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Mercedes-AMG expects another vroom year

AutoNews - Sat, 2017-03-25 01:01
Following a big rollout of new models, Mercedes-AMG sales are up 30 percent so far in 2017, according to Mercedes-Benz USA. While the pace will slow, a double-digit percentage increase is expected for 2017.
Categories: Latest News

Falling beef prices could make for prime grilling season

Topix - Sat, 2017-03-25 00:28

This Monday, Oct. 26, 2009 file photo shows a Whopper sandwich at a Burger King restaurant in Allison Park, Pa. Soaring beef prices have hurt fast-food restaurants that feature the meat as the centerpiece of their menus: Burger King, Wendy's and McDonald's _ the nation's three biggest burger chains _ all say they're dealing with higher beef costs.

Categories: Today's Food News

House Republicans pull healthcare bill off the table

Nation's Restaurant News - Fri, 2017-03-24 21:41

House Republican leaders reportedly pulled the American Health Care Act, or AHCA, off the table on Friday, saying the party failed to win enough votes.

“We came really close today, but we came up short,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a livestream press conference. 

The decision came after the vote originally scheduled for Thursday was delayed until Friday, as President Donald Trump and supporters attempted to negotiate a deal on the legislation, which would have repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.

Shortly before the Friday vote was scheduled, Ryan said he recommended that the legislation be pulled.

As a result, the ACA remains in place, which amounts to a resounding defeat for President Trump, who campaigned on a promise to bring an end to the Affordable Care Act.

The National Restaurant Association supported the AHCA, saying it was a first step toward reforming the employer mandate and lessening the burden employers have faced in complying with the Affordable Care Act.

But the NRA also advocated for additional changes to the bill.

Meanwhile, Ryan said he would confer with Republicans about how to proceed.

“This is a disappointing day for us,” Ryan said. “Doing big things is hard.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

Mnuchin Creepily Praises Trump's 'Perfect Genes'

Topix - Fri, 2017-03-24 20:19

"[Trump]'s got perfect genes," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during an interview with Mike Allen at earlier today. In the middle of an interview about tax policy, Mnuchin dropped that little nugget, also reassuring the audience that the president no longer eats Kentucky Fried Chicken because now he's got great chefs at the White House to make crappy food for him.

Categories: Today's Food News

5 ways to ensure a profitable restaurant remodel

Nation's Restaurant News - Fri, 2017-03-24 17:55

Bob Donofrio is senior vice president of consulting solutions for Revenue Management Solutions. This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of Nation’s Restaurant News.

So, you’ve decided to remodel a restaurant location.

Beyond questions about design, budget and contractors, you are undoubtedly thinking about some customer-related questions:

Will your longtime customers like the new look and keep coming back? Will the remodel attract new customers? And, just as important, will customers be willing to pay higher menu prices if you spruce the place up?

The good news is that with proper planning and a deep understanding of your customers, a remodel can help you fine-tune your image in a profitable way. And with smart menu pricing decisions, you can offset the costs of the work over time without hurting customer traffic. 

Analysis has shown that customer price sensitivity generally decreases when guests are enjoying an updated restaurant environment.

Customers place added value on a sleeker experience. When you improve the restaurant with an updated design and features such as flat-screen TVs, mobile charging stations and Wi-Fi, the customer experience is transformed. In turn, the customer will be more willing to pay for the added benefits.

How much you choose to raise prices should depend on the extent of the redesign. Simply sprucing up the interior or painting the exterior may not support a significant increase in the pricing structure. However, a complete rebuild at the same location probably will. Also, consider that added efficiencies like an additional register or drive-thru lane will result in more throughput, another way to boost profitability.

Here are some things to keep in mind to make sure your remodel is profitable in the long term:

1. Determine your expectations for return on investment and revisit menu pricing before you reopen. A remodel is a big investment on many fronts. Before you start, it’s important to plan for recouping the expenditures and to be realistic about how long it may take.

Also, as you estimate the return on investment, consider lease terms, lost revenue (should you need to stop operating during the remodel), and whether partnership dollars will be available to cover some of the cost.

The ROI analysis needs to include updated menu pricing in the equation, so when it comes to adjusting menu prices, this should be determined while the remodel is underway, not after reopening.

2. Be mindful of the “decay rate” when it comes to pricing. The “decay rate” is the diminishing opportunity to raise menu prices as a result of a change in customer perception. The rate of decay depends on location, the brand and the extent of the remodel, but your opportunity to make significant menu price changes will generally decline every day after reopening.

As previously mentioned, the goal should be to have new menu prices set for the day you reopen. This is especially true if the restaurant has been closed for a while, since customers tend to forget previous menu prices.

3. Use your demographic and transactional data to reset menu prices. If you don’t have a deep understanding of your customer, changing menu prices could be disastrous to profitability.

First, it’s important to have a clear understanding of customer demographics and income levels in the location’s trade area. As you look at this, consider how close your competitors are to your location.   

But, just as important, understand what your customers are willing to pay for each item. An analysis of transactional data can tell you which menu items have low sensitivity to a price change, along with which items trade with more profitable items. This type of data-driven insight allows you to increase profit per transaction.

4. Realize that a remodel creates a special opportunity for your business. In some cases, you can attract customers who never would have considered your location before. You can also potentially bring back one-time visitors who didn’t feel the previous experience matched what they were looking for. 

To help win these people over, consider an investment in doing more training with your employees to match this new experience with exceptional service. The value of a visit is based on the entire experience — the aesthetics, the technology and the service. If you increase the value of a visit, customers are willing to pay a higher price, and they’ll come back.

5. Do a remodel when the restaurant is doing well. The best time for a refresh is typically when your restaurant is doing well. An old saying goes: “Don’t wait until it’s raining to fix your umbrella.” So don’t wait until your location is in trouble. Rather, make improvements when it’s performing well. 

Nothing is as impactful to same-store sales as a remodel that is done properly. If your location is viable, you can attract and retain customers with a remodel, leading to same-store sales improvement over the long term. Assuming, of course, it’s done in a thoughtful way supported by data.

Bob Donofrio, SVP of consulting services for Revenue Management Solutions, holds an MBA from the University of South Florida and has been with the company since 2004. During that time, he and his team have assisted thousands of franchisees across North America in optimizing their gross profit.

Diner's anger at racist language in rap song played at Burger King branch

Topix - Fri, 2017-03-24 16:07

A diner was shocked when a Llanelli fast food restaurant played rap music with explicit racist lyrics as she tucked into her meal. Lyrics featuring the n-word were clearly heard at the Burger King restaurant in the St Elli Centre, causing such offence to one diner that she filmed it on her mobile phone and took to social media to air her concerns.

Categories: Today's Food News

Autos a no-show on list of advertising stars

AutoNews - Fri, 2017-03-24 16:02
Advertising Age, a sister publication to Automotive News, published its annual '40 Under 40' list of standout individuals. Not one was from the auto industry.
Categories: Latest News

The shift is where the game is played

Nation's Restaurant News - Fri, 2017-03-24 15:46

If the only new thing we have to offer is an improved version of the past, then today can only be inferior to yesterday. —Robert Hewison

With all due respect to every foodservice executive, owner and operator reading this, you’re compensated not for what you do daily, but for what your unit managers and teams accomplish every shift.

Planning, strategy and budget discussions may occur in the home office, but execution and results transpire in the restaurant, during the shift. What is a successful quarter, after all, if not 180 consecutive, profitable shifts in a row? 

Your marketing department and social media partners may claim responsibility for generating customer visits, but it’s the general manager and junior managers who convert traffic into revenue.

Most foodservice operations have 14 shifts a week, 56 per month, 180 every quarter and 720 each year. Every critical strategy and tactic related to running a profitable operation — service, selling, hiring, retention, food safety, marketing, COGS, training and teamwork — occurs during the shift. It puzzles me that very little thought and even fewer resources are applied to understanding and improving the efficiencies of shift leadership.

What is your company doing to fully understand the architecture of a shift and identify the best demonstrated practices your managers deploy before, during and after each shift? It’s time our managers stop running shifts and start leading them instead.

Shift leadership, like all leadership, is situational. Each shift has its own rhythm, tempo and character, and requires a different management mindset and approach. 

Consider all the variables that affect shift success: weather, staffing, scheduling, inventory, equipment maintenance, lunch or dinner rush, and current promotions, to name a few. As a result, there’s a lot of planning, preparation and play-calling at the line of scrimmage. 

How do your managers approach each shift? Do they know what a great shift looks like, or is it something they recognize only after it’s over, when it’s too late to impact it? Do they know how to apply course-correction during a shift that’s going off-kilter? Do you exchange best shift leadership practices weekly between managers? Your answers to these questions can be a directional signpost to why your revenue and retention numbers are up, down or flat. 

Our research with high-performing general managers shows that great shifts are not planned an hour before opening, or just before the dinner rush. A profitable shift is the cumulative result of what your managers did days, weeks, months and even years before it even commences.

What to do a year before the shift

The connective tissue between preparation and profitability is having the discipline to apply the requisite systems, processes and procedures daily to each and every shift. Spectacular success is always preceded by unspectacular preparation. For instance, we’d all probably agree that a key element of a shift’s success is having the right people in the right places doing the right things. But having your aces in their places today depends on who you hired a year ago, or six months ago, and how well you trained and retained them. 

Do your managers patiently apply the screening tools you’ve given them, or do they panic hire? Do they routinely improve the best, help the rest and prune the dead wood? Do they invest time and tools to train their teams every day? Today’s profitable shift is the end result of yesterday’s habitually applied process.

What to do 90 days before the shift 

In your monthly manager meetings, align and integrate quarterly goals into period goals and period goals into shift goals. For instance, if your target is $40,000 in higher gross sales per unit per quarter, that’s $13,333 more per month, or $238 more per shift. Specify pre-shift meeting topics and targets that will focus on ways servers can exceed $238 more in sales.

What to do 30 days before the shift

Compile a database of pre-shift meeting topics for the next 30 days. Base it on topics surrounding your key result areas, like service, selling, cost control or teamwork. No manager should ever wonder what to talk about at a team huddle. Put those pre-shift topics on your manager’s calendars and make sure they’re all clear on the targets and focus area.

What to do one hour before the shift

Review the schedule and assess your rookie-to-vet ratio, which will affect who and how you coach; conduct a thorough line check for food safety compliance; do a ready-for-revenue walkabout outside, then inside, the building, seeing what the guest sees, and correct any problems; greet team members; and make sure inventory is aligned with anticipated business, deliveries are in and equipment is working. 

What to do 10 minutes before the shift

Gather teams for a pre-shift huddle, or alley-rally. Detail the specific focus and objectives for that shift. If you don’t share specific shift goals with your team, your team will rightfully presume you have no goals, and will substitute their own. Detail the behaviors necessary to achieve the target and solicit the team’s ideas, too. For instance, if your focus is that $238 incremental sales bump, you might begin by reminding them why we sell (better customer service and the low profit margin on the dollar), then practice what to sell, and finish by asking each person how to sell it. Pump them up and spread some energy.

Your paycheck and bonus directly depends on how successfully your teams execute the 180 shifts you have each quarter. Why would you prefer chance over choice relative to shift strategy and execution? If your team measurably improved in just one thing every seventh shift, they’d still be better at 100 things a year from today.

Jim Sullivan is the author of two books that have sold over 400,000 copies: Multiunit Leadership and Fundamentals. Check out his videos, podcasts, apps and product catalog of training resources at You can follow him on LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter @Sullivision 

AutoNews Now: March toward higher mpg inevitable?

AutoNews - Fri, 2017-03-24 15:45
Midterm review won't stop march toward tougher mpg, experts say; Ford, Lyft join YouTube ad exodus; Sales rise predicted; VW's latest compliance boss; Toyota billboard clears the air.
Categories: Latest News

Instacart Suit Again Raises Employee Misclassification Issues

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-24 15:30

With more and more businesses utilizing the services of independent contractors, it’s important to understand some of the potential risks involved. Instacart, the on-demand grocery delivery service, just learned one of these lessons the hard way.

Employee Misclassification Lawsuit

Workers who bought and delivered groceries for the company just settled a class-action lawsuit with Instacart, reportedly receiving thousands of dollars in back pay. The reason? Workers claim that they should have been classified as employees rather than contractors. And as such, they’d be owed the same benefits and protections as Instacart employees.

Instacart has since changed its employment structure to classify more workers as actual employees. There still seems to be some confusion over the tipping structure for employees. But the company says that it has made some positive changes in that area as well.

Unfortunately for both businesses and contractors, issues like this aren’t all that uncommon.  Although the number of platforms supporting the gig economy continues to grow, the outlook from those within the community is not always positive.

Since the lawsuit against Instacart was first filed in 2016, there’s been plenty of online discussion about the issue.

So, how’s the gig economy working for you?

— ? Andrea K. (@AndieCrispy) March 24, 2017

@Instacart since when your shoppers are required to wear IC shirts.They are contractors.Train your managers to get things right or #lawsuit

— Alan Smith (@alansmith4321) December 22, 2016

@Instacart I love your service, but your Driver say something about a class action lawsuit. What that about

— D.F.T.G. (@DFTGVP) December 4, 2016

Your goofy t-shirts does not hide the fact that you are pocketing the customers money that’s intended for the shopper. #instacart #lawsuit

— ServiceChargeScam (@TheNextWebVan) November 12, 2016

Instacart isn’t the first online food delivery service to be hit by suits in recent years. GrubHub, DoorDash, Caviar were all sued for employee misclassification in 2015.

It’s yet another growing pain for the fledgling gig economy and a reminder to businesses of all sizes of the importance of strongly distinguishing between contractors and employeees.

Image: Instacart

This article, "Instacart Suit Again Raises Employee Misclassification Issues" was first published on Small Business Trends

CEO: U.S. restaurants in position to ‘export America’ abroad

Nation's Restaurant News - Fri, 2017-03-24 15:15

John D. Harkey Jr., CEO of Dallas-based Consolidated Restaurant Operations Inc., said U.S. restaurants are in a great position for “exporting America” to the rest of the world.

Many American restaurants have expanded overseas, and Harkey said CRO’s El Chico and Cantina Laredo brands have shown strength abroad. The company opened its first units overseas in Egypt, in 2008.

CRO has 109 units across eight brands in the U.S., Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. The company’s first unit in Turkey is under construction, Harkey said, and its first unit in Puerto Rico will open in June.

Harkey discussed international expansion with Nation’s Restaurant News: 

How did you get started abroad? 

It wasn’t so much a vision as a pull. We were approached to go there. We had hired a franchise sales person. It was a bit of an afterthought. We didn’t have a franchise department. We had a few franchised stores, all domestic. That was in 2004, 2005. We didn’t even think to give him a defined territory. He found someone in Cairo, but I said no. He asked what it would take to be convinced. I said, tell them to wire me $100,000, non-refundable. It cost that much money to attempt what is a very hard thing to do. … It took months to get all the documents prepared.

Why do American brands do so well in the Middle East?

The Middle East approach is that brands matter. That’s similar to Asia. They have found that branded restaurants — rather from the deliver mechanism, or from the way the food is the prepared, or the service model, or the quality of the ingredients — get more sales than local [brands]. Diners, whether they are expats or locals, see it as a way to get a better quality dining experience, so restaurants do better.

What do you liken the growth to?

It’s a lot like the U.S. was in the 1960s. In the ’60s, it was a field of dreams. You opened it; they would come. Women were entering the workforce. The trend of more meals being eaten outside the home was starting. That’s where the Middle East is. That’s where Asia is. They are underserved.

What cautionary signs do you see for international development?

We’ve had a change in America’s position. As I visit with friends around the world, there is a cautious eye about how easy it will be to transact business and whether there will be additional obstacles. But we are continuing business as usual and going forward with our partners. We’re exporting American technology and know-how. We’re on the right side of the trade equation. 

How are your restaurants positioned for further expansion abroad? 

Casual dining, which is where a lot of our restaurants are, is one of the toughest, challenging sectors. While that’s happening domestically, we still see a lot of opportunities to American around the world.

Contact Ron Ruggless at

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

How an Atlanta dealership acquired a Chevy Bolt six months early

AutoNews - Fri, 2017-03-24 14:16
Six months before it was slated to hit dealerships in Georgia, a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt arrived at an Atlanta dealership. How?
Categories: Latest News

Oak Hill Capital to buy Checkers, Rally's parent

SmartBrief - Fri, 2017-03-24 14:05
Oak Hill Capital Partners will acquire Tampa, Fla.-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurants in a $525 million deal that includes e -More
Categories: Latest News

CKE Restaurants chooses former KFC exec as CEO

SmartBrief - Fri, 2017-03-24 14:05
CKE Restaurants will bring on Jason Marker, former KFC US president, to be the brand's next CEO, starting in April.  -More
Categories: Latest News

Planet Fitness franchise group backed by private equity firm

SmartBrief - Fri, 2017-03-24 14:05
Planet Fit Indy 10, a Planet Fitness franchise group based in Indianapolis, has received a "significant investment" from Atla -More
Categories: Latest News

Keep the big picture in mind when being critical

SmartBrief - Fri, 2017-03-24 14:05
Perfectionists can be demoralizing, especially when they overlook a strong performance to highlight some detail that wasn't e -More
Categories: Latest News