Just Top it With a Hot Dog? One Surprising New Trend

June 15, 2015

102751830-hot-dog-bites-pizza.530x298Katie Little
http://www.cnbc.com/id/102752349

Ketchup, mustard or both?

The most difficult part of preparing a hot dog used to be picking the toppings. But in today’s mashup-loving food world, the hot dog is the topping.

On Thursday, Pizza Hut plans to debut a new spin on the summer staple—a pizza with 28 bite-sized hot dogs baked into the crust and served with a side of mustard.

“I think people love hot dogs. In our case, people love pizza, and they’re willing to mash up foods more than ever,” public relations director Doug Terfehr said in a phone interview.

Pizza Hut is hardly alone at finding new ways to incorporate hot dogs into their menu. In the burger world, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are selling what they call the “most American burger ever.” It’s a Black Angus beef patty topped with a split hot dog and potato chips.

In October, Wayback Burgers debuted the limited time Frank-N-Burger, which included two beef patties, a hot dog, American cheese and barbecue chips on top.

Abroad, KFC released the Double Down Dog, a hot dog wrapped with a fried chicken bun, in the Philippines earlier this year.

Even at the baseball field, where the hot dog is practically an institution, the humble frank is getting revamped. A minor league team in Delaware came up with its own spin on the meat—a hot dog sandwiched between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts and topped with bacon and drizzled with raspberry jam.

While these wacky creations are still few in number, they come amid signs the hot dog market is warming up.

Between 2013 and 2015, the appearance of hot dog entrees on menus rose 5 percent, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, while the number of hot dogs served at restaurants rose nearly 3 percent in the two years ended in March, according to market research firm NPD Group.

So what’s driving restaurants to release these wacky hot dog mashups?

“These products do not have to be profitable for them to be successful,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic.

Instead, they are meant to capitalize on buzz marketing and spur people to think about the restaurant and then visit, he added. They also play off two broader themes in the food space: an overarching mashup trend and more interest in the hot dog.

At Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, the idea of a burger topped with a dog has been in the works for about a decade.

“It’s kind of a Fourth of July picnic on a bun,” said Brad Haley, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chief marketing officer.

“We’re not into doing burgers just for kind of the buzz factor. They have to taste good and sell well—otherwise we wouldn’t do them.”

If that is the case, expect more hot dog mashups on to pop up on menus.

“I think this is an industry where if something is successful, it becomes a trial for other brands,” Tristano said.


Bun Sales: Burger King Tops Wendy’s

June 11, 2015

picture

Leslie Patton
http://www.iol.co.za/business/international/bun-sales-burger-king-tops-wendy-s-1.1863811#.VXhq5flVhBc

Chicago – Burger King is back in second place.

The chain regained its status as the No. 2 US fast-food hamburger seller last year, a spot it lost to Wendy’s in 2013, according to researcher Technomic.

Burger King’s domestic sales rose 1.6 percent to $8.64 billion in 2014, while Wendy’s fell 0.4 percent to $8.51 billion, the data show. McDonald’s had $35.4 billion in US sales last year.

To lure more customers, Burger King has been advertising limited-time offers and brought back cult favourite Chicken Fries at the end of March. Wendy’s, meanwhile, is pushing crispy chicken sandwiches and recently began selling Honest organic green tea to attract younger diners.

Burger King has become “increasingly competitive with McDonald’s by broadening their menu and focusing on value”, said Darren Tristano, executive vice-president at Technomic. Wendy’s has moved to higher prices and more premium foods, which may deter lower-income consumers, he said.

Burger King’s domestic same-store sales jumped 6.8 percent in the most recent quarter, fuelled by its Spicy BLT Whopper and two-for-$4 croissant breakfast sandwiches. Wendy’s North American same-store sales increased 3.2 percent in its latest quarter.

Before being unseated by Wendy’s in 2013, Burger King had been the No. 2 chain since at least 1972, according to Technomic. Sonic Corp., the drive-thru chain, is ranked No. 4, while Jack in the Box is No. 5.

Burger King is owned by Restaurant Brands International, which also owns the Tim Hortons chain.


‘Better Burger’ Segment Trending in Baton Rouge

May 22, 2015

Timothy Boone  picture

Copyright 2015, Capital City Press, All Rights Reserved. Distributed by NewsBank Inc.

http://theadvocate.com/news/business/12363703-123/better-burger-segment-trending-in

Smashburger, which was named as the top fast-casual restaurant chain in the country, opened its first Baton Rouge location Wednesday, the latest so-called “better burger” eatery to enter the market.

Better burger restaurants offer a premium product, with patties made from fresh, never-frozen beef and a wide range of toppings. Generally, the burgers sell for a few dollars more than the offerings at McDonald’s, Burger King or Wendy’s.

“The better burger market has grown up in the past five or six years,” said John A. Gordon, principal of Pacific Management Consulting Group, a San Diego-based group that works with restaurants. “Honestly, some of the traditional quick-service burger players got really bad.”

In recent months, Baton Rouge has seen growth in the better burger segment. There’s the Smashburger on Corporate Boulevard. Red Robin, one of the originators of the trend, re-entered the market after a decadelong absence with a restaurant that opened at the Mall of Louisiana just before Christmas. Lafayette-based Burgersmith will open its second local restaurant on Siegen Lane in early summer and a Juban Crossing location will be open by the end of the year.

Chuck Kerr, who has the local franchise rights for Mooyah Burgers Fries & Shakes with his wife, Denise, said he’s looking at opening a second Baton Rouge-area restaurant and is eyeing a Millerville Road location. Officials with Dallas-based Mooyah said the Kerr’s Siegen Lane location has been one of the chain’s top-performing restaurants in terms of sales.

Kerr credits his restaurant’s success to offering a high-quality product and consistently good customer service. “We have a simple menu, yet it’s complex,” he said. While he just sells beef, turkey or veggie patties, there are a wide range of toppings and sauces — so many that the chain boasts there are 1.2 million different ways to make a Mooyah burger.

“The neatest part about the whole thing is that the customer is benefiting from capitalism,” he said. “They’re getting more choices and better choices.” Kerr said he expects the major fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s, will take their resources and revamp their menus so they can compete with the better burger restaurants.

The better burger segment accounted for $3.5 billion in sales in 2014, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm based in Chicago.

Tristano said he’s forecasting about 10 percent growth for the better burger chains over the next five years, thanks to the performance of such popular chains as Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Smashburger.

Robert Barbour, part of the franchise group that owns the Baton Rouge Smashburger, said customers are willing to pay an extra dollar or two for a quality hamburger. “People are demanding a better burger and better choices in their fast-casual dining,” Barbour said.

Smashburger was named the top chain by Fast Casual magazine in 2014. In seven years, the Denver-based company has grown to 325 locations. Smashburger gets its name from the preparation technique, which uses a custom-made, five-sided tool to smash balls of raw meat into the grill. This sears the bottom of the patty and allows the burgers to cook in their own juices.

Barbour said his franchise group plans to open 10 to 15 restaurants in their territory, which stretches from Lafayette through Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee.

“Hamburgers are incredibly popular and a canvas for innovation and creativity,” Tristano said. “They’re a great familiar product that’s affordable and consumers continue to eat them.”


How Growth Through Unique Concepts is Orlando’s Recipe for Success

May 21, 2015

Megan Ribbens new-dsc8239-750xx4928-2786-0-338
© 2015 American City Business Journals, Inc. All rights reserved.
http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/print-edition/2015/05/15/how-growth-through-unique-concepts-is-orlando-s.html

Orlando foodies may be ready for a second helping of their favorite restaurants, but local chefs say the key to growing Orlando’s restaurant industry isn’t about expanding existing concepts. Rather, it’s about bringing something unique to the table.

Not only does this philosophy help steer clear of the chain restaurant stigma Orlando has come to be known for, but it also appeals to a larger pool of visitors who have a growing appetite for new concepts.

“From an Orlando point of view, having independent restaurants that aren’t an early start of a chain creates a better image of Orlando as a restaurant destination,” said restaurant analyst Darren Tristano, vice president of Technomic Inc. “Ideally, if the independent restaurants are good and have potential to win awards, that’s going to help, too. Today, independent restaurants are outperforming chains because they can adapt to changes and be more innovative with their menus more rapidly than chains that have to do that in multiple locations around the country. It contributes to a better destination and food city.”

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Independent restaurants also can contribute to economic development efforts, said downtown developer Craig Ustler, who also is the principal of the Citrus, Soco and Cityfish restaurants in Orlando. “I would make the argument that chefs like The Rusty Spoon’s Kathleen Blake are just as valuable as a tech startup, and for some reason, I don’t think the community thinks that way about food. Other cities have built an image around food, and we haven’t yet gotten that message.”

He also believes the restaurant industry aligns well with the Orlando Economic Development Commission’s “You Don’t Know the Half of It” branding campaign — designed to highlight the fact that Orlando is more than just tourism — not only as a way to better highlight the city’s food scene, but also a way to better align Orlando with people who travel for food.

“People are planning vacations around where to eat or thinking about what restaurants to go to. When visitors are in Orlando, they’re thinking of attractions. We’re the tourism capital, and we need to understand how to tie in restaurants, how to capture a better market share of the 60 million-plus people who come here. If, on average, 3 million-5 million tourists are in town, and if you got 1 percent to come downtown, that’s like 30,000 people.”

As Chef Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant said, Orlando is like the tale of two cities. Tourists visit Walt Disney World and International Drive, and many never venture farther to where the locals live and dine to experience the true Orlando.

While the city has emerged as a competitive marketplace for large chains, that reputation has thwarted its efforts to be known as a food destination.

Tristano believes it’s an opportunity for the city to support the growth of new independent concepts. “Orlando has to encourage a higher level of more fine-dining restaurants and even more upscale casual restaurants focused on redefining Orlando as more of a restaurant city. The city has to decide it wants independents and have supporting benefits and development of space for it.”

While there are some risks in restaurant owners having two different concepts, Tristano said there are plenty of advantages over opening a second location of your existing brand, including:

* You may cannibalize sales by creating a second location instead of a new concept.

* The perception of having two locations may mislead the customer to think it’s a chain, so you lose the independent feel.

* Having another concept gives you a different appeal to the marketplace and, ultimately, if one is better than the other or one struggles, you have an opportunity later to transform the other into the more successful concept.

* Foodies and affluent consumers look for more differentiation.

* The Food & Drug Administration requires restaurants with 20 or more units under the same name to put calorie and nutritional counts on their menu. So independents and smaller chains don’t have to label their menus.

Meanwhile, Bob Amick, president and owner of Atlanta-based Concentrics restaurants, has watched Orlando’s culinary scene evolve during the past 10 years.

Amick, who does independent restaurant concepts across the U.S., helped open local concepts like Luma on Park and Prato in Winter Park, and now is working with Unicorp National Developments Inc. on the new Slate restaurant in Dr. Phillips and with Tavistock on a new eatery in Lake Nona.

Thanks to its theme parks, the visitors Orlando attracts aren’t the typical customer who drives the up-and-coming restaurant industry, he said. So, instead, Orlando needs to attract and develop more restaurateurs and chefs who are willing to take risks.

“Restaurant cities really are driven by local chefs who are mentoring young up-and-coming chefs, like a feeder system,” Amick said. “The town grows from that from a culinary standpoint. It’s harder for Orlando with the outsourcing of theme parks and international chains around I-Drive.”

And just as Amick has watched Orlando develop a mix of local chefs and restaurateurs, he said the next step is to continue growing downtown Orlando. “If people get out and enjoy all aspects of Orlando, continue to bring more life to downtown, that will do more for Orlando than anything, in my opinion. The great restaurant towns in America have great downtowns.”

Total number of restaurants in Orlando

Fiscal 2010: 457

Fiscal 2011: 511

Fiscal 2012: 568

Fiscal 2013: 661

Fiscal 2014: 754

Number of restaurant openings in Orlando

Fiscal 2010: 48

Fiscal 2011: 4 1

Fiscal 2012: 76

Fiscal 2013: 67

Fiscal 2014: 107

Number of restaurant closures in Orlando

Fiscal 2010: 3

Fiscal 2011: 2

Fiscal 2012: 9

Fiscal 2013: 6

Fiscal 2014: 36

By the numbers

$36.4B: Projected 2015 sales at Florida’s restaurants

943,600: Restaurant jobs in Florida in 2015


New Face, Future for Ruby’s Diner

April 24, 2015

nmxdke-b88381735z.120150416173141000gd396457.10The Irvine chain’s new CEO will condense the chain’s menu and craft new concepts

By Hannah Madans, The Orange County Register
http://www.ocregister.com/articles/ruby-658341-restaurant-new.html
(c)2015 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Scott Barnett, the interim chief executive at Ruby’s Diner, has only been on the job for a few weeks, but he’s already tried every item on the chain’s expansive menu.

Barnett replaced the chain’s founder Doug Cavanaugh in March, making him the company’s first new CEO in its 33-year history. Cavanaugh will remain as Ruby’s chairman.

A personal friend of Cavanaugh, Barnett has a long history in restaurants. He’s the former president and CEO of Rusty Pelican, founding president and former CEO of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., and has served as a consultant for investment banking projects in Hong Kong.

Barnett said his goals include improving Ruby’s by condensing the menu while upholding the restaurant’s standards.

The renewed economy and cheaper gas has been a boon for family restaurants like Ruby’s.

Restaurants like Ruby’s saw 3 percent growth in 2014, a “huge improvement” over sluggish gains in the years immediately after the recession, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at market research company Technomic.

“The low prices of gas are really starting to help the family-style segment,” he said. “It’s giving more low- to middle-income consumers more money to spend, and as long as gas prices remain low, the restaurant business is going to continue to improve.”

He added that low menu prices are something that helps a restaurant like Ruby’s do well.

“They do have good quality offerings in a theme restaurant, which is something that consumers are looking for, and their price points are relatively good for the California market,” Tristano said.

Meanwhile the fast-casual restaurant sector — an area Barnett sees as having tremendous growth opportunity for Ruby’s — grew 13 percent in 2014.

Barnett spoke to the Register about his experience in the restaurant industry and what he hopes to bring to Ruby’s, a chain named after Cavanaugh’s mother. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Why did you want to be involved in the company?

A. The brand is extremely strong. It has great brand equity in the markets in which it operates. Many years ago, I almost went to work with Ruby’s as their vice president of operations. I ended up running Rusty Pelican as CEO instead. Doug (Cavanaugh) is a friend, and he really wanted someone who had a significant amount of experience as a professional manager who could help him transition the company from an entrepreneurial style into a more seasoned manner — and given that we’ve had a long relationship and are friends, it made sense.

Q. You have held many notable jobs in the restaurant industry. What did you learn from each of these positions and what will you bring to Ruby’s?

A. At Bubba Gump Shrimp, I was fortunate to be dealing with a well-known brand with tremendous reach worldwide. The challenge was to deliver on that brand in the manner that people were used to it from the movie. It was all about learning about brands that have a lot of power and seeking ways to deliver on the promise of the brand.

At Rusty Pelican, it was also a well-known brand that had encountered a number of issues. I learned a lot about how to act in a capital restrained environment, team building, starting from the ground up and a company turnaround.

In Hong Kong, I learned from the other side what it was like to be involved in restaurant investments and to help restaurant companies maximize their returns based on our investment criteria.

Q. Did you always know you would end up in the restaurant business?

A. No. I started working in restaurants many years ago, while I was going to school, because I had to pay my own way. I was a cook, a bartender, a busboy, a dishwasher, a valet parking attendant.

When I left college, my intent was to go to grad school but I picked a summer job working in a restaurant and the rest is history. Never went to grad school.

Q. What will you change at Ruby’s?

A. We’re going to dramatically reduce the menu. We are looking at some of the internal operations and the internal policies and procedures and see which work and which can be improved upon. I’m trying to bring some methods I’ve used and learned about in the past that I think can improve upon what’s going on here at Ruby’s.

The menu changes are being tested right now in Yorba Linda and Irvine. The test started March 30, right after I started here. I put that in as quickly as possible because I had identified it as a serious shortcoming at Ruby’s. The results so far have been very positive. If the test proves out in about four more weeks, then we’ll do an implementation within the entire system by the end of May.

Q. What other plans do you have for Ruby’s future?

A. We like the look of the classic ’40s diner that Ruby’s is known for and I think that as we move forward we’re not going to lose the roots on which it was built.

We also want to spruce up the looks of many of the restaurants, both the interior and exterior. But we’re operating in a constrained environment, and we have to be economical and creative in how we do that. I don’t want to change a lot about the ’40s diners look. It’s very iconic, almost timeless. I’m talking about repairs, maintenance, things like that.

Q. What aspects will remain the same?

A. So many restaurants and companies over the years cut corners, take shortcuts and in the end sacrifice the most important part of the experience, which is the food and the service. That is one thing Ruby’s has not done and that is not going to change.

Q. It seems like there are a lot of new people coming to Ruby’s, especially from Yogurtland (Ruby’s vice president of franchise development Larry Sidoti is a former Yogurtland executive). Why is this?

A. The fact that many come from Yogurtland is somewhat random. We at Ruby’s have always made an attempt to hire the very best people. And it just so happens that there were a number of people who were available from Yogurtland.

The best way of recruiting is to find people who are friends or have relationships or have recommendations from good people that already work with us. Birds of a feather tend to flock together. Good people want to work with other good people.

Q. Fast casual option Ruby’s Dinette was recently scrapped. Are there any new Ruby’s concepts underway?

A. We haven’t given up on fast casual. I really think it’s a matter of execution and conceptual positioning. We’re reviewing that. It will almost surely be a growth vehicle for the company going forward.

We are still doing fast casual restaurants in airports around the country and a few other places.

Q. When you venture into fast casual again, will you do it at existing Ruby’s locations or open new ones?

A. We would do it in new locations. When people have a Ruby’s, in their minds, it’s their Ruby’s. Most customers like it as it is. It doesn’t make sense to change their Ruby’s into something else. So you look for an opportunity to create a new Ruby’s in a new environment.

Q. What are some of the biggest challenges in making a restaurant chain successful?

A. The restaurant business isn’t that complicated. It’s really about hot food, service with a smile and pleasant, clean, interesting surroundings. If you deliver on those things on a consistent basis with pricing that makes sense, then you’re going to create an experience for your guest. There are also lot of nuances involving location and making sure you hire the right people.

Q. How have minimum wage increases and healthcare mandates affected the business?

A. Increases in minimum wage and health insurance costs and many other employee-related costs are impacting our industry. They’re impacting the industry at a time when most operators have little to no pricing power and the ability to pass on these costs to the customer.

You have to look for creative ways to minimize the costs without impacting the guest experience. And it gets more challenging every year.

Q. Is there something in particular you want to accomplish as interim CEO?

A. I would love to be able to make a difference in terms of the corporate culture. I would like to be able to influence the growth of the company in what is essentially a very capital-constrained environment. I would love to be able to make the Ruby’s experience a memorable one to the guest and that’s not as easy as it sounds.

Q. What is Cavanaugh’s involvement in the company now?

A. Doug is in many ways an idea guy, a concept guy. And he’s highly focused on the marketing side of the business. He’ll continue to be a major contributor in those areas. I’m going to make very few decisions without sounding them off him beforehand. He is the creator of the concept and the guy who is responsible for the success Ruby’s has had over the years.


No End to the Bacon Trend

April 7, 2015

Bacon stripsEven with health and wellness trends top-of-mind with consumers, indulgent bacon continues to provide opportunities for innovation and appeal to menus. Innovation can be built on preparation, spice profiles and mixing the salty, smoky and savory flavor of bacon with sweet and hot. There seems to be no end to the bacon trend, and we continue to see innovation across the restaurant landscape.

In the quick-service sector, Little Caesars Bacon-Wrapped Crust Pizza places bacon on the pizza and now around the pizza.

In fast casual, Panda Express improves the already craveable Orange Chicken by adding bacon (with a premium price point) for customers who can’t get enough.

Full-service chain LongHorn Steakhouse adds the Triple Bacon Sirloin to the mix, with its Fire-Grilled Sirloin wrapped with bacon, topped with bacon and finished with bacon tomato Hollandaise.

In the recreation segment, White Sox fans at Cellular Field will be able to order bacon flights that include brown sugar, jalapeno, black pepper and barbecue flavors, or just bacon on a stick, improved this year with a maple glaze.

One thing is clear: The trend in bacon continues to drive innovation and growth, and there’s no end in sight. Fans of the smoky salty protein just can’t get enough.


McDonald’s Moves Toward Antibiotic-Free Chicken: Too Little, Too Late?

March 10, 2015

Nancy Gagliardi
2015 Forbes.com LLC™ All Rights Reserved

http://www.forbes.com/sites/nancygagliardi/2015/03/04/mcdonalds-latest-move-toward-antibiotic-free-too-little-too-late/

Taking a cue from rival Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s announced Wednesday morning that it intends to stop buying chickens that have been treated with antibiotics that are also taken by humans, seeking to address consumers’ concerns about resistant “super-bugs” resulting from overuse of the drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year super-bugs cause some 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the U.S., resulting in an estimated $20 billion in direct health care costs. McDonald’s also announced that its U.S. locations would sell milk products only from cows that are free of artificial growth hormones (specifically rbST), but added that it would continue to allow suppliers to “responsibly use” certain antibiotics (called ionophores) which are not used in humans.

The world’s largest fast food chain will spend the next two years working to phase in its news standards with its suppliers, including Tyson Foods which, according to reports, said it would comply with the company’s requests, adding that its chicken production had reduced it use of antibiotics by 84% since 2011. A company spokesperson also commented that it would phase out using antibiotics as early as in the hatchery phase of production (when chicks are injected while still in their shells).

While he may only (officially) be four days into his new role, CEO Steve Easterbrook (who recently said he viewed himself as the company’s “internal activist,” perhaps hoping to ward off the latest wave of activist investors targeting companies that haven’t performed as well as expected) gets to mark this antibiotic-free move under his watch.

But is this really a signal that it won’t be business as usual for the beleaguered fast food giant or is it too little too late?

“I don’t think it is. It’s what needs to happen to McDonald’s right now,” says Darren Tristano, a restaurant industry analyst at Technomic. “In our industry you can catch up very quickly, but if you don’t, doing nothing isn’t an answer or a solution. This clearly is a sign that McDonald’s is willing to improve.”

While the antibiotic ban is making big news here, McDonald’s is already sourcing drug-free chicken overseas. “There are a number of countries where it doesn’t have antibiotics or hormones in its chicken,” says Tristano, including the U.K., where Easterbrook comes from. “But this is a step for them to come back to the leadership position they used to have in this industry.”

While this most likely is the first of many steps by McDonald’s to reverse its recent slide (in interviews, Easterbrook has said it needs to become nimble to accommodate market needs), a comeback will take time. Says Tristano:

First, you have to qualify coming back. I think for McDonald’s that’s getting back to a level of growth that’s nominally keeping up with inflation. I’d expect to see it back to 2.5% to 3%, which puts it into a position where it isn’t losing share, and anything above that would put it in a position where it’s taking share. Look, it was the leader during the recession, driving a lot of the industry growth. While I wouldn’t expect that to reoccur, I think getting back to zero and building, and no longer losing share is important, and we may be looking at 2016 for that to happen. But if it can get back to even, that certainly helps the company grow again.


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