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TABLE OF CONTENTS | NOV 2018 04 Editor’s letter 05 Big data in an unstructured restaurant environment 08 Restaurant chains show off fall flavors 11 Third party delivery: How to protect your brand 16 The Dealmakers: Is there more hunger for restaurant acquisitions 22 CohnReznick Restaurant Tech Summit: Lessons for the future 24 Offsite sales: The new battleground for restaurant chains 28 Creating training programs that foster diversity, inclusion in the #metoo era 31 Emerging food trends for 2019 and beyond

BUSINESS Executive Editor Rick Zambrano Eatery Pulse TV Editor Sean Cooper Editorial Designer Ashley McCarty

Restaurant C-Suite Magazine is part of the Eatery Pulse Network and distributed by Eatery Pulse Media, a fast-growing information services, consulting and content marketing firm. This new, digital magazine was specifically created for multi-unit restaurant executives. It will deliver the most highly-meaningful news for the industry’s top leaders of today, and the visionaries of tomorrow. Today’s C-suite executives and their managers need information that is carefully selected, meaningful and delivered in a seamless, cohesive fashion. Stay updated with all our content at

Contributors Sonikka Loganathan, Roshan Thomas, Eric Nomis, Thomas Schaffner To place an ad, email or call 301.304.7732

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Copyright 2018 Eatery Pulse Media


Editor’s Note Welcome to Restaurant C-Suite Magazine. The team at Eatery Pulse Media is proud and honored to bring the latest in restaurant news, datadriven insights, and a fresh & sustainable perspective on the restaurant business. This digital magazine is the Un-one-sitefits all magazine for restaurant professionals and executives, bringing together only the most prominent and highly-meaningful news topics. Our news will appear in digital format here, best enjoyed on the ISSUU mobile app when you’re on the move, or on any supported desktop browser. This magazine will present topics that are top-of-mind for restaurant company executives operating restaurants today, including but not limited to sales-building in a saturated market, off-site business growth, franchising, brand & marketing initiatives in an age of disruption, restaurant technology and operational best practices in a foodservice world in flux, seamlessly putting together a collection of dozens of articles that are quickly accessed by restaurant professionals. Executives and professionals within the restaurant industry benefit from robust information and data presented in multiple viewing formats. In addition to this new, digital magazine, we are starting our video updates in 4K UHD and mobile on-thego formats this fall. Together with our curated, online platform Eatery Pulse Streem, these two national news channels will bring

THE UNONE-SIZEFITS-ALL MAGAZINE Photo by Alexander Jones Photography.

you the latest restaurant news at your pace and convenience. Our news platform is also bolstered by the insights and services provided by our consultancy, Studio Team+Arel7. In the near future, we’ll be presenting easy access to top vendors, and to a robust service platform through this consultancy, and our marketing partners. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to present to you hot-off-the-press news

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topics through Restaurant C-Suite Magazine and across our publishing and social channels. Please feel free to reach out to us if you would like to share your restaurant stories and expertise to be featured in our spotlight.

Rick Zambrano, Executive Editor Restaurant C-Suite Magazine

Big data in an unstructured restaurant environment By Rick Zambrano

Big data is making a significant impact on decisions made in the restaurant industry. A saturation of restaurants, combined with less loyalty from Gen Y and Z, and the ubiquity of foodservice in the Retail and omnichannel environment, are contributing to an industry that is highly competitive. It’s an environment in which apparent customer traffic growth for restaurants is only achieved at the expense of another, and one in which customer and transaction data analysis has become more valuable. But how can all this data be tracked? Mounds of data are pouring in from point of sale systems, mobile app platforms, email campaigns, social media channels, review sites, in addition to real-world experiences and feedback, to name just a few.


New Gen Apps, an international IT solutions provider with offices in Mumbai and New York, has identified several uses of big data analysis for foodservice and food retailers. Some of the main uses involve analyzing data to customize the guest experience, to create offers and marketing campaigns with a higher value proposition, to understand social sentiment and to learn from such feedback using text data analysis, and to create predictive analysis to create better food delivery experiences for customers. Predictive analysis can also improve the drive-thru experience, enhancing preparation for large orders, based on previous drive-thru lane traffic patterns. Data analysis that can be used to customize a mobile ordering experience, for example, can be personal and automated so that customers’ next most desirable item is offered to them automatically on a future mobile app transaction. This type of interaction is done through a market-basket analysis, and it can be part of recurring programming. One of the most common uses of data analysis has been social sentiment analysis. Natural language processing, for example, is a common tool applied to this type of data collection and review. Multi-unit operators can learn much from social sentiment, and the analysis can be scaled to fit the size of the restaurant chain. In today’s world, customers are easily able to review a restaurant and be a critic. For restaurants, the popularity of review sites and the large presence of feedback tools within search engines and aggregator websites makes the task of analyzing data quite daunting. “Forget the dread of a famous restaurant critic’s piece hitting the newsstands. Restaurant brands now must treat every diner as a restaurant critic. When you wow them, they’ll light up the social landscape with praise,” notes a Social Intelligence Restaurants 2018 report from NetBase, a social analytics technology provider. While some vocal restaurant owners have felt outrage and scorn at the types of comments they are seeing on review sites, and this reaction has prompted many a news headline, other savvy managers are extracting that information to operate RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 6

better restaurants. NetBase notes that this type of online information is freely available and can be used as a tool to give customers exactly what they want and culling widely available feedback and sentiment. Additionally, it can also be used for benchmarking and evaluating competitor performance. Sentiment analysis can also be used to more easily make big changes to a restaurant operation. A NetBase Social Intelligence Report: Restaurant Brands 2017 used sentiments to rank select restaurant chains in several categories that mattered to each: hospitality, cleanliness, order accuracy, selection, quality and value. Not surprisingly, Panera Bread lead the list of several notable restaurant chains, based on average scores. NetBase suggests Panera Bread’s use of big data analytics loomed large in key decisions around its commitment to clean-label products, preservative-free ingredients and hormonefree foods. It posits that the changes by Panera Bread were made specifically for Panera Bread’s audience and have added to the brand’s value over time, leading to its acquisition by JAB Holding Co. in 2017.

Brand messaging and marketing Big data analytics can also improve the types of marketing campaigns that chains can deploy. Multi-unit restaurant marketing has become more science than art as data sets can provide a glimpse into an audience and how to best communicate with it. “The most important things big data analytics allow us to do is understand our audience better and provide insights so we can craft better creative (marketing campaigns)” says James Ward, co-owner and chief creative officer of Saturday Brand Communications, based in Charlotte, N.C. “So in short, we’re using the data to more effectively uncover the humanity and human truth we can either message against or use to determine deployment methods.” Using big data, marketing teams can weigh their options careful, and this can play a key role in testing campaigns and messaging and can help provide direction. Ward says, “Big data lets us tap into behavioral data

Panera Bread has benefited by analyzing big data and responding to its customers wants and needs. Photo by Eatery Pulse Media.

and combine (it) with machine learning to perform highly efficient testing. It means we can explore and/or test multiple directions in messaging simultaneously throughout the life of a single campaign.” A/B (split marketing) testing is more scrupulously analyzed, and its success in resonating with an audience can be more predictable. Many marketing programs have lost money and did not produce a discernible return on investment, notes the Social Intelligence Restaurants 2018 report from NetBase, because intra-campaign progress could not be easily performed. “But that’s no longer a concern if you have the right tools in your arsenal,” says the report. “Track campaigns in real time and adjust as needed to ensure success—even if it’s not how you pictured it.” NetBase spotlights a campaign in which Chick-fil-A used social analytics to launch a campaign with a chicken sandwich covered in honey. Using this information, the quick-

service chain was able to launch a successful breakfast campaign with similar images— honey literally oozing and dripping over a biscuit. That recommendation from marketing agency Moxie led to a 46 percent brand awareness boost. “We’re using data sets and machine learning to empower our creative, which is always king,” says Saturday Brand’s Ward. “The data gives us the ability to prove that the insight or hypothesis that we think will resonate best with our audience actually does so.” NetBase emphasizes that all tools must work together cohesively so that restaurant operators are not overwhelmed. The company recommends investing in tools that offer everything “currently on the social analytics menu,” including sentiment analysis, image analysis, customer experience analysis, and integration with other business tools.


Restaurant chains show off fall flavors By Sonikka Loganathan

With the last traces of summer fading away, a warmth enters our homes, more specifically, our kitchens. Restaurants are cooking up earthy meals using the cornucopia of flavors that the fall brings. The iconic pumpkin spice latte only scratches the surface of what the season has to offer. Flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg, melded with hearty but sweet squash and potato, leave the stomach feeling festively full. These ingredients are translated into drinks as well with a variety of apple ciders and frothy cinnamon lattes. Fall brings out flavor that appeal to the senses and bring out fond memories. Desserts almost always have a crisp or caramelized

Fall dishes at Corner Bakery. Photo by Corner Bakery.

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apple element, or cranberries or pears drizzled in maple. There is something unique about these types of foods and the tradition much of it holds. Keeping in par with those traditions, several restaurants are celebrating the season with news dishes that take these humble ingredients and add culinary expertise to it. Firebirds Wood Fired Grill takes bold American cuisine and adds a contemporary touch. Its fall menu features all its previous fall favorites. Its dishes showcase crispy brussel sprouts, wood-grilled cauliflower, sprinkles of pumpkin seed, and a dash of spice, rubbed into the meat for an added kick. The limited edition “Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Spice Butter

Cake,” announced by the chain, has the classic crunchy, spiced pecans. Firebirds’ fall drink menu beautifully pairs with lunch and dinner. Bartenders remix traditional cocktails by infusing pear, cranberry, and maple. The “Tipsy Pig,” for example, has bourbon, sweet vermouth, bitters and a homemade bacon brown sugar syrup. “These are menu items full of fresh, bold ingredients that pair well with the cooling temperatures,” explained Executive Chef, Steve Strum. “It only made sense to bring back the fan favorites. If you’re looking for breakfast that matches the weather, Corner Bakery is using fresh ingredients to create an autumnal breakfast menu. “We are excited to introduce our guests to Corner Bakery’s new harvest creations. Our freshly prepared dishes are full of flavor,” said CMO Donna Josephson, in a statement. Apple and walnut stand up crisply, with apple walnut pancakes accessorized with bacon, warm cinnamon-y apple oatmeal and muffins packed with essential fall flavors like carrots, raisins, and spice. Just because it’s fall however, doesn’t mean you have to stay inside to enjoy the tastes. While you’re watching the leaves change color, adults can sip on apple cider—hard apple cider that is. Cider festivals are taking place all over the country, from Seattle to New York. These festivals showcase a variety of ciders and flavors available, covering all possibilities of this unique way to consume apples. For a quick but filling bite after the festival, head over to Sweetgreen and enjoy the flavors that meld together late summer with early fall. The restaurant’s late summer menu brings out sweet, fresh flavors like peach and watermelon and pairs them with roasted vegetables and proteins. The “Peach Burrata Bowl,” for example, has locally-sourced peaches, burrata, and tomatoes, accessorized with red onions, basil, and roasted almonds.

Photo by Firebirds Wood Fired Grill.

Comforting soups are also a must and can be found at the beloved local chain, Panera Bread. Along with its year-round creamy, delicious soups, the season brings out the “Autumn Squash Soup.” With its warm but vibrant ocher color, the soup blends together butternut squash and pumpkin with hints of honey and cinnamon, and tops it off with roasted pumpkin seeds before it’s served. While you’re there, you can sweeten your sense with their pumpkin cookie, an all-butter cookie perfect for people of all ages, not just the kids! Alternatively, take the classic American biscuit and make it fall! Cracker Barrel is launching a variety of biscuit-oriented dishes to make the perfect, cozy meal. Offering twists on alltime fall favorites, Cracker Barrel released a parmesan-crusted biscuit pot pie, filled with fall veggies, a biscuit French toast with sweet blackberry topping, and buttermilk biscuit, beignets served with rustic butter pecan sauce. What’s more, Cracker Barrel has the perfect drink to accompany these meals—a delicious pumpkin pie latte which you can get hot or iced, topped with a dollop of whipped cream! The key to creating a meal that pays homage to the season is to use fresh ingredients that are available this time of the year. Oftentimes, the simple treats are the most delicious, but adding a unique twist that still preserves the original recipe can make your fall offerings truly delectable. RESTAURANT C-SUITE 9

Third party delivery: How to protect your brand By Eric Nomis

Chipotle expanded delivery with DoorDash in August to 1,800 locations. Photo by Chipotle. Photo below by DoorDash.

The culture of convenience has spoken. Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to enjoy prepared foods and restaurant meals in the comfort of their own homes and their places of work. Restaurant chains have focused on delivery and takeout as a way to capture the upside of this trend. According to Melissa Wilson of restaurant consulting firm, Technomic, appearing in April at the Restaurant Leadership Conference in Phoenix, restaurant delivery is expected to grow by 12 percent. The logistics of restaurant delivery is something that is challenging to scale internally and is a revenue-generating program in itself that several chains have handed off to third-party delivery companies. RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 10

● • Building a relationship with the customer to win loyalty and repeat business

In fact, several high-profile announcements during the summer have highlighted the importance of delivery to restaurant chains. Chipotle, Naf Naf Grill, California Pizza Kitchen, Shake Shack, and Applebee’s have either started or expanded delivery programs and made them part of their growth and digital strategies. Consumers are apt to embrace food delivery and there is high demand. However, they have not always embraced third-party delivery, traditionally preferring direct delivery from restaurants themselves. Independent eateries, which already have a higher satisfaction rating on many fronts, according to a Pentallect-Critical Mix study, are more easily able to offer restaurant-operated delivery service, a challenge that chains may have to overcome as delivery continues to become more popular, and at the same time, more ubiquitous and hyper-local. Restaurant branding and the restaurant experience doesn’t easily transfer to a vehicle, and then consequently to the home of diners, just as food doesn’t always travel well. How are restaurants to ensure their brands remain in a positive light during third party delivery?

Throughput and execution Putting the customer first is a big step in ensuring a restaurant company is protecting its brand. Restaurants that provide catering are ahead of the game in understanding the importance of a customer-first philosophy off-premises. Jim Rand, Catering Practice Leader for ezCater, a technology company that helps corporate caterers find catering partners and fill catering orders, notes these key similarities between catering and singleorder restaurant delivery:

● • Delivering the highest quality food that is as close to the in-restaurant experience as possible ● • Having the entire customer experience be “on-brand,” mimicking the menu offerings across all on- or off-premises channels ● • Being on-time and accurate with all food items requested and making sure all are delivered as ordered “Given the right fee structure, and if the tech companies provide enough value up front, offering delivery will be necessary for most restaurants to remain competitive in 2018 and beyond,” says Landon Ledford, a marketing executive for Double L Brands and a marketing consultant for startups and growing concepts. The kitchen is a place where established systems and flow are set and third-party delivery is usually layered on top, creating a challenge. Obstacles include adding new technology, higher order numbers, confusing turnaround times, and then having to hand off the product to a third-party delivery partner. This being said, third-party providers can play a big role in the success of delivery and execution with proper coordination and planning. These companies can help select the delivery menu that will be used by restaurants in an effort to improve the customer experience, using their delivery expertise. Customer experience has to be a top priority. Onboarding specialists from delivery companies can help ensure restaurants are set up for success on their platforms in key ways, recommends Ledford. Not all food items will travel well, and opening up the entire menu to delivery is not necessarily the right thing to do. Ledford says the observation made by Zach Pollack of Cosa Buona, Los RESTAURANT C-SUITE 11



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Angeles, in a USA Today article is on point. “Meat, for instance, that’s braised or roasted is likely to hold up better than that which is seared.” Technology companies should help restaurateurs understand the ability for certain items to be on delivery menus based on how well they will travel, thereby keeping customer satisfaction a top priority. As restaurant partners, third-party companies can help optimize pricing and menu based on the data they possess. “Delivery partners know they’re cutting into margins, so combat that by ensuring the restaurants are selling indemand items, and subtly marking-up prices accordingly,” says Ledford. As restaurant chains turn toward big data, they also possess a lot of valuable information, but it can always be augmented by third-party delivery data if it can be used throughout the partnership.

Food quality upon delivery A basics-first approach is also helpful in putting your best foot forward before handing off to delivery partners. Restaurant companies can ensure food quality by paying close to attention to containers and packaging. Cold items need to stay cold; hot items need to stay hot. Simple, right? But even this can be a challenge if the right set up and transport containers are not used. This is something that can be reviewed during onboarding with the restaurant delivery partner. While the food is at the restaurant, ezCater’s Rand says, “... upon setup of the product, there should be branded labeling that explains the menu item and associated ingredients and calls out the virtues of the item (gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, etc.), and any potential common allergens (nuts, dairy, soy, etc.).” Rand notes that any labeling is a great opportunity to represent the brand and signal the brand to customers. Special packaging

Amazon Restaurants has an interesting value proposition here by having their army of customer service reps available to field complaints, this is still pretty generic in nature, though. Landon Ledford,

Double L Brands marketing executive RESTAURANT C-SUITE 13

IHOP pancakes travel better in specially-designed packaging. Photo by IHOP.

can be considered for premium and highlypopular items. Ledford from Double L Brands points out that IHOP, for example, created special packaging for its pancakes to travel well. In fact, IHOP developed a whole line of IHOP ‘N Go packaging with key quality elements in mind, specifically to: develop food-centric containers provide quality pancakes on the go, allow breakfast staples to be kept warm longer create packaging for easy transport and ensure combo meals are made easy. The packaging allows for temperature control, secures items for travel with less sliding, and allows shippers to package several items together.

Analysis Panel members at a recent CohnReznick Restaurant Tech Summit in Washington, D.C., suggested that delivery companies do not use their technology to help improve the data that restaurants possess. Something that has been quite innovative is Domino’s Pizza Tracker, and a RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 14

few delivery services also use similar technology to provide food tracking. “A few platforms do provide ‘real-time tracking,’ at least in their sales pitch to restaurants—we can’t, however, expect a restaurant operator in the middle of a busy lunch to manage this, says Ledord. He suggests tech companies still have room to improve the technology to make it work for restaurants. Additionally, Ledford notes that restaurants could use support in the reporting and identifying of customer complaints, as well as the whole customer care process. He says, “Amazon Restaurants has an interesting value proposition here by having their army of customer service reps available to field complaints, this is still pretty generic in nature, though.” According to Ledford, technology companies should invest further in their relationship with restaurants and become more consultative. This will go a long way in helping restaurant companies succeed in delivery and protecting their brand identity.




The Dealmakers: Is there hunger for more restaurant acquisitions? By Rick Zambrano

Recent transactions in the restaurant sector have continued to impress industry insiders. In all sectors, both volume and transaction were expected to gain pace in 2018, according to a report by Deloitte & Touche, The State of the Deal: M&A Trends. More than a third of companies with revenues in excess of $1B “intend to pick up the pace” on acquisitions in 2018. Private equity firms are also bullish. According to an article in Forbes, Triago Fund Advisory estimates that money raised by private equity funds for deals in 2017 totaled $621B, surpassing a previous record of $557B set in 2008. With so much money raised, it’s time for businesses to spend. And spend they will, as tax rates are much more favorable due to the current economic environment, creating better returns. RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 16

The total volume of U.S. M&A in 2017 was $2.9T, according to JPMorgan Chase’s Global M&A Outlook report-- the same amount as in 2016-but, the volume of transactions is expected to increase in 2018. Lower interest rates are indeed a reason for more deals among corporations and private equity firms, according to John A. Gordon, principal of Pacific Management Consulting Group. Multiples in the restaurant sector have been aggressive, and now is the time for more restaurant acquisitions to occur because selling companies can continue to rationalize higher valuations. According to Duff & Phelps in its June 2018 Quarterly Industry Report, enterprise value for restaurant brands is historically high for fast

18-unit Bartaco is part of the Barteca deal for Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group. Bartaco, Mosaic in Merrifield, Va. Photo by Bartaco.

casuals in the last twelve months at 19.6 times enterprise value while quick-service brands were historically high in 2017 at 16.4 times. Two of the more notable acquisitions by private equity firms this year were Roark Capital’s acquisition of Sonic Corp. for $2.3B through its Inspire Brands subsidiary, and High Bluff Capital’s acquisition of Taco Del Mar and Quiznos’ parent, QCE LLC, for undisclosed amounts. Roark Capital, through Focus Brands, also finalized its acquisition of Jamba Juice for $200M in September and Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) for $2.9B in February, the same time it created BWW’s parent, Inspire Brands (also parent of Arby’s Restaurant Group), led by Arby’s former head, Paul Brown.

German investment firm JAB Holding Company, through Krispy Kreme, strengthened its bakery foothold with the acquisition of Insomnia Cookies, and most certainly planned for Insomnia’s expansion abroad through Krispy Kreme’s current infrastructure. 2018 has otherwise been a quieter year for JAB, which acquired Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain last year, in addition to the Bruegger’s Bagel chain through JAB’s ownership of Caribou Coffee. JAB is massively consolidating the U.S. coffee production and bakery & coffee chain subsectors through acquisitions that could last for decades to come.


Building a case for acquisitions Restaurant companies that acquire other restaurant companies have similar incentives as investment firms, including capturing undervalued assets to both generate a good internal rate of return and create efficiencies of scale. This is likely what is occurring with Inspire Brands. By bringing Arby’s Restaurant Group, Buffalo Wild Wings, Rusty Taco, and now Sonic Corp. under its portfolio, Inspire brands now has greater purchasing power. For those looking to be best-in-class employers, size does matter. Large companies have more access to a larger set of options for employer health coverage and can more easily offset higher labor costs. A lesser-known advantage to size is the consolidation of executive oversight. Pacific Management’s Gordon notes that the restaurant industry is losing bright and promising executives to other industries. By combining restaurant companies, however, we can still have the best and brightest in foodservice leading top brands. Synergies aren’t just created by on the cost side of the profit & loss statement. Certain brands can truly complement each other. In the case of Del Frisco’s purchase of Barteca—completed in June, the polished casual dining operator saw an opportunity to create a stronger company by combining the two organizations, notes Gordon. At the time of the purchase, DFRG indicated the new company would also be less susceptible to seasonal swings in revenue. Cava’s recent acquisition of Zoe’s Kitchen caught many by surprise since it involved a much smaller brand—66 units—acquiring a nearly 250-unit competitor (albeit with major funding from Act III Holdings, the investment arm of Ron Shaich, former chairman and chief executive of Panera Bread). Zoe’s Kitchen had been struggling for some time though. By the RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 18

time it reported its results in its 2017 annual report, average annual sales per unit were down nearly $100K, and comparable sales were down two percent. For companies that are doing the selling, being acquired by a private company can have an advantage, taking existing company executives out of the limelight and extracting the most value for shareholders. An acquisition can help executives win praise and earn higher stock option valuations and bonuses, while at the same time relieving them of rationalizing disappointments in front of investors and analysts during quarterly conference calls. One of the main reasons franchise concepts are acquired, as in the case of Restaurant Brands International’s acquisition of Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, is the ability to franchise a well-established and easilyreplicable restaurant brand. There’s a lot of value in the potential to franchise a brand globally. Not all brands have gone through a strong international development phase yet. Popeyes is now entering Brazil and the Phillipines postRBI acquisition. When second-quarter financial results were reported this year, Popeyes had added more than 200 restaurants and Burger King had increased its location count by more than 1,000 year-over-year (including possible franchised-unit takeovers). Not all franchise concepts grow their units post-acquisition, however. A study conducted by Peter Schwarzer of LeOS Franchise Consulting, and reported by in June, suggests Roark Capital-controlled concepts are not necessarily growing in unit count after acquisition. What is happening instead is that average unit revenues grew faster after these brands are in Roark’s control. For these restaurant brands, compounded annual growth rates (CAGR), on average, grew 150 basis points to 3.4 percentage points in the three years post acquisition, even though unit growth itself did not. Value was certainly created, but not in the


way most would think, Still, franchisees have been able to benefit in the short and long term. “Give the people what they want” has been a mantra in retail and food businesses for years. This is usually easier said than done, but at Burger King, many of the changes have been a result of the simple application of this mantra. Some changes have been made directly at the suggestion of RBI CEO Schwartz, as noted by news reports. Sandwiches have become more decadent and fat-laden. Value deals have become simpler and more enticing. Even the creepy King commercials are back, returning in 2015 after a 4-year hiatus, to appeal to Burger King’s core young male demographic, while turning off audiences it previously offended in the early 2000s. More recently, the burger chain’s ads have pivoted to artificial intelligence in advertising, according to a September campaign.

• Elysium Management acquired Huddle House from Sentinel Capital in January. • Butterfly Equity acquired fast-casual Modern Market in February.


• TriSpan acquired Rosa’s Mexicano in March and revamped management team. • In February, Inspire Brands, a Roark Capital whollyowned subsidiary, is created after Arby’s finalizes acquisition of Buffalo Wild Wings. • Spice Private Equity acquired Bravo Brio Restaurant Group in March. • Rhône Capital completed acquisition of Fogo de Chão in April.

The ripple effect Acquisitions can create ripple effects: the more acquisitions there are, the easier the rationalization for higher valuations is, and the more likely it is for other acquisitions to occur, and for executives to either look for the exit door or remain in a more fortified ecosystem. The wave theory of acquisitions is a well-known academic dive into time periods in which there is extended, heightened acquisition activity. At a more granular level, acquisitions can also have other intended consequences, such as corporate staff reductions. According to the Financial Post, when Burger King’s parent company, RBI, began moving into its new offices at the newly-acquired Tim Horton’s Ontario Headquarters in 2015, observers noted that the event created a tense environment and heightened security situation as layoffs began. More than 700 employees were expected to be cut at Tim Hortons at the time.

• Barington/Hilco Acquisition Corp agreed to acquire Papa Gino’s and D’Angelo’s Sandwich Shops in February.


• Earl Enterprises acquired Bertucci’s out of bankruptcy in June. • High Bluff Capital acquired QZE (Quizno’s LLC) in June. • Mlllstone Capital Advisors acquired Native Foods Cafe in June. • Oprah invested in True Food Kitchen in July. • High Bluff Capital acquired Taco Del Mar in July.


• Zoe’s Kitchen entered into merger agreement with CAVA in August. • Roark Capital, through its Focus Brands subsidiary, finalized acquisition of Jamba Juice. • In September, Roark Capital, through its Inspire Brands subsidiary, agreed to acquire Sonic Corp.


• Elite Restaurant Group bids to take Noon Mediterranean out of bankruptcy in October (Restaurant Business Online)

Sources: Unless indicated otherwise, Duff & Phelps Q2 Restaurant Quarterly Update and public sources.


RBI also culled 12 percent of the 39,000 employees that worked for the chain,mostly in field and corporate roles, when Burger King went private in the nearly $4B 3G Capital-backed deal. Burger King and Tim Hortons are still dealing with franchisee revolts and lawsuits. On a recent Q2 conference call, RBI executive Daniel Schwartz touted better relations with Tim Hortons franchisees and reminded analysts of a $30B investment in an additional production facility being built in Canada to roast coffee. 3G Capital is well-known for its frugal approach to business and overhead expenditures. More layoffs and attrition could come as RBI moves Popeyes employees from Atlanta to Miami this year. Tim Hortons’ reputation has fallen in two key ranking areas, as reported by The Guardian in July.The ongoing battle between 3G Capitalbacked management and franchisees is a big part of this decline for the Canadian company, not because it is part of RBI. The Guardian wrote, “What mattered (in reputation rankings) is that since RBI took over, Tim Hortons has been perceived to be acting in a way that seems antithetical to Canadian values. Many store owners have been unhappy about what they see as self-serving measures by the parent company to increase its margins at the franchisees’ expense.” The dispute harkens back to the lawsuits the Quiznos chain faced with 12 defunct franchisees over supply chain markups in 2014 before it settled in a $40M lawsuit, according to Entrepreneur Magazine. Despite having unintended consequences,there’s a positive side to these acquisitions too. In the case of Roark Capital, the portfolio companies have been centralized around a few holding/ organizational entities that can provide upward mobility to key management and executive personnel. Kat Cole, the president of Cinnabon, was promoted to Focus Brands’ president in 2017 after successfully growing Cinnabon for seven years and securing revenue growth of RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 20

over $1B. Roark Capital-controlled Focus Brands is the parent of Cinnabon, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Auntie Anne’s, Carvel Ice Cream Shops, Schlotzky’s, and Jamba Juice, which was most recently acquired for $200M. Cole started her career at Hooters and worked her way up the ladder, appearing on the TV Show “Undercover Boss” in 2012 at age 34 as the youngest chief executive to be featured on that program. Restaurant veteran Paul Macaluso held several marketing executive roles for Moe’s Southwest Grill and Focus Brands for over five years before becoming president of McAlister’s Deli in December 2016.He left this position for the chief executive spot at mini-burger chain, The Krystal Company, in April 2018. There are several stories like this one, in which restaurant executives are able to thrive in a controlled environment where they can focus in laser-like fashion on their brands in private companies without having to rationalize successes and failures in front of investors and analysts in very public settings, and where that lack of public attention and scrutiny can foster and enable innovation.

Acquisitions: Why now? Who’s next? There are many reasons 2018 may be one of the biggest years for restaurant acquisitions. While tax rates are low now, changes in Congress’s political control and a mounting deficit will most certainly move tax rates higher. This means that the time is now to move on deals. “The next president is going to be faced with a deficit and there will be higher tax rates and tax increases,” says Gordon. Rents and constructions costs are also increasing, and restaurant companies with more clout, sales volume and stability are sure to snag the best locations and best deals, he adds. An investment firm like JAB Holding Co. is just that—holding, holding for generations. That favors restaurant executives, as we’ve noted here, to develop opportunities to innovate and

Noodles World Kitchen may be an ideal acquisition target. Photo by Noodles World Kitchen.

focus on revenue-generation in an incubator-like environment. Despite the corporate personnel that has typically been sent packing after an acquisition, senior managers and multi-unit managers can tap into new possibilities after such a transition, such as taking on more responsibility cross-training or overseeing other stores, notes Gordon. For operational managers, whether those acquiring or being acquired, the transition certainly can hold promise. There’s been talk about Bojangles’ being the next big chain to be acquired. Certainly, its management has hinted at the possibility. RBI most likely would not be a buyer since they are focused on very simple concepts that can be built up and replicated quickly. “The first group that you have to look at is a chain of some kind of size, and they run into trouble after an IPO,” he says. Noodles World Kitchen, Gordon observes, was understaffed for what came about after

going public, but most recently, management has been able to fix many of its issues. Potbelly is another chain that could be a target for possible acquisition by a franchise-centric investment firm or complementary restaurant company. Regardless of which chain will be bought next, one thing is certain: investors and restaurant companies continue to have an appetite for larger transactions and more of them. Experts are expecting this year to be one of the biggest inside and outside of the restaurant sector. The acquisitions we saw last year “reflect the market’s view that restaurants continue to be value opportunities” versus retail, consumer products and food (manufacturing), notes an Industry Spotlight report from Fifth Third Capital Markets. The restaurant industry should brace itself for more consolidation, particularly if the transactions that have been occurring are a sign of things yet to come. RESTAURANT C-SUITE 21

FOOD ECHOES How the delivery boom is changing the restaurant business CohnReznick Restaurant Tech Summit District Winery, Washington, D.C. Chris Baggott, Co-founder and CEO of ClusterTruck ClusterTruck is a delivery restaurant that establishes a kitchen and rapid delivery zone in markets across the U.S., addressing the problem of food not arriving hot and fresh. It looks to disrupt the existing delivery system somewhat, but also establish partnerships with eateries. Expect more disruptors to the delivery business as long as restaurants continue to see the third-party model as unsustainable. ClusterTruck operates in the downtown districts of Indianapolis, Indiana; Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Denver, Colorado. Baggott says that the driver experience at third party delivery services is poor and there needs to be a better driver experience. Restaurant delivery is often delayed because there aren’t enough drivers, there is too much turnover in drivers or the fulfillment process is not geared toward the customer experience. ClusterTruck is succeeding by limiting the delivery zone to 6 minutes from where the food is prepared and its average delivery time is 4.9 minutes. It’s a logistics business.

Vishal Agarwal, Founder & CEO of He says we should look at marketing data and create campaigns that provide us insight into whether a third party service is benefitting the restaurant. We should look at the issue of RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 22

accessing the data that third-party services have. How can get the data? Agarwal also says, “GrubHub is not evil.” He suggests managing the relationship. With today’s technology, a restaurant business has a new door to the restaurant and it’s online. Agarwal says that there are two paths: online order & pick-up and restaurant-operated delivery and third party delivery. According to this chief executive, the future brings less restaurant competition with technology companies, more acceptance and transactional profitability. https://www.

Kevin Blesy, Head of strategy, &pizza Digital ordering can change the accuracy of orders and improve the way we track theoretical food cost. Online can better capture ingredient usage and theoretical usage better than the in-house POS, says Blesy. How are restaurants using discount codes and free food promotions? Are restaurants using growth hacking (rapid experimentation across marketing tactics and channels)? Restaurants should continue to use referrals and word of mouth, he says. Restaurants have developed a love-hate relationship with third-party delivery. Fees are too excessive for these services to be a sustainable, long-term solution. In this opinion, the future of foodservice includes more automation for repetitive tasks, some commoditization of the restaurant experience and an era where restaurants take back control of their businesses.

Offsite sales: The new battleground for restaurant chains By Eric Nomis

Off-premises food popularity was a top dining trend identified this year. As consumers look for more convenience, there is no shortage of chains wanting to bring food to where the consumers are. That’s exactly what IHOP’s president, Darren Rebelez, said on an August 1 investor conference call. The sales gain benefit in its Q2 2018 quarter was not only due to some initial lift from the much-publicized Ultimate Steakburger Combo and its related “IHOb” promotion, but also due to a focus on off-premises sales. Those sales accounted for 8 percent of the chain’s Q2 sales, noted Rebelez. The company delivered a second quarter of positive comps and indicated to-go sales now account for 7 percent of sales. To-go comp sales grew 32 percent and to-go comp traffic RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 24

grew 23 percent, meaning the to-go “basket” (size of takeout orders) also increased during the quarter—not just customers purchasing for takeaway. Applebee’s, which is also operated by Dine Brands, saw half of its comp growth come from off-premises sales, which grew 31 percent during Q2. Delivery at Applebee’s is offered at more than 500 restaurants nationally. At IHOP, a partnership with DoorDash allows 300 stores to offer delivery. That number will increase by 1,000 just this year, said Rebelez, while the chain conducts a concurrent test at 150 stores with Amazon and GrubHub. The balancing of delivery and to-go orders, without creating operational difficulties for the kitchen is a careful dance. Pleasing the guest is another one. Attitudes toward third-party delivery services are not changing, according

to a 2018 consumer survey by AlixPartners— most consumers prefer delivery directly from restaurant operators; however, thirdparty delivery is a reality that could settle in, especially with younger diners. While fast-food and casual dining chains shouldn’t see increased intent for delivery, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, particularly for new delivery services. Finedining restaurants and fast casuals are the only segments in which consumers expect to increase delivery orders, notes the survey. The fast-food and casual-dining operators that will be successful in the offsite arena will be those taking shares from competitors and conveying a heightened value proposition. This is the reckoning of a consumer landscape that may not see a large increase in new customers turning to delivery. On August 1, The Cheesecake Factory announced DoorDash will be its exclusive delivery partner, adding to a relationship that already involves POS integration and joint marketing activities. “So many of our guests enjoy the convenience of delivery, and the new terms of this agreement will allow us to maximize profits from our growing delivery business,” said Dave Overton, founder and CEO, in a company release. The Cheesecake Factory indicated the exclusive partnership will offer enhanced operational data on delivery and will allow the companies to further collaborate on marketing opportunities during the current year. Popeyes financial reporting for the second quarter also indicated there was a lift in sales from delivery services, although it was not quantified at the time of an August investor conference call conducted by its parent, Restaurant Brands International (RBI). Comp sales for the chain grew 2.9 percent, while new unit count increased 8 percent. RBI has stated that a priority of the restaurant company is to

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The partnership with Starbucks and Alibaba has facilitated delivery launching in Beijing and Shanghai, expanding the program to 30 cities and more than 2,000 stores. Photo by Starbucks.

increase delivery. In May, Popeyes began testing delivery in five key markets in the United States. Strategies to increase off-premises sales are now a global imperative for restaurant chains, not just a domestic one. Starbucks just announced a deeper, strategic partnership with Alibaba. Through the partnership, delivery will be launched in Beijing and Shanghai in September, expanding the program to 30 cities and more than 2,000 stores by the end of the year. The new strategic alliance also enables the creation of “Starbucks Delivery Kitchens” within Hema supermarkets to enhance the fulfilment of Starbucks orders for delivery.

The Starbucks-Alibaba strategic partnership is enabling omnichannel experiences across the Alibaba ecosystem via, Hema, Tmall, Taobao and Alipay. “Alibaba is thrilled to expand our existing partnership with Starbucks by leveraging our cutting-edge New Retail (Retail 3.0) infrastructure and digital power to enable an unprecedented experience for consumers,” said Daniel Zhang, chief executive of Alibaba, in a statement. Starbucks and Alibaba will also partner to create a virtual store so members can register, redeem benefits and enjoy an “extensive range” of services in a more personalized manner. This article was previously published online at

RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 26

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Creating training programs that foster diversity, inclusion in the #metoo era By Sonikka Loganathan

Creating a comfortable, professional, and respectful workplace is vital to fostering an environment that promotes productivity and idea generation in any industry. Today, particularly with the rise of the #MeToo Movement, employers and companies must consider the way in which an employee may feel threatened, anxious, or disrespected. The restaurant industry has faced several issues in this department, whether it be sexual harassment or underpaying workers. Everyone with a leadership position should be well-equipped to deal with the challenges that come with running a multifaceted and diverse business. Acknowledging the issues only scratches the surface. To make a real change, strategies that make an impact and have a wide reach are essential to prevent future trouble and save costs that could arise from lawsuits and bad publicity. Effective training programs can foster diversity and can position restaurants as built bestin-class employers. Photo by Taylor Grote.

RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 28

One thing that is clear is that the role that leadership plays in fostering an inclusive environment will affect and trickle down to the rest of the employees. Leaders must have a vision and implement his or her values into the company. Simma Lieberman, president of Simma Lieberman Associates, asks CEOs questions like, “are you setting an example of inclusion by your behavior?” and, “what systems and processes are in place to make everyone feel appreciated and valued?” Creating interactive and tailored training sessions that follow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, is also a necessity according to Margo Wolf O’Donnell, partner and co-chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Group at Benesch. “Effective training programs should address what is acceptable and also what is not acceptable in the workplace in terms of communication. Having a third party, such as an employment attorney or consultant, conduct a live anti-discrimination and antiharassment training can help prevent future claims and demonstrates the commitment of your company to keeping your workplace free of unfair treatment,” explained O’Donnell. “It also is a good idea to have separate trainings for managers and employees so that all levels of the workplace understand their rights and responsibilities.” The restaurant industry has its fair share of mishaps and professionalism issues. In an environment that can be more informal than most, it can be harder to set boundaries and firmly understand what behaviors could be uncomfortable for some. However, “Even informal workplaces need to have policies and procedures for reporting complaints,” emphasized O’Donnell. “Training and restaurant policies should explicitly state that employees can report their complaints to multiple individuals and identify who those individuals are. That way, if the manager or other designated individual is accused, the

complainant still has a means of fully and truthfully reporting his or her complaint.” Having the option to file reports anonymously can also help encourage employees to speak up, although it may make an investigation harder to solve at the same time. “It’s very effective to hold listening circles where people have opportunities to share stories, get to know each other, and give feedback to managers,” said Lieberman. “At first, they need to be facilitated by someone who is trained in leading these circles, but later on, employees themselves can be trained until the sessions become organic. Besides helping to break individual biases, they also help people learn new ways to solve problems, share challenges and best practices in serving customers, and make it easier for employees to get better at their jobs.” These methods are especially effective if employees are willing to listen to one another and be respectful, which can be challenging if some people hold strong biases against others. To remove these biases and teach sensitivity, Lieberman suggests that “the organization and each unit needs to be a part of an ecosystem or culture of inclusion, so when people go through training, it’s aligned with the values and practices of the rest of the organization… Show [employees] concrete examples of how those biases and behaviors impact the business, and their ability to do their jobs. It’s not an overnight change but must be ongoing.” Given the increase in awareness about workplace issues over the past several months, the most important change to make is to increase and encourage free and respectful dialogue that leaders are receptive to and willing to act on. Those working in Human Resources, as well as others in leadership positions, must know what to do when a complaint arises and work to swiftly and professionally resolve it. To create a workplace culture that is welcoming of RESTAURANT C-SUITE 29

Show [employees] concrete examples of how those biases and behaviors impact the business, and their ability to do their jobs. It’s not an overnight change but must be ongoing. Simma Lieberman President, Simma Lieberman Associates RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 30

Photo by Peter Sevcovic.

all genders, races, and ethnicities, employers must set a standard and continue to maintain that standard at the highest level. Educating people by engaging in constructive discussion is a more effective way to initiate change. Punishing employees by firing them or using their mistakes as an example can lower company morale and make people feel more uncomfortable. No change happens overnight but identifying the problems is the first step towards a healthier work environment.

Emerging Trends for 2019 and Beyond Separating a genuine trend from a one-off novelty is a must for innovative restaurateurs By Thomas Schaffner

Food and beverage trends are usually based on more than just flavor profiles. What becomes popular is often based on the mood of the market. The attitude of the consumer is decided by the perceived strength of the economy, collective fears and anxiety, or other often hard to predict factors. The emergence of dozens of higher quality burger and comfort food restaurants in the early 2010s, for example, was probably a result of the market-wide desire to find some stability in familiar flavors during the aftermath of the 2008 recession. That said, it is important to recognize that not everything that

is “new” represents a trend. Food writer David Sax in a Bon Appétit article explains that trends are cemented in the food culture, unlike fads, which tend to only characterize a single season before becoming passé. What separates a trend from a fad is the fact that a trend stays around and becomes a long-term part of the market. As trends tend to be influenced by shifting consumer attitudes, it is important to understand how the consumer is feeling. On the topic of predicting up-and-comers, top forensic trendologist, Suzy Badaracco, president of RESTAURANT C-SUITE 31

Customizable Indian cuisine bowls at Rasa, Washington, D.C. Photo by Rasa.

Culinary Tides, explains that consumers are not feeling particularly grounded or confident. This uncertainty can lead to a retreat to regional “classics.” However, these regional staples can be made novel by new combinations of flavors or hybrid cuisine. Innovative and high-quality takes on classics—like soft shell crabs cooked in red wine vinegar at Convivial in Washington, D.C., or lobster rolls with avocado and pear at Japanese restaurant Pagu in Boston (Boston. com)—demonstrate a desire among consumers to try new things while also sticking to what they are familiar with. Similarly, Badaracco notes that we should expect to see some twists on classic food and beverage basics. Juices and espresso, for example, have long been staples, but are now being updated with different ingredients, resulting in kale-infused juices, lattes made with beetroot, or the now commonplace nitro cold brew coffee. RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Fresh, informed, inspired (by you) restaurant news 32

This does not mean that American consumers are not willing to try completely new cuisines, but rather that what ultimately becomes a hit will usually have element of familiarity to it. The recent expansion of Georgian food into the American market demonstrates this. Supra, an authentic Georgian restaurant in Logan Circle in D.C. offers a brunch menu with items that would not seem completely foreign to the American palette. Dishes such as khachapuri (bread with melted cheese and egg) and Georgian omelets have flavor profiles that resonate with the average consumer. Although unfamiliar to most Americans, novel international food can offer new spins on flavors that Americans are accustomed too while also carrying some cultural cachet that can attract consumers ambitious to expand their horizons.

Badaracco also explains that “functional” foods and beverages, that is, foods and drinks that offer a purported benefit to health or cognition, will become increasingly popular. This is especially relevant as a larger portion of Gen X and Y reaches middle-age. With these products, however, it is important, she says, to “be tied to solid science” or else “consumers will not only abandon the product, (but) can retaliate through social media.” The fact that products can now be judged more easily and that every consumer has the capacity to be a critic represents another factor that will influence trends. On the same theme, Michael Watz, food consultant at Watz Your Culinary Professor, highlights gaps in the market that an innovative restaurateur could exploit. He recognizes the potential that a modern interpretation of regional dishes represents. With recent trends in mind, he also explains that something like fast-casual Indian—a concept that Americanizes this sought-after cuisine, while maintaining integrity—would prove exceptionally successful, especially with young people and urban consumers. In D.C., fast-casual Indian concept Rasa has entered this market by emphasizing authentic and locally-sourced food while also being casual and affordable. Similar opportunities exist with Vietnamese food and other underrepresented cuisines, according to Watz. Finally, the addition of new flavors into the American spice rack gives us hints about where cuisine in general is heading. Za’atar and Garam Masala, two popular Middle Eastern spices, for example, have taken the American market by storm. Romesco, a Catalonian tomato and nut sauce, also promises to be a hit soon, says Watz. Ultimately, however, the integration of these flavors into new fusions will be the defining test of their longevity as trends. Supra’s Khachapuri dish. Photo by Supra, a Georgian restaurant.





Restaurant C-Suite Magazine | Fall 2018