- Front Page
- Biz Tools
The Franchise Owner's most trusted news source
So much for the dollar menu. A McDonald's fan with deep pockets has reportedly bagged a discontinued McNuggets dipping sauce for $14,700 on eBay.
Ice cream seller Melvin Nobbs has received a flurry of support from readers after being told he will no longer be able to sell his cold treats outside Deal Castle. Last week, the Mercury reported that, after 30 years, the 62-year-old had been served a notice to quit by English Heritage while it applies for a licence to serve fast food, drinks and snacks.
On this week's episode of Working Lunch, the Align Public Strategies crew explains a twist in the wages debate. This time it is restaurant servers coming forward to lawmakers on their own to save their tipped wages. Plus, the White House is pushing Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act before President Trump's 100th day in office. Find out what this means for restaurant operators and how much should they count on this. Those stories and the legislative scorecard with all the top items affecting operators around the country.
Align Public Strategies is a full-service public affairs and creative firm that helps corporate brands, governments and nonprofits navigate the outside world and inform their internal decision-making.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of Nation’s Restaurant News.
This post is part of the On the Margin blog.
McDonald’s Corp. stock rose on Friday, at one point hitting an all-time high of $133.88 per share.
McDonald’s has quietly been on a roll all year. Its stock is up more than 11 percent so far in 2017, enabling the Oak Brook, Ill.-based burger giant to hit a string of all-time highs. By comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 3.5 percent.
It appears that investors are putting their faith in McDonald's before it reports earnings next week.
Analysts are clearly on board. According to MarketBeat, there are 17 Buy ratings on McDonald's stock, compared with 12 Hold ratings and only 1 Sell. But the consensus price target is somewhat lower than where it’s currently trading. Analysts say the stock should trade at about $131 per share.
Why the enthusiasm for McDonald’s? Analysts seem to believe the company will report good sales next week.
Instinet analyst Mark Kalinowski raised his same-store sales forecast for the U.S. to 0.8 percent — far above the 1.1-percent decline that analysts appear to be expecting.
“We believe that a focus on value and beverages, as well as the Big Mac line extension promotion, served McDonald’s well during a challenging time for the restaurant industry in general during Q1,” Kalinowski wrote.
A 0.8-percent increase might not seem all that thrilling, but McDonald’s is lapping strong comparisons with the first quarter of 2016, when same-store sales increased 5.4 percent. After a decline late in 2016, an increase in the first quarter would be viewed as a strong positive.
Meanwhile, BMO Capital Markets in a note initiated coverage on McDonald’s with a Buy rating, and suggesting that the stock could hit $153 per share.
Bernstein Research analyst Sara Senatore noted that 71 percent of McDonald’s managers said in a survey that new sizes of Big Macs sold ahead of plan. Earlier in the week, Senatore upgraded the company’s rating to Outperform.
Some of the enthusiasm from investors appears to be over McDonald's performance in Japan, which has been strong, even as it laps strong same-store sales from a year ago, as well as other markets. And there’s confidence in some of the chain’s domestic ideas, along with its focus on value with $1 drinks.
McDonald’s is expanding delivery across the country. And it's upgrading its mobile app with mobile order and pay, and plans to start serving fresh Quarter Pounders next year. The company also plans to expand its kiosk-based “Experience of the Future” concept to more locations.
While there are reports of some franchisee discontent — operators surveyed in the Kalinowski report were frequently critical of Experience of the Future, for instance — some analysts say the company’s efforts could fuel stronger sales in the coming quarters.
The initiatives could help McDonald’s sustain positive same-store sales into 2018, Baird analyst David Tarantino wrote in a note earlier this month.
Jonathan Maze, Nation’s Restaurant News senior financial editor, does not directly own stock or interest in a restaurant company.
Contact Jonathan Maze at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze
If you want to impress customers with chicken these days, you’re going to have to do more than market it with a few clean-sounding phrases.
In order to stand out from others in the now crowded space of food from animals not treated with antibiotics, independent restaurants and small chains are turning to heritage breeds and specialty producers. Non-commercial operations are exploring the possibilities of slow-growing chickens that supporters say are less illness-prone, live better lives and taste better.
Crack Shack, celebrity chef Richard Blais’s fast-casual chicken restaurant in San Diego, uses Jidori chicken, a premium brand based in southern California of free-range chickens.
“Which is the same chicken used in Michelin star restaurants,” CEO Michael Rosen told NRN earlier this year. “We get it 24 hours from wandering in a pasture to putting it on a plate.
With KFC’s recent announcement that it would phase out chicken treated with human antibiotics by the end of 2018, such practices are now the undisputed norm within the industry. The Yum! Brands Inc. subsidiary’s announcement came shortly after many other industry commitments to source chicken that hasn’t been treated with antibiotics or at least hasn’t been treated with antibiotics used on humans. Chick-fil-A made the first “never ever” promise for all of its chicken in 2014, followed by Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. McDonald’s, too, made a commitment, but for sourcing chicken raised without antibiotics used on humans.
It’s not a coincidence that chains are distancing themselves from animals treated with antibiotics.
A recent report from sustainability advocate Global Opportunity Network found that 86 percent of consumers want antibiotic free food and 60 percent are actually willing to pay for them. Also, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has restricted the use of many antibiotics in all livestock beginning in 2017 due to concerns that treating healthy livestock with antibiotics in order to promote growth would also cause antibiotic-resistant pathogens to emerge.
The cost of standout chicken
For restaurant operators, offering more distinctive birds can come with higher food costs, but unique offerings.
Andrew Gruel, founder of Slapfish, a fast-casual seafood chain based in Huntington Beach, Calif., is planning on using Jidori at Two Birds, a concept that will soon open in a food hall in Irvine, Calif.
Gruel projects the food cost at the new restaurant to be in the 28 percent to 30 percent range rather than a more typical 24 percent to 25 percent. He’s offering grilled or fried breasts of 4.5 ounces to 5 ounces each in sandwiches or salad for $9, or $12 for a double.
“I think it has a little bit of a creamier, gamier flavor,” Gruel said of the chicken. “Kind of like Slapfish, we’re letting the product come first, sacrificing a little on cost of goods.”
In Las Vegas, at Bardot Brasserie at Aria, executive chef Josh Smith gets heritage breed birds from BoBo Chickens, located in upstate New York.
“It’s a Chinese family farm and they’ve become sort of a cult bird among the fine dining chefs because of the flavor and quality of the meat.”
The chickens are sold “Buddhist style,” with the head and feat still on, which Smith likes because it allows him to remove the tendons from the thighs with a French hook developed for that purpose.
“You go behind the leg, and if you know where to go you can just twist and pull them all out,” he said, resulting in a more tender and somewhat faster cooking thigh.
He also uses the head, feet and giblets to make a rich sauce for the chicken.
The Cornish cross breed that he gets has a thicker skin and a bit more fat “and just more flavor” than other premium birds he has tried.
It’s not cheap though. With the high transportation costs of the refrigerated truck coming from New York to Las Vegas, Smith pays more than $4 per pound for the chicken, compared to around $2 for other chickens.
“But the concept of a brasserie has to have a great roast chicken,” he said, and with roast chicken available at every grocery store, he had to find something special.
After removing the tendons, Smith separates the skin from the meat using a spatula and then brines the chicken for a quick five hours in a 5 percent salt solution. Then he blanches it twice for 30 seconds, chilling it before the second blanch, which removes some of the fat from the skin and lets it crisp faster.
Then he brushes it in tamari and hangs it to dry in the walk-in for at least 24 hours.
Next he stuffs the cavity with garlic, lemon, shallots and rosemary, brushes it with chicken fat infused with herbes de Provence and roasts it over a mirepoix. Then he rests it upside down in a bowl over the mirepoix, allowing the juices to collect toward the breast to make it juicier.
Then he reheats it in a salamander set at the lowest setting for around 7 minutes to crisp the chicken. He serves it with green beans and jus gras — chicken broth reinforced with vin jaune and chicken fat.
He charges $33 for half a chicken.
“A lot of people come in just for the chicken,” he said.
Another Las Vegas concept is going for birds as local as he can find. Chef Roy Ellamar of Harvest at Bellagio recently became the first chef in Las Vegas to serve chicken from Pasturebird, a rotational grazing operation from nearby Riverside County, Calif.
“The guests are interested in the story behind ingredients, and then we want to serve something that’s different than you can get anywhere else,” said Ellamar.
Pasturebird’s chicken coups are rotated over the land to new locations every day, giving the birds different worms, insects, grasses and seeds to eat while scratching at the dirt and replenishing nutrients on the pasture.
“We compared it with another brand that we were using that was also organic, but I felt that the flavor in the dark meat and also the breast just had more depth,” Ellamar said. “It was closer to the flavor of a Guinea hen than conventional chicken.”
Ellamar brines the chicken in a local ale with sugar, salt, mustard seed, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Then he smokes it over hardwood before letting it dry overnight in the walk-in to let the skin dry so it crisps up nicely when he cooks it on the rotisserie, brushing it with duck fat.
Raising chicken more slowly
Rupert Blease, chef and co-owner of Lord Stanley in San Francisco, charged $100 for his chicken for two, using birds he got from Emmer & Co. Heritage Chickens. That California company raises dual-purpose breeds that lay consistent eggs and also have good meat, as well as thick bones for making good stock. Their primary breed is the Delaware, a slow-growing bird that is kept in open-sided hoop houses on the same pasture where cattle feed, foraging for seeds, insects and “everything else they can find,” said Emmer CEO and founder Jesse Solomon.
It takes 112 days for them to reach market weight, four weeks longer than BoBo’s chickens and almost three times as long as commodity chickens. And even then they only way 3.5 pounds.
“Visually the chickens themselves are very different,” Blease said, with bigger, longer thighs and smaller breasts. “The flavor was very, very good.”
Recently offered as a two-course special, Blease confited the wings and then fried them and finished them with lemon oil. He crisped the skin from the neck, seasoned it with salt, pepper and lemon zest and served it with an anchovy dip.
He roasted the breast with mushrooms, and confited the thigh and served it with escarole.
Though not currently on the menu, Blease plans to offer it again soon. At $50 per person for two courses, he said “It’s doable, as long as you get people to understand that they’re not eating any old chicken.”
Old chicken is coming into favor, however.
For years, the chicken industry worked to grow chicken as big and as quickly as possible, with enormous breasts that would allow processors to chop them into boneless “wings” and other popular items.
But reports of growing incidence of unsightly and unappetizing conditions such as deep pectoral myopathy (also called green muscle disease), white striping and woody breast have led some industry experts to think we might have pushed chickens to their genetic limits.
And it’s not just fine-dining chefs and their suppliers of expensive, pasture-raised chickens. Last summer Perdue Farms Inc., the country’s fourth largest chicken supplier, said it was planning to experiment with birds that grew more slowly and more uniformly.
Since then the company has set up a research farm to explore slow-growing birds, Perdue senior vice president for corporate communications Andrea Staub said in an email.
“Right now, we are still gathering data and learning more as we continue to evaluate slower growth,” she said. “We are currently looking at various ways to achieve slower growth, through breed, diet or some combination. We need to find the appropriate growth rate that balances bird welfare, meat quality and affordability.”
According to Lucky Peach magazine, noncommercial foodservice companies Aramark, Sodexo USA, Delaware North and Centerplate have all expressed commitment to source only slow-growth chicken within the next eight years.
“What I can tell you is we’re in the early stages of developing plans — in partnership with our suppliers, industry associations and animal welfare organizations — to switch to slow-growth birds,” Aramark spokesman David Freireich said in an email.
Another type of older bird is also finding a place in professional chickens: Spent hens.
Paul Fehribach, chef of Big Jones in Chicago, buys hens that are too old to be productive egg layers and stews them to make chicken and dumplings. He boils the chicken, which cost about $5 apiece, with onion and bay leaf for about two hours, “until they’re falling apart.”
He chills them and pulls the meat. Then at service he adds onions, carrot and a seasonal vegetable — ramps at the moment, cabbage later in the year, Brussels sprouts in the winter — to the stock, adds the chicken, brings it to a bowl and then adds doughy dumplings, like wet biscuit dough, which he simmers until the dumplings puff up finishes it with black pepper and sells large bowls of it for $12 at lunch and $14 at dinner.
“We sell a ton of it,” he said.
Contact Bret Thorn at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary
Meals eaten away from home and those eaten at home have historically had a negative correlation. When meals eaten out are up, meals eaten at home are down, and vice versa.
But according to the latest research from The NPD Group, both have softened, in part due to consumers getting more meals from a growing bounty of sources, including meal kits, online grocers and food trucks.
“People are getting meals, food from other sources,” said NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs. “We didn’t have these options before. There’s likely to be more coming on the scene.”
In the fourth quarter of the year ended December 2016, restaurant traffic growth was flat, while in-home, or the 12-month average of retail grocery sales, was also flat.
Meanwhile, NPD is finding that alternative sources for in-home meals are gaining momentum.
“There’s a lot of places we can get food prepared food that’s not even measured that adds a layer of competition for share of stomach,” Riggs said.
These sources are currently underrepresented in retail measurement, so comprehensive data is not yet available, Riggs added, “[but] it’s is an indication of what’s happening.”
Part of the reason these alternative meal sources are attractive to consumers is that they are serving needs that not being met by many restaurants, Riggs said.
For example, meal kits and online groceries appeal to consumers’ desire for convenience. Ethnic grocers are providing the growing Hispanic population with a source of food they like to eat. Farmer’s markets, the number of which has surged in the last decade, fulfill consumers’ desire for fresh and healthful foods. And all those food trucks? They’re all about variety, portability and “something unique,” Riggs said.
For operators to get consumers out of the house and into restaurants again, Riggs said they’ll have to be more innovative and relevant, and do a better job of promoting the benefits of eating out.
“So many restaurant offerings are mediocre,” Riggs said. “Those who are really going above and beyond are thriving.”
Among the leaders are chef Mike Isabella of Mike Isabella Concepts, which includes 10 concepts in the Washington, D.C., area, and Micha Magid, co-founder of Mighty Quinn’s BBQ, a fast-casual chain with six locations in New York and New Jersey. They shared some tactics to successfully compete with alternative meal sources and more.
Mike Isabella Concepts
As is the case with Mike Isabella’s restaurants, which encompass a diverse range of cuisines, when it comes to competing with non-restaurant meal offerings, the chef and restaurateur likes to do a little bit of everything.
“Everyone has to eat everyday. You’re not always going to eat at home. You need restaurants out there,” Isabella said. “That’s why we offer what we offer. I like to do everything.”
It all started two years ago with offering take-out pizza kits at Graffiato, his Italian-inspired concept. Not long after, Isabella began making whole and half spit-roasted chickens available for take out. Most recently, he added delivery of a variety of menu items available through third-party services at all his restaurants.
Adding delivery has been the biggest and most successful effort to date to compete with the alternative meal options, he said. For example, at Yona, Isabella’s Asian concept in Arlington, Va., delivery began just six months ago. Today, delivery, catering and pickup account for 20 percent of sales. At G, Isabella’s sandwich spot in D.C., delivery accounts for about 10–15 percent of sales.
But Isabella isn’t done yet. Later this year, he will open Isabella Eatery, a 42,000-square-foot food emporium with 10 restaurant concepts featuring various cuisines and a gourmet market with prepared foods inside Tyson’s Galleria in Fairfax, Va.
“We’ve adapted to what’s going on in the restaurant industry,” Isabella said.
Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
With increased competition coming from all directions, Mighty Quinn’s is banking on its unique and hard-to-make-at-home food to draw its largely urban customers into its growing number of restaurants.
“When we started Mighty Quinn’s, our idea was that authentic, smoked barbecue is not available in urban areas, and it’s so universally loved,” said Micha Magid, one of the three founders of the fast-casual concept.
“Anyone can make a chicken salad or make a hamburger at home. But [if you live in an urban area], you can’t smoke a rack of ribs for six hours. It’s that uniqueness.”
But the brand isn’t counting on authenticity alone. To keep customers interested and coming back again and again, the chain recently began offering seasonal specials to its streamlined menu. Among the latest specials is a Smoked Veggie Burger, a patty made with smoked vegetables, brown rice and beans served on a brioche bun with shredded lettuce and housemade chili mayo.
The chain also offers food at price point consumers can feel good about. For example, the brisket sandwich, made of brisket that is smoked for 24 hours, is priced under $10.
“In today’s market, we are over-restauranted,” Magid said. “There’s just too many options. [We’re] over-saturated with too many choices, and that dilutes everybody. Not everyone will survive.”
Despite that, Mighty Quinn’s is opening a new location in Westchester, N.Y., and plans to open several more before the end of the year.
The thing about Subway's sandwiches is that they're … adequate. If you are trapped somewhere with nothing but fast-food options, and you don't want to blow most of your day's calories on something deep-fried or slathered in cheese, there's always Subway.
A group of street artists is threatening McDonald's with legal action after the chain featured shots of their art work in a recent promotional video. The video, called "McDonald's Presents the Vibe of Bushwick NY," was intended to advertise the fast food chain's New York Bagel Supreme in the Netherlands, where the new sandwich is making it's debut.
“Coaching is not doing, and it's not telling people what to do. It's guiding, questioning, prompting and encouraging forward movement. Most important, it's inspiring people to take ownership of their own careers.” —Simon Sinek
Some choose it, some lose it, many pursue it but never do it, most earn it and others never quite learn it. But no matter how they came to the role, there’s no denying that Multiunit Leaders — the manager of managers — are the linchpin to any successful foodservice brand.
A Multiunit Leader, or MUL, supervises dozens of unit managers, develops hundreds of leaders, shapes the experience of thousands of customers, and helps generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue, quarter after quarter, year after year, market after market, brand after brand. If a multiunit restaurant chain was a body, MULs are the brain, heart, spine and legs, keeping the enterprise focused, driven, alert, upright and moving in the right direction.
Despite the critical role MULs play in a brand’s success, the collective time, money and resources that many companies invest in annual Multiunit Leadership development is smaller than the period that ends this sentence. It’s high time to rethink the critical skills a Multunit Leader must master in the 21st century foodservice industry. And maybe Head Coach is a good place to start.
In professional sports, the Head Coach does not work alone. He or she oversees a team of assistant coaches who focus on specific team roles and responsibilities. In the NFL, the head coach supervises a group of assistant coaches who are responsible for a variety of specific disciplines, including strength and conditioning, offensive line, defensive line, quarterback, receiver, kicking, punting and special teams.
In professional baseball, the head coach is called a manager, but he or she also supervises a battery of position coaches responsible for the team’s hitting, running, fielding, pitching, base-stealing and fitness. Each coach is responsible for developing and executing a focused part of the game plan.
But a Head Coach, like an effective Area Director, is always focused on outcomes. They align preparation and talent, set a game plan in motion and execute a strategy based on targeted goals or competitive strength.
In the restaurant industry, there is a distinction. Unlike assistant coaches in sports, GMs at the unit level are not exclusively focused on just one specific aspect of the game. Like their titles imply, they are generalists. They’re responsible for every facet of the unit’s performance, including staffing, retention, service, sales, food safety, EBITDA and quality. And, naturally, they’re better at some skills than others. So the MUL’s responsibility doubles down as a Head Coach: They are the prime developers of the brand’s talent pipeline and bench strength. Ultimately, the MUL’s primary task is to constantly expand leadership capacity.
Some MULs are better teachers than others. The reason is that too many Multiunit Leaders are preoccupied by data onslaught, fixing problems or fighting fires. Not that MULs would necessarily spend all their time coaching our teams if these three distractions were removed from their lives. (But most of them say they would.)
When confronted with common, or even uncommon, work challenges, most MULs prefer to simply fix the problem themselves and move on. Why? Because they learned the hard way that if you want something done right, you do it yourself. And when Multiunit Leaders are hard-pressed for time, they defer to the timeworn path of least resistance: do it yourself.
That path is well traveled, but it doesn’t lead to stronger teams. And it’s contrary to the MUL’s central purpose: They are hired to think, not to do. They are paid to manage the people who manage the problem, not the problem itself.
Taking the time to coach and let managers make mistakes on the way takes time and patience. But, ironically, the more time you spend coaching your managers, as opposed to doing it yourself, the better they get at resolving problems and making progress. The better Head Coach you are, the closer you get to “MYTOP:” Multiplying Yourself Through Other People. As one of my first Area Directors told me, “If you don’t spend all your time training, you will spend all your time training.” A Zen parable if ever there was one.
Being a good coach is challenging. Being a great coach is difficult. Being the best coach ever is virtually impossible. Until you realize that coaching, like leadership, is always situational, it will be an elusive skill to master. Because of this, there is no one proven style of effective coaching, but there are proven coaching techniques that generate greater results. Here are three:
The reason that exemplary Head Coaches are rare in business or in sports is because it takes more patience than we’re usually willing to offer, more time than we’re normally willing to commit and more talent than we’re usually willing to develop in ourselves. But Multiunit Leaders don’t really have a choice; coaching is a pay-me-now or pay-me-later proposition.
Jim Sullivan is a popular speaker at restaurant leadership conferences worldwide. He’s the author of the bestselling books Multiunit Leadership and Fundamentals. You can access his apps, videos, podcasts and training catalog at Sullivision.com, and follow him on YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter @Sullivision.
The West Wing and Parks and Recreation alum, who famously spoofed himself in a series of DirecTV ad in 2015, continues his commercial acting career by being the new face of KFC. Lowe plays Sanders, known for his white hair, mustache and goatee and wire-rimmed glasses, in a new campaign promoting the fast food giant's new Zinger spicy chicken sandwich - a "100 percent chicken breast filet, double hand-breaded and fried to a golden brown by trained cooks in every KFC kitchen, and served with lettuce and Colonel's mayonnaise on a toasted sesame seed bun."
Rob Lowe is going to send a Zinger into space.
The actor will be the newest version of KFC’s Colonel Sanders in ads featuring the Zinger sandwich.
In the ads, the veteran actor and funnyman will wear a spacesuit, talking about sending KFC’s Zinger out into space. The ads are set to start on Sunday.
“My grandfather was the head of the Ohio chapter of the National Restaurant Association in the 1960s and took me to meet Colonel Harland Sanders when I was a kid,” Lowe said in a statement. “It was a big deal. I thought this would be a nice homage to both Colonel Sanders and my grandfather.”
KFC has used a series of advertisements featuring various actors and comedians playing its iconic founder over the past two years. The irreverent ads have helped reinvigorate sales at the Louisville-based chicken chain. Several actors have taken turns playing Sanders.
The latest ads come as the chain has introduced its Zinger to the U.S. The sandwich is popular in KFCs around the world, and the chain is finally bringing it stateside next week. It’s served with lettuce and mayonnaise on a toasted sesame seed bun.
First introduced in Trinidad & Tobago in 1984, the sandwich is marinated chicken breast, double-breaded in the chain’s Extra Crispy breading with a proprietary spice blend.
It will be available as part of KFC’s line of $5 Fill Up boxes, along with potato wedges, a cookie and a drink. An individual sandwich will be priced at $3.99.
KFC is promising more details about its campaign to send one of these sandwiches into space later this spring.
“I have no idea how we’ll launch a chicken sandwich into space, but the marketing team thinks they can do it,” Kevin Hochman, KFC’s U.S. president and chief concept officer. “What I do know, is the Zinger is the best selling KFC chicken sandwich in 120 countries, and it’s now available in America.”
Contact Jonathan Maze at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter at @jonathanmaze
Fast-food chain KFC launched a new interactive ordering system in English or Cantonese yesterday that is said to be the first of its kind in the world.The HK$5 million allows customers to reduce waiting time and pay by Visa payware, android pay or apple pay.The system has only been rolled out in Admiralty. It will be available in 10 stores by year-end.Separately, FedEx Express said yesterday that... Fast-food chain KFC launched a new interactive ordering system in English or Cantonese yesterday that is said to be the first of its kind in the world.
The American fast food giant is now part of the Just Eat platform, meaning it can now be ordered for delivery through the Just Eat app and website. 30 different KFC restaurants in Greater London have been included in the original rollout, with more to be included this year.