Leading Foodservice Design Software Now Available in Spanish, French, and Italian, as well as English . . .


KCL Speaks Your Language


KCL, the industry leader in foodservice design technologies, announces that their BIM/CAD Designer software can now be used in English, Spanish, French, and Italian. KCL helps manufacturers distribute their CAD, Revit, and other product content while making it easy for designers, consultants, and dealers to specify those items.


“Both the user interface and the main equipment category can be easily switched to a subscriber’s preferred language to improve access to our growing international user base,” said Luca Salomoni, KCL’s EMEA and APAC sales director. The language can be changed simply by clicking a flag icon in the upper right corner of the screen.


Since joining KCL in January 2020, Salomoni has grown KCL’s manufacturer and user base outside of North America, in addition to forming international collaborations. Salomoni added that many manufacturers, like Scotsman, Unox, Lainox, and others now list their EMEA lines in KCL alongside their North American products.


“As the leading content library in the foodservice industry, we work with many global brands. It was time to speak the same language as our designers,” added Salomoni.


“Billions of people speak English, Spanish, French, or Italian as a primary or second language, so this change opens the door to an incredible amount of subscriber growth,” explained Kevin Kochman, president of KCL. “It enables designers and consultants around the world to easily access our software and helps our manufacturers boost their brand awareness and reach new customers.”



The restaurant is bringing back its Coin Drop game for loyalty members and incentivizing round-up orders for scholarships . . . .


Taco Bell has Digitized its Iconic Coin Drop Game Following its campaign launch with Paris Hilton, Taco Bell is once again tapping into nostalgia by introducing a digitized version of its popular Coin Drop game. The countertop game was wildly popular at the company in the aughts, allowing customers to drop a coin into a contraption and then try to spin it down atop several paddles to earn a free menu item.

This time around, however, the game is digital. From now through Aug. 14, Taco Bell Rewards members who choose to round up their orders to the nearest dollar will receive a digital “coin” that they can then try to land on the lowest pink paddle to win one of three items – cinnamon twists, a crunchy taco or a bean burrito. Customers who round up will also receive 10 bonus loyalty points to go toward their next reward. Customers can also go online to request a coin without making a purchase or rounding up. Rounded up funds will go directly to the Taco Bell Foundation to provide scholarships, grants, and educational experiences. “We’ve seen so much success in meeting our fans where they are – from launching the Taco Lover’s Pass to the in-app voting experience and we’re excited to introduce this digital iteration of Coin Drop. This game offers fans a new way to win and give back, all at their fingertips with the Taco Bell app,” Dane Mathews, chief digital officer at Taco Bell, said in a statement “Many of our fans have fond memories of playing the original Coin Drop at their local Taco Bell – so it only made sense that we bring the game back for our Rewards members to transport customers back in time and give them another shot at winning.”

According to the company, Coin Drop generated over $41 million in donations from 2003 to 2016 to fund Live Más Scholarships and community grants. In 2019, the Taco Bell Foundation introduced Round Up – a point-of-sale fundraising program that allows customers the opportunity to donate to the Taco Bell Foundation all year long by “rounding up” their total to the nearest dollar. Since the start of 2023, the Taco Bell Foundation has raised over $20 million in Round Up donations and has a goal of reaching $40 million this year with the help of Coin Drop.

Taco Bell partnered with gamification platform CataBoom  to develop the digital version of Coin Drop. CataBoom has partnered with companies like Ruby Tuesday, Southwest Airlines, TGI Friday’s and T-Mobile. Gamification has been used by several other restaurant brands as well to drive loyalty member signups and customer engagement. Brands from Chipotle to Chick-fil-A have tapped into mobile gaming features as the market continues to grow rapidly.  Newzoo reports that the global gaming market generated over $184 billion in revenue, with half of that coming from mobile gaming alone in 2022. A new study from and IDC shows that mobile gaming is outgrowing the gaming industry overall “At the Taco Bell Foundation, our mission is to break down barriers to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders, but it’s important to us that we have fun while doing it – and that’s what Coin Drop is all about,” Jennifer Bradbury, executive director of the Taco Bell Foundation, said in a statement. “Coin Drop is truly a win-win for everyone involved, customers can win fun prizes while knowing they are giving back to a great cause.” – Source: NRN.



Former Papa John’s executive to lead brand’s marketing and digital strategies


Wingstop Names Anne Fischer as Chief Growth Officer . . . .

Wingstop Inc. has named Anne Fischer as chief growth officer and a senior vice president, the company announced Tuesday.

The Dallas-based quick-service brand said Fischer most recently served as chief marketing and digital officer at Atlanta-based Papa John’s International Inc. Fischer has more than 20 years of experience in the quick-service-restaurant and hospitality industries, including marketing and sales leadership roles at The Walt Disney Co. and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

Fischer succeeds Marisa Carona in the position. Carona now serves as Wingstop’s chief U.S. franchise operations officer.

“I truly believe we are just getting started at Wingstop, and I couldn’t be more excited to have Anne join our team,” said Michael Skipworth, Wingstop’s president and CEO, in a statement. “Anne is a natural culture fit and a proven leader who will help Wingstop continue to execute its marketing and digital strategies on our mission to ‘Serve the World Flavor.’” Fischer said: “I’m a huge fan of the brand, and I can’t wait to join this best-in-class team to scale Wingstop in our journey to become a top 10 global restaurant brand and make Wingstop a household name.”

For the first quarter ended April 1, Wingstop’s net income increased to $15.7 million, or 52 cents per share, up from $8.7 million, or 29 cents a share, in the same period last year. Revenues increased 42.7% to $108.7 million, up from $76.2 million in the same quarter last year.

As of April 1, Wingstop had 1,996 restaurants systemwide. Wingstop was founded in 1994. – Source: NRN.


Texas has gained more residents in the past two years than any other state in the nation, which is driving some optimism among restaurant operator . . . .


The big Takeaway from the Texas Restaurant Association Show: Optimism I just returned from my very first Texas Restaurant Association Show, this year in Houston, and what an experience! My event kicked off with the Texas Restaurant Awards and Lone Star Bash Sunday night, in which several industry winners were recognized. A moment that stood out to me was when Capwell “Cappy” Lawton, of Cappy’s Restaurant in San Antonio, was inducted into the Hall of Honor.

During his acceptance speech, he said, “You’ll never solve world peace at a conference table, but you will at a dining table.”

Perhaps this perspective pinpoints why most attendees I interacted with were buoyant about the future of the industry. Things seem to be normalizing a bit, consumers have proven their resiliency and, for Texas in particular, an influx of people has kept restaurants busier than most other markets in the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas gained an average of nearly 413,000 residents between 2020 and 2022, the largest gain in the nation.

“They need shelter, and they need food and we’ve got the food covered,” Texas Restaurant Association CEO Emily Williams Knight said during a fireside chat with Big Chicken CEO Josh Halpern. Texas’ restaurant industry generated over $95 billion in sales from nearly 55,000 establishments in 2022, according to the National Restaurant Association. It is the second largest association in the country, behind California, and it is expected to continue unit and sales growth into 2024 at the very least, Williams Knight said.

For now, this year’s show attracted over 500 exhibitors and over 5,000 attendees. New was an expanded Ghost Kitchen and Virtual Restaurant Conference, which I unfortunately had to miss but which clearly generated a ton of interest judging by the crowd and follow up conversations. Exhibitors were heavy on the food and beverage vendor side, but there were also plenty of tech players showing off things like robot servers, cooking robots, automated beverage solutions, point-of-sale purveyors, and labor-focused apps.

There was also a Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits Pavilion AND a craft beverage pavilion, so attendees – including myself – had plenty of inspiration to keep the conversations going. I tried to do just that, and this is perhaps what stood out to me most about attending this show: operators were extremely accessible and more than willing to talk about their trials and triumphs. I’m not sure if this was Texas hospitality or that (aforementioned) buoyancy, but I had the opportunity to have valuable conversations with at least a dozen operators during my truncated visit to Houston. And those operators run a diverse roster of businesses: 34% of Texas establishments are full-service, while 16% are fast casual/QSR and 25% are “other,” like bars, hotels and catering companies. Most – 70% – are independent owners.

What I gathered from those conversations is that these operators are tired – most have been to hell and back in the past three years – but they’re optimistic that the worst is behind them and that there is a light at the end of this long, strange tunnel. I admit, the conversations made me buoyant as well.

“The restaurant industry is driven by passionate, hardworking people who rarely get the opportunity to stop, reflect, and celebrate together. I’m incredibly proud of the fact that the 2023 Texas Restaurant Show created that space for all restaurants in Texas and beyond — from single-unit operators to global brands. By coming together, we find new solutions to our challenges, celebrate the grit and excellence that has gotten us through difficult years, and inspire each other to create meaningful change,” Williams Knight said after the show. “Like our industry, the Texas Restaurant Show gets better every year. I’m already excited to welcome our whole restaurant community to San Antonio for the 2024 show.” – Source: NRN.




Not all of the investment community is excited about Darden’s recent $715 million acquisition of Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

BTIG analyst Peter Saleh said in a report that his company has a mixed opinion. They all understand the financial rationale (Darden’s fine-dining category grew from $830 million to almost $1.4 billion), but some are skeptical because of too many redundancies with fellow concept The Capital Grille.

“For previous acquisitions like Cheddar’s and Yard House, we easily saw what these concepts added to the portfolio, but are less enthusiastic about Ruth’s given the existing overlap,” Saleh said in his report.

BTIG had a breakdown of Darden’s three fine-dining concepts:

Restaurant Size (square feet)

Ruth’s Chris: 8,000

The Capital Grille: 10,000

Eddie V’s: 10,000

Average Check

Ruth’s Chris: $97

The Capital Grille: $92.50

Eddie V’s: $109

Alcohol Mix

Ruth’s Chris: 20 percent

The Capital Grille: 27.7 percent

Eddie V’s: 30.1 percent


Ruth’s Chris: $6.2 million

The Capital Grille: $9.3 million

Eddie V’s: $9 million

Domestic Locations

Ruth’s Chris: 131 (80 company-owned, 51 franchises) The Capital Grille: 62 Eddie V’s: 29 Company-owned sales Ruth’s Chris: $485.3 million The Capital Grille: $571 million Eddie V’s: $260 million The analyst added that BTIG feels integration costs are high versus Yard House (acquired in July 2012 for $585 million) and Cheddar’s (acquired in March 2017 for $780 million). For Ruth’s Chris, Darden estimates total acquisition and integration-related expenses of $55 million pre-tax. Cheddar’s was $25 to $35 million and Yard House was $16 million to $23 million. Darden attributed Ruth’s higher expense to it being a public company and the fact that change of control and other obligations is Darden’s responsibility as opposed to a private equity owner like in past deals, Saleh explained.

The biggest difference from Capital Grille is that Ruth’s Chris has less restaurant square footage and a lot more locations in the U.S., particularly in suburban and smaller markets like Birmingham, Alabama; Destin, Florida; Annapolis, Maryland; and Wilmington, North Carolina. Comparatively, Capital Grille is focused on urban markets and major city centers.

Darden CEO Rick Cardenas prefaced that the company has owned Ruth’s Chris for a brief amount of time. It hasn’t yet sorted through the chain’s consumer data and determined how it may compare to other brands. When asked by Raymond James analyst Brian Vaccaro about the overlap during the company’s Q4 earnings call in June , Cardenas pointed toward the geographic differences.

“One of the primary reasons is geography,” said Cardenas, stating his case as to why there isn’t overlap. “If you look at [Ruth’s Chris], they have 150-ish restaurants, including the franchise system, and they have restaurants in markets that Capital Grille doesn’t have restaurants in. And even in markets that Capital Grille has restaurants in, they’re not necessarily close to each other in a lot of those markets.

“So there isn’t as much overlap as you would expect,” he added. “And that’s a good thing for us, good thing for Ruth Chris, and it’s a good thing for Capital Grille. But then I would add that if you think about Eddie V’s and Capital Grille, we’ve had this kind of scenario for many years. Where Eddie V’s guests may go to Capital Grille, but they go for different occasions.”

With the acquisition, Darden anticipates cost savings of $20 million by the end of fiscal 2025 via supply chain and G&A. It also expects Ruth’s Chris will be accretive to earnings per share by approximately $0.10 to $0.12 in fiscal 2024 and $0.20 to $0.25 in fiscal 2025. Additionally, inclusive of the steakhouse, Darden projects $11.5 billion to $11.6 billion in sales in fiscal 2024. However, fine dining same-store sales won’t include Ruth’s Chris until after 16 months.

As for future purchases, Cardenas said M&A remains one of Darden’s best uses of capital. But first it wants to digest the Ruth’s Chris deal. He did note that the company’s EBITDA has grown from $1.2 billion pre-COVID to $1.7 billion to $1.8 billion.

“That gives us a lot more cash to do those things and increase our share buyback and M&A,” Cardenas said. “We’ve talked about M&A often. M&A adds to our scale, which is our biggest advantage … We’ve got plenty of cash, we’ve got plenty of debt capacity.” – Source: FSR



5 Ways to Increase Productivity in the Kitchen . . . .


To combat slim margins, restaurant kitchens should prioritize efficient and productive kitchen operations. With over 15 years of experience as a chef, and thanks to some of the new developments in tech, I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way to help increase productivity and increase the bottom line in your restaurants. Here are five of them:

  1. Reduce paper clutter

I don’t mean picking up scraps of loose paper around the kitchen, but that’s not a bad idea if that’s a problem you have in your kitchen. I mean reduce the need for physical paper and switch to digital. Like me, if you’ve worked in a kitchen, you’ve probably had lists of daily tasks you were required to mark off with a pen or highlighter while getting checked for completion by a supervisor. Removing the tedious practice of printing, updating, and reprinting prep sheets while trying to keep the workspace clean and organized can increase productivity significantly. Digitizing the prep lists allows them to be updated in real time with prep cooks marking off tasks as they go on their phones or tablets. When I did this in my kitchens, I got time back in my day by removing the need to walk through, look over everyone’s shoulders, and make sure their prep lists are checked off when I could now easily check my phone for immediate updates. With less micromanagement, cooks were given more autonomy, resulting in confidence in their work as the task lists they were working off of were up-to-date and accurate.

  1. Digitize Recipe Books

For most of my time in the kitchen, we didn’t have a digital interface to see all of the restaurant’s recipes. We either relied on unorganized and inaccurate binders full of oil-stained recipes or were trained verbally by someone who likely had their own opinion of how the recipe should be made, which can turn into a game of telephone across the chain of command and training process. Digitizing recipes ensures everyone is on the same page and removes any confusion that can come from verbal training or out-of-date recipe sheets. Consistent recipes equal less food waste, a higher quality product, in-sync staff, and overall higher productivity. Consistency is key in the kitchen and ensuring the recipes are known by everyone on staff, and made the same way every single time, is an extremely important quality of an efficient and well-run kitchen.

  1. Centralize communication

In an environment where everyone needs to be on the same page for smooth service, communication is one of the key components of a productive kitchen. We used to use whiteboards, notes, emails, and verbal communication during pre-shift to go over changes and important information. Things got missed, misinterpreted, and often just lost in the daily kitchen commotion. Establishing one central communication channel made my job as a chef so much easier. A chat that can be accessed on a smartphone where all employees know where to look for correspondence between management and each other keeps everyone synchronized. If you didn’t see it in the central chat, it’s probably not accurate.

  1. Give digital access to all members of the team

You can implement steps 1 through 3, but if everyone in the kitchen doesn’t have immediate ease of access, you’re not really solving the problems. Given the existing technology and tools, most restaurants only provide management-level employees access to where the digital copy of prep lists, recipes, and employee contact info live, leaving the rest of the kitchen staff to rely on verbal communication and paper clutter. The more people have access to information, the less time is spent communicating, updating, and training, resulting in more consistency in your staff’s operations. Higher consistency equals happier employees, a higher bottom line, more productivity, and higher profit. Workflow apps make it easy for all employees to have access to digital prep lists, recipes, and a centralized communication channel.

  1. Work on building a culture every day

It may not seem like steps 1-4 are part of company culture, but having systems in place is at the core of building a culture. If an environment isn’t thriving, it’s surviving–and that is not a good basis for a happy and productive place to work. These steps help employees feel more autonomy in their positions, help them get through the onboarding process more quickly, and allow management and chefs to dedicate their already limited time, energy and focus toward the bigger picture. Happier employees in a strong system and culture are the ones who go above and beyond because they feel supported and walk into work every day knowing the tasks at hand and exactly what is expected. Culture is something you have to work on every day but if you implement steps 1-4, you’ll have more time to do so and a strong system to begin from.   – Source: James Passafaro



Woody’s Bar-B-Q Releases Fried Chicken and Fried Pork Chops for Limited Time

Woody’s Bar-B-Q announced the introduction of two new menu items for a limited time under the fitting campaign name, “Southern Fried Happiness.” Listed among its signature menu items that consist primarily of the classic Southern BBQ chain’s slow-smoked meats, comfort food sides, and decadent desserts, the pair of promotional dishes is hand-battered and deep-fried to perfection. The campaign is now underway at participating Woody’s Bar-B-Q locations and features lunch and dinner portions of the franchise’s interpretation of fried chicken and fried pork chops.

“As a Southern born-and-bred concept, it seems only fitting that we try our hand at a couple of time-honored Southern staples,” says Yolanda Mills-Mawman, Co-Founder and COO for Woody’s Bar-B-Q. “Country-inspired sides like our mashed potatoes, cole slaw, lima beans, collard greens, fried okra, and more accompany these two new dishes beautifully. And – as is the case with every limited-time offer we roll out – we’ll be watching closely to see the reception from our patrons. Previous limited-time offers like our Potachos Starter have made the leap from promotional items to fan favorites on our regular menu. I could easily see that happening here with one or both Southern-fried limited-time offers. They make a great fit with our Southern-leaning menu. But we’ll let our patrons cast their vote with every order during the promotional period.”

With the tagline “Let Us Put a Big Ol’ Greasy Smile on that Face,” the “Southern Fried Happiness” campaign includes:

Hand-Battered Biddy – Lightly dusted in a combination of flour and our flavorful Memphis rub, this 1/2 chicken dinner is deep-fried and all dressed up with no place to go… except the stomachs of Woody’s patrons! The dinner portion is served with the guest’s choice of two sides.

When Pigs Fry – For 43 years, Woody’s has served pork several ways – slow-smoked and sliced, pulled, in sausage form, or on the rib. The classic Southern BBQ chain is spreading its wings and trying something new. Two bone-in pork chops are hand-battered and deep-fried to seal in moisture and flavor for nothing shy of pork perfection! The dinner portion is served with the guest’s choice of two sides.


“We already have several more LTOs waiting in the wings, including a sandwich promotion that features several entirely new recipes,” adds Mills-Mawman. “We plan to roll that out later this summer, so stay tuned, Woody’s fans!”

The “Southern Fried Happiness” campaign is scheduled to end on August 10, 2023. Prospective guests are encouraged to visit to learn more about Woody’s Bar-B-Q, view the list of locations, and peruse the chain’s regular menu.  – Source: FSR.




Why is Restaurant Traffic Declining? It All Comes Down to Value

Consumer expectations have changed. Foodservice has begun to experience a new pain that is requiring current and detailed analytics, and then a team approach to solutions. For many operators, sales continue to be above previous years, but profitability is down. Much of this has come from declining consumer traffic. This article expands on why traffic is down, what consumers are looking for, and how operators can make the necessary adjustments to eliminate this pressure.

The thought that a consumer would trade down stems from the fact they are not getting the value for the price. People look at value in many different ways, but in order for them to remain loyal to a brand, operators must be able to meet or exceed their customers’ expectations. It is not necessarily about the price itself. Below we look at how consumers define value and how operators can satisfy consumer demands.

Seven ways consumers are looking at value and how operators are approaching this dilemma:

Food Quality

Portion Size




Cutting Corners

Consistent Execution


  1. Food Quality

The No. 1 reason a consumer frequents a restaurant is the quality and taste of the food. They love the food and are therefore loyal to the brand. Unfortunately, many restaurants have had trouble maintaining the quality that consumers have been used to. In conjunction with that, pricing for those items has increased due to inflation. Consumers are not willing to frequent their “former favorite restaurants” if their favorite menu items are not consistently great. They would prefer to trade down and get the same product with every visit.

It also should be noted that great food quality can be almost priceless. A great steak that costs a consumer $50–$100 can be a great value. If it meets or exceeds expectations, price, in many cases, does not come into play. Consistent quality, at any level, is a major key to loyalty.

  1. Portion Size

Many consumers judge the size of a portion as the key factor in getting great value. Quality is not usually a factor in their decision. Their objective is usually to have leftovers and potentially a second meal. Keeping the price, the same and decreasing the portion is a major factor in a customer never coming back to that restaurant. In order to deal with inflation and keeping larger portion centric customers happy is providing two sized portion options at two different prices. It gives the loyal customer the opportunity to maintain their large portion, but pay more, or go with a lower price for a smaller portion.

  1. Pricing-Discounting

When you think of value, price is usually what comes to mind. There has been a steady increase in pricing over the last few years which the consumer has been willing to pay as a follow up to the pandemic, but as of late, consumers have been trading down from many of their favorite restaurants as price increases have been more than they can afford. Many consumers still look for the least costly option, but operators are again providing discount days such as Taco Tuesdays as well as bundles to entice consumers back in.

Operators have begun to offer basic options for their customers to build on which allow for a lower price and it is entirely up to the customer to customize their menu item and pay accordingly. In addition, dynamic pricing has been introduced and it makes a lot of sense for the restaurant industry. Hotels, airlines, and other industries have been doing it for years. Restaurants can charge more during peak periods and less in non-peak times and it is something that consumers can adjust to.

  1. Service

Great service has always been an important factor in attaining excellent value, but great service is much more complicated than it was in the past. The explosion of off-premises has added elements as to what the expectations are for service. Easy to use Apps, websites, and kiosks are now crucial. It must be easy to order, customize, and pay. Pickup and delivery must be flawless with clear expectations on timing.

Labor shortages and lack of quality staff is no longer an excuse for poor service. Consumers are paying more than they had in the past and their expectations of quality service will continue to escalate. AI, robots, and table-top ordering and payment options can help, but the foodservice industry remains about hospitality and most customers want to be able to communicate with a friendly staff.

  1. Experience

The value of experience remains important to many consumers. Whether it is an environment that is different and provides customers with a “place to be” feel or simply walking into a restaurant and knowing from the beginning that the staff is happy you are there and will be sure that you leave feeling great about your time there. This also holds true with the off-premises experience. Operators now must provide multiple options for ordering, payment and pick-up and if they execute properly, the experience will drive customers back on a regular basis.

  1. Cutting Corners

The biggest mistake an operator can make is to cut corners. When inflation takes place and there is pricing pressure, the inclination is to cut portions, decrease the number of chips in a cookie, charge for bread when you never did before, decrease the quality of coffee at a breakfast restaurant, and much more. I have experienced all of these personally over the last couple of months and those are the restaurants that I won’t go back to. Operators must remain true to who they are and communicate with their customers face-to-face and through social media. A customer who is blindsided by cost-saving tactics can lose loyalty quickly.

  1. Consistent Execution

All consumers want is consistency when they eat in a restaurant or takeout. This is clearly easier said than done. Achieving more consistent execution was the number one response to the question of what the biggest opportunities for revenue growth are, which was posed to 140 growth chains of 20–500 units in Kinetic12’s Emergence Group. There is a huge message here! Menus have to remain smaller, with fewer moving parts for the staff, and at the same time, it must be easy for the customer to order, pay, and get their orders. Without consistency, the value proposition changes. Great cannot be sometimes. Whatever it is that consumers look for in value requires it to be. consistent.

Consumer expectations continue to change, and value is defined very differently from person to person. Internally, operators must also look at the products that they purchase and assess whether they are the right products for the job. For instance, a No. 2 avocado, a pre-trimmed chicken breast, or eliminating hi-waste ingredients may have an impact on improving execution and ultimately building consumer loyalty.  – Source: FSR.



For teens who want to work this summer, pay is competitive and some jobs are offering flexibility . . . .


Small Businesses may have a Hard Time Finding Teen Workers this Summer

As the summer hiring market heats up, small and seasonal businesses may find they’re missing a key demographic to fill roles – teen workers.

Outplacement firm Challenger Gray projected teens will gain 1.1 million jobs in 2023, down slightly from last year’s numbers and the lowest forecast since 2011. The group said this spring that teens are once again working at pre-pandemic levels, but cautioned many teens who are willing to take on jobs are likely already in the workforce.

The unemployment rate for teens aged 16 to 19 crept up slightly in June to 11% from the previous month, according to Friday’s June jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the labor participation rate fell year on year, to 36.3% from 42.9% in June 2022.

That could mean fewer available workers for businesses like Grotto Pizza that rely heavily on teens, according to hiring manager Glenn Byrum.

Across Grotto’s 20 locations in Delaware and Maryland, teens make up a little less than a third of the company’s 1,100 workers. They’re always hiring, but staffed well for this summer, he said.

“They are a critical piece of our success,” Byrum said, adding both younger workers and J-1 visa employees help to staff seasonal locations at the beach.

“Teen hiring is always a process,” he said. “They seem to be much more cognizant of the flexibility in their jobs, how much they’re going to get paid, the work environment itself.”

Byrum described what he saw as a common mentality among young workers, born out of a wealth of job opportunities during the summer.

“If they don’t like something that employers ask them to do, even though it’s part of the job, they can easily go down the street and work somewhere else and find an alternate employment with the same wages or maybe even better,” he said. “So it just keeps us on our toes as far as making sure that we’re providing the best work environment we can.”

Grotto often starts teen workers above minimum wage, Byrum said and provides incentives for some to move between locations as seasonal demand fluctuates.

Lexi Mathis, 16, was given a pay raise to work at a Grotto beach location for the summer months. She said the company is flexible with her schedule and the extra pay helps her to cover commuting costs as inflation has remained somewhat stubborn.

“I moved down here to try and make a little bit more money tips. And that was one of the best decisions ever because it’s been a big increase and subsequently they gave me a little bit of a pay raise,” Mathis said.

Hiring and labor availability have been an ongoing headache for small business owners in particular.

The dynamics of worker availability and needs have shifted in the wake of the pandemic, and owners often struggle to find skilled and unskilled workers to fill positions.

The restaurant sector is among those that have felt the sting of a lack of labor. The National Restaurant Association has said it projects restaurants will add another 500,000 jobs by the end of the year, but have seen just one job seeker for every two open jobs, enhancing competition for workers.

Makiah Grindstaff has worked at Famous Toastery in Davidson, North Carolina, for more than two years, during both the school year and summers. The high school senior has been saving up for several goals and said pay can reach $25 an hour depending on the role she’s filling in the restaurant and what day of the week it is.

She and her friends take pride in having cash on hand to shop, dine and drive, Grindstaff said.

“I started driving and gas is expensive, and I wanted to start saving for college,” she said. “And I just want to be able to have my own money.” – Source: CNBC.



From D.C. to Denver, the emerging restaurant concept sees major growth  . . . .


Call Your Mother Deli expands its empire of funky bagel sandwiches

While many bagel shops have banked on the baked goods evoking nostalgia, be that for New York Jewish delis or Montreal cafes, Call Your Mother Deli garnered a following by doing the opposite. Now the non-traditional bagel company is growing, with shops in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and most recently, Denver, where there are plans to keep the momentum going.

“Our whole idea is to not battle nostalgia since everyone does it super classic and everyone is going to be comparing it like they do their grandma’s matzo ball soup,” said Andrew Dana, who co-owns Call Your Mother Deli with his wife, Daniela Moreira. “My wife is from Argentina, she came at [the business] with a blank slate, so we didn’t have to do anything by the book.”

In fact, Moreira had never had a bagel until her husband suggested opening a Jewish-style deli around 2018. Because she had no idea surrounding what a bagel was, and certainly none of that pesky nostalgia that indeed comes with the food, she was able to branch out and try bagels from around North America, picking and choosing aspects that were the most pleasing to her and Dana.

Together the couple tried each iteration, and after months of experimenting the result is a New York-Montreal hybrid spiced with ingredients such as maple salt, black pepper, za’atar, and cheddar cheese. Recently, the couple developed a cheesy yuca bagel bread for those wanting a gluten-free option.

The look of Call Your Mother also stands out. Each shop is adapted to its location, the building it’s housed in, and appropriate local nuances, but they all have a signature bright pink and blue color palette and a beachy, artistic vibe that exudes sunshine, laidback dining, and upbeat feelings all around. “Before we named it or had a menu, we knew we had to have it be super bright and super fun,” said Dana. “Bagel shops tend to have a certain look [but] my grandparents are from Boca Raton, [Fla.], and this decor is inspired more by them.”

To deck out each location, Dana and his marketing manager, Tim Casey, shop around at local thrift and antique shops. For the Denver spot local embellishments include a wall of fake flowers, thick wood tables refinished in the company’s colors, and a wall of old cell phones painted and repurposed as art. The detailed decor and bright colors help give the bustling deli the feeling of openness, even when it’s packed, which happens pretty often. The Denver location has an endless line on weekends, and people stream in the middle of weekdays, too.

The menus and prices across the 12 locations run pretty much the same. Single bagels are $2.50; a baker’s dozen is $22. Bagels with toppings run from $6 for basic cream cheese, $7 for strawberry-mint cream cheese, $8 for tuna salad, and up to $10 for specialties such as candied salmon cream cheese. The sandwiches start at $6 and go up to $11.50, the most expensive being the Royal Palm with plain cream cheese, smoked salmon, cucumber, tomato, red onion, and capers on an everything bagel; and the least expensive is the same bagel minus the salmon.

Sandwiches on challah or rye bread are also available, running $13 to $15.50 with options such as BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado), hummus & avocado with pickled vegetables, and spicy Pastrami, which comes laced with jalapeño herb mayonnaise. Call Your Mother Deli also makes its own baked sweets including chocolate babka muffins ($4.50), black and white cookies ($3.50), and seasonal pastries ($3 to $4.50). Add in a side of latkes ($7.50) and diners can really get a sense of the Jewish side to this eclectic deli.

Each location also has its own specials. For example on the Denver menu guests can order The Jetski, a cheddar bagel with pastrami, two types of cheese, and jalapeños, for $13. Dana also sources coffee, meat, and other goods from local purveyors.

Even though Call Your Mother Deli has expanded fairly quickly in the past five years, the growth was never part of the plan, said Dana. The Denver location, which opened in May 2023 on 38th and Tennyson in the city’s northwest, came about because they liked the city and Dana felt that he understood the neighborhoods, some of which reminded him of some D.C. neighborhoods. He said he also likes how the restaurant’s neighbors support local businesses. A second location in the city is in the works.

“We take it a store at a time, a month at a time, because to be honest, none of us have done this before. We have never expanded or grown a concept,” he said. “Going forward, as long as it’s going well and people want bagels, it will continue to grow.” Source: NRN


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