Foodservice Equipment and Supplies


Marcone Adds More Next-Day Parts in Canadian Market

Respective makers of cook-and-hold ovens and warewashing equipment are now partnering with the parts distributor.

Marcone has expanded its offerings to include next-day delivery of Alto-Shaam and Moyer Diebel OEM parts to Canadian service providers.

The additions aim to help techs minimize downtime and to encourage first-time fix rates, notes Keri Lewellyn, president of Marcone Commercial Kitchen. The company’s commercial kitchen division, launched in 2022, also currently maintains stock of Cleveland, Convotherm, Garland, Lincoln and Merrychef parts for the Canadian market.

“Marcone’s focus is to put the right parts into trained technicians’ hands as fast as possible,” says Michael Walker, national sales director for Marcone Commercial Kitchen. “We’re continuing to expand our inventory and add new manufacturers with the sole purpose of becoming the service provider’s partner for all their parts needs.”

Headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., Marcone operates out of nearly 200 locations throughout North America. In March, the company opened a new 16,000-square-foot facility in Pompano Beach, Fla.



Welbilt Updates Refrigeration Leadership

Multiline foodservice equipment manufacturer Welbilt has updated the leadership of its refrigeration brands. Will Means, will step down as president of Beverage-Air and Victory. In response to this leadership change, Clint Reed, who is president of Delfield and Kolpak, will assume the role of interim president for both Beverage-Air and Victory.

welbilt teamAdditionally, Ali Group appointed Marcy Mathews to serve as president of Delfield. Mathews will manage the day-to-day operations of Delfield.

Means spent the past 17 years with Ali Group, which is Welbilt’s parent company.

Ali Group acquired Welbilt in 2022. In March of 2024, Ali Group North America and Welbilt merged and now go to market in North America as Welbilt.



Cook-and-Hold Oven Maker Hires Sales Manager

Jania Tung brings 29-plus years of culinary, residential kitchen and commercial equipment sales experience to the role.

Winston Foodservice has hired Jania Tung as its U.S. regional/international territory sales manager. She will be based in Texas.

Tung has over 29 years of culinary, residential kitchen and commercial equipment sales experience. She has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the foodservice industry, spanning from her military service to executive chef roles and recently, as a business development representative in Southern California.

Based in Louisville, Ky., Winston Foodservice, a division of Winston Industries, produces cook-and-hold ovens, retherm ovens, holding cabinets, warming drawers and fryers.



Tabletop and FoH


The Plate as Palette

Design is all over new tableware.

The way a dish looks has been important to the dining experience since forever, but perhaps never more than now. Relaxed and homey. Or vibrant and celebratory. And perhaps shareable, too.

“Chefs know that guests spend a lot of time looking at their plates,” says Chandra Ram, associate editorial director of Food & Wine magazine.

“So it’s another detail, before you eat, to help set the stage for a visual experience. This is especially true for dishes they know are going to make it onto Instagram — a beautiful plate makes for a better (and more shareable) image, which helps market the restaurant.”

As with restaurants, so with the home.

Design is all over new tableware. The classic white ceramic circle has ceded some ground to plates in a variety of creative shapes and colors.


“Chefs and restaurants are moving away from traditional ways of food presentation,” says Thomas Kastl, director of dining at Ambiente, the global homewares trade fair in Frankfurt each year. “The latest trend embraces handmade-style tableware, or irregular shapes inspired by nature, like leaves or shells.”

Stoneware, in particular, is enjoying a renaissance, he says. It’s natural, recyclable and long-lasting, and “implies down-to-earthiness, legacy and craftsmanship.”

The stoneware trend also reflects a “more relaxed plating style,” even in fine-dining restaurants, Kastl said.

It’s part of a larger shift in decor, says Blair Donovan, an editor at Apartment Therapy.

“The past few years have been all about soft, fluid furniture; now I’m noticing these silhouettes trickle over to dinnerware,” “Instead of conventionally clean-edged plates and platters, more organically shaped, asymmetric styles are cropping up.”


Donovan mentions brands like Food52 and Soho Home for having embraced “imperfect” dining sets, often in neutral, earthy tones.

At Crate & Barrel, designer Leanne Ford’s Kiln wonky dinnerware looks fresh off the potter’s wheel. The retailer also sells the Julo stoneware collection from Portugal, with blue and brown reactive glazes creating kinetic patterns.

Scallop trim – a trend noted in Apartment Therapy’s 2024 State of Home Design survey – has found its way from decor to plates, where the wavy edging is especially well-suited to smaller appetizer and dessert dishes.

Ceramicist Jono Pandolfi started making dinnerware for restaurants in 2004. When Michelin-starred restaurateurs like Danny Meyer began working with him, the business really took off. Today he’s in a 6,000-square-foot production house in Union City, New Jersey, where 10 kilns are kept busy making stoneware for home cooks and gourmet restaurants around the country.

And on New York’s Lower East Side, the recently opened Bar Miller restaurant serves its omakase menu on the colorfully glazed ceramic slabs and plate bowls of local artisans Helen Levi and FeFo Studio.


“Chefs are telling me they use beautifully patterned plates to help tell their stories,” says Ram, of Food & Wine. “A vintage plate style might reiterate that a chef was influenced by a parent or grandparent’s cooking.”

Some playful patterns put the design on just one side of the plate. Others evoke nature, like Fortessa’s swirling Cloud Terre and Northern Lights collections.

Still others favor modern art. In Olhao, Portugal, David Pimentel and Arren Williams created Casa Cubista, named for the town’s Cubist-style buildings. The buzzy brand has handmade plates with bold swaths of glaze, colored dips and graphic abstracts.

Mud Australia has matte-finish ceramic pieces in soft, dreamy hues with names like pistachio, duck egg, mist and blossom.


At London’s Kitchen Theory food design lab, chef Jozef Youssef and his team have done surveys of how the color of a dish affects a diner’s perception of the plated food.

Their findings: Dishes served on red plates were thought to be sweeter, making them ideal for desserts. Yellow plates seemed to make fruit dishes look especially appetizing. Blue and green? These plates were said to make dishes appear healthier.



How to Handle Complaints in Your Restaurant

Even if your staff is well-trained and you handle your operations carefully, there will inevitably be times when a customer is dissatisfied with their experience. Knowing how to effectively address and resolve complaints can not only help retain customers but also improve your restaurant’s reputation. By understanding the common reasons for complaints, implementing effective complaint handling procedures, and training your staff to handle challenging situations, you can turn negative experiences into opportunities to showcase your commitment to customer service excellence.

Why Do Customers Complain?
In hospitality and foodservice, customers complain when their expectations haven’t been met. They anticipate a level of service from your restaurant, and if the experience you deliver isn’t on par with their expectations, a gap forms. Customer complaints help you close the gap and make sure the experience you promise matches the service you provide.

Benefits of Customer Complaints
woman sitting at a table during lunch and complaining about the food to the owner of the restaurant
You can take your business to the next level if you view complaints from customers as something valuable instead of detrimental. Below, we’ve listed the benefits of customer complaints in your restaurant:

Improves Your Menu and Service – Complaints provide you with valuable feedback about your restaurant and reveal opportunities for improvement. For example, if you receive multiple complaints that a dish is too spicy, you should improve your menu descriptions and talk to your servers about communication.
Creates a Better Guest Experience – The number of customers who voice their complaints is very small compared to the number of unhappy guests who just leave and never come back. When you resolve one customer complaint, you improve guest satisfaction for a larger group of customers than you realize.
Reveals Guest Expectations – Guest complaints and criticism help you understand what your customer base is looking for. This info can be used to shape new menus, create new services, and enhance your marketing approach.
How to Deal with Customer Complaints
Any time you can handle a complaint, consider it an opportunity instead of a failure. If a customer walks out your door and hasn’t addressed their complaint with anyone in person, they are more likely to vent their frustrations in a review or to their friends. That’s exactly what you don’t want to happen. Handling customer complaints face-to-face gives you a chance to make it right.

Customer Complaint Procedure
Unhappy customers can range from slightly irritated to extremely angry. It’s difficult for many people to face an irate guest and stay professional in the heat of the moment. That’s why it helps to create a step-by-step response that anyone on your staff can follow. This is our five-step complaint handling procedure:

Stay Calm – When dealing with a complaint, keep your voice level and calm. Don’t let your tone rise, or you may appear defensive or confrontational. Take a deep breath, make eye contact with the customer, and keep an open mind.
Listen – To fix the problem, you must understand what happened. It could be multiple mishaps during service, or it could be one big mistake. Either way, give the customer your full attention.
Sympathize – This step can be tricky, especially if you’re in the middle of a busy rush and a complaint catches you by surprise. Put yourself in the guest’s shoes and sympathize with their situation, even if the issue seems minor. Use sympathetic facial expressions and body language. Don’t impatiently tap your foot or look over your shoulder.
Apologize – This step seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how important it can be. Don’t pass the blame or make excuses, even if the customer’s complaint isn’t directly your fault. Always accept responsibility on behalf of the restaurant and apologize sincerely for the oversight.
Resolve – Every complaint will require a different resolution. This is where superior customer service skills and emotional intelligence come into play. The perfect solution could just be an apology, or it could require comping the bill for the entire table.

Who Should Handle Complaints?
The best person to handle a complaint in your restaurant is the front-of-house manager. When the manager-on-duty steps in to handle a customer complaint, it helps diffuse the situation. It shows you value the guest’s opinion and you appreciate their business. Not only that, if the complaint revolves around customer service from your server or host staff, a neutral party should intercede and represent the restaurant.

Some restaurant managers empower servers or hosts to handle minor complaints as they come up. However, not every member of your staff is going to be an expert at handling customer complaints, and that’s okay. If there’s no management presence involved, you may never know the scope of the complaint or how many complaints you are receiving. Train your servers, hosts, and customer-facing employees to recognize when they need to notify a manager about a customer complaint.

What about Social Media Complaints?
Today, there are many online avenues where guests can share negative and positive feedback about your business. It happens on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as well as review sites like Yelp and Google Reviews. Since your online presence is very important, you should be proactive about monitoring any complaints and focus on responding to online reviews as soon as possible. Handling restaurant social media complaints takes time and effort, so make this a job responsibility and not just an afterthought.



How to Increase Reservations For Your Restaurant’s Mother’s Day Brunch

Mother’s Day is soon and as a restaurant owner, you know that this special day presents a prime opportunity to increase reservations and boost sales. With families looking for the perfect place to celebrate the mothers in their lives, your restaurant has the potential to become the go-to destination for Mother’s Day brunch. In this article, we will explore some innovative strategies to help you increase reservations for your restaurant’s Mother’s Day brunch, ultimately driving more customers through your doors and increasing your bottom line.

Host a Unique Mother’s Day Brunch
One key strategy to attract more customers to your restaurant for Mother’s Day brunch is to offer a unique and memorable experience. Many families are looking for a special way to celebrate the mothers in their lives, and by creating a one-of-a-kind brunch experience, you can stand out from the competition and increase reservations. This could include offering a special menu featuring seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, as well as incorporating unique and creative dishes that are not typically found on your regular menu.

Create a Warm Atmosphere
In addition to offering a unique dining experience, it’s important to consider the presentation and ambiance of your restaurant. Creating a warm and inviting atmosphere can make all the difference in attracting customers for Mother’s Day brunch. Utilizing eco-friendly restaurant supplies from companies like PacknWood can help enhance the overall dining experience for your customers. By using sustainable and eco-friendly products, not only are you showcasing your commitment to the environment, but you are also creating a more aesthetically pleasing and memorable dining experience for your guests.

Take the Time to Properly Promote Your Mother’s Day Brunch Offering
Promoting your Mother’s Day brunch through various marketing channels can help increase reservations and drive more customers to your restaurant. Utilizing social media, email marketing, and in-house promotions can help spread the word about your special brunch event and entice customers to make reservations. By creating engaging and visually appealing content, you can capture the attention of potential guests and encourage them to choose your restaurant as the ultimate destination for their Mother’s Day celebration.

Earn the Reputation for Excellent Service for Your Mother’s Day Brunch
It’s important to remember that offering exceptional customer service is crucial in increasing reservations for your Mother’s Day brunch. Providing a seamless and enjoyable dining experience for your guests can leave a lasting impression and encourage them to return in the future. By going the extra mile to ensure that every customer feels valued and appreciated, you can build loyalty and ultimately increase sales for your restaurant.



Food & Beverage


Hanover Foods Cited Over 60 Violations at Pennsylvania Plant

OSHA officials had received a complaint over the company’s handling of hazardous chemicals.

CENTRE HALL, Pa. – The U.S. Department of Labor has again found Hanover Foods Corp., a large food manufacturer with a history of hazardous workplace safety practices, in violation of dozens of safety and health hazards at its Centre Hall facility.

The producer of glass-pack, canned, frozen, refrigerated, freeze-dried and snack food products under the Hanover brand as well as other private labels also operates eight other manufacturing plants, including five in Pennsylvania and one each in Delaware, New Jersey and Guatemala.

In October 2023, inspectors with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation at the Centre Hall plant in response to a complaint alleging hazards involving the company’s handling of highly hazardous chemicals, included in Hanover’s Process Safety Management program.

OSHA cited the company for 70 violations, including nine repeat, 51 serious and 11 other-than-serious violations. The infractions related to numerous Process Safety Management failures, such as lack of training; not correcting equipment deficiencies; failing to document that equipment complied with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices and to establish an emergency plan for the entire plant.

The agency has assessed Hanover Foods Corp. with $761,876 in penalties. OSHA cited the company for similar violations at its Clayton, Delaware, facility in 2019 and 2021.

“Hanover Foods Corp. put its employees at risk of serious safety and health hazards by not complying with federal and industry-recognized safety standards at another of its facilities,” said OSHA Area Director Kevin T. Chambers in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “We will use all of our resources to hold employers accountable when they neglect their legal duty to protect their workers from harm.”

Workers in the U.S. suffer more than 190,000 illnesses and approximately 50,000 deaths annually related to chemical exposures. OSHA’s website provides an overview of chemical hazards and toxic substances to provide employers and employees with tips to recognize hazards and control exposures.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.



Domino’s is now tipping customers who tip their delivery drivers

When customers tip their Domino’s drivers $3 or more, they’ll receive a coupon to use on their next order from the restaurant

Domino’s Pizza is tipping its customers yet again, with a new “You Tip, We Tip” promotion, beginning April 29, which offers customers a $3 coupon for their next order when they tip their delivery drivers $3 or more.

The “catch” is that the $3 coupon is only good for the next week’s delivery order, essentially encouraging Domino’s customers to become returning customers on a weekly basis. Additionally, the tipping deal is only available through first-party channels, which nudges customers to get delivery through Domino’s direct ordering channels, even though the company just started partnering with third-party delivery services last year (exclusively Uber Eats and Postmates for now).

“Domino’s drivers have been hustling to deliver hot, delicious pizzas since 1960, and we love that customers have been tipping them for their great service since day one,” Kate Trumbull, Domino’s senior vice president and chief brand officer said in a statement. “But these days, everywhere you go, there’s a tip screen. The pressure to tip is real, even when no extra service is provided. So, we decided to flip the script and show our appreciation by tipping customers back.”

This is an extension of a previous “customer tipping” program that Domino’s introduced in Jan. 2022, which offered carryout customers a $3 tip (similarly a coupon good for an order placed the following week) simply for choosing the option of picking up their pizza instead of relying on delivery. At the time, Domino’s delivery channels were overwhelmed pre-Uber Eats partnership announcement, and the company began relying more and more on carryout as delivery labor struggles continued through 2023.

At the time of the previous iteration of a customer coupon, Domino’s CEO Russell Weiner called it a “marketing innovation,” because whereas most companies call this type of coupon a “bounce back coupon,” Domino’s thought it would be clever to call it a tip since Domino’s is so well-known as a delivery-forward company.

The final key aspect of this new tipping promotion is the support of drivers, as Domino’s has historically struggled with labor levels, particularly with drivers. This is not the first employee-facing support Domino’s has released recently. At the end of 2023, the pizza company said that it would be releasing a new labor tool this year that will, alongside another forecasting tool the company already has, be able to provide better schedules and flexibility for the pizza company’s employees.



I Tried the Smash Burgers at 5 Popular Chains and the Best Was Pure Bliss

When you want seared meat with perfectly crisped edges and the right topping balance, here’s where to go.

Burgers are iconic American fare—to say that we’re hamburger-obsessed as a nation would be an understatement. After all, more than 50,000 burger joints exist nationwide, helping Americans consume close to 50 billion burgers every year. It’s clear that the burger business is thriving.

America has come a long way since a man from Wisconsin dubbed Hamburger Charlie squished a meatball between two slices of bread in 1885, thus creating what he claimed to be the first-ever hamburger. This delicious combination of ground beef and carbs has been subject to many changes and trends over the years. One such trend that has recently taken hold is the smash burger craze.

This new-age hamburger technique involves taking a loosely packed hunk of meat and smashing it onto the grill with a spatula or similar tool until it forms an ultra-thin patty. Cooking it this way allows more meat to come in direct contact with the hot surface, giving the beef an unparalleled seared taste and lightly crisped texture.

Many popular chains use this method, from the obvious SmashBurger to legacy fast-food chains such as Steak ‘n Shake. I went on a meaty mission to find out which one serves up a smash hit while others could use some recipe refining. Here’s where they ranked, in descending order from my least favorite to the #1 best smash burger of the bunch.

Steak ‘n Shake

NUTRITION: (Per Single Steakburger w/Cheese):
FAT: 20 g (Saturated Fat: 9 g)
SODIUM: 1,160 mg
CARBS: 32 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 6 g)
I’ve always appreciated that Steak ‘n Shake is one of those what you see is what you get kind of establishments. Its name is crystal clear, its menu simplistic, and everything comes together in a 50s-like setting—a place where you would expect the cast of Grease to pop out at any moment and break into an animated song and dance.
Alongside thick milkshakes, steakburgers are the chain’s claim to fame. Unlike a regular hamburger, these incorporate more premium steak cuts into their patties, and at Steak ‘n Shake, they are cooked using the smash method. There are plenty of ways to dress your steakburger at the chain, but I went with the most elementary of options, a Single Steakburger with cheese. Pickles, lettuce, tomato, and a signature mustard relish became my garnishes of choice for $4.24.

The look: Squished and flat, yet beaming with crisp toppings. At first, it looks like a vegetarian option until you zoom in closer and see the small sliver of beef coated with American cheese nearly hidden at the base. The surrounding bun appears objectively basic, much like your average, everyday grocery store bun.

The taste: Everything is put together well and appetizing, except for the most critical part: the beef. I know smash patties are supposed to be delicate and narrow, but this one is so wafer-thin I could hardly identify it under the lettuce, tomato, and juicy pickles. Its fringes also became crunchy and hard—matching the crackly bread—while the rest suffered from a serious case of blandness. The signature mustard relish does take everything up a notch, bringing some zest and flavor into the mix. But I would ask for a double if you want a full meat flavor.

Shake Shack

NUTRITION: (Per Single Shackburger):
FAT: 30 g (Saturated Fat: 12 g)
SODIUM: 1,250 mg
CARBS: 26 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 6 g)
What started as a hot dog cart in New York City has become a fast-casual restaurant sensation with more than 400 locations worldwide. Like all other joints on this list, Shake Shake specializes in hamburgers and hand-spun milkshakes—and it’s also got extras like cheese fries, chicken sandwiches, and veggie burgers. It differentiates itself by only offering never-frozen beef and poultry that was humanely raised and grazed and is free of any hormones and antibiotics.

The burgers on the menu range from straightforward options like the plain hamburger to more extravagant choices like the limited-time Korean BBQ Burger. I felt I had to go with the chain’s classic ShackBurger, however. It’s It’s with one 100% Angus beef patty, a slice of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce for $6.49.

The look: The first word I thought of was “cute.” It’s relatively compact and certainly not a burger you’ll need two hands to tackle. However, it is well-constructed, with each colorful layer visible from the sides. The beef also protrudes in a square-like shape—similar to what you would find at Wendy’s.

The taste: Once again, the toppings knock it out of the park while the core of the burger comes up short. The lettuce and tomatoes are fresh, the cheese is gooey, and the orange sauce is a must. I’m convinced it’s just a simple amalgamation of ketchup and mayonnaise, but it’s divine. I also loved the moist and squishy yellow-washed potato bun. However, the Angus patty needs some work. I think it was maybe pressed on the grill just a minute too long, leaving it chewy and dry, ultimately diminishing the enjoyability of the sandwich.

Five Guys

NUTRITION: (Per Cheeseburger):
FAT: 55 g (Saturated Fat: 23 g)
SODIUM: 1,050 mg
CARBS: 40 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g)
I have some beef with Five Guys—not just one of them, the whole lot—and my reasoning is twofold. First, I was unaware that the chain’s standard hamburgers and cheeseburgers are doubles. Meanwhile, the “Little” options on its menu are singles, not kiddie-sized, as I assumed. I learned this the hard way.

However, my second, more important, bone to pick with the joint is its menu prices. And I’m not the only one. A Little Cheeseburger costs around $9.39—the most expensive single in our taste test. And, if you thought that must come with fries to offset the cost, you’d be mistaken. All you’ll get is a free whiff of the spuds as you walk in to pick up your order. I paid even more for my accidental double cheeseburger—a whopping $11.79, to be exact. I did have leeway to select an unlimited amount of toppings, though, as part of the restaurant’s DIY style. I went with a simple combo of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickles, later regretting not going all in and getting my money’s worth.

The look: Jumbo and beefy, thanks to my ordering flub. It’s It’se saliva-inducing with its plentiful yet haphazard ingredients. All are stacked on a sesame seed bun, and I noticed Five Guys keeps things modest, neglecting to add branding to its to-go bags or wrappers.

The taste: The patties are quintessential smash patties: flat with no pink and a crisped perimeter. They are a bit greasy but not bad, and they delight with an almost homemade taste. I elected for no sauce here, which was a solid choice since it didn’t need it. The ripe tomato and thick-cut pickles add enough flavor diversity, plus the creamy cheese held its own, binding the sandwich together. I have no qualms with the taste of this savory and filling burger, but other joints do it just as well—if not better—and at a fraction of the price.


NUTRITION: (Per Single Butterburger w/ Cheese):
FAT: 42 g (Saturated Fat: 19 g)
SODIUM: 830 mg
CARBS: 40 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 8 g)
With a name like ButterBurger, it has to be good, right? This is what the nationwide fast-food chain Culver’s calls its specialty smash burgers. Unlike what the name implies, they aren’t called ButterBurgers due to the fresh, never-frozen patties being coated with a generous layer of golden butter. No, it’s the toasted bun that gets all buttered up.

This is the sandwich I asked for as I zipped through the joint’s drive-thru line. More specifically, I requested a single ButterBurger Cheese, made with a real American slice from Wisconsin and topped with the works—a tried-and-true combination of pickles, ketchup, mustard, and raw onions. I proudly resisted tacking on a scoop of fresh frozen custard or a Concrete Mixer and paid my $4.39.

The look: On the smaller side and not overly impressive. The meat leaks over the buttery bun’s edges, though, so its presence is clear. What I found strange is that all the toppings are burrowed underneath the patty instead of on top—even the melty cheese hunkers below. Gauging by the chain’s online menu, this appears to be standard practice, but it threw me off.

The taste: Shabby looks aside, Culver’s flips a quality burger. Garlicky with a smooth, pressed-together demeanor, the meat almost melts in your mouth. Accompanied by the gently buttered, marginally sweet bun, the entire sandwich is nearly unstoppable—keyword, nearly. I was happy with my topping selection. The crunchy pickles and onion slices elevate the beef without overpowering it—like what I experienced at Steak ‘n Sh’ke. And the ketchup and mustard are a condiment match made in heaven—the perfect sweet, bold, and tangy duo. There is a reason why this burger is the chain’s bread and butter.


NUTRITION: (Per Classic Smashburger):
FAT: 37 g (Saturated Fat: 15 g)
SODIUM: 1,630 mg
CARBS: 41 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 9 g)
This chain has been smashin’ patties since 2007, giving rise to one of the hottest burger trends we’ve seen since cheese slices. Smashburger is said to be the king of its craft, and it steps things up a notch by using ​custom-forged burger smashers at each of its 240-plus restaurants throughout the country and beyond. Signature burgers are its calling, and this is where I found the menu option for me: the Classic Smashburger. For $6.99, it’s loaded with a certified Angus beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, pickles, SmashSauce, and ketchup on a toasted bun.

The chain is also known for being quite experimental, adding unorthodox toppings to its creations, such as brisket, smashed avocado, and Anaheim chiles. Don’t forget about its range of chicken sandwiches, wings, salads, milkshakes, and mouthwatering Smashfries smacked with rosemary, garlic, and olive oil.

The look: The first thing I noticed is the puffy and proud artisan-style bun. From there, the rest is vibrant in shades of purple, green, and red on top of an orange cheese-covered patty, which lands right above thin. All is dripping with a pale yellow substance—what I assume to be the Smashsauce.

The taste: Aside from Five Guys, this is the meatiest burger I encountered. But the kicker is that there’s only one patty here. Despite its smash burger nature, it displays body and depth while still maintaining that quintessential charred exterior and plenty of peppery, seasoned flavor. I was ready to hand Smashburger the victory based on this information alone. The chain didn’t stop there. Each topping adds its unique flair, from the juicy pickles to the pungent onions to the Smashsauce that covers everything with a taste similar to that of deviled egg filling. Lastly, the piece de resistance is the buttery bun. Buoyant yet chewy, it rounds out the sandwich, creating pure burger bliss.



HVAC & Plumbing News


Awards, NFL Star’s Talk Highlight Carrier’s Dealer Meeting

ORLANDO, Fla. — Carrier’s three-day national factory-authorized dealer meeting and awards celebration concluded recently, with more than 400 dealers receiving the Carrier President’s Award and three emerging as top award recipients.

Desmond Howard, a former National Football League wide receiver and return specialist, delivered the keynote speech.

At the event, Carrier inducted Greg Harnist and Tim Corcoran, of Corcoran & Harnist of Cincinnati, Ohio, and John Ambrosino, of Total Temperature Control of Wakefield, Massachusetts, into its Dealer Hall of Fame. Fred Habegger, of The Habegger Corp., received the Carrier Distributor Lifetime Achievement Award. The awards were established to recognize dealers and distributors who exemplify exceptional leadership in business management, customer satisfaction, HVAC expertise, and operational excellence.

The meeting also served as a training opportunity, with sessions led by industry experts. Each course provided credit hours toward participants’ Carrier factory-authorized dealer designation; Carrier’s standard requires designees to maintain industry licenses and insurance, pass extensive training requirements, and maintain exemplary scores in customer service.

Training topics covered the upcoming refrigerant transition, generational selling and profitability, and branding and marketing with a focus on social media.

“The national dealer meeting is an annual reminder that we truly have the best dealers in the industry,” said Nick Arch, vice president and general manager of the residential solutions division at Carrier, in a press release. “Their ongoing commitment to excellence in service, sales, and brand loyalty is unmatched. Congratulations to our Hall of Fame inductees, our Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and all of our President’s Award winners.”



Systemair North America Launches New Green Ventilation Label to Guide Customers Toward Sustainable Solutions

(LENEXA, KAN., April 25, 2024)
Systemair, a leading global supplier of high-quality ventilation, heating, and cooling products and systems, has launched its new Green Ventilation sustainability label. The mark constitutes an environmental performance benchmark to guide customers toward the most sustainable solutions within Systemair’s product portfolio. It comprises strong and easily verifiable sustainability requirements tailored to each product category (e.g., air handling units, fans, classroom ventilators), which define when a product is entitled to carry the new label or not.

Green Ventilation is part of Systemair’s wide range of sustainability activities to proactively meet increasing sustainability demands across HVAC markets worldwide. The new mark is subject to category-specific sustainability requirements, which define when a Systemair product is entitled to receive the Green Ventilation label. The set requirements are measurable and verifiable, allowing customers to make apples-to-apples comparisons and select the products that best meet their sustainability goals and needs.

The label considers not only a unit’s energy efficiency but also its impact on indoor air quality, safety, comfort, and global warming potential, among other factors.

“Green Ventilation is a simple guide to choosing the most sustainable solutions within our portfolio,” said Thomas Urban, Product Area Director at Systemair. “Only products that meet easily verifiable sustainability criteria can carry our new environmental performance mark.”

In North America, the product areas eligible for the Green Ventilation logo are air handlers, fans, energy recovery ventilators, car park fans, and classroom vertical unit ventilators. Systemair products marked with the Green Ventilation logo are ideally suited for energy-sensitive projects looking to reduce their carbon footprint and save on energy costs.

“For architects and engineers seeking options that conserve energy, protect occupant health, and lower a project’s carbon footprint, Systemair’s new Green Ventilation logo provides a roadmap to the most sustainable options,” said Jared Smith, Regional Technology and Product Director for Systemair North America.

Systemair’s Green Ventilation label represents a significant step forward in the HVAC industry, offering customers a trusted symbol of environmental performance and sustainability. As organizations worldwide increasingly prioritize sustainability, Systemair stands ready to lead the way with innovative, eco-conscious solutions that make a positive impact on both the planet and building occupants.

Systemair provides detailed information on its new Green Ventilation label at



Inspiring Young HVACR Professionals Through Cloud Technology

There are currently 80,000 job openings in HVAC, plumbing, and electrical trades, which are expected to increase by 15% by 2026. With retirement in HVAC to cover 26% of the industry within the next 10 years, the technician shortage is alarming. The good news is technology can better position service management businesses to attract a new generation of trade professionals.

Cloud technology is changing how HVACR systems are made, monitored, and fixed. This goes beyond new gadgets – it is making the industry more interesting and more efficient, especially for young people who have grown up using smartphones and the internet. For them, cloud technology in HVACR opens new possibilities—beyond just a job. We’ve outlined three reasons why advanced technology tools are going to re-energize the industry.

It Offers a New-School Mindset
When “work smarter, not harder” becomes the industry standard, cloud technology is a must-have. It makes learning more interesting and training much more accessible—especially for young people. It opens doors to online learning materials and tools where people can learn new things about their field anytime and anywhere. This is great because they can learn at their own pace in a convenient manner, whether at home, at work, or on the go. This is useful for people who need to fit learning into their busy schedules.

Trade Workers Can Do More with Less
Today’s HVAC systems are equipped with smart sensors that are constantly collecting information. Tracking and reading all that information manually is a tedious job, and it leaves room for mistakes to be made. Paired with cloud technology tools, trade professionals can jump to the problem-solving. Things like spotting small maintenance issues early and addressing them before they become bigger, more expensive repairs are incredibly valuable; or making small adjustments on the spot to help keep equipment working longer with less downtime. Cloud technology can help trade workers do their jobs faster and better.

The Impact is Greener
Cloud technology has made smart climate control systems possible. Not only does this cut down on energy usage, but it also helps create a more eco-minded approach to HVACR. Young people care about the planet. They want greener jobs and embracing cloud technology is one way businesses can help reach environmental goals.

Adding cloud technology to HVACR helps push the industry forward, and it will attract the next wave of trade professionals who are already tech-savvy. They’ll get to work with advanced systems and technology tools all while helping make the world a better place, making the HVACR field a perfect career choice for those who love technology and care about the environment.



Go green, go steam

Fuel sources like hydrogen and even ammonia may become a more viable way to fire a boiler to provide steam.

Many people don’t consider boilers to be a “green” technology. However, the truth is, steam is the ideal medium for moving heat around, and nothing else comes close. The bottom line is, steam is far greener than most people realize.

An institution

The first thing to think about in regard to boilers and green technology is just how widespread its use is. Right now, boilers are a key part of the infrastructure to many of the world’s most important industries, which include about 80% of all products we use. A substantial number of manufacturing facilities rely on steam to create the machinery that keeps assembly lines running. Hospitals rely on steam for heat and, more importantly, for the sterilization of surgical instruments. Schools and universities rely on steam to keep classrooms warm.

That can’t all be replaced overnight. Furthermore, replacing a steam system would require a lot of heavy lifting and some demolition and rebuilding. That would all take additional energy to accomplish. Then, there’s the matter of what you’re replacing the system that produces steam with. A lot of so-called “green” technologies, especially electricity, has a much higher back-end cost than people realize.

Electricity doesn’t just flow out of the wall by magic. It has to be generated. Right now, that means using fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas. When it comes to wind and solar, there’s the matter of storing the electricity. As demand for batteries increases so does the demand for the toxic materials used to make them. In addition to being hazardous to mine, they also generate a lot of hazardous waste while processing

So, for the time being, boilers are the most viable alternative for steam.

As heat technology advances, though, additional fuel sources, like solar energy, bio-gas, hydrogen, and even ammonia, may become an even more viable way to fire a boiler to provide steam. The bottom line: Steam is not going away.


Another reason boilers are green has to do with heat transfer. Right now, there is no more efficient way to transfer low-pressure heat through a wide distribution network than steam. Hot air and water have temperature limitations. Steam, however, can be delivered at temperatures exceeding 1,250°F.

Whether you’re heating a classroom, manufacturing materials, processing textiles, or sterilizing the equipment in 10 operating rooms throughout a hospital, there’s no better way to move heat from the point of generation to the point of use than steam.


Boiler technology has come a long way in the past 70 years, and a lot of its major advancements have been in the area of efficiency. For example, optimized burners can get more out of every fuel dollar through more complete combustion.

Furthermore, economizers let a boiler system reclaim a tremendous amount of usable heat from the stack that can be used to preheat feedwater or process water to reduce the load on the furnace.

Public perception

There’s another reason steam isn’t seen as a green technology by some people, and that has to do with the steam they see. When you drive by a manufacturing plant and see it belching white vapor into the air, what you’re actually seeing is clean steam venting into the atmosphere.

Steam that is being used to scrub harmful waste materials out of exhaust gasses can actually make air cleaner.

So, the notion that steam-powered facilities are pouring particulates into the air, like so many old-time locomotives, just isn’t true.

With the advancements of burners being able to burn at 9-ppm NOx or using a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system, the steam we produce today is actually produced with cleaner stack emissions than ever and will be around for many, many years.



Controls Engineering & IoT


Coke Announces AI Partnership with Microsoft

The five-year strategic partnership aims to accelerate cloud and generative AI initiatives.

ATLANTA and REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft Corp. and the Coca-Cola Company on Tuesday announced a five-year strategic partnership to align Coca-Cola’s core technology strategy systemwide, enable the adoption of leading-edge technology, and foster innovation and productivity globally.

As part of the partnership, Coca-Cola has made a $1.1 billion commitment to the Microsoft Cloud and its generative AI capabilities. The collaboration underscores Coca-Cola’s ongoing technology transformation, underpinned by the Microsoft Cloud as Coca-Cola’s globally preferred and strategic cloud and AI platform.

Through the partnership, the companies will jointly experiment with groundbreaking new technology like Azure OpenAI Service to develop innovative generative AI use cases across various business functions. This includes testing how Copilot for Microsoft 365 could help improve workplace productivity.

“Through our long-term partnership, we’ve made significant progress to accelerate systemwide AI transformation across The Coca-Cola Company and its network of independent bottlers worldwide,” said Judson Althoff, executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Microsoft. “We’re proud to support Coca-Cola as it continues to embrace the era of AI and looks to solutions like Azure OpenAI Service and Copilot to drive innovation across every area of its business.”

Coca-Cola has migrated all its applications to Microsoft Azure, with most major independent bottling partners following suit. As a pioneer in AI adoption, Coca-Cola has been innovating with generative AI for nearly a year and has already leveraged Azure OpenAI Service to reimagine everything from marketing to manufacturing and supply chain and beyond. The company is currently exploring the use of generative AI-powered digital assistants on Azure OpenAI Service to help employees improve customer experiences, streamline operations, foster innovation, gain a competitive advantage, boost efficiency and uncover new growth opportunities.

“This new agreement builds on the success of Coca-Cola’s partnership strategy with Microsoft, showing our commitment to ongoing digital transformation,” said John Murphy, president and chief financial officer of the Coca-Cola Company. “Our partnership with Microsoft has grown exponentially, from the $250 million agreement we initially announced in 2020 to $1.1 billion today.”

The agreement reflects a significant step in advancing Coca-Cola’s digital transformation, focused on providing expanded access to Microsoft’s cloud and AI platforms — as well as solutions such as Microsoft 365, Power BI, Dynamics 365, Defender and Fabric — to enhance efficiency and scalability while fostering innovation across the system.

“Our expanded partnership with Microsoft is an important next chapter in Coca-Cola’s journey toward a digital-first enterprise powered by emerging technologies,” said Neeraj Tolmare, senior vice president and global chief information officer for the Coca-Cola Company. “Microsoft’s capabilities help accelerate our adoption of AI to create incremental enterprise value.”



Leading internet of things (IoT) companies for the food industry

Internet of Things (IoT) is described as a network of connected sensors and actuators to control and monitor the environment, the things that move within it, and the people that act within it.

With the remarkable applications of Internet of things in food industry, the food suppliers and retailers are gradually adopting it to enhance gains in their food businesses. For instance, IoT makes it easier for food companies to ensure the high levels of traceability, food safety, and accountability along the entire farm-to-fork supply chain.

Discover the leading IoT companies in the food industry
Using its experience in the sector, Just Food has listed some of the leading companies providing products and services related to IoT.

The information provided in the download document is drafted for food industry executives and technology leaders involved in IoT solutions.

The download contains detailed information on suppliers and their product offerings, alongside contact details to aid purchase or hiring decisions.

Amongst the leading vendors of IoT in the food industry are AVEVA, Enevo, Miso Robotics, Natural Machines, Picnic, Sodexo, Swift Sensors, Winnow and Zenput.

Related Buyer’s Guides which cover an extensive range of equipment manufacturers, solutions providers and technology for the food industry, can also be found here.

Applications of IoT in the food industry
Improves food safety

IoT has significantly reduced the risks of food illness outbreak by using sensors at every stage of production. Additionally, IoT tracking helps in detecting the sources of contamination to prevent further outbreaks.

Reduces wastage

According to a report by the United Nations, nearly a third of the world’s human food production is wasted each year. This not only results in financial loss, but also tends to harm the environment by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere. With IoT technology, the food industry can easily monitor the status of all food items.

Maintains transparent supply chains

IoT offers transparency and traceability across the entire supply chain by enabling both manufacturers and consumers to track products. Moreover, a transparent supply chain provides cost efficiency, effective inventory management, among others.

Improves logistics

Radio frequency identification (RFID) transmitters and GPS track the location of product from storage to shipping to the point of sale. Advanced RFID tracking technology also enhances visibility of the food supply chain.

IoT tracking using GPS helps collect relevant data about the location of food and helps stakeholders to assess its performance at the global front.



Technology Trends in the Food and Beverage Industry (CIOs, Take Note)

In the food and beverage sector, technological advancements are helping organizations enhance operational efficiency and reshape consumer interactions.

As a CIO, it’s essential to understand the latest technology trends in the food and beverage industry. This post explores how modern software systems are solving traditional challenges and what businesses must do to stay competitive.

F&B Technology Trends to Guide Your Software Selection
1. More Comprehensive ERP Functionality​
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have evolved from mere tools for managing finance and inventory to strategic solutions that integrate all facets of a business. Today, these systems are helping food and beverage businesses manage complex supply chains, production processes, and customer relationships.

If your company needs a solution tailored to the manufacturing industry, a modern manufacturing ERP system might be worth considering. These platforms streamline administrative and operational tasks, such as compliance tracking and quality assurance. At the same time, they provide analytics and reporting tools to optimize resource allocation and production planning.

2. IoT and Smart Manufacturing​
The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing manufacturing processes in the food and beverage industry. IoT devices collect and analyze data from various stages of production to monitor quality control, manage inventory levels, and ensure equipment efficiency.

For example, smart sensors on production lines can detect potential defects or contaminations before they become critical. In addition, these sensors can help managers perform tasks such as:

Maintaining safe temperatures
Counting inventory
Monitoring equipment performance
An innovative application of IoT can be seen in breweries where sensors monitor the fermentation process, adjusting conditions in real-time to ensure a quality brew.

3. AI and Machine Learning for Demand Forecasting and Personalization​
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are helping F&B companies predict consumer demand and personalize customer experiences. By analyzing vast amounts of data, these technologies can forecast buying patterns and preferences with high accuracy.

For example, a snack company might use ML to analyze purchase data and social media trends, allowing the company to anticipate dietary trends. At the same time, it might use AI-driven chatbots and recommendation systems to personalize marketing and enhance customer engagement.

4. IT Infrastructure Advancements ​
As food and beverage companies integrate cutting-edge technologies, the necessity for robust IT infrastructure has become apparent.

Our ERP software consultants frequently tell clients that an optimized IT infrastructure is crucial for handling increased data volumes and complex system integrations.

Here’s a look at the key elements of an optimized infrastructure:

Scalable Cloud Solutions – Many F&B companies are transitioning to cloud computing to ensure scalability and flexibility. Cloud platforms allow businesses to manage vast amounts of data, facilitating seamless operations and real-time analytics.
Advanced Network Architectures – The adoption of Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) is growing. SD-WAN provides enhanced connectivity, reliability, and control when it comes to applications used across multiple locations. This is especially crucial for companies with extensive distribution channels.
Enhanced Cybersecurity Measures – As digital data becomes more integral to operations, protecting this data has risen in priority. F&B companies are investing in sophisticated cybersecurity solutions to safeguard sensitive information from breaches and cyber threats.

5. Blockchain for Enhanced Traceability and Transparency​
F&B manufacturers are increasingly using blockchain technology to improve traceability and transparency in the food supply chain.

This trend is particularly relevant given the growing consumer demand for ethical sourcing and sustainability. Blockchain enables immutable recording of every transaction or product movement on a supply chain.

For instance, a seafood distributor might use blockchain to allow consumers to track the journey of seafood from the ocean to the supermarket shelf, boosting consumer trust and ensuring regulatory compliance.

6. Innovations in Customer-Facing Technologies
Recent advancements in customer experience technology aim to address the growing demand for faster and more personalized service. Many food and beverage companies have already achieved these benefits, enabling them to build more engaging and transparent customer relationships.

Some of the latest advancements that are enhancing the customer experience include:

Cloud-Based Delivery Optimization Platforms – These platforms use AI and machine learning to predict delivery times, optimize routes, and manage orders in real-time.
Next-Generation Mobile Apps – Mobile apps in the F&B sector now feature AI-driven personalization, voice ordering, and integrated augmented reality (AR) experiences.
Augmented Reality for Interactive Dining – AR allows diners to interact with a virtual representation of their meal before ordering. This technology gives customers a dynamic way to explore menu items, ingredients, and portion sizes through their smartphones or AR glasses.
Transparent Production Processes via AR – With AR, companies can show customers the origins and production processes related to their food. This helps brands build trust and loyalty by providing a clear view into the sustainability and quality of their sourcing and production practices.



Jan/San & Disposables


PuroClean Named Among Top Low-Cost Franchises

PuroClean recently ranked No.6 in Entrepreneur’s list of top franchises that can be started for less than $100,000, published in the Spring issue of Entrepreneur Media’s StartUps magazine and on

“Climbing the ranks to number six on Entrepreneur’s esteemed list of top franchises under $100,000 is an extraordinary testament to our commitment to accessibility and excellence,” said Steve White, president and COO of PuroClean. “This recognition not only underscores the value of our franchise model but also reflects the dedication of our entire PuroClean family. We’re honored to be recognized by Entrepreneur and remain steadfast in our mission to empower entrepreneurs with a proven pathway to success.”

For over two decades, PuroClean has been a trusted partner for home and business owners, offering restoration and remediation services. The company’s footprint spans across the Continental United States, and includes Hawaii and Puerto Rico, as well as Canada, with a network of nearly 500 offices. In the past year alone, PuroClean has seen significant expansion, adding over 60 new franchise locations, recruiting and hiring new home-office team members, and winning numerous awards. Notably, PuroClean was ranked number 82 in Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2024 Franchise 500 Rankings, marking the brand’s third consecutive year within the top 100 and its seventh consecutive year appearing on the list.

The companies on this list are ranked based on the scores they received in the 2023 Franchise 500, which evaluates franchise opportunities based on more than 150 data points in the areas of costs and fees, size and growth, franchisee support, brand strength, and financial strength and stability.

“Many people are surprised to learn how affordable a franchise can be,” says Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine. “There truly are incredible brands available at every level of investment — and with this list, we hope that prospective franchisees can find the right opportunity for both their lifestyles and their budgets.”



Kimberly-Clark reports solid first-quarter 2024 profit

Company beats earnings-per-share expectations, driven by higher organic sales and pricing measures in the face of currency challenges

Kimberly-Clark reported net income of $647 million in the first quarter of 2024, an increase of 14% compared to the same period last year. Earnings per share came in at $1.91. However, revenue showed a 1% decline on a year-over-year basis, totaling $5.14 billion.

FactSet estimates called for earnings per share of $1.63 and revenue of $5.08 billion, but the company beat those expectations. In premarket trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Kimberly-Clark shares were seen trading up 4.65%, trading at $134.93.

The decrease in revenues was attributable to the negative impacts of foreign currency translation and the divestments made in the tissue business and the K-C Professional division in Brazil in June 2023.

On the other hand, organic sales posted 6% growth for the year, driven by a 4% increase in prices, a 1% difference in volume and a favorable product mix. Kimberly-Clark noted that the price-led gains reflected necessary measures to address higher local costs in hyperinflationary economies, especially in Argentina.

In North America, organic sales increased 3% compared to the prior year, driven by 2% growth in the personal care division and a 6% increase in hygiene products, partially offset by a 1% decline in the K-C Professional division.

Kimberly-Clark CEO Mike Hsu commented, “We continue our strong productivity momentum through efforts to optimize our margin structure and are making good progress in focusing our business as we move forward with the implementation of our new operating model.”



P and G Appoints Senior VP of Australia and New Zealand

The Procter & Gamble Company has appointed Neal Reed as senior vice president and managing director, P&G Australia and New Zealand. He succeeds Kumar Venkatasubramanian, who will return to India to lead the P&G India Business.

Under Kumar’s leadership, P&G Australia and New Zealand delivered record metrics, category growth and strong retailer partnerships. He has also championed Equality and Inclusion, expanding impactful citizenship programs for employees and communities, including P&G ANZ’s partnership with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Reed joined P&G over 28 years ago, starting his career as an Account Rep in the UK. He spent 14 years working in a broad range of Sales assignments across the UK, Europe, Middle East and Africa. He successfully led Fabric Care Europe before moving to Japan in 2016. In his most recent assignment as Senior Vice President Oral Care, Greater China, Reed’s leadership enabled the business to thrive with continued growth via his commitment to elevated consumer experience. “I am excited for the opportunity to lead a dynamic ANZ Team.” says Reed “I’m passionate about inspiring and developing the organisation through our integrated growth strategy.”

Stanislav Vecera, P&G president, Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa said, “I want to thank Kumar for his strong leadership of the ANZ organisation, I know he will continue to excel in his newly appointed role to lead P&G India. I am thrilled with Neal’s appointment as senior vice president and managing director, Australia and New Zealand. He brings a wealth of knowledge and global experience that will build the organisation and support strong business results.”



Industry Spotlight


Restaurant and Foodservice: What does our industry workforce look like?

The restaurant and foodservice industry is the nation’s second largest private employer, providing 15.5M jobs – or 10% of the total U.S. workforce. This includes 12.4M jobs at eating and drinking places, plus an estimated 3.1M foodservice jobs in other sectors such as healthcare, accommodations, education, food-and-beverage stores, and arts, entertainment, and recreation. Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the National Restaurant Association offers a Data Brief that contains an updated overview of restaurant employee demographics. Get the facts about ethnicity, gender, age, marital status, education level and more.

Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, this National Restaurant
Association Data Brief contains an overview of restaurant employee demographics in 2022. Download it here.



How the Restaurant Leadership Conference came to be

Restaurant Rewind: The conference has grown from a few hundred attendees to several thousands, without losing the uniqueness of those early days. Here’s what’s in its DNA.

If you’ve been in the chain restaurant business for an appreciable stretch, chances are you’ve either attended or heard about the Restaurant Leadership Conference.

It’s the top-to-top event where you might see Magic Johnson jump off the stage to give someone a hug, two chain builders lay the groundwork for a merger (Cava and Zoes Kitchen, 2018) or a big-name CEO careening around a Go Kart track. Be mindful of who may be behind you in the coffee line, because it could be a best-selling author checking out the tech demonstrations in the tradeshow area.

Yet even longtime attendees are likely unaware of how the conference, now hosted by Restaurant Business parent Informa, came to be. In those roots are the reasons why the RLC continues to reign as an event where you’re likely to be surprised by what happens on the stage and the number of industry all-stars you’ll meet.

This week’s edition of our Restaurant Rewind retro-focused podcast revisits how the conference got started, why it zigged when other conferences zagged, and some of the brush-with-greatness presenters who left attendees a-buzz.

Check it out, whether you are there or want to be. Listen here.



Midwestern favorite Oberweis Dairy declares bankruptcy and cuts staff

The ice cream chain intends to lay off staff in June and cut its costs in other ways, but to remain in operation following a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. It is struggling to find a buyer.

The parent of the 40-unit Oberweis Dairy ice cream chain has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after failing to find a buyer, according to a court filing.

The family that has owned and operated Oberweis Dairy Inc. since 1927 said it intends to cut costs by laying off 127 of its roughly 1,100 employees starting in June, or the beginning of its busiest season. The documents indicate that the Oberweis clan owes about $4 million to creditors.

The Oberweis scoop shops generate roughly half the company’s revenues, with the remainder coming from sales through supermarkets and grocery delivery services.

The bankruptcy filing flatly states that the company landed in trouble after nearly a century as a Midwestern cult favorite through a combination of mismanagement and shifts in consumer tastes.

Among the missteps is an “under-investment” in production capabilities and an “over-investment” in the company’s distribution network. The bad calls left the company “unable to weather a period of diminishing sales.”

One of the reasons for that drop in sales, according to the filing, was a growing tendency of consumers to forsake traditional ice cream for plant-based, high-protein and shelf-stable frozen alternatives. Yet Oberweis didn’t move with the shift, the documents indicate.

As sales eroded, the company failed to tighten its belt and seek efficiencies, the filing continues. Meanwhile, it had sunk more capital into distribution instead of updating its production capabilities.

Last year, the Oberweis family hired investment advisors to seek a buyer. According to the bankruptcy filing, the call for suitors drew a number of interested parties. One took steps to become a stalking-horse bidder, or a would-be buyer willing to set the floor for the bidding in exchange for having its fees paid if a better offer was eventually fielded by the seller. That lead suitor was not identified.

The deal fell apart in March 2024, leaving the company with no other option but to seek bankruptcy protection, the documents assert. The company indicated that it intends to continue operating, but with some adjustments to its plight.

Oberweis enjoys a following and reputation in the Midwest that’s akin to Edy’s in the East and Dryer’s in the West. Four generations of Oberweis family members have run the chain. One member is Jim Oberweis, a member of the Illinois Senate and a frequent but unsuccessful contender for higher office. He has run twice for the U.S. senator twice, two times for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and one for the governorship of Illinois.

Oberweis is headquartered in North Aurora, Illinois.



Sticky’s Finger Joint declares bankruptcy

The New York chicken tender chain struggled coming out of the pandemic with inflation and several legal challenges. It is the latest in a string of industry bankruptcy filings.

Sticky’s Finger Joint’s rapid growth ran into a brick wall called the pandemic.

The New York-based chicken tenders chain, which at one point operated 16 locations in New York City and New Jersey, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday, the latest in a string of restaurant companies seeking debt protection.

Sticky’s was undone by a combination of the pandemic, inflation and a series of legal challenges, including one over its name.

The chain was an apparent success, earning cult status in the New York area. Sales at the chain grew from $500,000 in 2013 to $22 million last year, according to court documents.

(Read about the wave of restaurant chain bankruptcy filings.)

But the pandemic led to a decline in sales and closed locations. The company also said that a heavier reliance on less profitable third-party delivery and weak foot traffic in New York City coming out of the pandemic also contributed to its financial challenges.

Commodity inflation likewise played a role, though the company said in court documents that its efforts to offset that inflation has helped with cash flow.

But the company also had its share of legal issues.

Sticky’s last year lost a lawsuit filed by the landlord of its corporate offices in New York, leading to a $600,000 judgment. Sticky’s has appealed that ruling, but said in court documents that the cost of fighting that battle has created a financial strain.

So did this: In 2022 the barbecue chain Sticky Fingers sued Sticky’s over trademark infringement. Sticky’s said the cost of that fight has also created a financial burden.

Earlier this year, the company eased its short-term cash flow crisis with an equity fundraise that included $2.4 million on convertible notes.

The company operates 12 locations, though four restaurants have closed leading up to the bankruptcy filing.

Several restaurant chains have filed for bankruptcy over the past few months, including Clover Food Lab, which emerged from Chapter 11 this week, Tijuana Flats, and Oberweis Dairy. Restaurant-retail hybrid Foxtrot and Dom’s Kitchen & Market shuttered all 35 of their locations this week. And Red Lobster is reportedly considering a bankruptcy filing.




Desperate to draw and retain workers, operators are providing perks that were once unimaginable, like giving weekends off or providing access to babysitters.

Check out this interactive guide here.



Dave and Buster’s, Bonefish Grill and Carrabba’s expand into new menu territory

Check out the slideshow here.


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