Personnel Updates

Bloomin’ Brands Inc. named Gregg Scarlett President of Bonefish Grill.

Brinker International, Inc. announced that Thomas J. Edwards Jr. has been named Executive VP and CFO of the company, effective 3/16/15

Caesars Entertainment Corporation announced that Gary Loveman, Chairman and CEO, has decided to begin transitioning management of the company at the end of the first quarter. Loveman will continue to serve as Chairman of Caesars Entertainment and of Caesars Entertainment Operating Company. Mark Frissora joins Caesars Entertainment as CEO Designee and will become CEO on 8/1/15.

Capital Restaurant Concepts (CRC) announced the appointment of Tom Gregg as CEO.

Carlson, parent company of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, announced that CEO and President, Trudy Rautio, will retire from the company after 18 years of service, effective 5/1/15. Current COO, David Berg, will be promoted to CEO. The company also appointed Greg O’Stean as Chief Development Officer and promoted Frances Gonzalez to VP of Operations for Latin America.

Centerplate hired Gil Logan as Executive Chef for the Kentucky International Convention Center.

Chesapeake Hospitality added hospitality industry veteran Tony Harber as VP of Operations.

Chesapeake Lodging Trust promoted Nishil Patel to VP and Treasurer and Nicholas Jette to VP of Acquisitions and Asset Management.

Darden Restaurants, Inc. announced that its Board of Directors appointed current Interim CEO Eugene I. Lee, Jr. as CEO and Director, effective immediately. Since a CEO has now been chosen, the Company will turn to its search for the next CFO to succeed C. Bradford Richmond upon his retirement, which will include both external and internal candidates.

Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group appointed Ian R. Carter as Chairman of the Board, effective 4/1/15.

Delaware North promoted the following to Executive VP (as an addition to their current titles): current President of Delaware North’s Parks and Resorts as well as Executive Chairman of its operations in Australia and Asia, Rick Abramson, as Executive VP of Delaware North and will assume COO responsibilities; current CFO, Christopher Feeney, as Executive VP; and current General Counsel and VP of External Affairs, Rajat Shah, as Executive VP and Secretary.

East Coast Wings & Grill named Stacey Kane as VP of Marketing.

Famous Dave’s of America announced John (Jack) P. Beckman as the VP and Chief Accounting Officer as of 2/16/15.

Friendly’s Ice Cream appointed Michael Dion as the company’s CIO.

Great Wraps Grill appointed Spencer Reid as VP of Franchise Development, Drew Garverick as VP of Operations, Jackie Bak as Manager of Restaurant Development, and Brian Gibson as Manager of Corporate Training. (Mark Kaplan, CEO and Chairman)

Hard Rock International appointed Jon Lucas as Executive VP of Hotel & Casino Operations.

Hilton Worldwide appointed Tom Potter as Senior VP of Caribbean and Latin America.

Hyatt Hotels Corp. appointed Debra Goetz Senior VP of Corporate Marketing and Global Communications and Sandra Cordova Micek Senior VP of Global Brands.

Johnny Rockets appointed Charles Bruce as the company’s new President and CEO. (Most recently, Charles Bruce was President and CEO of Peter Piper Pizza)

Kahala Brands, a franchisor of BlimpieCold Stone CreameryJohnnie’s New York PizzeriaTaco Time, and America’s Taco Shop selected John Wuycheck to join the company as Senior VP of Franchise Development.

Logan’s Roadhouse Inc. CFO Amy Bertauski left the 2/27/15. The company is launching a nationwide search for a successor. The company also named Len Van Popering Chief Marketing Officer. Van Popering was most recently Senior VP of Brand Development and Product Innovation at Arby’s.

Long John Silver’s named James O’Reilly as CEO, effective 3/2/15.

Marcus Hotels & Resorts announced Michael Swasey joined the company as Area VP.

Montage Hotels & Resorts appointed Matthew Stephen-Hassard as VP of Acquisitions & Development.

National Restaurant Association’s Executive VP of Policy and Government Affairs, Scott DeFife, has left the organization to pursue new opportunities. The NRA will recruit for a replacement. In the interim, the association’s Managing Director of Prime Policy Group, Chuck Merin, will assume a leadership role.

Noodles & Company announced that Dan Fogarty has resigned as Executive VP of Marketing for personal reasons. Mr. Fogarty’s resignation will be effective 3/13/15. The company also announced that Gretchen Paules has joined its team as VP of Field Marketing.

P.F. Chang’s announced Michael Osanloo as CEO; Rick Federico remains as full-time Executive Chairman of WokHold Co.

Pizza Patrón promoted Victor Vazquez to VP of Business Development and Andrew Gamm to Executive VP.

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. named two executives to key domestic and international positions: John K. Merkin as COO for the US and Andrew Skehan as President of International.

Potbelly Corp. CFO Charles Talbot has resigned “to accept a senior leadership position with another company outside of the restaurant industry.” Potbelly did not say where Talbot would be working. Talbot would remain with the Chicago-based sandwich chain until 3/27/15. The company said a search is underway for his successor.

Real Mex Restaurants Inc. named Bryan Lockwood CEO, effective immediately.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. promoted Denny Marie Post to Executive VP and Chief Concept Officer, and appointed Lee Dolan as Senior VP and Chief Marketing Officer.

Restaurants Canada elected Paul Methot, Senior VP of Operations for Pizza Pizza, Chair of the Board and will serve a one-year term.

Ruby Tuesday, Inc. appointed Rhonda Parish as Chief Legal Officer, effective 3/16/15. Ms. Parish most recently served as the Chief Legal Officer of Einstein Noah Restaurant Group in Lakewood, CO, and was previously the Chief Legal Officer of Denny’s Corporation.

SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. announced changes in its operations management: Daniel B. Brown as Chief Parks Operations Officer, Donald W. Mills as Orlando Park President (SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and Aquatica), and Terry Prather as Senior VP of Operations.

Singer Equipment Co. promoted Andrew Beauchamp to the newly created position of Sales Manager. The company also promoted Rich Zang to VP of Purchasing and Operations in NY.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. announced that Frits van Paasschen resigned by mutual agreement with the Board of Directors as President, CEO, and a Director. Adam Aron has been named Interim CEO while the Board conducts a search for a permanent CEO.

Ted’s Montana Grill promoted Nancy Furr to CFO. The company also named Rebecca Copeland VP of Human Resources and Training.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf named Andrew Nathan Senior VP of the Asia Pacific region.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts named Bob Chapek as Chairman.

Westmont Hospitality Group appointed Gopal Rao to the position of VP of Sales & Marketing.

Wyndham Hotel Group announced the appointment of Barry Goldstein as Chief Digital and Distribution Officer, a newly created role designed to support the company’s digital marketing and distribution strategies. Wyndham division, Wyndham Vacation Ownership (WVO), appointed Mark Johnson as Chief Hospitality Officer.


Mergers & Acquisitions

Altamont Capital Partners acquired Cotton Patch Cafe, a 45-unit casual-dining restaurant with locations in TX, OK, and NM. Kathy Nelson will continue in the role of Cotton Patch CEO.

Chanticleer Holdings, Inc., parent company of American Burger Co. and Just Fresh LLC, signed a definitive agreement to acquire BGR: The Burger Joint. Chanticleer Holdings expects to close the acquisition on or around 3/15/15.

Flanagan Foodservice acquired “substantially all of the assets” of Mississauga, ON-based Reliable Food Supplies Inc. in a deal that closed February 2015. A Flanagan spokesperson confirmed that Flanagan is serving Reliable’s former customers out of its Kitchen facility, but could not provide details about the assets acquired or plans for the Reliable location.

Hilton Worldwide acquired the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando and the Hilton in Orlando Bonnet Creek.

Ignite Restaurant Group Inc. said that it would sell Romano’s Macaroni Grill for $8M to Redrock Partners LLC, a new Phoenix-based company headed by John Gilbert, Macaroni Grill’s President for the past year. Ignite bought Macaroni Grill from Golden Gate Capital for $55 million in April 2013. Analysts expressed optimism about the Macaroni Grill sale, which is scheduled to be completed in mid-April. Romano’s Macaroni Grill’s talented team of employees are expected to join the new enterprise under John Gilbert, who will be CEO going forward.

Levy Acquisition Corp. announced the company will acquire Del Taco Inc. for $500M including debt. Levy will first invest $120M in the company, gaining 46% control, and then a Levy Acquisition unit will take Del Taco public through a reverse merger creating Del Taco Restaurants Inc. which is expected in June 2015. After the deal closes, Levy will become Chairman of the Del Taco board of directors and will partner with management to oversee the company’s growth. Del Taco’s management team, led by CEO Paul Murphy, is expected to remain with the company.

Sysco Corporation notified USF Holding Corp. of its decision to extend the termination date of the Agreement and Plan of Merger, dated 12/8/13, for sixty days, from the current termination date of 3/8/15, to 5/7/15.


Financial Focus

Cara Operations Limited, parent company to Cara Operations, announced that the company has filed preliminary prospectus for a proposed initial public offering.

Granite City Food & Brewery Ltd. hired an investment bank to explore a possible sale.

Saladworks LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection saying it was necessary for the company to be sold or restructured.

Z Capital Partners announced it is seeking a buyer willing to pay between $175 million and $225 million for Famous Brands International, the parent of Mrs. Fields and TCBY.


Industry Updates

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s parent company announced it may develop a fast casual concept.

Burger King Worldwide Inc. stated the company will expand into sub-Saharan African countries to tap into a middle-class that has tripled since 2010. The company plans to have locations up and running by year-end providing distribution centers and supply chains can be established. It also plans to open locations in Angola.

Chase Hospitality Group announced that a new contemporary Japanese cuisine restaurant and lounge, Kasa Moto, will open in the heart of Toronto’s Yorkville this spring.

Courtyard by Marriott has begun its global celebration marking its 1,000th hotel milestone.

Denny’s Corp. announced plans to grow its fast casual concept called The Den.

Domino’s started the year with two new market openings in Azerbaijan and Cambodia.

Fuddruckers finalized a new development agreement that will extend the popular fast casual restaurant group’s base in South America and into Bogota, Colombia.

Golden State Foods Corp. announced plans to open a $40M state-of-the-art meat processing facility in Opelika, AL.

GRILLiT, Inc. executed an exclusive franchise marketing and representation agreement for certain territories in the Middle East which include Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

Hilton Worldwide signed an agreement to open its largest Hampton by Hilton hotel to date, in central Berlin and is slated to open in early 2018.

Hooters of America (HOA) announced it is set to open three new Hooters locations in Honduras and Nicaragua over the next three years with the first Hooters location slated to open in Managua, Nicaragua, in late 2015.

Mama Fu’s Asian House rolled out 33 new branded delivery vehicles.

Marriott International opened its first hotel in Haiti.

McDonald’s Corp. announced it expects to launch a smartphone app in the U.S. this summer as part of an effort to catch up to its competitors on the digital front.

Mooyah Burgers, Fries, & Shakes opened its first Saudi Arabia location in Riyadh.

Panera Bread debuted its first citywide delivery service in Louisville, KY. The program is part of the Panera 2.0 ordering system which debuted last year and allows customers to customize their order and pay through a digital platform.

Planet Hollywood announced it is transforming its Orlando flagship location into a four-story star-gazing observatory set to debut in spring 2016. The reimagined “Planet Hollywood Observatory” will overlook the heart of Downtown Disney with a newly-expanded outdoor terrace and bar.

Red Lion Hotels Corporation (RLHC) announced that the company signed franchise license agreements with the new owners of three hotels in NM.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill announced the company is expanding its fast casual Romano’s Kitchen Counter concept to dinner.

Ruby Tuesday stated that the company may create a corporate satellite office in Orlando, FL.

Russo’s New York Pizzeria stated plans to significantly enhance the brand’s footprint in France and throughout Europe specifically in Paris, Nice, Marseilles, and Cannes for growth. Other European countries of interest are Spain, the United Kingdom, and Germany, among others.

Shake Shack Inc. announced that it will open the first-ever Tokyo Shake Shack in 2016 and has plans to open nine more throughout Japan by 2020.

Starbucks expanded its mobile ordering system it currently offers at select OR stores to about 650 shops in OR, WA, ID, and AK next week. The feature is available only to iPhone users. An Android version is in development, and the company hopes to roll out the function nationwide by the end of the year.

Starwood Capital Group announced that Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is considering purchasing the Riviera Casino on the Las Vegas Strip for $182.5M. The 60-year-old casino would close in August and be torn down to make way for an expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced an agreement to debut the Aloft and Element brands in Dubai. The Aloft Dubai Raffa and Element Dubai Radda will open in 2018.

Texas Roadhouse announced it is looking for additional growth beyond its flagship casual dining chain. The company recently opened Jaggers, a fast-food restaurant selling chicken sandwiches, burgers and salads.

Yum! Brands Inc. mentioned the company will open its second Super Chix restaurant in Dallas in late April, a year after opening the concept in suburban Arlington, TX.


Real Estate

Boardwalk signed a development agreement for northern CA, north of Santa Barbara, expanding north to OR. This development will provide 20 new Boardwalk Fries, Burgers, Shakes locations in this area, with the first location slated to open by the end of 2015.

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream signed development agreements for 15 new locations, with at least 12 scheduled to open this year.

Capriotti’s announced plans to open its first IL location in Chicago late 2015.

Chick-fil-A announced the company will open its first stand-alone location in NYC in late summer. The company will debut a three-level, 5,000-square-foot eatery marking the 48-year-old company’s first foray into the Big Apple market.

Chronic Tacos announced immediate plans to open its first AZ location in Phoenix, and will look to add up to 14 more franchisees in the state.

Church’s Chicken entered into a 10-unit franchise development agreement with Road Ranger, truck stop, gas station, c-store, and travel center chain in the Midwest spanning IN, IL, WI, IA, MO, and TX. The terms of the deal, while not disclosed, focus on developing non-traditional locations co-located in the Road Ranger travel plazas. The transaction marks a new emphasis on growing the Church’s footprint along major travel corridors throughout the US.

Costa Vida Fresh Mexican Grill signed five multi-unit franchise agreements in 2014, totaling 41 new restaurant locations added to the pipeline, with the first already open in Atlanta. Costa Vida will be opening new locations in UT, AZ, TX, ID, and IL – specifically in Denver, Vancouver/Portland, Atlanta, Tampa/Sarasota and Northern CA – this year.

Del Taco reported that the brand will focus on expansion plans for GA, FL, and the Carolinas.

Dunkin’ Brands Group announced the signing of a multi-unit store development agreement to develop two Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants and one combination restaurant with its sister brand, Baskin-Robbins, in Columbia and Jefferson City, MO. The company also signed multi-unit store development agreements with two existing franchise groups to develop 46 restaurants in IN over the next several years. Additionally, Dunkin’ Donuts is recruiting franchisees throughout the state of LA with an emphasis on New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Lafayette. Currently, there are 9 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in the state.

Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc. closed 39 under-performing Einstein Bros. Bagels restaurants across the US with 11 in Chicago specifically.

El Pollo Loco signed a franchise development deal to open 5 new restaurants in the area of Salt Lake City, UT. Three long-time franchisees have committed to reinvesting in the brand and expanding El Pollo Loco’s presence to a total of 7 locations in Utah by 2018.

Golden Corral stated the company charts expansion plans for 20 new stores.

Granite City said it expects to build 4 additional units in IL, MI, and MD in 2015.

Great Wraps announced that its new prototype, Great Wraps Grill, will soon have airport locations. Great Wraps Grill features a new modern design, an expanded chef-created menu, and refined operations that provide hot-off-the-grill freshness and greater customer choice. Great Wraps is already a favorite of travelers and airline crews in Atlanta, St. Louis, and Salt Lake City airports.

Guthrie’s Chicken announced its smaller franchise format, Guthrie’s To Go, as a simple drive-thru/walk-up restaurant concept, typically sized between 500-750 square feet. The smaller size reduces the amount of up-front capital required to build the restaurant, including land and personnel costs. The newest Guthrie’s To Go location opened in Opelika, AL, and several more are expected to open in 2015.

IHOP announced the company is testing a new prototype design, starting in 28 locations, that could bring a completely new look to the family-dining chain. If results are positive, the company may roll out the new look to franchisees late this year.

IKEA announced that contractors are hired for its future Las Vegas store which is scheduled to open summer 2016.

Jamba Inc., parent of smoothie chain Jamba Juice, announced plans to double its unit openings in 2015, with a target of 100 to 125 new locations.

John’s Incredible Pizza Company stated the company is slated to open in late 2015 a 60,000 square foot family entertainment center in Las Vegas. The venue will be located in the Boulevard Mall located at 3528 Maryland Parkway. John’s will add approximately 200 jobs to the local area and will be able to accommodate over 1000 guests while serving up to 700 pizzas an hour.

Kona Grill Inc. stated the company will open international franchises in Latin America, the Middle East and beyond, but not until 2016.

L&L Drive-Inn stated the company is expanding the footprint of its L&L Hawaiian Barbecue restaurants worldwide. The company will open another Las Vegas location and expand to TN within the next six months, and it recently opened two new locations in CA and plans to open 10 new restaurants in Malaysia, Guam, the Philippines, and possibly Japan.

Ladeki Restaurant Group launched its first fast-casual concept, Table 89, in Las Vegas.

Larry’s Giant Subs announced plans to open 3 locations this year nationwide, with a focus in the southeastern region of the US.

Luby’s Inc. stated the company is set to open its first co-branded location outside the Lone Star State.

McAlister’s Deli announced growth plans for 30 new locations expected to open across the country.

MOD Pizza stated plans to reach the 100 store mark by the end of the year from its current total of 32 stores. The company raised more than $40 million in funding to help with expansion plans. The cash infusion brings the total amount of investment capital raised by the company to more than $70 million.

Moe’s Southwestern Grill stated the company is seeking growth opportunities throughout the DC metropolitan area during the coming 18 months.

Newk’s Eatery stated the company is entering the areas of San Antonio, TX, and Columbia, SC, as part of a broader expansion plan that includes 30 new franchise and corporate stores in 2015.

Penn Station East Coast Subs announced the company is aggressively targeting Kansas City, Dallas, and Atlanta for growth. Other markets targeted include Richmond, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, the greater Pittsburgh area, NC, and SC.

Pie Five Pizza debuted its first Omaha area restaurant.

Qdoba Mexican Grill announced the company’s new “in your face” design. Two undisclosed restaurants are being dressed in the new design, but no word on where these locations are. The company also plans to open 50 to 60 new Qdoba restaurants in fiscal 2015.

Rita’s Italian Ice announced plans to open at least 66 locations in NM and southern CO over the next five years. The first location opened in Albuquerque 3/16/15, with a second location and six mobile carts coming within the next six months.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill stated the company is seeking growth opportunities throughout MD, VA, and DC during the coming 18 months.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse stated the company will remodel 15 locations this year.

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill stated the company is planning for new restaurants in several U.S. markets: first will open in Peabody, MA, on 3/9/15, the second will open in Chicago in late July, and a third location along the East Coast with a date not yet finalized.

Southern Hospitality announced plans for a new fast casual concept to open up to five units in the Denver and Colorado Springs markets over the next 18 months.

Starbucks announced the company is seeking growth opportunities throughout northern DE, southern NJ, and eastern PA during the coming 18 months.

Studio Movie Grill announced 5 new theaters in TX, CA, and PA.

Taco Bueno broke ground on the first of three new restaurants planned to open in Colorado Springs, CO, this year. In total, the three locations are anticipated to add more than 100 jobs in the community. Each of the three new company-owned Taco Bueno restaurants will seat approximately 50 guests and include a convenient drive-thru window.

Taco John’s signed deals to open 25 stores and is poised for rapid growth. The new stores will be developed in current markets, as well as new markets in IN, VA, and NY.

Target Corp. stated the company is considering opening TargetExpress locations in the greater Philadelphia market during 2016.

Texas Roadhouse Inc. mentioned the company is increasing development of its Bubba’s 33 concept by as many as 5 new Bubba’s locations this year.

Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery announced the addition of more than 20 new pubs along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts in the next three to five years.

TopGolf announced a new flagship location at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. When completed in spring 2016, the new 105,000-square-foot, four-level flagship facility will sprawl across eight acres and look over a 215-yard outfield. The first three levels will feature 102 hitting bays, while the fourth will include VIP areas with water features. Also planned are a stage for live musical performances, full-service restaurants and bars, and 3,000 square feet for private meeting space. Catering will be available for private parties of 10 to 2,000 people. Additional hubs in Orlando, Nashville, and New York City are also in the works.

Uncle Maddio’s signed agreements to build 8 units in communities throughout metro-Atlanta specifically in north Fulton, Forsyth, Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Cobb counties. The company also opened its first Charleston, SC-area restaurant in Mount Pleasant.


Green Initiatives

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts announced that it has achieved World Wildlife Fund Climate Savers Program targets, reducing its operational CO2 emissions by 20% below its 2006 levels. Fairmont is the first hotel brand to meet this goal.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. earned the company’s global headquarters the highest LEED certification available. Home to more than 1,200 Starwood associates representing nearly every global function, One StarPoint is the only building in Stamford, CT, to achieve this level of LEED certification. Among the LEED Platinum decisions:

  • The building uses daylight harvesting which automatically dims lights when it’s bright outside.
  • Starwood maximized all of the points available for water reduction by completely renovating the bathrooms and installing waterless urinals, low-flow faucets and fixtures, and dual flush toilets.
  • Centralized printing stations reduced the number of printers on each floor, cut paper and ink waste, and have the additional benefit of getting people up and moving as well as interacting.
  • The company added full-scale recycling in its pantries as well as adding dishes and dishwashers on each floor to cut down on disposable plates and flatware.
  • Starwood recycled 85 percent of its construction materials, keeping the discarded materials out of landfills.
  • The company will continue to make environmental sustainability improvements beyond this certification including more LED lighting and launching a property energy management system, which will allow for real-time changes to reduce electricity bills and energy consumption.