning to McDonald’s as executive vice president and president, International Operated Markets (IOM), effective Sept. 5. In her new role, Ms. McDonald will oversee the restaurant chain’s five largest wholly-owned international markets and its IOM business unit, which consists of the company’s remaining wholly-owned international markets.
Ms. McDonald has been the chief executive officer of Costa Coffee since December 2019. Earlier, she was managing director of clothing and beauty at Marks & Spencer Group PLC and CEO of Halfords Group PLC. Ms. McDonald spent many years at McDonald’s, including time as chief marketing officer for the UK and Northern Europe, managing director of the UK, and president of Northern Europe.
She began her career as a marketing trainee at Colgate Palmolive and later joined British Airways.
McDonald’s also announced that Jo Sempels will continue to lead the company’s International Developmental Licensed Markets (IDLM) as senior vice president and president, IDLM. Mr. Sempels’ responsibilities now include McDonald’s large, fast-growing China business, which previously was overseen by Ian Borden, president of International.
Mr. Sempels has been with McDonald’s for 30 years, first joining the company in 1992 as a financial accountant for Belgium. During his tenure, he has held a variety of finance and management positions.
“I am extremely proud of our international team’s progress in driving our Accelerating the Arches strategy,” said Chris Kempczinski, chief executive officer of McDonald’s. “With Jill, Jo, and their leaders in respective segments, we are well positioned to continue building on our success. I look forward to even greater growth across these markets through an enhanced customer and crew experience, and improved connectivity and collaboration between our market and global teams.” — Source: FSR.
The food-and-games chain said it has four locations that are “big and unwieldy” and might make more sense as units of its recently acquired eatertainment brand . . . .
Dave and Buster’s Might Convert Some Units to Main Event
Throughout the course of Dave & Buster’s $835 million deal to acquire fellow food-and-games brand Main Event, the companies have touted the millions of dollars in “synergies” the pairing creates.
On Tuesday, Dave & Buster’s Chairman (and former interim CEO) Kevin Sheehan said some Dave & Buster’s centers could be converted into Main Event units. After such a conversion, Dave & Buster’s could potentially open some small- to medium-sized locations in the same market.
“We’ve got four locations that are Dave & Buster’s locations, as an example, that are big and unwieldy for Dave and Buster’s but they fit perfectly as Main Event locations,” Sheehan told analysts about two weeks after the acquisition’s completion. “So, that’s taking a brand and rejuvenating it with a new format, and then opening more Dave & Buster’s stores.”
Though they’re both eatertainment chains, Dave & Buster’s and Main Event have many differences.
At 55,000 square feet, the average Main Event is significantly larger than the typical 40,000-square-foot Dave & Buster’s. That’s because Main Event has large-format games like bowling, laser tag, and escape rooms.
Main Event’s prime demographic is families with young children, while Dave & Buster’s skews toward young adults out for a night of fun.
Dave & Buster’s, which has been in business for 40 years, currently has a much larger U.S. footprint, with 147 North American locations. Main Event, which first opened in 1998, has 50 locations in 17 states.
Also of note is the different speeds at which the two concepts have recovered from the pandemic.
In May, Main Event posted same-store sales growth of 26% over the same period in 2019, pre-COVID. That was down significantly from April’s 40% same-store sales growth.
Recovery, meanwhile, has been slower at Dave & Buster’s. The eatertainment chain’s same-store sales rose 10.9% during the first quarter compared to 2019.
Chris Morris, the new CEO of the combined company who was previously the head of Main Event, credited that chain’s swift recovery with being able to keep the majority of its workforce during the shutdown, rethinking its service model during the height of the pandemic and, simply, geographic good luck.
“The Main Event geographical footprint is heavily weighted in the southern U.S., which benefitted the brand from a more-robust recovery than in more COVID-restricted regions of the U.S.,” Morris said during the call.
The company said it intends to open a total of six new units by the end of the fiscal year, four Dave & Buster’s locations, and two Main Events. – Source: Restaurant Business.
Burger brand awards $220K to change agents’ community projects during Essence Festival event . . . .
McDonald’s Surprises ‘Future 22’ Leaders with Grants
McDonald’s USA LCC, through its Black & Positively Golden movement, surprised its Future 22 leaders with $10,000 each, totaling $220,000, during an event in their honor at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, La.
The Chicago-based company launched the Future 22 program earlier this year
“It’s a platform that McDonald’s wanted to tap into in terms of where we could give voices to some of the next generation and future leaders in America,” said Elizabeth Campbell, the brand’s senior director of cultural engagement, in an interview earlier this year.
The program features non-celebrity individuals who are making an impact on their communities in a variety of ways, she said.
“We wanted to partner with people who are making a difference in their community and put a spotlight on them and shine through the work that they are doing so that people would know about them,” Campbell said. “That way it would help amplify the work that they are doing in the communities in which they come from.”
The Essence Festival event, presented by Coca-Cola, included Keke Palmer, the actress, singer, and entertainer who serves as the Future 22 spokesperson.
Since February, McDonald’s has told the Future 22 leaders’ stories through an integrated marketing campaign that includes videos on Instagram at @wearegolden and McDonald’s YouTube channel, as well as TV and radio spots voiced over by Palmer.
During the celebratory event held at Essence Fest, Palmer, and Marissa Fisher, a second-generation McDonald’s owner-operator in New Orleans, participated in a fireside chat moderated by Campbell.
“This year’s Essence Fest theme was ‘Black Joy,’ and we couldn’t wait to celebrate all 22 leaders and bring them to New Orleans, in honor of their accomplishments,” Campbell in a statement. “We certainly could’ve surprised them virtually, but making them a part of our Essence Fest moment meant unlocking the additional community of supporters who are McDonald’s owner/operators and the Essence Fest family, to further celebrate them and demonstrate our belief in their work.”
McDonald’s has sponsored the Essence Festival for more than 20 years.
McDonald’s also reaffirmed its commitment to supporting Black media and communities of color by convening some of the leading voices in marketing, media, business, and technology for panels that offered tips and resources.
McDonald’s USA LLC owns and franchises about 13,500 restaurants in the United States. – Source: NRN.
The coffee giant also listed several efforts to improve safety inside its stores, including training and closing more stores if necessary . . . .
Starbucks Closes Some Restaurants Citing Safety Concerns
Starbucks said this week that it is permanently closing 16 locations in various markets over safety concerns and is instituting new strategies to ensure the well-being of employees inside its cafes.
The coffee giant said it would close locations in the Seattle area, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Portland, Ore. The locations are set to shut down on July 31 and workers will be transferred to other cafes.
“You’re also seeing first-hand the challenges facing our communities—personal safety, racism, lack of access to healthcare, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use, and more,” two Starbucks senior vice presidents of operations, Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, wrote in a letter to employees on Monday. “With stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores, too.
“We read every incident report you file—it’s a lot.”
They also suggested that other stores could close in the future, too, as safety becomes a concern. Their letter mentioned that stores could modify operations, close restrooms, or close the store permanently “where safety in the third place is no longer possible.”
The move is an extraordinary one, given Starbucks’ size and reach. While safety concerns often lead operators to close restaurants, it’s rare to see a major chain close this many in this many markets at one time.
It comes after Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ interim CEO, prominently mentioned safety inside its restaurants as part of a broad set of guidelines that will dictate the chain’s future. “We can expect to protect each other, respect and include each other, and work together to create the kind of safe and welcoming environment we need at work,” he wrote.
Safety was one of the top issues mentioned as Schultz held meetings with the company’s workers across the country following his return to the chain in April.
In their letter, Stroud and Nelson mentioned several strategies, some of which are new, designed to improve safety. That includes potentially adjusting store formats, hours of operation, staffing, or testing other options like alarm systems or connecting with outreach workers on specific solutions.
The company plans to include more safety training for workers, including “active shooter” training and mental health first aid.
The company will add policies and procedures on addressing disruptive behaviors and when to call 911. Stroud and Nelson also said the company would hold workers and leaders accountable when they “fail to maintain a safe and welcoming third place.” They also said that using technology to help staff the stores could help create more stability.
They also noted the company’s mental health benefits, including free counselors to stores following critical incidents, as well as its other benefits for college tuition, fertility treatments, adoption, access to abortion, and gender-affirming procedures.
“Simply put, we cannot serve as partners if we don’t first feel safe at work,” Stroud and Nelson wrote. – Source: Restaurant Business.
Global restaurant brand signs franchise agreement with Manila-based Bistro Americano Corp. to bring the Fogo experience to Asia for the first time . . . .
Fogo de Chão Announces Plans to Enter Asia
Fogo de Chão, the internationally-renowned restaurant from Brazil that allows guests to make discoveries at every turn, today announced its plans to enter Asia for the first time with the signing of a franchise development agreement that will bring Fogo’s award-winning dining experience to the Philippines. In partnership with Bistro Americano Corp., a division of the leading Manila-based multi-brand restaurant operator The Bistro Group, the deal will bring five Fogo de Chão locations to the country over the next six years. The agreement reflects the next step in Fogo’s growth plans as the Company accelerates expansion in domestic and international markets. The Bistro Group joins Fogo’s existing international franchise partners in Mexico and the Middle East.
With 66 locations worldwide and growing, Fogo earlier in 2022 announced a 15 percent planned annual growth rate through company-owned restaurants, with an additional international capital-light franchise development strategy. With the goal to bring the culinary art of churrasco to guests worldwide, the Company has announced 8-10 company-owned and 1-2 international franchise restaurant openings for 2022, supported by a strong pipeline of new restaurant development to meet demand in new and existing markets. Fogo’s newest openings include restaurants in Rio Barra, Brazil, El Segundo, Calif., Coral Gables, Fla., and Monterrey, Mexico, with planned openings in Elmhurst, N.Y., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Paramus, N.J., and others expected later this year.
“We are honored to partner with Bill and his accomplished team at The Bistro Group, who have successfully developed premium brands throughout the Philippines for the past 25 years,” said Barry McGowan, Chief Executive Officer of Fogo de Chão. “Our entrance into Asia marks a monumental step in our brand’s strategic growth plan. At Fogo, we celebrate culinary discoveries and are proud to introduce guests to the art of churrasco at each of our restaurants around the world.”
For over 25 years, the experienced team at The Bistro Group has built a track record of excellence in introducing and operating iconic restaurant brands within the Philippines. As the leading premium dining retailer in the region, the Company currently operates 111 restaurants across a 21-brand portfolio, which includes international names like Texas Roadhouse, TGI Fridays, Italianni’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings.
“We are continually looking for opportunities to bring distinctive and innovative hospitality brands to our guests within the Philippines, and we see incredible potential in Fogo de Chão,” said Bill Stelton, Chairman, and CEO of The Bistro Group. “For over 40 years Fogo has set the standard in upscale, experiential dining by bringing authentic flavors of churrasco globally, and for that reason, we’re proud to represent Fogo as it makes its Asia debut.”
Founded in Southern Brazil in 1979, Fogo de Chão is a nearly 45-year-old brand known for its dining experience of discovery and showcasing the culinary art of churrasco where guests can watch as gaucho chefs butcher, hand-carve, and grill high-quality cuts of protein over an open flame. With a modern, timeless design and signature offerings including a fresh and seasonal Market Table and an award-winning Bar Fogo menu featuring hand-crafted cocktails and South American wines, Fogo has become a destination of choice by both brands advocates and new guests globally.
About Fogo de Chão
Fogo de Chão (fogo-dee-shown) is an internationally renowned restaurant that allows guests to discover what’s next at every turn. Founded in Southern Brazil in 1979, Fogo elevates the centuries-old cooking technique of churrasco – the art of roasting high-quality cuts of meat over an open flame – into a cultural dining experience of discovery. In addition to its Market Table and Feijoada Bar – which includes seasonal salads and soup, fresh vegetables, imported charcuterie, and more – guests are served simply-seasoned meats that are butchered, fire-roasted, and carved tableside by gaucho chefs. Guests can also indulge in dry-aged or premium Wagyu cuts, seafood a la carte, All-Day Happy Hour including signature cocktails, and an award-winning South American wine list, as well as smaller, sharable plates in Bar Fogo. Fogo offers differentiated menus for all dayparts including lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, and group dining, plus full-service catering and contactless takeout and delivery options. For locations and more information about Fogo de Chão, visit fogo.com.
About The Bistro Group
Founded in 1994, The Bistro Group is one of the Philippines’ most progressive restaurant chains that popularized the casual dining concept with the entry of TGI Fridays in the country over 25 years ago. Its success led to the launch of other reputable, world-class brands such as Italianni’s, Denny’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Texas Roadhouse, and Hard Rock Café among others as well as Asian concepts like Watami, Modern Shanghai, Bulgogi Brothers, and Fish & Co. In May this year, The Bistro Group introduced LA’s iconic Randy’s Donuts which was received enthusiastically by the local market. The company also owns and operates Bistronomia, a collection of boutique Spanish/Mediterranean restaurants, Las Flores, Rambla, Tomatito, BCN by Las Flores, and Rumba. TBG Elite by The Bistro Group’s award-winning chef, Josh Boutwood, is also a part of the company. Its upscale, chef-driven restaurants (Helm, The Test Kitchen, Savage, and Ember) highlight quality ingredients, seasonality, and unique cooking methods. – Source: NRN.
From better bookkeeping to more concrete paths for advancement, Chains have plenty they can teach their smaller industry counterparts . . . .
8 Lessons Chain Restaurants Can Teach Independents
Sandwiched between early restaurant gigs in her native Colorado—waiting and bussing tables, washing dishes, and bartending at different mom-and-pop eateries—and the 2003 launch of her Denver-based culinary syndicate alongside chef and business partner Jennifer Jasinski, Beth Gruitch gained an unofficial degree in restaurant operations from Chicago-based Levy Restaurants and the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants enterprise.
As Gruitch reflects on her experience working at Levy-owned hotspots like Bistro 110 and Voila, as well as the Kimpton Monaco Hotel’s Panzano restaurant in downtown Denver, she uses words like “grateful” and “valuable.” Those experiences, after all, provided Gruitch with rich lessons into the disciplined operations, meticulous systems, and calculated processes powering successful hospitality concepts.
“I got to see systems created and refined many times over,” Gruitch says.
When Gruitch left Panzano with Jasinski in 2003 to open the Mediterranean-influenced Rioja in Denver, she did so armed with an education provided by two hospitality industry standouts. Nearly two decades later, Gruitch and Jasinski’s Crafted Concepts group features five heralded Denver restaurants: the still-flourishing Rioja, as well as Bistro Vendôme, Stoic & Genuine, Ultreia, and Flavor Dojo.
“I couldn’t imagine starting without that critical background,” says Gruitch, who shared a James Beard Foundation semifinalist nod in the Outstanding Restaurateur category with Jasinski in 2020. “There’s so much I learned about all those things that are foundational to success in the restaurant business like accounting and food costs, the process of receiving goods, and paying invoices.”
While chains have gained much from their independent peers, particularly in areas such as food quality and culture, the education can—and does—flow back the other way, too. Large restaurant groups and corporate entities—the latter often derided as the enemy of the human soul with their tightly buttoned-up procedures and policies—can show independents a thing or two about running with purpose and structure, says Joe Melanson, an associate professor at Johnson & Wales University’s College of Food Innovation & Technology.
“You don’t grow to dozens of restaurants flying by the seat of your pants,” Melanson says.
- Know yourself—and don’t budge
Applebee’s boasts more than 1,600 restaurants. At each one, the “neighborhood grill and bar” shines with a casual, family-friendly atmosphere and a value-laden menu devoted to mainstream American dishes such as burgers, chicken, and ribs. The Dine Brands–owned chain plays it right down the middle, neither revamping its menu to satisfy the latest trends nor listing dishes beyond the means of the typical American family.
Doug Roth, who launched and operated award-winning restaurant concepts like Levy’s heralded Bistro 110, says the most successful chains adhere to a formal concept clarity statement. This is about more than the restaurant’s “theme,” Roth notes.
The concept clarity statement identifies clear parameters providing both internal staff and external guests with a crisp understanding of the restaurant. It informs everything from the menu and the service staff to the physical environment and the pricing, giving direction, driving accountability, and stimulating full alignment at every turn.
“It’s like a litmus test to make sure all the dots are connected,” says Roth, who now heads the Chicago-based Playground Hospitality restaurant consultancy.
- Know your numbers
It should be no surprise that many of the nation’s largest full-service chains know their books inside and out. In fact, many public companies regularly publish detailed financial reports indicating exactly where they stand with key metrics like revenue and expenses.
“That’s imperative because you never want to be willy-nilly with your finances,” Gruitch says.
But knowing the numbers runs beyond quarterly reports. Individual restaurants rely on budgets and forecasts to inform decision-making and create formulas that spit out the price of each dish based on ingredient cost and portion size.
“Chains are good at crunching the numbers, which allows them to quickly see if something is out of whack and responsibly react to it,” says Carl Borchgrevink, an associate professor at Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business.
Consider the menu. On a regular basis, Borchgrevink says, savvy chains analyze what’s selling, evaluate food costs, and investigate what they might promote at the table with staff or on the menu. If an item is not selling or contains a costly product, it often disappears.
“You can make the most delicious food, but if there’s no profit, then it’s challenging to be a sustainable restaurant business,” Borchgrevink says, adding that successful restaurant chains systematically study their data to make sound performance-driving decisions.
Rioja benefits from Gruitch’s experience working at larger brands.
- Keep a close watch on inventory
When Melanson was working as a chef at a chain restaurant, he dreaded going in every Monday.
“That’s when I had to do the weekly inventory report,” Melanson recalls.
Now, teaching at Johnson & Wales, Melanson champions that very same routine to his hospitality students. Chains do weekly or biweekly inventory, he says, so they know where they stand with goods, can proactively adapt to problems, and more efficiently manage their budgets.
“There’s a method to the madness,” Melanson says. “It’s not busy work, but necessary work to ensure a responsive, profitable restaurant.”
Keeping tabs on inventory also means closely monitoring prices, pivoting, and adjusting to swings in the marketplace. While chains boast their own procurement departments, cleverly leveraging their size to increase buying power, the independent lacks such fame and fortune.
Jeff Elsworth, Borchgrevink’s Michigan State colleague, urges independents to be in regular contact with their distributors and vendors to better manage their inventory and costs. Distributor sales representatives (DSR) can offer important value-added services, such as menu analysis, providing trend information, suggesting substitutions, and sharing inventory control best practices. Given that DSRs see their operator clients regularly and learn about the restaurant’s operation, well-informed reps can play an important role in profitability.
“Go talk to your distributor and tell them what you need help with,” Elsworth says. “There are valuable insights they can provide.”
- Create and document standards
Chains prioritize and prize consistency, which positions them to regularly meet guest expectations and, ultimately, stay in business. Whether it is training programs, opening, and closing procedures, recipe development, or even something as granular as greeting and seating guests, successful full-service restaurant chains carefully design systems to fuel the front of the house, kitchen, and back-office operations.
And these standards, Gruitch says, are most definitely documented.
“That way, there’s no gray area,” she says. “People know what’s expected and what to do.”
Recipes, for instance, are detailed and precise, while job descriptions are similarly explicit and well-developed so hiring managers can target the best possible fit for a specific post, whether that’s a line cook, host, or event coordinator.
“When you set and consistently follow clear standards, you’re then in a better position to hold people to those standards since there’s little room for people to wiggle their way out,” Roth says.
- Know how and where to get credit
Before COVID-19 rattled American life, veteran restaurant consultant Fred LeFranc says the independents were “kicking the chains’ butts.” As the pandemic wore on, though, chains re-established their might. What ignited the shift? Access to capital, LeFranc says.
“The chains all have access to a line of credit and that helped them through COVID,” says LeFranc, founding partner of Results Thru Strategy.
Led by full-time chief financial officers, the chains know how and where to get capital, which helps them navigate downturns and endure challenging times. By contrast, independents often put credit on the back burner and only turn to capital considerations when they encounter trouble. As such, they frequently struggle to provide lenders or investors a crisp and compelling case for financing.
Working at larger enterprises, Gruitch says she learned how to behave in a corporate environment, which has proven critical whenever she’s needed capital for Crafted Concepts.
“Investors want to see a strong business plan and feel confident they’re going to get their ROI,” she says. “Without this, you’re playing from behind.”
At Rioja and its nearby sister restaurant, Bistro Vendôme, executives use accounting services provided by the property managers of Larimer Square, the Denver historic district those two restaurants call home.
- Develop your talent
At Levy and Kimpton, Gruitch found two enterprises that were very detailed with respect to advancement opportunities. Both organizations, she says, offered road maps for upward mobility, providing, say, entry-level managers a list of skills they would need to master to position themselves for a promotion.
“There are always employees who want to know how they get to the big seat, and chains do a better job of mapping this out,” she says.
To Gruitch’s point, Melanson says many independents struggle to define the necessary skills team members need for the restaurant to thrive with their food, their operations, and the guest experience. As a result, staff members often become locked into certain positions or are thrust into new roles before they are ready.
“So many operators just drop items on a table and say go, and, as a result, an employee is stuck on the salad station for years,” Melanson says.
While independents do not possess the same capacity to offer advancement opportunities as their chain counterparts—it is, after all, far easier to find internal promotion opportunities in a company of 100 restaurants than in a single-unit operation—independents can still invest in staff development. Melanson recalls creating an eight-week cook training program for one local full-service restaurant that empowered staff to hone their skills, find their interests and accelerate their progress.
“Something like that sparks retention, quality, and safety, and also helps staff see you’re willing to support their development,” Melanson says.
- Invest in specialists
When Gruitch worked at Kimpton, she leaned on various internal supporters, including an accounting team, HR pros, and marketing whizzes. The presence of such personnel allowed Gruitch to offload many tasks and focus on delivering a rich customer experience inside the restaurant.
When Gruitch opened Rioja alongside Jasinski, however, she wasn’t so blessed. Like so many independents, Gruitch lacked the resources to have full-time specialists on staff supporting the business, which she considers a principal advantage for chains.
Though independents might not be able to hire full-time staff to oversee back-office tasks like benefits and payroll, social media, or public relations, they can invest in capable external partners or even technology to streamline work in such areas. An organization like the Council of Hospitality and Restaurant Trainers, for example, provides training and development resources. Additionally, the National Restaurant Association, state restaurant associations, and chambers of commerce might also offer cost-efficient programs or leads to qualified partners who can provide these ancillary services.
At Rioja and its nearby sister restaurant, Bistro Vendôme, Gruitch uses accounting services provided by the property managers of Larimer Square, the Denver historic district those two restaurants call home.
“Finding this support is so critical because we’re not always accounting or marketing people, and we need to find specialists in these areas,” Gruitch says.
- Constantly hunt for improvements
While adhering to their business’s core tenets, chains aren’t afraid to evolve, pivot, and shed a system or practice falling short on performance. Though a 50-unit full-service chain might be tough to move quickly, it will move eventually to improve profitability, guest satisfaction, or efficiency.
Over the last two years, for instance, many chains unveiled curbside pickup, customer-friendly to-go environments, food kits, and packaged meals. Others incorporated kitchen technology, including automated systems, to improve food consistency, lower costs, and boost worker productivity. Many others touted online ordering, digital menus, and pay-at-the-table options to become more contemporary, nimble operations. Chains also seek new service providers if an existing partner is falling short of goals, and they’ll regularly test promising new equipment or service models.
While maintaining the status quo is likely a smart move when it comes to a restaurant’s signature dish, resisting change in other areas can ultimately prove to limit, Elsworth says.
“I ran restaurants for 20 years and understand the pressure operators face, but I’d encourage every operator to set aside some time to find the right solutions,” he says. “Spend the time and energy to reflect on where you’re falling behind and inform yourself about the solutions. It has to be done.” – Source: NRN.
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