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VW delays bid to boost Audi's China sales with SAIC deal

AutoNews - Wed, 2017-01-18 04:22
VW Group says it will not produce or sell any Audi cars with SAIC in China until at least 2018, seeking first to strengthen ties with existing Audi partner FAW.
Categories: Latest News

Former Nissan, Hyundai exec Rushforth joins Lookers

AutoNews - Wed, 2017-01-18 01:01
Former Nissan global sales chief and Hyundai Europe chief operating officer Allan Rushforth has joined the UK car dealership Lookers as managing director.
Categories: Latest News

Schlotzsky’s rolls out shrimp and brisket

Nation's Restaurant News - Tue, 2017-01-17 23:56

Schlotzsky’s has added shrimp and brisket to its permanent menu.

The fast-casual chain started testing shrimp last spring, in response to customer requests for a seafood option.

The Shrimp Original sandwich mixes seasoned and steamed shrimp with cream cheese, chipotle mayonnaise, chipotle pesto, cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, black olives, red onions, lettuce, tomatoes, mustard and Schlotzsky’s signature sauce, and is served on sourdough bread.

“It did probably double or triple what we expected it to do [in terms of sales],” Schlotzsky’s president Kelly Roddy said.

Then the chain also included shrimp in a new line of mac-and-cheese entrées called “Macs,” a new formulation of the pasta first introduced in March 2015.

The shrimp tested well both in the sandwich and in the mac-and-cheese, Roddy said, "and then we immediately tested it on the flatbread."

Meanwhile, the brisket played on Schlotzsky’s heritage as a company based in Austin, Texas, Roddy said.

“Brisket is one of the things that people actually seek out when they come to Austin, so why not bring that to Schlotzsky’s everywhere?” he said. “This is high-quality brisket, just like you’d get at Franklin’s in Austin, that you’d stand in line for an hour for,” he said, referring to Franklin Barbecue, which has a cult following.

The Shrimp Original sandwich. Photo: Schlotzsky's

The brisket, which is braised by one of Schlotzsky’s protein vendors, began a test in the summer, and then rolled out as a Mac limited-time offer in October.

Brisket is also available through February on a Spicy Brisket Flatbread with pesto, jalapeño chips, Swiss cheese, hot sauce, blue cheese dressing and basil, as well as on an Italian Shrimp & Brisket Flatbread with Italian dressing, cream sauce, balsamic glaze, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and barbecue sauce. 

The Shrimp Original will be brought back for Lent, which begins on March 1, as will the Shrimply the Best Mac and a new flatbread. Shrimp will also be available in salads this summer, Roddy said.

The Smokey Brisketeer Mac. Photo: Schlotzsky's

“It’s going to be a regular part of our menu from now on,” he added.

So is brisket, he said, which will be featured in a new line of sandwiches starting later in February.

Schlotzsky’s is a subsidiary of Focus Brands Inc., based in Atlanta, and has 362 units.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Ruby Tuesday debuts revamped Garden Bar systemwide

Nation's Restaurant News - Tue, 2017-01-17 21:26

Ruby Tuesday Inc. debuted its new Garden Bar systemwide Tuesday, after testing it in several markets last year.

The Maryville, Tenn.-based casual-dining operator said the Garden Bar now features 55 ingredients, which is nearly double the number of items previously offered. 

The Garden Bar offers more than a dozen new fruits and vegetables, premium cheeses, toppings and eight dressings that are made in house, the company said.

“Our Garden Bar adds a level of complexity that our competitors do not have,” Lane Cardwell, Ruby Tuesday interim CEO, told analysts earlier in January. “Because the Garden Bar is not something that can be easily replicated, it remains a unique feature to us and our category, and a key competitive differentiator for our brand.”

Last year, Ruby Tuesday tested the upgraded Garden Bar in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and St. Louis.

“Our fresh, new Garden Bar is our core strategy to enhance our food offering and reconnect with our target of women and families,” Cardwell said, adding that “approximately half of our guests utilized the Garden Bar when they dine with us, either as an add-on or as a main course.”

Of those Garden Bar users, 80 percent visited specifically for that offering, he said.

The new Garden Bar is priced at $8.99 for lunch and $9.99 for dinner. It can also be added to any entrée for $3.99, or substituted as a side starting at $1.49. 

“Ruby Tuesday has always been known for its Endless Garden Bar. More guests order the Garden Bar than any other item on the menu, and it’s a big reason why people come to dine with us,” said David Skena, chief marketing officer for Ruby Tuesday, in a statement.

As of Nov. 29, Ruby Tuesday owned or franchised 613 Ruby Tuesday restaurants in 42 states, 14 countries and Guam.

Contact Ron Ruggless at Ronald.Ruggless@Penton.com

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

MillerPulse: Same-store sales plunge in December

Nation's Restaurant News - Tue, 2017-01-17 19:47

Restaurant industry same-store sales fell 2.4 percent in December, according to the latest MillerPulse index, as consumers ended the year eating at home or at independent restaurants. 

The performance was the worst in at least six years for the index, which measures restaurant chain same-store sales.

The decline was spread among both casual-dining restaurants and limited-service concepts. Same-store sales fell 0.8 percent at quick-service restaurants, and declined 4 percent at casual-dining concepts.

That was the worst performance for casual dining in at least five years, and the eighth decline in nine months for the beleaguered segment.

The difficult December seems to indicate that the industry will face a challenging first quarter of 2017, as consumers are clearly reducing their use of restaurant chains.

“I don’t think we’re going to see any relief in the first quarter,” said Larry Miller, co-founder of the MillerPulse index. “You could have a better year in total in 2017, but I don’t think the first quarter is going to feel that way.” 

The biggest problem in December — as it was for all of 2016 — was traffic.

Consumers opted for choices besides chains, such as prepared food from convenience or grocery stores, or small, upstart concepts not captured by the index. Or they simply ate at home more often.

Same-store traffic fell 4.1 percent overall, the worst performance since the index first reported traffic results in 2010.

Quick-service traffic fell 2.9 percent, while casual-dining traffic fell 5.3 percent.

Restaurants recorded only one month of positive traffic in 2016 — February, which happened to include an extra day thanks to Leap Year.

Otherwise, traffic has fallen, or was flat, for 21 of the past 23 months.

Some restaurant executives have suggested in recent weeks that weather was a problem in December, as cold temperatures moved across much of the U.S. and as rain hit California.

“It was definitely colder,” Miller said. “But that’s not the whole story.”

Some of it might have been a calendar shift, as holidays landed on weekend days that might have otherwise provided restaurants with a lot of traffic.

But even that doesn’t explain why restaurant sales weakened as much as they did in December.

One contributing factor might have been auto sales, which hit a new high in December. 

When consumers buy new cars, they usually do so with debt, and thus have to fit new car payments into their budgets. That might have reduced the amount of money left over for eating out. 

“It was a huge month for auto sales,” Miller said. “People are putting money down for a new vehicle. That hurts the pocketbook a little bit. That’s not necessarily something temporary, either. The payments don’t go away. People take a while to normalize the payment.”

Another problem? Christmas just isn’t what it used to be. Holiday-season sales continued to shift to online retailers in 2016, reducing traffic at traditional brick-and-mortars. Amazon had its best season in years, while traditional retailers like Sears and Macy’s closed dozens of stores. Meanwhile, clothing retailer The Limited filed for bankruptcy protection. 

“I’m sure that’s another factor,” Miller said of retail shopping trends. “It’s so efficient to shop online now. You can compare prices. Online retailers have cost advantages. They don’t have to be paying mall rent.”

Contact Jonathan Maze at jonathan.maze@penton.com

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

Must-see videos: Fans star in ‘The Taco Bell Clip Show'

Nation's Restaurant News - Tue, 2017-01-17 18:30

Chik-fil-A will open its first West Coast restaurants right outside of Las Vegas. The Taco Bell Clip Show is the chain's effort to highlight all of the ways customers show the brand love. Dunkin' Donuts is brewed for all the moments that make hockey unlike any other sport. Smoothie King offers over 20 meal replacement smoothies under 400 calories. Subway's Steak and Cheese Footlong sandwich is made with lean steak that’s free of artificial preservatives and flavors and is covered in cheese. 

Chick-fil-A takes a road trip out West

Dunkin' Donuts is the official coffee of the NHL

Smoothie King launches healthful smoothie challenge

Subway offers $6 Steak and Cheese Footlong

Fans star in ‘The Taco Bell Clip Show'

Captain D's names CMO

FastCasual.com - Tue, 2017-01-17 17:18

AutoNews Now: GM's plan for 1,500 U.S. jobs

AutoNews - Tue, 2017-01-17 16:15
GM to create or retain 1,500 U.S. jobs, shift axle work from Mexico; Ford reveals freshened Mustang; GM shows LEGO Batmobile; Ex-manager sues FCA; Analyst: Plan now for downturn.
Categories: Latest News

[LIVE WEBINAR] How Which Wich franchises are engaging their frontline employees

FastCasual.com - Tue, 2017-01-17 13:41
Date: Feb 9, 2017 | Time: 2:00 PM ET | Duration: 1 hour| In this webinar, presenters will will walk through how to create a documented employee engagement strategy that tackles some of the biggest problems distributed workforce companies face such as onboarding, retention, and alignment. Register now!

3 technologies restaurants should be running toward, not from

FastCasual.com - Tue, 2017-01-17 13:10
It’s time for restaurant marketers to make some bets on technology.

Food truck growth goes full throttle: Part 2 - costs and challenges

FastCasual.com - Tue, 2017-01-17 12:58
Businesses and individuals driven by a passion for serving all types of food are recognizing the opportunity to launch a food truck. While these entrepreneurs hail from a variety of backgrounds, they all face the challenges of having sufficient capital, defining their niche, establishing a solid business strategy and executing it.

Jaguar testing smaller E-Pace crossover

AutoNews - Tue, 2017-01-17 12:00
With the F-Pace crossover flying off Jaguar dealers' lots, it only makes sense for the British automaker to add a smaller, more affordable utility vehicle to its lineup.
Categories: Latest News

Stepping Up Sustainability

Hotel Interactive - Tue, 2017-01-17 11:37
Commitment To Environment No Longer Optional For Hoteliers

Renault reports record 2016 sales, expects further growth

AutoNews - Tue, 2017-01-17 07:35
Renault Group sales rose 13 percent in 2016 to a record 3.18 million vehicles thanks to growth in Europe and in overseas markets such as India and Iran as the automaker expects more progress this year.
Categories: Latest News

Hotel Equities To Manage SpringHill Suites St. Petersburg Clearwater

Hotel Interactive - Tue, 2017-01-17 07:34
ATLANTA–-Hotel Equities recently announced its selection as the management firm for the SpringHill Suites by Marriott St. Petersburg Clearwater. Owned by ...