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Billy Dec expands with new restaurant, bar

Nation's Restaurant News - Thu, 2017-05-18 20:18

Billy Dec has long balanced his job as a restaurateur with his work as a media personality. Now he’s expanding both with the opening of two new venues and a food-related podcast.

Dec is founder and CEO of Rockit Ranch Productions, which operates Bottlefork, The Duck Inn, Sunda New Asian, Rockit Burger Bar, Rockit Bar & Grill and its newest concept, the cocktail bar Otto Mezzo, all in Chicago.

Inspired by the Federico Fellini film “8 ½,” or “otto e mezzo” in Italian, the bar is located in a space that is grandfathered in with a liquor license, allowing it stay open until 4 a.m. during the week and until 5 a.m. on Saturdays.

“It’s this really intimate, cool, elevated cocktails experience that the industry has been enjoying after their shifts,” Dec said. 

The spot opened on April 30, the day before the James Beard awards honoring chefs and restaurateurs, and thus underscoring the spot’s industry connection. 

The bar is headed up by Brandon Phillips, who has been with Rockit Ranch Productions since 2014. It has a robust selection of amari — the popular, bitter Italian liqueurs — as well as a bar menu featuring antipasti, panini, a daily pasta and gelato.

Dec has also teamed up with Nashville, Tenn.-based Fresh Hospitality to open a new location of Sunda in that city.

 

“That’s my first effort to go national,” Dec said. “It’s the best city to launch in for a number of reasons: It’s exploding, obviously, on its own, and we have partners in Fresh Hospitality, which has about 150 locations throughout the Southeast.”

Among those locations is the 37-unit barbecue chain Jim ’n Nick’s, as well as a location of Cochon Butcher, a butcher shop, sandwich counter and wine bar by New Orleans celebrity chef Donald Link.

Dec said he has become close with the Fresh Hospitality group.

“They’ve shown a great interest in our marketing, PR, social media and branding point of view, and I’m really interested in their operations,” he added. “So it’s not just a regular expansion, but a move to collaborate and leverage each other’s strengths.” 

Executive chef and partner Michael Morales, general manager Choon Lai and director of operations Brett Shane are all moving to Nashville for the opening of the restaurant, slated for this fall, he said. 

 

The new spot will have a U-shaped, larger bar than its eight-year-old Chicago sibling concept, “which I think is the national way that bars have reacted to demand,” Dec said. 

“We also had to make sure that we had the ability to lay out the dining room such that we could accommodate larger parties, which seems to be a thing in Nashville, not just for conventions and concerts, but also it becoming the No. 1 bachelorette party destination in the world.” 

Sunda in Chicago already periodically hosts kamayan feasts, or whole pig roasts, and Dec expects there to be more demand for whole-hog meals in Nashville, which has a strong barbecue culture.

“My mom’s from the Philippines and I grew up with whole hogs, and I’m glad to be going to a place that’s familiar with it,” he said.

On the media side, Dec is launching a new serial podcast called “The Meal of Your Life,” in which he discusses memorable meals with a variety of people, from celebrities to astronauts to teachers.

“Everyone’s on this eternal search for the meal of their life, and as a restaurateur you’re always on a search to deliver the meal of your life,” he said.

“I think everyone has had a life-changing dining experience,” said Dec, noting that often the experience had nothing to do with the food. “In fact, they can’t even remember what they ate. … It makes you grateful and respectful of what’s not on their plate.”

The audio podcast differs from his morning talk show appearances and acting gigs, he said.

“This is a straight, uninhibited conversation, not worrying about visuals and presentations,” Dec said. “It’s just what a meal is: Awesome feelings flow much more generously. It’s been really interesting. There were times when I just shut up and was in awe, and let them talk.” 

The podcast’s website, themealofyourlife.com, is slated to go live on Friday, with the first podcasts posted on Monday, followed by a new one every Tuesday. Dec will conduct interviews for the podcast at the National Restaurant Association’s booth at the organization’s industry conference in Chicago, which begins on Saturday.

Dec is the master of ceremonies at the annual invitation-only MenuMasters awards celebration, presented by Nation’s Restaurant News and sponsored by Ventura Foods, at the Drake Hotel on Saturday. 

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Curry Up Now acquires Tava Kitchen

Nation's Restaurant News - Thu, 2017-05-18 19:46

The fast-casual Tava Kitchen chain in San Francisco has been acquired by Curry Up Now, another Bay-area Indian concept, in an expansion move, the companies announced Thursday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

All three of Tava Kitchen’s locations in California closed earlier this year. However, an 1,800-square-foot location in Alameda, Calif., will be rebranded as a Curry Up Now and is scheduled to reopen in June with a new open-kitchen format. The site will serve as an innovation lab to test new items and as a training restaurant, said Akash Kapoor, Curry Up Now’s co-founder and CEO. 

A Tava Kitchen location scheduled to open in Denver will not come to fruition, he added. “That location was too suburban for us.”

Kapoor said he plans to use techniques Tava Kitchen employed for brand standardization to grow the Curry Up Now brand around the world.

“Indian food is finally sticking,” he said. “The American palate is becoming more globalized.”

Tava Kitchen founder Hasnain Zaidi in a statement said the deal will help spread the growing popularity of South Asian food.

“We started out simply as three friends who wanted to share their love of South Asian food, and, over the last five years, we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people find their flavor,” he said in a statement. “I think it’s incredibly fitting that we’re linking up with our friends at Curry Up Now to help scale that vision across the country.

“For years people have talked about Indian food being the next big thing,” Zaidi added. “I really think this is the team that’s going to make that happen.”

Kapoor said none of the Tava Kitchen founders will make the move over to Curry Up Now, but his company will bring in many of Tava Kitchen’s former employees. 

Tava Kitchen was selected as a Breakout Brand in 2016 by Nation’s Restaurant News. The chain had attracted some serious investors, including CircleUp Growth Fund, Kensington Capital, Agilic Capital and former Smashburger CEO David Prokupek through HiGrowth Advisors. 

Former Smashburger executive Jeremy Morgan joined Tava Kitchen as CEO in mid 2014, but he stepped down from the role earlier this year, Kapoor said.

With the acquisition, those earlier investors have exited, said Kapoor.

“I didn’t want to inherit that investor mess,” he said.

Curry Up Now is known for contemporary takes on traditional Indian dishes, like the Tikka Masala Burrito and Aloo Gobi tacos with pico kachumber and cilantro chutney. Ingredients are all-natural, never frozen and raised without antibiotics. Proteins are Halal and curries, chutneys and sauces are gluten-free.

Curry Up Now was founded in 2009 as a food truck and now includes five trucks, five brick-and-mortar locations, along with a Mortar & Pestle Bar concept attached to two locations offering a craft cocktail program. The bar will be a feature of larger locations going forward, while smaller units will offer beer, wine and sangria on tap. 

“Tava was the Chipotle of Indian food. We’re not that,” said Kapoor. “We have more in the way of service and offer a more intimate food experience. It’s not fast food.

“We’re more like Panda Express marrying Chipotle marrying  chef-driven fast casual,” he added. 

Three more Curry Up Now locations are scheduled to open in the Bay area this year, including one in a high-end food hall in San Francisco, Kapoor said. 

“We’re not done growing in the Bay area, but I want to take this all over,” he said. 

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

Restaurant show gets underway in Chicago

Nation's Restaurant News - Thu, 2017-05-18 19:40

This is part of NRN’s special coverage of the 2017 NRA Show, being held in Chicago, May 20-23. Visit NRN.com for the latest coverage from the show, plus follow us on Twitter and Facebook. 

The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show gets underway on Saturday in Chicago. This year, organizers expect more than 67,000 attendees from more than 100 countries and more than 2,300 exhibitors to participate.

The annual four-day show, which is expected to cover 680,000 square feet at the McCormick Place convention center, will run through Tuesday.

 

During all four days, various celebrity chefs such as “Top Chef Masters” winner Rick Bayless of Chicago’s own James Beard Award-winning Topolobampo restaurant; “Chopped” judge Maneet Chauhan; and Stephanie Izard, owner and executive chef of Girl & the Goat and Duck Duck Duck, will demonstrate techniques and share tips at the World Culinary Showcase.

In lieu of the traditional convention keynote address, Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and CEO, will lead a discussion at 2 p.m. CT Sunday with Dan Park, who heads the commercial business vertical for online giant Amazon, and Jason Dorsey, an expert on Gen Z and Millennial customers. 

“We are excited for Dan Park and Jason Dorsey to share their knowledge with Dawn Sweeney,” said Atour Eyvazian, NRA convention chair and owner of 122 Jack in the Box and El Pollo Loco restaurants, in a statement. “Attendees will leave with bold ideas, key insights and real actions that they can take to their own businesses to benefit them and their customers.”

The NRA said the conversation is aimed at stretching attendees’ thinking about the restaurant business and customer needs.

Sweeney and Dorsey, co-founder and chief strategy officer for The Center for Generational Kinetics, will focus their conversation on how to reach, connect with and engage the Gen Z and Millennial customers.

NRA Show educational sessions, which in the past have been hosted in meeting rooms, will move this year to three stages on the exhibit floor, the organization said.

Specialty exhibit areas and pavilions have been designated on the show floor, including those devoted to Italian products, as well as specific dietary needs like allergy sensitivities, and vegetarian and vegan diets.

In addition, the show also includes BAR ’17, a beverage-alcohol event focused on the restaurant and hospitality industries. It runs Sunday and Monday. Jon Taffer, host of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue,” will be a featured speaker. 

The NRA Show 2017 website offers information, schedules and registration information. 

 

Follow NRN’s editors at the NRA Show:

Tara Fitzpatrick @tara_fitzie

Lisa Jennings @livetodineout

Jonathan Maze @jonathanmaze

Ron Ruggless @ronruggless

Becky Schilling @bschilling_fm

Jenna Telesca @jennatelesca

Bret Thorn @foodwriterdiary

 

Contact Ron Ruggless at Ronald.Ruggless@penton.com

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

Restaurant show gets underway in Chicago

Nation's Restaurant News - Thu, 2017-05-18 19:40

This is part of NRN’s special coverage of the 2017 NRA Show, being held in Chicago, May 20-23. Visit NRN.com for the latest coverage from the show, plus follow us on Twitter and Facebook. 

The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show gets underway on Saturday in Chicago. This year, organizers expect more than 67,000 attendees from more than 100 countries and more than 2,300 exhibitors to participate.

The annual four-day show, which is expected to cover 680,000 square feet at the McCormick Place convention center, will run through Tuesday.

 

During all four days, various celebrity chefs such as “Top Chef Masters” winner Rick Bayless of Chicago’s own James Beard Award-winning Topolobampo restaurant; “Chopped” judge Maneet Chauhan; and Stephanie Izard, owner and executive chef of Girl & the Goat and Duck Duck Duck, will demonstrate techniques and share tips at the World Culinary Showcase.

In lieu of the traditional convention keynote address, Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and CEO, will lead a discussion at 2 p.m. CT Sunday with Dan Park, who heads the commercial business vertical for online giant Amazon, and Jason Dorsey, an expert on Gen Z and Millennial customers. 

“We are excited for Dan Park and Jason Dorsey to share their knowledge with Dawn Sweeney,” said Atour Eyvazian, NRA convention chair and owner of 122 Jack in the Box and El Pollo Loco restaurants, in a statement. “Attendees will leave with bold ideas, key insights and real actions that they can take to their own businesses to benefit them and their customers.”

The NRA said the conversation is aimed at stretching attendees’ thinking about the restaurant business and customer needs.

Sweeney and Dorsey, co-founder and chief strategy officer for The Center for Generational Kinetics, will focus their conversation on how to reach, connect with and engage the Gen Z and Millennial customers.

NRA Show educational sessions, which in the past have been hosted in meeting rooms, will move this year to three stages on the exhibit floor, the organization said.

Specialty exhibit areas and pavilions have been designated on the show floor, including those devoted to Italian products, as well as specific dietary needs like allergy sensitivities, and vegetarian and vegan diets.

In addition, the show also includes BAR ’17, a beverage-alcohol event focused on the restaurant and hospitality industries. It runs Sunday and Monday. Jon Taffer, host of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue,” will be a featured speaker. 

The NRA Show 2017 website offers information, schedules and registration information. 

 

Follow NRN’s editors at the NRA Show:

Tara Fitzpatrick @tara_fitzie

Lisa Jennings @livetodineout

Jonathan Maze @jonathanmaze

Ron Ruggless @ronruggless

Becky Schilling @bschilling_fm

Jenna Telesca @jennatelesca

Bret Thorn @foodwriterdiary

 

Contact Ron Ruggless at Ronald.Ruggless@penton.com

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

Navigating mergers and acquisitions in a time of change

Store Front Talk Back - Thu, 2017-05-18 19:36
There has been no shortage of retail mergers and acquisitions in the first half of 2017, as companies continue to look for ways to offset the threat of online-driven competitors such as Amazon. FierceRetail sat down with Tige Savage to discuss how retailers can stay relevant in a challenging environment.

Retail Roundup—Warby Parker expands, Goop pops up in Nordstrom

Store Front Talk Back - Thu, 2017-05-18 18:42
Warby Parker plans three more stores in Texas, Nordstrom showcases Goop goods, Amazon gets serious about pharmacy, plus more need-to-know news from the world of retail.

McDonald’s quietly changes soft serve

Nation's Restaurant News - Thu, 2017-05-18 17:21

Notice something different about McDonald’s ice cream? Maybe not, but it is indeed changed.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based burger giant said on Thursday that it has removed all artificial flavors, colors and preservatives from its vanilla soft serve — a change it began making in the fall and is now largely complete at its 14,000 U.S. locations.

The change impacts 60 percent of the desserts the company serves, including the company’s shakes and McFlurry desserts.

The company also said that it has removed high fructose corn syrup from its chocolate and strawberry McCafe shake syrup, and removed artificial ingredients from its whipped topping.

The move is only the latest in a series of changes McDonald’s has been making to its menu items in a bid to improve standing with consumers demanding more natural ingredients from restaurants.

That movement is spearheading some of the biggest changes in industry menus in restaurant history, as chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Panera Bread Co., and Papa John’s International Inc. push hard to market their natural ingredients.

There’s evidence this works: Last year, McDonald’s removed artificial ingredients from its Chicken McNuggets and sales of the product spiked. The company also started using real butter on the English muffins used for Egg McMuffins.

“We’ve been raising the bar at McDonald’s on serving delicious food that our consumers can feel good about eating,” Darci Forrest, senior director of menu innovation at McDonald’s, said in a statement.

McDonald’s serves a lot of ice cream. The chain sold 68 million cones last year.

McDonald’s also said on Thursday that it plans to bring back its Rolo McFlurry this summer. The product, which the company offered in 2012, will be available nationwide from May 24 through Sept. 11.

Contact Jonathan Maze at jonathan.maze@penton.com

Follow him on Twitter at @jonathanmaze

Taking small bites of big data

Nation's Restaurant News - Thu, 2017-05-18 16:54

With advanced point-of-sale systems, inventory management software, and reams of information provided by loyalty program members, restaurateurs have access to mountains of data that could help them manage food costs.

But they also work long, hard hours and, even if these operators had backgrounds in data analysis, they wouldn’t have time to sort through all the information. 

By focusing on the most crucial numbers, operators can manage their most important costs without suffering from data overload, according to operators and POS service providers.

Exceptions management

Sometimes it’s difficult even to make sure that you’re paying the right price for your food, said Jeff Amoscato, vice president of supply chain and menu innovation at Shake Shack.

Even though the New York City-based chain is relatively small, with 83 units, Shake Shack works with a dozen of its main distributor’s warehouses, which don’t manage their inventory using all the same software. 

Calculating cost of goods from those distribution centers should be easy: It’s the price of the ingredients plus the distributor’s markup and shipping fees. But sometimes prices are input incorrectly, whether through malfeasance or a simple slip of the fingers, and it can be difficult to track those errors. 

“If you have 3,000 restaurants, you might not notice [the error] until 3,000 restaurants have received three or four or five deliveries at the wrong price,” said Alan Smith, vice president of client services for ArrowStream, Shake Shack’s supply chain management firm. The bureaucratic hassle, work hours, and hard feelings with the distributor that come with correcting such errors can be extreme. 

“It’s never a comfortable thing to go back to a distributor and say, ‘Hey, you owe me $12 million because the pricing was wrong’,” he said.  

Amoscato said Shake Shack began working with ArrowStream last year and started running their software this year. It gives him a single dashboard to see if the numbers make sense and that inventory needs are covered. 

“We were working off of Excel spreadsheets before and scratching down numbers, and pulling down data from our distributors’ multiple systems,” he said.

Smith of ArrowStream said that over the past few years the focus of companies like his has been less on data collection, which is already well underway, and more toward asking “how do we make it useful for the companies that are collecting the data.”

Part of that shift has been developing dashboards like Shake Shack is using, as well as using “exceptions management” to track outlying numbers that can indicate an incorrectly keyed price, or inventory numbers that are out of synch with sales.

“I always find higher value in seeing actual purchases rather than what the POS rings up,” Amoscato said, because the POS system doesn’t account for waste, theft or miscalculation of a recipe. 

“Not everything is as straightforward as, buy a bun, sell a bun,” he said, adding that, by seeing variances in purchases and sales, he can pinpoint waste, misuse or theft more quickly.

Yi Chen, vice president of product for Toast, another POS system provider, said tracking theoretical versus actual food cost can be an effective way to pinpoint areas where food theft, spoilage or over-portioning are happening. 

For example, one burger restaurant he works with was buying more potatoes than it was selling French fries. By spotting the variance, the restaurant was able to realize that its cooks were over-portioning.

“So they changed the size of the container that they were dumping into the fryer,” Chen said.

However, he said, because there’s so much data provided, it makes sense to focus on the most expensive and fastest moving items, such as seafood or specialty ingredients, rather than, say, peas.

Other major POS system vendors working with restaurants on parsing big data include NCR, PDQ POS, Square and TouchBistro.

 

Using multiple data sources 

“The more data you have, the more opportunities you have to move that product that you’re measuring,” said Rusty Shaffer, director of supply chain for Teriyaki Madness, a 45-unit chain based in Denver. That includes keeping a close eye on the chain’s highest-volume protein, chicken, and monitoring POS data from the supplier Revel Systems to see how sales volume varies from one location to another, allowing him to purchase more accurately and minimize freight costs.

But for many restaurants, actually having accurate sales data, including which customers are buying what, is fairly new, according to Mike Lukianoff, chief analytics officer for Fishbowl Inc., which focuses on data-driven marketing.

“Ten years ago, when I’d get on the line with clients it was about a 50/50 shot that they’d have some of that,” he said. “Now it’s more like 90 percent."

That data, now routinely collected by POS systems, doesn’t just include how many burgers and fries are sold, but the total ticket — how often red wine and dessert are purchased together, for example.

Furthermore, by syncing those sales with loyalty program data, they can determine how frequently Millennial mothers are buying chicken salad and, by monitoring how sales are affected by special promotions, whether an offer of a free drink might get them to come back more often. 

At the higher end, a steakhouse might find that customers might take advantage of a prix-fixe $50 menu instead of à la carte offerings that would amount to $75 to $100, sensing that they were getting a good deal and knowing they didn’t have to spend more than $50 if they didn’t want to. But, those customers going for the deal might actually end up spending the same amount of money, making up the difference in alcohol sales.

“So what appeared to be a discount in a mix analysis was just giving price certainty to customers, and actually turned out to be more profitable,” he said. 

Measuring dishes instead of commodities 

Don Vlcek Photo: Marco's Pizza

Don Vlcek, vice president of purchasing and distribution for 819-unit Marco’s Pizza, has long looked at daily, weekly and monthly commodity reports, indicating the likely prices of mozzarella and other important foods for his franchisees.

“Within our industry there is this time lag between when franchisees have to make a decision as to what they are going to feature in the coming months,” he said.

That’s the time it takes to select promotional menu items, determine pricing and get promotional artwork approved. So they have to know well in advance what prices are likely to be so that they don’t promote sausage pizza just as pork prices spike. 

Still, Marco’s isn’t selling cheese and sausage, it’s selling pizza, subs, cheesy bread and chicken wings. So it would be better not just to know commodity prices, but also the prices of flour, the ingredients in Marco’s sauces and the four meats used to make its pepperoni. 

So Vlcek volunteered to use new software developed by the American Restaurant Association Inc., a supply chain data intelligence organization, that projects an actual menu item’s cost. The software uses a chains contracted prices when available, taking distribution costs into account, and reverts to projected commodity costs for forecasts that extend beyond the life of the contract. 

Vlcek provided the formulation for its top 10 selling items — six pizzas, two subs, cheesy bread and wings. He was thorough: He persuaded his vendors to divulge labor costs, packaging, markup etc. In some cases, when his vendors balked, he had them provide that information directly to the ARA without divulging that proprietary information to Marco’s. He included the cost of pizza boxes, dipping sauces and plastic containers.

The ARA then calculated the projected prices.

 

“Now what happens is I can go to our people, which I do every quarter, and show them a spreadsheet, showing them the cost of an order of wings or a pepperoni mushroom pizza and how it is going to go up and down over the rest of the year,” Vlcek said.

The first such report was released at Marco’s convention in April of 2016.

“Our format was like this mass accumulation of data,” Vlcek said, making it less than useful for franchisees.

“Over the course of the year we have cleaned this up,” he said. “We actually tell them, here’s what your food cost percentage is right now, and here’s what it’s going to be in the next four quarters. … I think it’s something that even someone at the store-manager level would completely understand.” 

Of course, now that those tools are in place, food prices are more stable than they’ve been in years, “but when something gets volatile we will really be able to boost up the communications and send out alerts and really have powwows with marketing so that they make the proper selections,” he said.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Correction May 18, 2017: This story has been updated with Marco's Pizzeria's current unit count and the correct spelling of Don Vlcek's name.

AutoNews Now: Four automakers settle airbag claims

AutoNews - Thu, 2017-05-18 15:15
BMW, Mazda, Subaru, Toyota agree to settle Takata-defect claims; Cars gaining in horsepower, speed; Daimler goes into energy-storage business; Awarded-winning Volvo ad banned in U.K.
Categories: Latest News

[WEBINAR] 7 Keys to Delivery Profit

FastCasual.com - Thu, 2017-05-18 14:00
In this webinar, restaurant systems pro, Sean Crocker, introduces new ways you can reduce delivery costs and grow delivery revenue and profit. Download now!

Marriott Goes Modular

Hotel Interactive - Thu, 2017-05-18 12:05
New Development Method Gains Momentum Among Development Community

Is butter coffee the next must-have menu trend?

FastCasual.com - Thu, 2017-05-18 11:55
Butter coffee has a cult following, but does that mean fast casual operators should serve it?

Shake Shack Overview

FastCasual.com - Thu, 2017-05-18 10:29
The Shake Shack iPhone app, featuring online ordering, was realized through a partnership of best-in-class technology providers and UX specialists.

Axis Purchasing Announces Expansive Hospitality Supply Programs for Non-Foods

FastCasual.com - Thu, 2017-05-18 08:45
Axis Purchasing, a leader in group purchasing services for schools, multi-unit restaurants, hotels, and other foodservice providers, announced an expansion of their services to save money on facility maintenance, equipment, administration and operational needs.

Volvo cyclist safety ad banned in UK

AutoNews - Thu, 2017-05-18 07:44
Volvo's "LifePaint" ad has been banned by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority regulatory body for being misleading and exaggerating the performance of the product, following a complaint from a member of the public.
Categories: Latest News

57% of Target customers use Amazon Prime

Store Front Talk Back - Wed, 2017-05-17 17:11
According to Magid’s Retail Pulse study, 42% of consumers use Amazon Prime. Looking at crossover customers, the study showed that 57% of Target’s regular customers use Prime. When it comes to Target’s core market, mothers between the ages of 27 and 51, Prime usage is as high as 68%.