Personnel Updates:

Bonefish Grill appointed Stephen Judge President; he was most recently President of Darden’s Seasons 52 concept. Judge succeeds John Cooper, who retired.

Brinker International announced that Chief People Officer/Exec VP Valerie Davisson and Senior VP of Strategic Innovation Ian Baines have resigned.

Buffets Inc. named Anthony Wedo as its CEO, succeeding R. Michael Andrews Jr.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants announced the following personnel additions: David A. Grooms, former CIO/VP at McDonald’s Corporation (USA), has been named the Senior VP of Information Systems; Michael Moore, former Corporate Director of China Grill Management, joins the team as VP of Operations; Jill Golder, former Senior VP Finance of Darden’s Specialty Restaurant Group, will be replacing Dee Sortino as CFO, as Sortino steps into her new role as Exec VP of Production; Ron Dee  has joined the team as Senior VP of Development, after relinquishing his role as Senior VP of Real Estate Development for Bravo Brio Restaurant Group; and Robert Hartley, former Director of Food & Beverage at Border Café/Jose Tejas Restaurants, has been named Director of Culinary Operations.

Darden Restaurants named Brian Foye as President of its Seasons 52 concept, succeeding Stephen Judge.

Davidson Hotels & Resorts hired Barry Wabler as CFO/Exec VP and Jay Rosen as VP of Business Development.

Denihan Hospitality Group announced the appointment of Thomas P. Botts to the newly-created role of Exec VP/Chief Customer Officer. Denihan also named Lisa Zandee to the new position of Senior VP, Brand Management.

Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. announced the appointment of Maryanne Knott as VP of Tax.

Dunkin’ Donuts named Weldon Spangler as VP of Dunkin’ Donuts Operations U.S. and Canada, Susan Scherer as Regional VP of the South Central region, and Jesse Schlueter as VP of Global Learning.

Famous Dave’s announced the departure of Aric Nissen, VP of Marketing and Research & Development.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters elected Norman H. Wesley to the role of Chairman.

Guckenheimer Enterprises, Inc., named Randall Boyd as CEO/COO, succeeding co-founder Jeanie Ritchie, who will continue to serve as executive chairman of the board.

Hard Rock named Fred Thimm COO/VP of corporate cafes; he was most recently President of Stoney River Legendary Steaks.

Huddle House named Michael Abt as its new CEO, succeeding Ken Keymer; Abt was most recently Senior VP of Operations at Arby’s Restaurant Group.

Krispy Kreme hired Patricia Perry as VP of U.S. Franchise Development.

MGM Resorts International announced the promotion of Bill Hornbuckle to President & Chief Marketing Officer.

MooYah Franchise LLC (dba Mooyah Burgers, Fries, and Shakes) named Bill Spae CEO/President; Spae was most recently Chief Development Officer at CiCi Enterprises.

Penn National Gaming appointed Scott Saunders as General Manager of Argosy Casino Alton.

Pizza Inn Holdings named Flynn Dekker as Chief Marketing Officer and Chris Smith as VP of Operations for its Pie Five concept.

Red Lion Hotels Corp. appointed Melvin L. Keating to succeed Donald Barbieri on an interim basis as Chairman upon Barbieri’s retirement on 12/31/12.

Tasti D-Lite CEO, Jim Amos, left his role at the end of December and was succeeded by Peter Holt, who was promoted to CEO/President. Amos will retain his title of Chairman.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) announced it has added two former Capitol Hill staffers to its expanding Policy and Government Affairs department. Laura Abshire has been named Director of Sustainability Policy and Government Affairs and Ryan Kearney has joined the NRA in its new position of Labor and Workforce Policy Manager.

Uno Restaurant Holdings named Ian Baines as CEO/President; he was most recently at Brinker International.

Wyndham Hotel Group announced the appointment of Luis Mirabelli as VP of Development for Latin America, effective 1/1/13.

Yum! Brands’ Senior VP of Investor Relations, Tim Jerzyk, plans to retire in the first quarter of 2013.


Financial Focus:

SeaWorld Entertainment filed a Form S-1 in preparation for becoming a publicly held company.

UFood Restaurant Group Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.


Mergers & Acquisitions:

Altamont Capital Partners acquired Tacala LLC, a major Taco Bell franchisee.

Caribou Coffee Company Inc. announced a definitive agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of Joh. A. Benckiser Group. JAB also holds a majority stake in Peet’s Coffee & Tea Inc.

Luby’s Inc. closed on its acquisition of Paradise Restaurants Group LLC (dba Cheeseburger in Paradise).

Performance Food Group, Inc. completed its previously-announced acquisition of Fox River Foods, Inc.

Pinnacle Entertainment announced an agreement to acquire Ameristar Casinos Inc.; the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and no timetable was provided.

Southern California Pizza Company, the largest Pizza Hut franchisee in southern CA, was sold to private-equity firm Sterling Investment Partners.

Starbucks Coffee Company completed its acquisition of retailer Teavana Holdings.

Sysco acquired Appert’s Foodservice, Buchy Food Service, Central Seafood, and Distagro.

Tully’s Coffee Corp. was acquired out of bankruptcy by Global Baristas., an private equity firm led by actor Patrick Dempsey.


Industry Insight:

Bloomin’ Brands opened its first company-owned restaurant in China, an Outback Steakhouse in Shanghai.

Burger King Worldwide, Inc. announced that it has entered into a joint venture agreement for Mexico with Alsea, S.A.B. de C.V. As part of the transaction, ALSEA and BKW will contribute their Burger King restaurants in Mexico to form a joint venture which will own 203 Burger King restaurants in Mexico and has committed to open several hundred more over the next several years. Burger King also announced a similar joint venture operation for Central America, covering Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

Cosi Inc. opened its first location in Costa Rica.

Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc. moved its corporate headquarters to 14800 Landmark Blvd, Ste. 500, in Addison TX; the new phone number is 972-702-9300

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers corporate office has relocated to 260 N. Rock Road, Ste. 200, Wichita, KS, 67206; the phone number remains the same.

Hiawatha Chef Supply’s founder Lois Thompson pass away in December.

Jamba Inc. entered into a distribution agreement with Systems Services of America, naming SSA the approved distributor of Jamba Juice through 2017.

Johnny Rockets announced a franchise agreement to open 10 Johnny Rockets restaurants in Colombia over the next 10 years. Johnny Rockets also opened its first location in Nigeria.

Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation celebrated the opening of its 500th international store.

Moe’s Southwest Grill opened its first location in Costa Rica.

Red Mango is expanding into Uruguay.

Smashburger has expanded into Latin America with a location in Costa Rica. Smashburger also opened its first location in Saudi Arabia.

Smoothie King opened the first international location with a store in Singapore.

Starbucks Corp. opened Starbucks Evenings in partnership with HMSHost at Dulles International Airport; the café serves wine and beer along with small plates and desserts.

The Melting Pot announced a five-unit development agreement for Indonesia.

Wingstop has signed a master development agreement to expand its international presence into Russia; the agreement is for 50 restaurants over the next 10 years.


Real Estate:

Bruegger’s Bagels plans aggressive expansion in Nashville, Tallahassee, and Huntsville in the coming year and is seeking potential franchisees.

Carmike Cinemas plans to add 70 theaters in the U.S.

Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant opened its sixth location.

Culver’s Restaurants plans to open locations in Naples, Fort Myers, and Sarasota, FL, in 2013.

Dunkin’ Donuts announced the signing of a multiunit store development agreement for 21 traditional Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants and three Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins combination units in the Austin, TX, metro area. Dunkin’ Donuts also plans to open 12 new airport locations in 2013, including New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Des Moines, and Chicago. The company currently has nearly 90 airport locations.

Fatburger announced the signing of an agreement with The Riese Organization to bring the brand to New York City and surrounding areas.

Firehouse Subs plans to open 100 locations in 2013 and is projecting 2,000 restaurants by 2020; the chain currently has development agreements in all but 45 of its 210 markets nationwide.

Happy’s Pizza is opening at least three locations in Greater Cincinnati.

Jersey Mike’s is looking for locations in New York City.

Little Greek Franchise Development plans to open six locations in 2013, including restaurants in FL, KY, and TX.

OinkADoodleMoo plans to open four to six new restaurants in 2013.

Papa Murphy’s plans to expand by more than 100 new stores by the end of 2013.

Penn Station East Coast Subs plans to open 40 locations; target markets are in Atlanta, Washington DC, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, Richmond, and the Carolinas.

Rita’s Italian Ice awarded a master franchise agreement for all of Canada that calls for 80 outlets to be developed over the course of the next five years.

Saladworks opened its first location in AZ.

Salsarita’s announced a new development agreement for 10 restaurants throughout MS over the next five years.

Schlotzsky’s hopes to open 50 locations nationwide this year.

Steak n Shake has signed agreements with franchisees who have committed to opening 171 units in the coming years.

Twin Peaks Restaurants announced a multi-unit development agreement for east and central TX and northern LA.


Green Initiatives:

Apple-Metro, Inc., the New York Metro-Area Applebee’s franchisee, opened New York City’s first USGBC LEED Gold Certified Restaurant 12/10/12.