The Problem That’s Tearing Restaurants Apart

September 4, 2015

2015-09-02_1259Roberto A. Ferdman,
Copyright 2015, South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

All across the country, restaurants are struggling to fill their kitchens. It’s happening on the East Coast in New York City and in the Midwest in Chicago; it’s happening out West, too, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Good cooks, who were once in excess supply, are suddenly a lot tougher to find.

The truth is that despite what is shown on the Food Network or other cooking shows, being a cook is grueling work that’s not for the faint of heart. The slowdown in immigration over the past five years has also made it harder for kitchens to find staff because the industry is deeply reliant on immigrant labor.

But there’s another problem that’s been bubbling up for decades: Many of the people who work the kitchen have been getting shortchanged — especially when compared to the wait staff serving customers.

“The back-of-house staff are typically underpaid compared to the front of the house,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a restaurant industry research firm. “It’s a really big issue.”

On paper at least, cooks in this country are paid more than waiters. The median pay for cooks is about $10 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For waiters, it’s roughly $9 an hour. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story — because waiters are paid tips and kitchen workers are not. And tips completely skew the comparison.

The government’s estimate for how much waiters make includes a bit of guesswork about how much they earn from tips, since tips are often paid in cash, and things paid in cash tend to slip through the cracks. The Atlantic wrote about the issue earlier this year: “The IRS estimates that as much as 40 percent of tips go unreported. It’s hard to track for an obvious reason: Everyone likes giving and getting tips in cash. Nationally this adds up to as much as $11 billion in unreported (and untaxed) income.”

Waiters, in other words, are probably making a lot more money than Bureau of Labor Statistics data make it seem. PayScale, which tracks salaries through crowdsourcing, estimates that in cities like Miami, Boston and San Francisco, waiters can expect to make $13 an hour in tips alone, on average. Elsewhere, tips can add well over $10 an hour to servers’ salaries.

Waiters working in big cities understand this. But so do cooks, and they aren’t happy about it.

“The fact that servers are making so much money in tips is certainly a reference point that causes cooks to be dissatisfied with their pay,” said Michael Lynn, a Cornell University professor and one of the country’s foremost experts on tipping. “That is absolutely true. It’s the way it is.”

Waiters aren’t paid like everyone else. Unlike cooks, who are subject to the federal minimum wage, servers are instead compensated based on the assumption that they are going to earn some extra money on the side.

Restaurants are required to pay their wait staff what is known as the tipped-minimum wage, which is $2.13 per hour.

The understanding is that tips will make up for the difference between the tipped and regular pay floor. But even when the tips don’t make up that difference, waiters still make no less than the federal minimum wage because restaurants are legally required to pay the rest.

The truth, however, is that that rarely happens. The average base pay for waiters is $4.90, according to PayScale. What they make in tips is earned on top of that, and tips alone more often than not amount to a good deal more than the $7.25 federal minimum wage.

“It can be a very high-paying job,” said Tristano. “Especially considering that many entry-level cooks earn at or near the minimum wage.”

Kitchen workers aren’t allowed to share tips. Early on, it was common practice for restaurateurs to pool together tips and then split them among their entire staff. It was also common for tips to disappear en route to the employees, likely into the pockets of management.

Realizing the need for regulation, the government intervened, creating a set of rules known as the Fair Labor Standards Act, which stipulates, among other things, that, if tips are pooled, they can only be distributed among workers who “customarily and regularly receive tips.”

Cooks do not qualify. Neither do dishwashers or janitors.

“You can force a waiter to share a tip with a busboy or bartender but not with someone in the kitchen staff,” said Lynn. “It’s illegal to split tips with the cooks.”

Part of the reason for the measure was to ensure that there was no room for defrauding the public. If people think they’re tipping the waiter but aren’t, there’s a lack of transparency. But mostly, Lynn said, it was a hasty response to the outgrowth of firms plucking tips away from servers.

“It was a less than optimal solution,” he said. “It was patchwork. The problem is that it doesn’t really benefit the people working the back of house.”

Tristano agrees. “It’s not working for cooks,” he said. “It’s not working for them at all, and that’s never really been addressed.”

The number of chefs and restaurateurs who are concerned about the current system is growing. Last year, a panel that included celebrity chef Michael Chiarello and Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer discussed how the tipping system is creating pay inequality within restaurants. In 2013, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells wrote a passionate takedown of tipping.

“The restaurant business can be seen as a class struggle between the groomed, pressed, articulate charmers working in the dining room and the blistered, stained and profane grunts in the kitchen,” Wells wrote.

Many restaurants have responded by breaking from the traditional tipping system. Some have gotten rid of tips altogether. For instance, Sushi Yasuda in New York City added this note to its credit card slip a couple years ago: “Sushi Yasuda’s service staff are fully compensated by their salary. Therefore gratuities are not accepted.” Many others have simply added a flat service charge.

Dunkin’ Donuts Slams New York Regulators Over Wage Increase

July 28, 2015


Juliana LabiancaFreeman Klopott

Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., the owner of Dunkin’ Donuts, upbraided New York regulators over a plan to boost fast-food wages to $15 an hour, a move the company said could lead to price increases.

A wage board formed by Governor Andrew Cuomo arrived at the decision without involvement from the restaurant industry, Dunkin’ Chief Executive Officer Nigel Travis said on a conference call Thursday.

“We’re deeply disappointed that the governor chose to skirt the legislative process by appointing a wage board, which did not even include a representative from our industry,” he said. “Our franchisees, and in fact other company’s franchisees, were denied the chance to fairly express their concerns.”

The board recommended on Wednesday that the minimum wage for fast-food workers be raised to $15 by 2018 in New York City and three years later in the rest of the state. Cuomo has indicated that his labor commissioner, who has final say, will follow the board’s advice, though adjustments may be possible. The increase, which will be phased in annually, applies to fast-food chains with 30 or more locations.

Dunkin’ is contemplating ways to adjust to the pay increase, Travis said. One option is boosting prices, he said.

Unfair Attention?

Travis complained that the fast-food industry was singled out by regulators, a concern echoed by McDonald’s Corp. Chief Financial Officer Kevin Ozan during a conference call Thursday. McDonald’s wants minimum-wage increases to “deal with all industries similarly,” he said. Ozan didn’t discuss New York City’s wage hike specifically.

Picking on fast food alone will put those businesses at a competitive disadvantage, said Randy Mastro, an attorney hired by a group of New York franchisees. The proposal, he said, targets business owners who are “already struggling to survive on low margins and cannot afford this 66 percent increase in labor costs for their entry-level workers.”

Restaurant companies have come under increasing pressure to boost pay over the past year. Large chains have a corporate social responsibility to pay a fair wage, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at research firm Technomic Inc.

“If you’re a chain, it may feel like you’re being targeted, that it’s making it harder to be successful,” he said. “But it’s the right thing to do.”

In response to Dunkin’ complaints, Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever referred to comments the governor made at a rally in New York City. At the event, he said higher wages are needed for workers to live a decent life.

“You cannot live and support a family on $18,000 a year in the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “That’s why we have to raise the minimum wage.”

Subway is Making a Huge Mistake That Could Undermine its Business

July 21, 2015

jared-fogle-subway-5Ashley Lutz

Subway’s biggest problem has nothing to do with shamed former spokesman Jared Fogle.

The company dismissed its weight-loss pitchman last week after his house was searched in an FBI investigation and one woman accused him of making inappropriate comments about middle-school girls.

While the scandal with Fogle will pass, the company’s rapid expansion plan is a bigger issue that could hurt business, according to Jonathan Maze at Nation’s Restaurant News.

“It’s really been a victim of its own success,” David Henkes, from the consulting firm Technomic, told Bloomberg. “It’s really saturated the market. It’s got over 27,000 (US) locations now. The unit economics are very tough. Competitors have really come in and provided some alternatives to consumers that have caused Subway to suffer some sales losses.”‘

Subway has 44,000 restaurants worldwide, more than McDonald’s. Executives say the company eventually plans to reach 100,000 locations.

Subway’s US sales last year fell by 3%, the biggest fall for any of the top 25 fast-food chains, Drew Harwell reports at The Washington Post.

Subway also fell two spots to become the third-most-popular fast-food restaurant for the first time in seven years.

The expansion plan is backfiring, according to The Post.

“More people have money to spend, and they’re choosing to spend a little bit more on better concepts where they get a better product,” Darren Tristano at Technomic told The Post. “Subway’s strategy has only been to open more stores, and ultimately those stores just cannibalize each other.”

In other words, Subway is so ubiquitous that customers leave one restaurant to go to a closer one.

Tristano also told Bloomberg that “if your goal is to have the most versus the best, you’ll eventually run into trouble.”

Subway should focus on innovating its menu instead, Maze said.

With its vegetables and lower calorie counts, Subway arguably invented the idea of “fresh” fast food two decades ago.

But while Subway stayed the same, better competitors got into the space.

Chipotle offers food that is raised without fillers or antibiotics and is prepared fresh in stores. Firehouse Subs and Potbelly offer elevated ingredients and side dishes such as gourmet kettle chips and potato salad.

Americans who once praised Subway’s low-fat offerings are now concerned the chain’s lunch meats and sauces are overly processed with fillers and additives.

“What Americans see as healthy has evolved,” Harwell writes. “Subway hasn’t.”

Romano’s Macaroni Grill Has a New Twist to Dining Options

July 10, 2015

pictureMike D. Smith
Copyright 2015. Hearst Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by NewsBank Inc.

As chain with 147 locations adjusts to desires of millennials, it adds a walk-up express line to its traditional sit-down table service

Fans of Romano’s Macaroni Grill can still walk in, take a seat and wait to order from a familiar-looking Italian-American menu. But diners seeking quicker, cheaper meals now can turn toward a walk-up express line and order from “Romano’s Kitchen Counter.”

The addition of this “fast-casual” option, with lower-priced and easier-to-prepare items, represents the latest shake-up for a chain that has seen its value plummet since 2008. Macaroni Grill’s newest owners are hoping to attract more of the typically younger customers drawn to places like Chipotle, Panera Bread and Zoës Kitchen, while not abandoning the full-table service it has provided for 27 years.

“We decided to play in both spaces,” CEO John Gilbert said recently at the Macaroni Grill at 5802 Westheimer Road.

The makeover comes amid an industrywide shift as restaurants struggle to keep pace with demographic changes, diners’ ever-evolving moods and a post-recession dining landscape that favors new, fresh, quality and quick.

Gilbert took over earlier this year after the sale of the company by Houston-based Ignite Restaurant Group for just $8 million. Ignite had paid $55 million for the properties two years ago, taking them off the hands of a California private equity firm that had given Dallas-based Brinker International $88 million in 2008.

The number of restaurants in the chain dropped as well, to 147 today from 200 at the time of the Brinker sale.

Those 147 locations churn out annual sales of about $350 million, serving about 20 million meals each year.

However, Gilbert saw much room for improvement.

The restaurants had undergone only one makeover once since 1992. That is a far longer interval than the seven years that Gilbert said is ideal.

As the restaurant chain’s brand aged, so did its core customer.

Part of the formula for Mac Grill’s turnaround is a remodel. The dimly lit interiors will undergo changes to make better use of each restaurant’s ample space. The exteriors are being studied for more eye-grabbing details that can capture passing traffic.

Those changes are to complement the most noticeable shift – the mix of express and casual service, cashing in on what Gilbert said is an undeniable industry change toward express service.

Dual-concept mode

The company first tested the dual-concept model in a Cleveland, Ohio, restaurant.

First came express lunch. Customers order at the counter from a different menu more suitable for quicker service, with more “handhelds,” like sandwiches, plus calzones, pastas and spaghetti. Express customers get a number and take a seat.

The chain took its express lunch national in October, then added a dinner express menu in February with a seven-minute guarantee for the $7 lunch and nine minutes for the $9 dinner.

“In the aggregate, it’s working,” Gilbert said, adding that he measures success through dining traffic. “Are we getting more people in our restaurants than we did before? I think, absolutely, that’s true.”

A growing segment

Of the 61 billion American restaurant visits in the year ending in May, fast casual accounted for 5 percent of the market, said Bonnie Riggs, a restaurant industry analyst with NPD Group.

Still, it’s the segment everyone’s talking about. In 2009 and 2010, during the recession, overall restaurant industry growth was negative two years in a row for the first time.

Overall growth has been flat since. The segment bucking that trend is fast casual, which has posted 7 to 8 percent quarterly growth.

All of this is happening as the restaurant industry now features more options for ready-to-eat, fresh food – think, supermarkets and enhanced convenience stores – and sees, increasingly among millennials, more cooking at home.

“It’s been a real battle for market share, and with this one segment growing, everyone is seeming to try and emulate it,” Riggs said of fast casual.

While mixing fast casual with casual is attractive, Darren Tristano, executive vice president of food service consulting firm Technomic, says it can have its pitfalls.

One challenge is the potential for customer confusion. Those who know a restaurant’s brand will expect full service, and there can be a learning curve for others.

There’s also the risk of alienating core customers.

“I think that the mistake many of these concepts are making trying to compete with fast casual is they are losing sight of consumers coming to them for a particular reason, what they’re known for,” Riggs said. “You really have to do your homework and understand what your customers’ needs are. They can go to a fast-casual restaurant if they want fast-casual.”

Some brands have created offshoots to tap the express service market. Examples include Pizza Inn’s Pie Five and Red Robin’s Burger Works. Other brands have tried and failed.

The best use of a hybrid model is to boost lunch sales with more value, convenience and service, Tristano said.

Gilbert said that is happening with Macaroni Grill’s changes to date. Lunch sales, which represent about 30 percent of the chain’s business, have increased by about 20 percent.

Lunch express, so far, is more lucrative than express dinner.

Interior remodeling

Customers will begin to see the other changes soon. A Houston location will undergo the first interior remodel within a few months.

The company continues to explore additional express-service menu items, a new pizza-menu lineup, steakhouse items, additional salads and seafood. The dozen new express-menu items are being evaluated for their popularity, with such items as parmesan truffle fries and brunch offerings being explored.

There also are plans to test a “wine-on-tap” system and an express-only version of the restaurant – all part of the effort to retain its loyal customers and appeal to younger diners.

“The bigger risk is not doing anything,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said, too, that he admits the chain has to catch up to its competitors.

“There are customers who like us truly because we’re not busy,” he said. “That’s not healthy for us.”

Campbell Soup to Invest $20M Into Ferndale Operation

July 2, 2015

Sherri Welch;
(c) 2015 Crain Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Campbell Soup Co. plans to invest $20 million in the Garden Fresh Gourmet Ferndale facilities as part of its commitment to keep the company’s operations in Michigan, said Garden Fresh Founder and CEO Jack Aronson.

Camden, N.J.-based Campbell (NYSE: CPB) plans to add production space through expansions of the current Garden Fresh manufacturing facilities in Ferndale, which include a 25,000-square-foot salsa plant and a 28,000-square-foot site that produces hummus under the Garden Fresh and other brands.

Also on tap for the plants: new product lines and other modernization of the facilities, Aronson said.

Campbell confirmed it plans to invest in the business but declined to discuss specifics, saying it is still developing plans.

Though companies including T. Marzetti Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Nestle USAhad approached Garden Fresh about acquiring the company previously, none of them felt right, Aronson said. “We weren’t for sale.”

But the Bolthouse plant in Bakersfield, Calif., was “the first culture we ever found that mirrored ours.”

“You know if you go through a plant if people are happy (by) the way they talk to management,” he said. “If we were going to sell, it was going to be to these guys.”

What sealed the deal, Aronson said, was the fact that Campbell said it was going to keep the company’s operations in Michigan, retain the current workforce of over 450 people and make investments.

“It was a great opportunity for our team, the city of Ferndale and our state,” he said.

It also helped lay to rest the couple’s biggest fear: that they would have to lay off employees. Given the debt the company had taken on to accommodate its growth, “if there would have been a catastrophe of any kind, we would have had to lay people off because we didn’t have a pot of cash,” Aronson said.

Aronson will remain an adviser to Bolthouse/Garden Fresh, helping to work on new recipes for existing product lines which include salsa, chips, hummus and dips and developing them for new products.

As for the recipes he developed to this point: Campbell’s President and CEO Denise Morrison, “said they’d never change a (Garden Fresh) recipe without our approval,” Aronson said.

Big business

Though Garden Fresh has the leading U.S. market share among fresh salsas, it’s only sold in about 25 percent of the grocery and big box (like Costco) stores across the country, Aronson said.

Overall, the industry of making salsa is considered a mature market worth more than $900 million in the U.S., according to a February report by Australian research firm IBISWorld Inc.

But revenue growth potential has driven the large players to expansion, including manufacturing efficiencies, increased domestic production and acquisitions. Discretional spending is also increasing abroad, improving export conditions for U.S. salsa makers.

As for the Garden Fresh brand under new ownership, it will have access to a much larger distribution network as a part of the Campbell Fresh division, Bolthouse Farms and a team of 26 or more national sales people selling it vs. three, Aronson said.

“With the clout that Campbell’s and its international partners bring, Garden Fresh will get the attention of markets and new consumers never imagined in the past, said Ken Nisch, chairman of the Southfield-based retail consulting firm JGA Inc., in an email.

With Michigan’s agricultural capacity, hopefully, there will be opportunities to not only keep but also expand food manufacturing and processing in Michigan as Campbell’s increases distribution and develops other products under the Garden Fresh brand, he said.

The Garden Fresh brand is about fresh and from the garden, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago-based food research and consulting firm Technomic Inc. “It has a health halo around it (and) is a really strong place to start if you’re Campbell,” trying to break further into the fresh market.

“If they want to leverage this brand…they really need to build the story behind it, communicate to the customer what it is, what it’s representing,” he said.

Fogo Sizzles in IPO

July 1, 2015

NB_13HALLCOSER_5_19746449Karen Robinson-Jacobs
Copyright 2015 The Dallas Morning News. All Rights Reserved.

Wall Street’s hunger for new restaurant stocks pushed another North Texas brand beyond its initial public offering price.

Dallas-based Fogo de Chão Inc., a Brazilian-themed full-service restaurant chain, debuted Friday on the Nasdaq after pricing late Thursday at $20 a share. The initial price was above the earlier stated range of $16 to $18 a share.

The stock closed at $25.75, up nearly 30 percent.

Fogo de Chão is the second North Texas restaurant chain to go public in a week. Last Friday, stock in Dallas-based Wingstop soared in that company’s first trading day, gaining 61 percent from the initial offering price of $19 a share. Before that pricing, the high end of that company’s range was $14.

Fogo chief executive Larry Johnson thinks consumers are drawn to his chain because of the value proposition, the ability to have an affordable “white tablecloth experience.” That in turn “resonates with investors,” he said as the stock price continued its day-one climb.

Johnson said he thinks investors will take note of the brand’s growing popularity and acceptance by different age groups.

The company’s 26 U.S. locations, which range in size from about 7,500 square feet to 10,000 square feet, bring in about $8 million each annually on average.

‘Concept travels well’

The company expects the store count to grow by at least 10 percent each year, with Fogo eventually launching at least 100 U.S. locations. Johnson offered no timetable for the full buildout.

“We are comfortable that the concept travels well,” he said of the chain’s popularity in different markets across the country. “When you put all that together, I’m confident investors are going to get the story and are going to reward us for our performance.”

No new locations are planned for North Texas this year, but next year Fogo plans to appeal to carnivores in Uptown, which already is home to several popular steakhouses including Morton’s and Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille.

The company, which is owned by affiliates of Thomas H. Lee Partners, sold 4.41 million shares in the IPO. Lee Partners retains control of the company.

Fogo de Chão, which came to the U.S. in 1996, is the latest restaurant chain to whet Wall Street’s appetite.

PrivCo, which provides financial data on privately held companies, listed four restaurant IPOs this year, each of which posted a significant first-day pop. Each one – Shake Shack, Bojangles, Wingstop and Fogo – was priced at about $20 a share.

Burger joint Shake Shack closed at about $46 during its market bow, and jumped to more than $92 in May.

Fast casual

Many investors are trying to find the next Chipotle. The Mexican-themed fast-casual chain went public in 2006 at $22 a share and closed the first day at $44 a share. The stock closed Friday at $614.22.

Unlike most of those chains, Fogo de Chão is a full-service restaurant, rather than fast food or the current industry darling, fast casual.

Johnson noted that his chain’s average sales per location are much higher than those for a fast-casual concept.

The flip side, noted Sam Hamadeh, founder and chief executive of PrivCo, is that expenses are higher at a large full-service restaurant.

“That’s something [for investors] to keep in mind,” he said. “That’s a very expensive operation. That could be a problem at the first sign of a slowdown.”

Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago-based Technomic Inc., a restaurant research firm, thinks the success of fast-casual IPOs is helping fuel growth of other restaurant stocks.

“Fast-casual restaurant chains continue to dominate growth,” said Tristano. “Technomic’s forecast five-year compound growth for fast casual is greater than 10 percent. As analysts and consumer investors look toward continued patronage and success of fast-casual restaurant brands, IPOs have been and are likely to continue to be strong going forward. This success will likely positively impact other major restaurant brands with IPOs.”

Analysts: Tia ‘Blew It’ Passing Up Outback

June 30, 2015

0411750336_15422277_8colJustine Griffin
Copyright 2015 Times Publishing Company. All Rights Reserved.

With ubiquitous chains like Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands is the most muscular restaurant company in Tampa Bay.

It employs nearly 95,000 people in its 1,500 restaurants worldwide. It had $4.4 billion in revenue last year. It sponsors the Outback Bowl, one of Tampa Bay’s signature sporting events.

Earlier this year, Bloomin’ put in a bid to be a concessionaire at Tampa International Airport as part of a $953 million renovation there. Bloomin’ has had a Carrabba’s at the airport since 2008.

But airport staff rejected Bloomin’s bid, as did the Hillsborough Aviation Authority on June 4 when it voted to accept Guy Harvey RumFish Grill, the Cafe by Mise en Place and Four Green Fields instead, as it sought to make the airport’s restaurants feel more local. One board member, Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, said Bloomin’s success worked against it – “Sometimes when you get too big, you lose your local identity,” he said.

But industry experts scoff at that notion and say the airport botched an opportunity to not only highlight a restaurant chain that has represented the Tampa Bay area as well as anyone, but to give travelers a familiar local restaurant brand to patronize.

“Frankly, if anyone is local to Tampa, it’s Outback,” said Malcolm Knapp, a restaurant economist in New York. “I think the airport authority just blew it. This decision is not the best for the traveling public.”

Officials with Bloomin’ Brands declined to comment for this story.

Tampa Bay has long had a reputation for being the home of chain restaurants. Hooter’s, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and Checkers all have headquarters here. Bloomin’ was among the first. It opened in Tampa in 1988 with just one Australian-themed steakhouse.

“It’s a disadvantage to the airport, and disrespectful not to consider a brand whose roots come from that very community,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president with Technomic, a restaurant research firm in Chicago. “Bloomin’ Brands helps drive the local economy and provides local employment. The airport’s decision seems shortsighted.”

The Carrabba’s in the airport’s main terminal will be replaced by a P.F. Chang’s, an Asian-themed international restaurant chain with no ties to Tampa Bay other than a few locations here. It is one of several national chains included in the mix of new airport restaurants including Wendy’s, Hard Rock Cafe and Chick-fil-A.

“We had a committee in place to evaluate the bid proposals and choose which ones would be best,” said airport spokeswoman Janet Zink. “There were lots of great concepts proposed that didn’t get picked.”

Bloomin’ had hoped to add an Outback Steakhouse and a Bonefish Grillat the airport.

“The average restaurant-goer doesn’t know that Bloomin’ Brands is from Tampa, or even what Bloomin’ Brands is,” said Brian Connors of Connors DavisHospitality, a global food and beverage consulting firm in Fort Lauderdale. “But they know what Outback is or what Carrabba’s is. No one is winning on either side here. There will be local restaurants and there will be other chain restaurants. Why the airport didn’t choose the chain that is from there, I don’t know.”

That brand recognition that Bloomin’ has makes it a natural fit for an airport, Knapp said.

More than 40 percent of shoppers prefer to dine at national chains in airports, according to a 2013 survey by the Airports Council International, whereas 36 percent of travelers will try restaurants unique to that region.

“People who are traveling are going to gravitate toward brands they’re comfortable with and what they know,” Knapp said. “They don’t want to take any chances when they know they’re in a rush. That’s why too many local options doesn’t serve the total population of the airport well.”


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