Personnel Updates

&pizza‘s Steve Salis has stepped away from daily operations as CEO and President. Co-founder, Michael Lastoria, has taken the role of President and CEO.

American Blue Ribbon Holdings hired Jeffery Kent as CIO.

Ben E. Keith Foods President, Mike Roach, announced he will retire 6/30/15. Mike Sweet, current Executive VP, will succeed Roach.

Cafe Rio Mexican Grill announced that Steve Vaughan will join the company as President and CFO, effective 6/20/15.

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group announced Marc Descrozaille as Area VP sub-Saharan Africa,  Jeffrey Freund as Senior VP of Midscale Brands for the Americas, Alissa Montbriand as VP of Global Integrated Marketing Communications, and Roger Chacko as EVP and Chief Branding and Marketing Officer. The company also appointed Jenny Winkler as Senior VP & General Counsel, effective 7/1/15.

Chanticleer Holdings Inc., a Hooters part owner, named Mark Roberson to the newly created position of COO.

Cousins Subs founder, Bill Specht, announced his retirement as company’s CEO. Specht’s daughter, Christine Specht-Palmert, assumed Specht’s responsibilities as President and CEO. The company also hired Scott Lewis as Director of IT.

Domino’s announced the following internal leadership appointments and promotions: Joe Jordan as Chief Marketing Officer; Dennis Maloney as Chief Digital Officer; Julia Oswald as VP of Strategy and Insights for Domino’s USA; and Debbie Sweeney as VP of National Field and Team USA Marketing.

Farmer Boys Restaurants promoted Karen Eadon to President and COO.

Farmer Bros. Co. added Scott Bixby as the new Senior VP and General Manager of Direct Store Delivery.

FOCUS Brands named Bruce Schroder as President of Moe’s Southwest Grill.

Freddy’s LLC hired Andrew Thengvall as Senior VP of Strategic Growth & Chief Legal Officer.

Front Burner Brands Inc. promoted Dan Stone to the newly created position of Chief Business and People Development Officer.

Hilton Worldwide named Debra Wilson as Senior Regional Director of Sales of the Northeast region.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) appointed Yola Marshall to the position of Regional Director of Sales and Marketing for Canada and Stephen K. Miller as Senior VP of Development and Acquisitions.

Johnny Rockets announced the following appointments: Jim Kensinger as VP of Operations Services and Training, Chris Ferguson as Director of Operations for the East Coast, and Dillon McFarland as International Franchise Support Manager for the Middle East and Asia.

Logan’s Roadhouse Inc. named James J. Hagan CFO and Maria Rivera Senior VP of Operations.

Long John Silver’s stated that Brian Unger will serve as its new COO.

Marriott International appointed Craig S. Smith as President and Managing Director of Asia Pacific and Tim Sheldon as President of its Caribbean & Latin America (CALA) region.

McDonald’s has begun its reorganization with the recruitment of two senior-level executives from other industries: Silvia Lagnado as global Chief Marketing Officer and Robert Gibbs as Global Chief Communications Officer.

Morgans Hotel Group Co. announced that Jason T. Kalisman has resigned as Interim CEO of the company to spend more time on personal matters, effective immediately, and he will remain a member of the Board. Howard M. Lorber, veteran real estate investor and member of Morgans Board, has been named Chairman. The Board intends to continue its CEO search and in the interim, Richard Szymanski, CFO, will temporarily assume the duties of the principal executive officer for securities law reporting purposes.

Pei Wei hired Clay Dover as the company’s first Chief Marketing Officer.

Penn National Gaming, Inc. appointed Bob Sheldon as President of Las Vegas Operations effective 7/6/15. Mr. Sheldon will oversee the operations of Tropicana Las Vegas following the completion of the company’s acquisition of the iconic Strip property, which is expected to occur later this year, as well as the operations of The M Resort in Henderson. The company also named Richard St. Jean as General Manager of Hollywood Casino in Jamul-San Diego and Frank Quigley as General Manager of Hollywood Casino in Toledo.

Plamondon Companies, parent company of Roy Rogers, named Joseph Briglia as Director of Real Estate and Franchise Development.

Restaurants Canada appointed Donna Dooher as President & CEO. Ms. Dooher has been in the role on an interim basis since November 2014.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood named Bill Wright as President.

Sonic Corp. announced that Stephen C. Vaughan, the company’s Executive VP of Franchise Operations, Finance and Planning, will resign from the position effective 6/19/15. Vaughan will continue to serve SONIC in a transition role through that date.

Starwood made multiple executive changes including: John Peyton to the new role of Senior VP Brands and Shared Services; Dave Marr as Global Brand Leader of Sheraton and Tribute portfolio; Jim Petrus as Global Brand Leader of St. Regis; Hoyt Harper as Global Brand Leader of The Luxury Collection; Anthony Ingham as Global Brand Leader of W Hotels Worldwide; Brian Povinelli as Global Brand Leader of Westin and Le Méridien; and Brian McGuinness as Global Brand Leader  of the Aloft, Element and Four Points brands.

Taco John’s added two new members to its leadership team: Ted Suor as VP of Supply Chain and Stephanie Forand as Director of Human Relations.

The Broadmoor added Alison J. McDermott to the position of Director of Marketing.

Vail Resorts, Inc. announced the planned retirement of Mark Schoppet, Senior VP, Controller, and Chief Accounting Officer, effective upon the hiring of his replacement and the completion of a transition period. Additionally, the company hired David T. Shapiro as Executive VP and General Counsel, effective 7/13/15.


Mergers & Acquisitions

Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. acquired 38 existing Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants located in TX, NM, and HI including three restaurants under development in NM and HI.

Centerbridge Partners, LP, parent company to P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Rock Bottom Restaurants Inc., closed on its acquisition of Great Wolf Resorts.

Diversified Restaurant Holdings announced its intention to acquire eighteen Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants in the St. Louis area for $54M. Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. has already provided the waiver of its Right of First Refusal. The acquisition will allow DRH to own the entire St. Louis market and also provide for the opportunity to open new BWW stores.

First Watch Restaurants, Inc. acquired Centennial, CO-based The Egg & I Restaurants.

Frisch’s Restaurants Inc. announced the company will be acquired by private-equity fund NRD Partners I LP for $175M. Following the deal, Frisch’s CEO Craig Maier Jr. and VP of Marketing Karen Maier will leave the company, but will remain part of the Frisch’s system as franchisees. NRD is led by Aziz Hashim, a veteran of franchised chains such as Popeyes and Checkers/Rally’s.

Gatti’s Pizza chain has been acquired by Sovrano LLC, a Fort Worth, TX-based private-equity firm led by Michael Poates. The purchase price was not disclosed and Poates has taken the president’s post at Austin, TX-based Gatti’s. Blue Sage Capital had acquired the chain in 2004 for $24M.

Kahala Brands announced that it now controls 100% of the Planet Smoothie and Tasti D-Lite franchise brands headquartered in Brentwood, TN.

NRD Capital announced the company will buy Frisch’s Restaurants Inc. for $175M. Frisch’s operates 95 company-owned and 26 franchised Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants in OH, KY, and IN. The transaction is expected to close before the end of September.

Ridge Runner Fast Foods, dba Burger King was acquired by Carolina Quality LLC. The three Burger King locations are in Boone, NC, Mountain City and Elizabethton, TN.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. announced that it has sold The Phoenician in Scottsdale, AZ, to Host Hotels & Resorts for $400M.


Financial Focus

Jimmy John’s Franchise LLC announced the company is preparing for an initial public offering that could value the chain at more than $2 billion. The IPO is expected to take place later this year.

Roark Capital Group made an investment in Naf Naf Grill, a seven-year-old Chicago-based chain that serves Middle Eastern cuisine in an Americanized, fast-casual format, the Atlanta-based private-equity firm.

Wingstop announced the company will set a $75M initial public offering. Wingstop has 712 locations and brought in nearly $67.4M in revenue in 2014.


Industry Updates

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s franchisee announced plans to open a fast-casual version of the casual-dining sports bar, Beef’s Express in Lakeland, FL, on 8/17/15.

Boston’s announced the company is looking forward to establishing a total of 11 restaurants in Mexico by the end of 2015, the first of which will open in Tuxtla this August.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. announced the company will open its new “fusion prototype,” a new-equipment version of its full-service, family-dining restaurant, on 6/22/15, in Morganton, NC.

David Burke Group announced the company is preparing to open the first of three restaurant-bar-concessions combos to be housed in movie theaters.  The eating and drinking facility, called Trilogy, will feature a 120-seat restaurant, a bar described by DBG as “elegant,” and concessions featuring locally popular specialties.

Domino’s Inc. opened its first Portugal location in Lisbon.

Dunkin’ Brands stated the company would integrate deliveries with a mobile ordering platform that is under development. Dunkin’ Donuts also opened two new Dunkin’ Donuts Express locations at Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport.

Fatburger and sister restaurant Buffalo’s Express announced the pair is bringing their American fare across the pond to London for the first time.

First Watch opened its latest “Urban Farm” interior design and a new, inspired menu.  The design combines farm-inspired finishes with a high-energy, urban vibe creating a warm, familiar space.

Hilton Worldwide renamed the Cypress Hotel, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Juniper Hotel CupertinoCurio Collection by Hilton.

KFC opened its first location in Myanmar (Burma).

Luby’s Inc. continued to close Cheeseburger in Paradise units and convert them to Fuddruckers restaurants in the third quarter ended 5/6/15. The Houston-based operator continues to expand its combo locations of shared Luby’s Cafeteria and Fuddruckers restaurants. The company is also in the process of selling two closed Cheeseburger in Paradise locations to a Fuddruckers franchisee.

Momofuku, Inc. owner David Chang unveiled his latest fast-food concept, Fuku.

Papa John’s International Inc. announced plans to expand by 150 to 200 units per year. Most of the pizza chain’s international locations are franchised stores, with the most in the UK.

PizzaRev announced the company is rolling out delivery in its core Los Angeles market.

Strategic Hotels & Resorts, Inc. closed on the sale of the Hyatt Regency La Jolla for $118M. The company formerly owned a 53.5% interest in the asset. At closing, the joint-venture retired $89.2M of debt secured by the hotel.

Taco Bell applied for a liquor license for a unit soon to open in Chicago. The unit will have a completely new urban restaurant design in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood and may serve alcoholic beverages. Taco Bell plans to open a number of new restaurants in urban locations with modern designs, such as creating stores from shipping containers or creating restaurants with open kitchens.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf opened its first Japan location.

US Foods announced the company is closing its Lakeland, FL, distribution center and will fold into its Tampa and Port Orange locations, effective August 2015.


Real Estate

Bar-B-Cutie announced the company will develop three Smokehouse restaurants in San Antonio over the next four years with the first location slated to open spring 2016. Additional growth in cities such as McAllen, Houston, and Dallas is expected.

BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. opened four new restaurants and remains on track to open at least 15 new restaurants this fiscal year. The company anticipates opening three more restaurants before the end of June in Pittsburgh, PA; Baltimore, MD; and Columbus, OH.

Black Bear Diner announced that the company is marching towards the goal of 100 operating restaurants by 2018. The new restaurants are all based in the western region of the United States—four restaurants in CA (Elk Grove, Sunnyvale, Danville, and Oakland), two restaurants in UT (Orem, West Valley), and one restaurant each in CO, ID, OR, and WA. The opening of the restaurants will be sprinkled between Q3 and Q4.

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza announced plans to open 38 more locations in LA, MS, AL, and the panhandle of FL. The company will also open additional locations in TX, with hubs in Austin, Fort Worth, and College Station in the works. Additionally, the company opened its first OR location in Portland.

Bob Evans Farms Inc. announced plans to sell a significant portion of its real estate. The company also suggested that it is still open to separating its restaurant and packaged food businesses. Bob Evans has 564 restaurants. Activist investors have estimated the real estate to be worth up to $700M.

Boston Market stated the company is targeting military installations to grow its footprint and expects about a third of its new stores to be on military bases going forward. Ten to 12 new restaurants are scheduled to open this year, following a six-year period where the number of locations declined by more than 25%.

Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. announced plans to open up to 50 locations in the Greater Boston area, opening 5-10 restaurants per year starting in 2016. It will also consider conversion opportunities of fast-food spaces and existing restaurants. The expansion is partly driven by Checkers’ new distribution agreement with Willow Run Foods.

Corner Bakery Cafe stated the company will focus its franchising efforts in Birmingham, Charleston, Charlotte, Columbus, Jackson, New Orleans, Raleigh, and Tampa.

DMAC 81, LLC, a McAlister’s Deli franchisee, announced plans to open several new restaurants between southern GA and North FL.

Donatos Pizza mentioned plans to open up to 12 locations in Birmingham, AL.

Dunkin’ Donuts announced the company is recruiting franchisees to develop an estimated 10+ new Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants throughout Mobile, AL, and Biloxi and Jackson, MS.

El Pollo Loco signed a new development agreement with its largest franchise partner, WKS Restaurant Corporation, to further grow the brand’s presence in UT with plans to open six new restaurants in Salt Lake City. They expect to open two locations towards the end of 2016 and an additional four restaurants by the end of 2018. The company also stated the company will open seven locations in North TX over the next four years.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers disclosed that, with the opening of three new restaurants last week, including a company site in Kansas City, MO, and two franchise locations in Jacksonville, FL, and Caldwell, ID, the system has added 21 stores in the first 21 weeks of 2015. This expansion came during the same timeframe in which the company completed a remodeling and 40% expansion of the area it occupies in its home office building at 260 N Rock Rd in Wichita, KS.

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop announced four new multi-unit development agreements that will bring the restaurant concept to FL this summer. The agreements call for opening more than 20 new Fuzzy’s Taco Shops in the Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando, and Fort Myers areas over the next six years.

Hard Rock International announced its plan to build a casino at the Meadowlands in NJ.

Jersey Mike’s mentioned plans to open 13 restaurants in southeast WI over the next four years.

KFC Corp. announced the company is introducing a new store prototype featuring a simpler, modern layout with high-top tables, booths and Colonel Sanders’ face on the building’s facade. Other brand updates include new food packaging, redesigned websites and new menu items, including baked beans with pulled chicken, a new sauce and lemonade.

Krispy Kreme signed development agreements to open 11 Krispy Kreme shops in AR, MT, IL, and KY over the next several years.

McAlister’s Deli signed a multi-unit development agreement to open restaurants in Southern GA and its first restaurants in South FL specifically in the markets of Doral, Aventura, South Miami, Davie, Plantation, Coral Springs, Pembroke Pines and Ft. Lauderdale.

Moe’s Southwest Grill opened its 600th unit in its first UT location in Salt Lake City. Moe’s hopes to open 70 new restaurants this year and continue its aggressive expansion plans with new Moe’s locations debuting in Chicago, Cleveland, and the state of IA. Additionally, the company is seeking experienced, multi-unit franchise owners to develop San Francisco, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, and Detroit.

Native Foods Café debuted its first Express unit to test the possible rollout of a quicker version of the fast-casual. Though the West Loop location is about 3,000 square feet, the Express design could fit into locations as small as 1,000 square feet, which opens the door for Native Foods to move into both urban and nontraditional locations, including airports or college campuses.

Noodles & Co. opened its first international location in Toronto, Canada.

Roy Rogers announced plans to open 70 restaurants in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast over the next several years at a pace of one to two corporate locations and three to five franchised locations per year. The company is planning to open several franchises in DC, MD, and VA after shutting down lower-performing restaurants during the past several years.

Smashburger added three new partners with a combined commitment for 61 new restaurants into new markets such as Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Ft. Myers, and Naples. The company will also open a location in the Cincinnati/Northern KY International Airport.

Starbucks mentioned plans to open up to 10 locations in Baltimore this year.

Steak Escape, which departed many of its mall locations four years ago, now wants to get out of the suburbs and is testing a new Steak Escape Express prototype within city limits.

Studio Movie Grill announced it is expanding on both coasts once more with new locations announced in Philadelphia, PA; and Simi Valley, CA; as well as two new TX theaters in North Dallas and Houston.

Subway announced the company looks to add more than 2,500 locations worldwide in 2015.

Sweetgreen stated the company is expanding to Los Angeles with two new units in Los Angeles. The first is close to the farmers market in West Hollywood and the other is just steps from the ocean in Santa Monica.

The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille entered WV with the debut of a new restaurant featuring 6,000 square feet of interior space and a 3,000-square-foot outdoor deck.

The Halal Guys sold out CA with the signing of three major multi-unit franchise deals for the state.

The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc. announced that it is actively seeking franchise candidates to open a new restaurant in the Triad area, a region that includes Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point, NC.

Toppers Pizza announced a multi-unit partnership to open six locations throughout SD and IA over the next four years.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe announced it is aggressively targeting three major US cities and surrounding areas over the next few years: 10 locations near Cleveland, OH (Avon, Lakewood, Fairlawn, Euclid, North Olmsted and more); 25 locations near Denver, CO (Greater Denver, Colorado Springs, Highlands Ranch, Boulder, Lakewood, Westminster and more); 10 locations near Tampa, FL (Palm Harbor, Clearwater Beach, and Northdale); 5 locations near Orlando, FL (Orange, Lake, and Seminole Counties); and 6 locations near Detroit, MI (Ann Arbor, Canton, Plymouth and more).

Which Wich Superior Sandwiches announced plans to open 27 locations in San Francisco and 20 in Sacramento over the next few years. Which Wich is slated to open 100 locations annually from 2016 to 2020. Targeted markets include San Francisco and Sacramento, Chicago, Charlotte, NC, and the Greater Boston area, where it plans to open between 30 and 40 restaurants in the next three to five years.


Green Initiatives

Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc. announced that it has reached 11% total energy reduction per company-owned restaurant since 2011, paving the way to a goal of 15% energy reduction by the end of 2015.  The announcement comes following a 2014 reported reduction of 3.3% in average year-over-year energy consumption per company-owned restaurant.

Panda Restaurant Group, operator of Panda Express, Hibachi-San, and Panda Inn has been on a steady path toward sustainability for the last decade:

  • Panda locations feature an energy management system to keep HVAC systems running at set rates. Managers have an override capability for the day, but the system will revert back to its set points overnight.
  • To reduce gas use and heat in the kitchen, the chain worked with an equipment manufacturer to develop a special unit with a much milder burner that provides the same output but uses two-thirds less gas. Panda also adjusted cooking processes to use less energy.
  • The new — and now waterless — Chinese range uses an air gap between the stainless deck and the hot cast iron components to manage the heat, using water only as necessary for cleaning.
  • Panda also installed low-flow toilets, electric sink hand washers and a recirculation system for every sink to instantly draw hot water, thanks to a tiny pump that continuously draws a little hot water.